How NOT to do social sales

by Steli Efti

Social sales is the hot new thing in the world of B2B sales. And with good reason—most prospects have online profiles that can be a valuable source of insights for sales reps. However, most salespeople are using social sales the wrong way—and are missing out on a lot of sales because of that.

I see a lot of salespeople using "social sales" as an excuse to do anything else besides some actual selling. These people will typically spend an excessive amount of time on researching a particular lead or prospect before picking up the phone to call them. 

They seem to think that by spending an hour (or even more!) stalking that person online doing their homework, they'll get valuable insights that will help them close a deal. Which almost never is the case.

How much should you research your prosepct before reaching out?

About 5 to 10 minutes is enough. More than that is excessive. (There are exceptions to this general rule, but overall up to 10 minutes should be plenty.)

You don't need to know all the things they're favoriting on Twitter, liking on Facebook, which pictures they've uploaded on Flickr (I'm old school I know, Instagram!), what they've blogged about and so on.

You can't gain a perfect understanding of a prospect by going all NSA on them.

The best way to learn about your prospect?

Talk to them. Ask them questions. That way you'll get relevant information that actually matters. Use the conversation with them to learn more and dig deep. Don't just ask surface level questions. Ask why they find something important, and how they came to that conclusion, and what they're doing about it, what else they've tried before. What's really crucial right now for them? What's a dealbreaker? What's a nice to have?

Listen to the way they say it, listen to the tone of their voice.

Pay attention to context, not just content!

If all this "online homework" isn't actually that helpful, why are so many salespeople obsessed with it these days?

The real reason why sales reps over research prospects

What's the root cause of this desire to research people online for hours? Why are many modern salespeople spending so much time doing it?

rejectionfreezone

Because it's convenient. Because it's safe. And because they feel insecure about reaching out and interacting with the prospect.

Researching prospects online is risk-free. Nobody will reject you while you're doing online research.

No rejection = No sales.

It's a rejection-free zone. But that's the exact problem. No rejection also means no sales.

There's no selling going on. You're not closing deals. You're not engaging with people. You're just sitting in front of a computer, clicking buttons and taking notes.

When over-researching leads to overconfidence

Another mistake that I see a lot of "social salespeople" commit is being overconfident. They spend an hour reading all your tweets and Facebook updates, and your last five blog posts ... and they think they know you because of that. They think they now have the essence of who you are and what makes you tick, what you like and dislike.

Whenever you walk into a conversation with a human being filled with so many preconceived notions, there's a huge risk that you'll fail to truly interact with that person. It's just the way our brains are wired—we all prefer to have our ideas validated. We all want to be right. But as a salesperson, your job is not to be right. Your job is to sell. Let the other person be right and close the deal.

When you're having a sales conversation with a prospect, put your preconceived notions aside. Don't be opinionated, be open-minded. Don't suppose you know what makes them tick. Get out of your own head and really listen to them.

Showing off insights

I've seen salespeople go as far as bragging about the information they gathered about a prospect. Which is wrong on so many levels. One, it's absolutely boring to the other person, because they know all the things you're telling them about them. They are the ones who shared it online. What's the point of regurgitating that?

And sometimes they make assumptions based on what they read that are just plain wrong. They misinterpret something that person shared online.

Heck, if even the popular Myers-Briggs test doesn't manage to really reveal a person's character in 93 questions, why do these people think they can understand a person because they read a tweet?

palmreading

Why do they think they can deduct a person's thoughts, feelings, intentions, beliefs and philosophy are, based on a blog comment?

It takes more than that to fully understand somebody.

There is value in social!

I'm not advising you to ignore social. Social can be a powerful tool. But don't buy into the hype. Don't fall prey to wishful thinking that social sales will help you to close more deals without encountering rejection.

You know what you can gain from researching prospects online?

Signals. Tidbits of information. But you need personal interaction and real-time engagement with a person to be able to embed these data points into the right context in order to sell more successfully.

Want our best sales advice?

Join 200,000+ sales professionals and founders. Get our best tips on growing revenue every week.

No, thanks.

Thank you for subscribing.