Is ‘social selling’ all it’s cracked up to be? Some myths and challenges

Since LinkedIn started its publishing arm there has been a growing tsunami of articles filling our news feeds and inboxes.


Amongst this flood of information are some great articles and, of course, there are those articles that are a waste of time. That’s to be expected.


Within this tsunami there has been a range of articles promoting the astounding benefits of ‘social selling’, especially around writing and sharing content with prospects and clients as a critical part of the sales process. Articles that are sure to get you noticed and have clients contacting you so that you can make more sales.


It is also being touted that instead of corporate brands it is now about personal brands – building your professional profile is the most important thing you can do on LinkedIn, so the ‘social selling experts’ say.


Apparently, to be most effective at social selling, we, as sales professionals, are now supposed to start writing great articles making sure they are positioned on LinkedIn and shared with those prospects and clients we want to sell to and work with.


It is being proclaimed that we should make publishing articles a regular part of our sales efforts, including writing and curating content to build our credibility and value to ensure that prospects and clients will flock to us in droves, having been mesmerized by our wisdom on whatever topic we stand by.


It has even been said that ‘disruptive selling’ (think prospecting by phone and calling a prospect with a valid business reason to connect) is no longer necessary in social sales. It’s apparently passé and all you need to do is be a great writer and curator of content, strategically sharing your wisdom for all to see. LinkedIn is supposed to be the main or only data base of contacts that you need to focus on. Social selling is the way to go, so dump the rest.


LinkedIn is good but not that good. As such, this is a classic case of ‘point solutionitis’ at play again. Another silver bullet to sales success. Groan…


This approach to selling has been gaining some traction in enterprise selling (think big companies selling to each other), but it does not take into account the brutal facts and realities of the diverse and complex world of selling most of us operate in. For instance:


  • In Australia at least, it is estimated that up to 60% of business owners are not on LinkedIn. So how do you find those people when you want to target them?
  • The target market of some B2C businesses are retirees, many of whom are not on the internet and so they have to rely on traditional local paper advertising and letter box drops to advertise and attract their prospects. Where does the internet feature here?
  • Information overload is affecting many people, with email being the major cause of this issue. Many people are now choosing to unsubscribe from news feeds and emails that do not add any value or are just ‘click bait’ causing them to be further distracted. The irony now is that, amongst other things, a key function of an effective salesperson is to sift and sort information for clients, making their lives easier, not give them more information.
  • The lack of time and/or desire/ability to write and curate relevant content. Ask yourself and your salespeople these questions: How many salespeople would want to write articles on their topics of choice? How many salespeople would feel confident and competent writing articles? How many salespeople would be able to curate relevant content for their target markets? And most importantly, how many salespeople would have the time to write and curate content and still sell and meet their sales budgets? Very few indeed.
  • Tell me, fellow business owners who have taken the risk and invested money, time, and effort in building your businesses and creating jobs for people, how do you feel about your team using your currency and knowledge to build their own personal brands with clients and ditch your company’s brand?
  • How many more top 10 (or 25, 47 or 3) tips for improving productivity, being the best leader/ salesperson/ interviewee, peer, etc. can we endure or try before we spontaneously combust? I swear there must be thousands of articles if not more telling us this and that. I think I’m up to 2000 tips on how to be a better person… which means if I try to live up to all these tips I will be no good at anything at all and certainly not productive.
  • Finally, how many of these articles are nothing more than just vanity pages offering up the opinions of narcissists determined to get up the ranks of the most ‘influential’ people in the world instead of actually offering something of value to others and supporting the companies they represent?

So before we dump our standard, so-called outdated, sales practices in favour of social selling, you might like to think about if and how you incorporate social media into your sales and marketing mix.


Remember, everybody lives by selling something.


Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform


This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.


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Brooke H. @ Tenfold
5 years ago

Great post! Thanks for this well thought-out and informative article. Social selling has indeed been very popular these days. It’s no wonder companies are taking advantage of this trend, a lot of people are active on social networks and making it their go-to way of communication.

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