One of my pet peeves is social selling without listening. It wastes the customer’s time and makes the seller look stupid.
For example, if I accept a request to connect with someone on LinkedIn, that can be the start of something worthwhile for both parties. But if the new connection then advertises their demand generation services to me, that wastes my time and makes the seller look bad.
Had they glanced at my profile, they would have seen I specialize in demand generation. This makes the seller look stupid: they are offering to sell me something I already have. They did not bother to listen to what I am saying on my LinkedIn page. They are just plowing ahead with their personal agenda without paying any attention to the human being they just connected with. This is an example of social selling without listening, and it is bad selling.
Think of it from a consumer’s perspective. If I buy a coat from a retailer and then the retailer’s marketing department sends me an email advertising the coat I just bought, that is bad marketing. The retailer looks really stupid: they don’t even know that I just bought that coat! It’s like the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. It is a lose-lose activity. The retailer’s brand suffers, the local store’s reputation suffers, the customer’s time is wasted, and the likelihood of a future purchase declines.
Social Selling Is a Long-Term Activity
The trap salespeople can fall into is thinking about social selling exclusively from a short-term perspective. Granted, much of a salesperson’s world rightfully revolves around short-term activities, like responding to a customer’s phone call or a well-qualified marketing lead. But social selling needs to start as a long-term program, much like starting a new sales territory. The salesperson first needs to lay a foundation with their new customers. They need to get to know their customers and demonstrate this understanding. This builds trust. Then they can move on to more focused, short-term activities that are much closer to lead generation and, eventually, closed business.
Likewise with social selling. If you make a new connection, listen first! Do your homework and move carefully. If you spam a new connection, you and your company will pay the price. Here is a video that summarizes my position.
Brands Suffer from Bad Social Selling
Marketers and the C-suite need to realize that bad social selling diminishes the brand. Yes, the individual salesperson’s image suffers when they sell without listening on social media. But the negative fallout of social selling without listening extends to the brand the salesperson represents. The company looks like a poor listener, too. This is something no brand can afford.
Managing for Good Social Selling
All of this begs multiple follow-up questions: Who is monitoring the quality of social selling by your salespeople? Should marketing do it since they are more expert in social media, or should sales do it because it concerns salespeople? Can this monitoring activity be automated, such as through an AI application? What are the implications for sales management in terms of coaching, for human resources in terms of training, and for IT in terms of automation?
Some of the answers to these questions are rather straightforward:
- Sales management must monitor the social selling activities of their salespeople and coach them on how to listen rather than spam customers on social media.
- Marketing must work with HR and sales to create field training programs and guidelines for social selling.
The above two steps will take companies a long way toward ensuring salespeople use effective social selling tactics. As for an automated solution, that may be off in the distance but may become necessary if the two steps prove to be insufficient.
I help digitally-focused leaders evolve and excel with consent-based marketing. In my previous role as CMO at Harte Hanks, leading a 4,500 person marketing agency, I saw marketing that was great AND truly backward right next to each other.
THE PROBLEM? Companies spammed their customers to death with cold emails, with a blatant disregard for data privacy. Let’s pretend you’re doing some shopping. You leave the store, and a salesperson follows you around, asking you to buy their product over and over. Would that be acceptable? Of course not! Yet that’s EXACTLY how enterprises run their marketing! Marketing has become dehumanized. And large companies are spending vast amounts of money to make customers hate them.
HOW I CAN HELP YOU: Put the customer first with consent-based marketing strategies (instead of ones that are impersonal and invasive). Structure and reorient your marketing team. Ensure you’re ethically using customer data. Choose the right customer segments to create conversations with. Use technology (that’s making some marketing horribly soulless) to instead create relevant and intimate customer experiences.