By Jeff Molander,  Conversation Enablement Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc.
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You've got LinkedIn Sales Navigator seats ... reps' browsers are fired up. They're sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points ... showing management they can use LinkedIn. They're engaging in "social selling."

Full stop: Are they helping buyers buy? 

If your reps are focusing on...

  1. becoming a thought leader,
  2. engaging clients with insights, and
  3. building trusted, professional relationships & personal brand ...

... they are probably not helping buyers prepare to buy. Each of the above is important, but not nearly enough. These activities are the cost of entry. 

The game-changer is not LinkedIn. It's communications technique on LinkedIn; ability to start conversations with targets. 

Helping buyers get ready to buy.

The big social selling lie

"It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth." (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Our reps are being told to "become a thought leader" online. To do this, share valuable insights with clients on LinkedIn. This earns trust.

So goes the theory.

In practice, customers want problem-solvers, not thought leaders. Problem-solving is where the value is. Problem-solving ability is how customers make decisions. 

Thought leadership is an outcome of a winning strategy ... not a strategy itself! 

Are your reps engaging like this?

Beware. In practice, social selling usually involves:

  • pushing information at customers (often knowledge they already have!)
  • liking, sharing, commenting
  • encouraging (often forcing) reps to use LinkedIn

Because pushing information and engaging on LinkedIn is easy. Easier than facilitating a buying discussion!

Easy comes at a cost. Namely, feeling accomplished without actually being accomplished. Having taken actions that feel worthwhile but are not is dangerous.

"Social selling" is giving sellers a false sense of accomplishment. Instead, it should be giving them a better tool to start conversations with prospects.

A support group for bad behavior

Sellers are being trained by "LinkedIn experts" (and LinkedIn itself) to push information (content) at clients rather than problem-solve for them. Because pushing is easy, immediate and provides a sense of “got that done today!”

Sellers see these view social media counts, "as positive reinforcement of their 'social selling' activity. As they inevitably look to drive more views through content, they stray away from the main message, more towards focusing on number of interactions," says Marc McInnes of Sales ITV.

Sellers are turning to the wrong coaches.

Your team may be developing a support group for bad behavior. Behavior reps often realize won't work. But rather than listen to their good instincts (do the work) they’re buying into the "social selling" lies.

Your reps are likely getting advice from:

  • LinkedIn: A mass media company who's primary market is recruiters (not sellers)
  • A sea of experts pushing marketing tactics (who are often charlatans)
  • Leadership (herein lies the opportunity) 

Ever experience this?

You've experienced it. Sellers pushing marketing content outside the context you buy in. Right?

Why do reps push content out of context? Often because they’re being told to... to share insights.

“That’s what thought leaders do.”

Truth is, problem-solvers apply content within the context as a habit. Because that’s how they think. They don’t push, they problem-solve. They don’t engage in vanity actions, they do the hard work.  

The game-changer is not LinkedIn. It's communications technique on LinkedIn; ability to start conversations with targets. 

What's stopping your team from helping buyers prepare to buy?

About the Author

In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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