By Jeff Molander,  Communication Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc.
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Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers' thought leadership and pushing insights.

But is this an effective way to help buyers get ready to buy? Answer: No.

What if not engaging on LinkedIn via "social selling" could drive more buying activity?

Pushing content doesn't cause buying

As stupid as this sounds, hear me out. The buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. I learned this from Sharon Drew Morgen, creator of the Buying Facilitation method.

B2B buying involves systemic change and (when there’s no other option) solution choice. 

How does the way your reps use LinkedIn support that fact? 

Using solution data (content, research) as the main strategy on LinkedIn won't work. Because it earns objections from clients who don’t know how to hear the seller’s point.

This is where most reps go wrong with "social selling" and LinkedIn.

Because buyers buy according to their buying patterns (not our selling patterns). Thus, pushing solution messages too early causes objections, regardless of need.

Are your reps helping clients decide?

Buyers are buyers until they recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to the status quo, says Ms. Morgen.

Until buyers are certain they cannot solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they cannot recognize what is needed to buy.

"They will resist when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them," says Ms. Morgen.

Think about how your reps use LinkedIn addresses this dynamic. (or doesn't) To be blunt: Many sellers are stopping. They're not pushing content, commenting and "farming the LinkedIn landscape." As a result, they're starting more conversations with buyers using LinkedIn.

They're hunting. Then, helping clients decide if buying is the right choice.

The role of a seller has changed. It is to help buyers understand and manage change. Specifically, to know the full extent of internal challenges. Until you help them understand all challenges they remain unable to understand content details effectively.

"They object when pushed," says Morgen.

Bottom line: pushing information on LinkedIn is easy. Easier than facilitating a discussion about buyers' needs!

Don't allow "social selling" to give sellers a false sense of accomplishment. Instead, give them a better way to start conversations with prospects.

Facilitating decisions is not social selling

Is your team applying a communications methodology to start conversations ... then help buyers buy? In other words, are your sellers able to facilitate change for each stage of customers’ buying process ... even those that do not include purchase consideration?

Closing more accounts has everything to do with creating interest ... little to do with creating interaction on LinkedIn.

Creating interest in your solution is a communications skill, not a social media or LinkedIn skill.

"There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary," to facilitate and enable change before any purchase is considered, says Ms. Morgen.

Pushing content to prospects, commenting, updating, sharing wisdom. These tactics work well to generate interaction, not so well to create early-stage client conversations. Interest.

Teach sellers to facilitate

Social selling focuses mainly on pushing content and sharing knowledge, mostly out of context to buyers. It rarely works. Because it limits outreach to clients who already recognize a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem.

At best this is 5 percent of the market, which often throw objections at your advance.

However, "You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change," says Morgen.

"But you’ll need to take a different, additional, path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this," says Morgan.

Indeed, you can continue pushing content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach. A part that connects with the right customers sooner. One that allows you to enter their decision path, join them as a trusted advisor and facilitate clients who can buy through to buying.

"Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based," says Morgen.

My bottom line for you: Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers' thought leadership and pushing insights. But in the end social selling proves worthless compared to helping buyers get ready to buy.

Do you agree? What is your experience?

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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How NOT engaging on LinkedIn is driving buyer conversations
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