By Jeff Molander,  Communication Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc.
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The goal of the modern B2B seller is to get into conversations earlier—help buyers get ready to buy. Consult with clients, become a trusted source of knowledge, support the decision-making process with expert guidance.

So why is facilitating buying conversations not a part of your "social selling" program?

Why is starting qualified discussions with customers superseded by sharing valuable content, creating a personal brand and sharing insights on LinkedIn?

Why does farming trump hunting?

Does 'social selling' exist?

I put quotes around "social selling" because it does not exist. Not in my book. When honestly examined there is little new involved... other than the Internet.

Listening, engaging, sharing insights with clients. None of these concepts are new to sales.

In fact, they are characteristics of “old school” sales excellence.

Social selling is a term invented to sell marketing concepts. Just look around at how it's playing out. The thrust of social selling is encouraging sellers (hunters) to behave like marketers (farmers).

Post, share, comment, repeat. If that sounds a lot like marketing it is!

Is farming effective at generating new client conversations? Is pushing content, liking, sharing, commenting effective at keeping sellers emotionally confident, mentally tough?

Is social selling weakening your hunters?

Probably. I study it for a living. Social selling programs at most organizations are de-valuing vitally important practices.

Prospecting. Hunting.

Worse, I'm seeing social selling increasing frustration of otherwise challenged sellers.

I'm seeing it have negative impact on motivation and focus.

Social selling programs tend to reward relatively ineffective behavior patterns. LinkedIn itself rewards activity and encourages gamification of it Social Selling Index. Mere activity.

This gets reps "doing social." But it can be poisonous to rep productivity. 

How it may be wasting reps' time

Driving interest on social requires more skills than driving interaction, says Mark McInnes of Sydney-based, Sales ITV. Most of what reps engage in these days is marketing-focused. This often wastes time.

Time reps should be spending hunting.

Here's the rub: Creating interest in a customer... about your products or service... is difficult compared to creating interaction with them. Mr. McInnes lays out a compelling argument against traditional social selling training:

  • It's much easier to drive interaction.
  • It feels good to interact... as if something worthwhile has been accomplished.
  • Most reps' LinkedIn networks do not reflect the desires of their business objectives.

Here's the rub: Interaction is rewarded with dopamine blasts from your brain, fueling a desire more of the same activity. Lots of likes or views make you feel good. (Just like the lights of a gambling-slot machine do)

"What exactly are you going to do with these 142 Likes, 53 Comments and no doubt 3000+ views? ........ Nothing. Because they are absolutely worthless," says Mr. McInnes who boldly proclaims this is interaction, not interest.

Here's the danger: Sellers see these view 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 the level of interactions," says Mr. McInnes. 

Thus, "with each post, they strive for more views, more likes, all in an attempt to validate (justify) the time they've wasted on social. No wonder so many of senior managers seem to be 'allergic' to social selling programs."

Can your reps start causing sales-focused discussions? Absolutely. Helping buyers buy is where the action is.

Yet the buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. Yet most social selling training programs are not teaching reps how to deal with the deficiencies Mr. McInnes, you and I agree on. Do you agree? What's your experience been so far? 

Photo credit: coba

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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