Why Reps Cannot Survive on Social Selling Alone

Ok, let’s not get into the silly argument around whether cold calling is dead (it isn’t) or that social selling has a fuzzy ROI (also not true). The reality is that all selling is social. But social selling activities today must be a part of your sales strategy, not the entire strategy. The ‘new’ doesn’t necessarily replace the ‘old’. Why? Because just like every other tool, social selling has its limitations and without an artful combination of tactics, your pipeline is destined for disaster.

In the beginning…

Long before social networks took the world by storm, we miraculously communicated in a variety of ways:

  • Blogs
  • Email
  • Newsletters
  • The telephone (remember that thing??)
  • Snail mail
  • Smoke signals

(I could go on…)

While some advances replaced others (goodbye pagers and note-carrying pigeons!), others have remained. The postal system hasn’t died yet because the thrill of finding a thoughtful birthday card in the mailbox or the joy of taping a family Christmas card to the mantle is a personal experience that simply can’t be replaced with an email.

Such is life in the sales world. Advances in technology have increased the speed and scale of how we communicate but reps simply cannot use only the latest technology or sales enablement tool and expect to shatter quotas. Humans are social creatures and no matter what any sales expert says, your prospects still want a personal connection with someone who understands their challenge (and has a solution). Combining technologies and good ol’ fashioned person to person communication is the secret to sales success.

Social alone cannot succeed 

Just as the telephone didn’t render face to face communications obsolete, social networking doesn’t replace good selling skills. It’s simply another arrow in and the ever-growing quiver of the modern sales person.

To think all a ‘social seller’ needs to do is hang out on Sales Navigator, read and share content and reply to posts is preposterous. At some point, you must have a meaningful conversation and that conversation is equally critical.

As the folks at CEB have studied and articulated, sales cycles are getting more complicated, not less. There are an average of 6.8 stakeholders involved in the typical B2B sale and from CEB’s research we know that the true ‘Mobilizer’ (the one of the 6.8 who is the driving force behind the decision-making) is usually not the most obvious title or role within the organization.

In other words, there is no one with the title “Vice President in Charge of Buying Your Solution Today” so you need to do some work to uncover that person. To ignore this very important dynamic is dangerous, as this is where the ‘social selling only’ crowd misses the boat.

The 2-pronged attack

You see, there are not one, but two distinct levels of socialization that happen in any (even moderately complex) B2B sale.

#1: First is the obvious and most practiced social selling process that we will call Inter-Company Socialization.

With Inter-Company Socialization, we use tools like Sales Navigator to identify accounts and leads based on the titles we believe are the right ones. We read their posts (if they are active) to gain insights and share content in the hopes they notice us. This is great for building your brand and image as a thought leader and solution provider, and it’s important that you do these things well.

But while this process has proven to be impactful, it doesn’t cover all the bases. It assumes you know who the right people are but doesn’t tell you the whole picture. It doesn’t tell you who the Mobilizer is, or who can’t mobilize for you because they are in the process of getting fired, demoted or looking for another job.

#2 Secondly, it doesn’t account for the equally important second level of socialization: the Intra-Company Socialization

Every company has its own formal and informal communication protocols, with their own Three Letter Acronyms (TLA’s) and a unique way of sharing information. This internal communication system is known as the Social DNA of the organization.

Think about it, the way co-workers communicate within (Intra) the company is dominated by human to human (voice, phone, meeting etc.) and digital (predominately email).  While an executive may see your LinkedIn or Twitter post and ‘share’ it with their team, they more likely to share it digitally via email because that is the more common Intra-Company way to socialize. Use this to your advantage!

By using a consistent cadence of calls, emails and voicemails to various titles in the organization, your message will be routed to the right person based on their established protocols. Essentially, you enable your prospects to spread your message, overcome sales objections and build awareness for you. Leveraging the Social DNA helps you avoid the common sales pitfall of burning unnecessary cycles with the wrong person. It’s simple, but genius at the same time…

The combination is the key 

You can’t leverage the Social DNA through social alone. Nor do I think you’ll be successful if all you do is call prospects all day. Or send an endless string of emails. It’s the combination of all available channels that drives the greatest outcomes.

When you blend digital tactics, social engagement and human to human communication, you can reach, engage and create opportunities with the right people.


Find the buyer and you will win

You want to be where your buyers are. If you think buyers are only on social media, you are sadly mistaken. Your buyers are everywhere and the hardest part of your job is finding and connecting with them. If you are not coordinating Digital, H2H and Social efforts, and being intentional about it, rest assured that your competitor will find your buyer before you do. #DoAlloftheAbove.

What do you think? Can social selling alone drive quality pipeline or do you think a balance of approaches is necessary?

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