Social Selling? Let’s Try Listening

ocean social sellingIn today’s world, it’s easy to get lost in technology. Whether in your personal life or workday (an increasingly blurry distinction these days, of course), communication devices, networks and input are seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent.

Out of the environment of this electronically networked universe, the concept of social selling has taken root. The reasons for its existence and conditions for its growth are clear: Social selling is a logical extension of old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing on an insane and potentially limitless scale. Naturally, people who sell things can find eager new audiences—and maintain/strengthen relationships with existing ones—on the LinkedIns, Twitters and Facebooks of the world.

But as the potential for (often shallow) social-media fueled connection increases, I’d like to raise some questions: How are you connecting? Are you listening at least as much as you’re talking? Do you bring value to the relationship, or do you just talk about yourself or your organization? Do you communicate in ways appropriate and beneficial to the buyer, or do you recite scripted monologues through a megaphone?

How much are you helping buyers?
Talking about yourself is easy, if pointless to today’s empowered buyer, who can quickly find out everything about you or your competitors via the Internet. Why not ensure you make a positive, meaningful impact on your buyer (potential or otherwise)? Because in the long run, you want them to think highly of you when it comes time to buy for the first time, buy again, stay committed or recommend a friend.

It all sounds simple, but in reality practicing this can be hard. It requires giving up the irresistible urge of the quick sell. It demands patience in the face of lightning-fast and ephemeral interactions. Technology of the last decade has taken traditional “real-time” communication and information-sharing to a completely different place, but the same rules apply to these virtual relationships/spaces as to face-to-face meetings: You don’t pressure people to buy. (As one of my coaches always says, pressure never works in business or relationships.) Rather, you first establish the relationship, properly gauge a buyer’s interest, and only sell when the buyer indicates a clear desire to buy.

Selling relationships, selling yourself
Ultimately, no matter the industry, the ideal of today’s sales professional is one who sells a relationship. A relationship with people who represent an organization. Even if your business sells products (vs. services), you’re still selling relationships by extension. After all, who wants to purchase products from companies or people that treat them poorly or have no regard for their best interests? Who wants to give their dollars to something that turns them off? (Please don’t answer this question, psychiatrists; it’s rhetorical.)

The questions then become: What are you doing to be that indispensable resource? How will you contribute? Are you going to meet people where they are, on their terms, and enrich their lives?


Jeff Leo Herrmann, Fathom’s Chief Revenue Officer, will be presenting on social selling tomorrow (Oct. 7) at LinkedIn’s Sales Connect 2015 event in Las Vegas. If you happen to be one of the lucky 800 senior sales and marketing leaders in attendance, be sure to check out his 2:30 session: “Publish or Perish – Selling in the Age of Content Marketing.”


Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley via Flickr.

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