Social selling is not about the tools – It’s about the mindset

Social selling is becoming a bit paseé as it seems that instead of transforming contemporary sales altogether, the primary focus has been unfortunately put on the different tools, techniques, and methods available. There are, of course, those people who are still trying to convince people that social selling is not really about tweeting or writing blog posts. It’s much more holistic than single interventions here and there. Social selling, as it should be correctly perceived, is all about human interactions, and social media is one of the spheres where a skilled salesperson should be actively present.

It’s quite obvious that today social media plays an ever-increasingly important role in almost every kind of interaction between people and different organizations but the most important thing, people interacting with other people, is somewhat missing from the discussion. Almost everyone knows how important social media is today, and the importance of social media is well established. We live in a world where Facebook has nearly 2 billion active users, well over 600 million tweets are sent out per day, and Instagram has stored over 35 billion photos. It’s no surprise that we are living in a world where the socio-digital world and interconnectedness plays a huge role. It’s no wonder that we can’t actually comprehend what happens around us online just in one minute.

Social media has created various opportunities for a broad range of companies as both clients, competitors and other businesses are widely present. It’s important to recognize that the social sphere is dominated by various actors, i.e. complementary offerings and vendors.

While almost everyone knows that social media has changed interaction for good, not everyone has recognized how to leverage the opportunity to improve customer service, sales, business development, and marketing. It’s one thing to be “present” in the socio-digital sphere, but it’s pretty different to be a trustworthy partner in that competitive arena.

Brand awareness, something that every organization is always interested in, doesn’t naturally flow from just making sure that you’ve just managed to create your Facebook page or changed the “egg head” on Twitter to the company logo. For far too many sales professionals, social media is just another channel where profiles are to be created, connections established, and content shared with a lot of push mentality. The real meaning of social selling, developing and nurturing genuine human-to-human relationships, has unfortunately been forgotten in the midst of different tools and solutions. Social selling is a bit more than just upgraded form of relationship selling, but it’s not selling via social media either. Michael Brenner argues that,

Social selling is not just about starting the sales process with social tools like Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter. Social selling is about sales people building a strong personal brand. It is about understanding the role of content and how content can be used to tell a powerful and emotional story. And it is about growing your social connections. … Social Selling is an extension of the Social Business imperative. [italics original]

Brenner’s view on social selling is much more convincing than just discussing different social media tools and platforms. I argue that social selling focuses especially on the relationship building (listen, connect, and advice) and creating the differentiated content (knowing, engaging, sharing, and discussing). Social selling can’t be defined solely in opposition to more traditional sales practices, but rather social selling encompasses many more aspects which are not presented as often as they should. The old sales playbook is not obsolete but should be accommodated with the new reality of informed, connected, empowered, and active buyers. [1]

The actual meaning of social selling, establishing and nurturing genuine human-to-human relationships has been somewhat forgotten. When I first read about social selling about three or four years ago, there were various competing schools of thought, i.e. social selling is about x. It wasn’t relevant to recognize the particular paradigm that this or that person was representing as it seemed that the focus was always on various tools, procedures and methods available.

For me, this was way too clinical and unauthentic. It’s much important to on trust-based relationships. Everyone is talking about tips and tricks how to make some technocratic social selling work, but in the long run, it’s all about your social networks. I think that way too many sales professionals don’t know how to tap into the reality of “social” sphere as part of the social process. Social media is perceived as somewhat pointless as the results are not immediately there.

I am not a social selling guru, but at least for me, it also seems like that not too many perceive social selling. That is the real problem as social selling is not really about the tools and various techniques but instead about the way sales is done in the contemporary world.

 

[1] See C. K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy’s Co-Creation Experiences: The Next Practice in Value Creation (2004).

Photo credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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