Social Selling is a Big, Fat, (Dangerous) Lie

Terrible Salespeople Wolf

Before you read this post, you need the backstory from the below video about “social selling.”

There are probably hundreds of videos like it, and I’m not singling out this video for any reason other than it happens to be the last one I’ve seen (in a long line of them) that finally made me stand up and say, “ENOUGH!”

Listen to me.  This video does nothing but tell lie after lie after lie.

Prospects still answer their phones all the time.

Prospects are returning (well crafted) voicemails from salespeople every single day.

Sure, 90% of buyers are online, but you can’t sell them anything on LinkedIn, a blog, or Facebook.

There is only one way to conduct a sale on the internet.  It’s called ecommerce.

If you really think about it, ecommerce is not “selling” either.

To build an ecommerce business, you create a database of products and allow people to add them to their “cart.”  It’s the digital version of a grocery store.

In ecommerce there is no discovery phase.  No needs analysis is performed.  No presentation is made.  There is no “selling.”

It’s self directed buying just like you experience when you visit your local grocery store. After all, where do you think the ecommerce concept of the “shopping cart” came from? People were afraid to release their financial info online, so terms like “shopping cart” were used to ease people into the world of ecommerce.  Lots of websites still call the completion of the purchase “checkout” or have a button that says “Go to checkout!”

So, ecommerce isn’t “selling.”

Guess what?

Neither is anything else that happens on the internet.

So if it’s not selling, what should we call all this social media stuff?

Social Selling is actually just “marketing.”

Ahhhh marketing…its a fine word!  Social selling advocates would probably prefer it no longer exist…but there is a reason companies still have both marketing and sales functions.

Marketing is how we promote awareness about a product or service to….the market!

And guess what?  There is nothing wrong with marketing!  Marketing helps build brand awareness.  Marketing gives you street cred.  Marketing efforts allow you to “check out” as a viable option when people begin to do that buyer research we hear so much about.  So let me repeat one more time: Marketing is awesome.   But even if you’re great at marketing, you still need to sell.

I believe in marketing.  I share or post from my LinkedIn profile almost every day.  I have a blog.  The blog has a Facebook page.  I market myself more than most, but I know I’m not selling anything.  For that to happen, we would have to have a conversation.

My own company has some brilliant examples of marketing here, here, and here.

As much as I see the value in marketing, it takes up 3-5% of my total time, and NONE of these activities will ever replace the time I spend SELLING.  It’s simply the street cred I would enjoy having if someone were to ever decide to research me…especially if I’ve approached them on a cold call.

Now, I don’t think every single social selling advocate is nefariously suggesting that social media is the only way to sell, but SOME most definitely ARE suggesting this.  This is terrible.

The company that made the video above is pitching you on the idea that you can be like Sally!  You can use social media channels to “never cold call again!”

They are lying.

I can’t stand liars.  In my mind, blanket statements telling people they’ll never need to cold call again are tantamount to medical malpractice.  Although instead of harming an actual physical body, they’re going to harm someone’s financial well being.

Have you noticed that they always have to trumpet that “60-70% through the buying process” statistic, and the the fact that the buyer ends up communicating with a salesperson almost feels like its swept under the rug.   Besides we’ve already established…its not a buying process, it is a research process.

Let me slap some actual truth on you here:

Did you know that if you are different/better than your competition, and you have the ability (key!) to communicate that difference, it is possible to sell things to people that they didn’t know they needed!

You can even do this if they weren’t in a “buying process” when you approached them!

And you are free to do this with as many people as you can reach in a day.

What is this madness?

It’s called “traditional selling.”  Come to think of it, maybe we should just call it “selling.”

Selling.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Selling happens during a conversation.

A true selling conversation happens either face to face, or over the phone.

Mayyyybe you could make an argument for a back and forth email conversation, but that’s it. Technology has begun to blur the communication lines to be sure, but true sales will always be earned with some form of active, live conversation where questions are asked, answers are given, and a relationship begins to develop.

The farther you get from a relationship and a face to face interaction, the more the basis of the sale will be price.  You’re shifting from selling to self directed buying.

I find it fascinating how little the social selling movement focuses on the actual sales skills you’re going to need once these hordes of excited buyers have arrived on your doorstep.  I guess they can’t make as much money selling you on the process that will take you the final 30-40% of the way.

Something to ponder:  How much money do YOU make during your customers’ first 60-70% of the supposed “buying process?”  How does that compare to what you make in the final 30-40%?

So why is this social selling travesty gaining momentum?

The market is brimming with weak salespeople.

Social selling, as its being packaged and sold to the salespeople of the world, is nothing but the newest form of snake oil.  Who buys snake oil?  People searching for an easy solution to their problems.

Social selling advocates are promising results they can’t deliver on a consistent basis.  These videos always fail to mention what you should be doing for the other 7.5 hours a day when you aren’t posting things to social media.  Are we supposed to assume that this method is so effective you’re going to need all that time to simply service the orders that are flying at you?  If this is the case, why doesn’t everyone do this?  Why do sales teams still exist all over the country?  Why are “traditional” salespeople some of the highest paid people in many companies?  Man I just have so many questions!

You’ve heard of the Pareto principle right? The premise is that 20% of the people make 80% of the money. That means 80% of the people are struggling in relation to the top 20%.

So if you look from top to bottom through this 80% of the sales populace, the people inhabiting that space are becoming increasingly desperate to earn.  The closer we get to the bottom, the more they need something to turn their fortunes around.

ACTUALLY LEARNING TO SELL would be too hard.

It would require commitment, memorization, and the ability to endure some rejection and awkwardness.

I think you can see why this video appeals.   The message is that “traditional sales” is bad because you are “interruptive” and no one wants to talk to you.  HOW DARE YOU interrupt someone’s day with your worthless product or service!

Can you believe salespeople are BUYING this #1 destroyer of sales motivation?  They believe their product or service isn’t worthwhile enough to warrant an “unscheduled” approach!   I pity the person that sells a product or service that actually holds that belief.

Instead of braving the world with confidence in ourselves, our products, and our companies, we can just follow the advice of this friendly cartoon about how we can leverage LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook and we can all be #1 in our offices!!!

If you’ve been successful at traditional sales for any length of time, it’s laughably easy to pick this video apart:

If Fred is making 100 cold calls per day he is probably in a hunter role that is designed to do that.  Some people are fine with roles like that.  Highlighting the “negatives” of a specific role for its extreme elements to try and scare the general populace is misleading.

If Fred is making 100 cold calls a day and getting poor results…he probably needs to choose better words or target more viable prospects.    He might need actual sales training, not social media coaching.  It’s more believable that 100 calls a day would result in some seriously decent results over the long term.

I know lots of “Freds” that earn huge incomes.   I know several b2b and b2c salespeople that earn between $500K and 1 million dollars annually and don’t have a social media profile of ANY KIND.  How is this possible in 2015???

Sally only deals with people that have indicated they are ready to buy?  These people are approaching in droves and beating down her door?  Doubtful.

I’ll bet in addition to her own marketing, Sally gets tons of leads from her company and works on a base salary and potentially makes far less income than the average “Fred” hunter salesperson.

Do you see how this scenario building is really stupid?  We can craft any story we want with conjecture.

Nonetheless, you probably know a few real life Sallys.  They are social media blitzkriegs…but contrary to this video, they don’t earn as much as the Freds.

In light of all this, I have some great news.

There is a very bright silver lining to this dark cloud of lies.

Because more and more people are falling victim to the “social selling movement” there are fewer ACTUAL sales calls ocurring.  That means if YOU get out there and do it right…there will be fewer people competing with you as time goes on.

I guess there’s never been a better time to be a professional hard working salesperson.



Do you know when you’ll never need to cold call again?

There actually could come a day.

You’ll never need to cold call again when you’ve been doing your job well enough, for long enough, and you’ve built such a monstrous volume of “raving fan” past clients that the personal referrals are literally overwhelming you at the same time as you are trying to service your already massive book of current business.

This is the outcome the social selling advocates are promising.  It doesn’t come that easy.  Depending on your industry, this process can take 5-15 years of a phenomenal track record of “traditional” selling.  You can’t shortcut this.

Time is ticking.  Get out there and sell.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.