Is social selling really selling? Selling is a one-on-one conversation. Social selling most of the time is a generic shout-out to the world, which is not selling. Most of what people call “social selling” is actually social marketing. However, there are times social media is used to sell to a specific individual.

Social selling is one of the only sales tactics where experts caution you to “not sell.” Instead, you’re advised to build your personal brand and position yourself as a thought leader and go-to resource for people who need the product or service you sell. That sounds an awful lot like inbound marketing, wouldn’t you agree?

Social sellers are marketing themselves as solution agents for a brand; some are promoting themselves. Period. After all, people buy from other people. However, promotion to your network and beyond from your individual social account is not selling; it’s marketing.

I certainly believe that what most sales reps do on social media is actually marketing. I posted on LinkedIn about the topic in response to Dan Disney’s video where he claims that social selling isn’t marketing.

Join this conversation on LinkedIn.

Not All Salespeople Understand the Difference Between Sales and Marketing Functions

As you can imagine, this captured a lot of people’s attention and generated some terrific discussion. One issue that stands out in several of the conversations on my LinkedIn post is that many salespeople don’t fully understand or appreciate the difference between sales and marketing functions.

One of the first comments on my post came from someone who, in all caps, told me I am WRONG. The gentleman explained how he posted a video from his LinkedIn profile that generated leads who called to make a purchase.

As he and I continued the conversation, I pointed out how his video post on his timeline is marketing. A video posted from a person’s social media profile is marketing because it’s:

  • a piece of content (ever hear of content marketing?)
  • when you post it for your general audience, it’s not a one-to-one, personalized outreach sent to a single, specific individual
  • generating transactions for order takers to fulfill; no actual “selling” is involved because
    • Price is not an issue in these instances
    • These buyers obviously perceive limited-to-no risk
    • They don’t require any additional education from a salesperson
    • Nobody has to handle objections

Remember: selling requires a one-on-one conversation that addresses education, price aversion, or bottom-of-funnel objections. That’s when the selling begins. A generic, shout-out to the entire world is not selling. It’s marketing, just like Coca-Cola does when they put a commercial on television.

A sales rep can post marketing messages all day, but that doesn’t make what he or she is doing “social selling.” Just because your title includes the word “sales” doesn’t mean that every activity you undertake suddenly becomes a sales activity.

Marketing people sometimes participate in sales conversations. How would you feel if they started calling that activity “conversation-to-close marketing”? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Neither does “social selling” when you aren’t homing in on a specific individual.

So Is There No Such Thing as Social Selling?

I do believe that most of what people call “social selling,” is social marketing. However, there are times when you may actually use social media to sell to a specific individual. There are options for direct messaging prospects to book meetings and demos. However, most so-called social sellers abuse those options. There is often no “social” involved — just spamming.

Unfortunately, many salespeople who attempt to use social media for selling go about it all wrong. A LinkedIn connection request immediately followed up with a message trying to sell your product or service is the least social thing you can do. You’ve effectively signaled to the person with whom you’ve connected that you don’t view them as a person; you see them as just another number on your way to meeting quota.

Maybe even in the cases where people do this right, the better description would be social prospecting. After all, you are making a cold outreach or attempting to nurture leads who have gone cold.

If you want to do some actual social prospecting on social media platforms, try these tips when reaching out to individuals on LinkedIn, Twitter, and beyond.

  • Don’t send a direct message spewing product-centered information.
  • Focus on getting to know the prospect and his or her pain points — attempt to start a conversation instead of a monologue.
  • Share valuable content, one-on-one, to help the person diagnose problems and fully understand potential solutions.
  • Remember the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you don’t want a social inbox full of self-serving garbage from other people, don’t do that to other people.

Where Does This Leave Us?

I am a firm believer that salespeople should work on cultivating their personal brands. Be active on social media. These platforms are not merely places to network to find your next sale; social media provides you with opportunities to listen and learn, too. Use these tools to become a more informed and more helpful sales professional.

I just ask that the next time you think about your job in sales, consider how you can put more energy into sales activities instead of lead generation/marketing activities. You will find that quota attainment is a lot easier when you are bolder with your one-to-one outreach.

Social Selling vs. Cold Calling Watch Now!