I came across an interesting, albeit old article and related comment thread on the Insurance Journal website yesterday. It takes a look at how millennials are changing the way the insurance industry sells. A big part of that has to do with the social media savvy of the younger generation. As you can imagine, the discussion thread had an interesting mix of comments from varying age groups:

  • “Keep up the sales calls and do not follow the lemmings off the cliff!”
  • “I love taking biz from [complacent] old brokers like Sarah! Clients are tired of the old way of doing things.”
  • “If the younger agents/brokers want to have everything by text, email, etc. then they are going to reap what they sow. The carriers will eventually say, ‘if you are not going to give value and all you are doing is basing everything on price and you are the electronic go-between, then your percentage for new business will be 4%, and renewal will be 2%.’”
  • “It’s the wave of the future, social media, on-line chat help, communication via email, blogging . . . endless opportunities available and those that jump in will reap [policies] . . .”

The Debate Continues More Than Six Years Later

Admittedly, I picked some of the more extreme comments to share with you. However, it should help you get a sense of the tone of the conversation. More than six years later, has the debate died down? Nope. In fact, my good friend, Dan Disney, and I debated the “social selling vs. cold calling” topic. Here are the points we covered:

  • Cold calling is dead
  • Social selling isn’t selling
  • Sooner or later you need the phone
  • Selling on social isn’t taken seriously
  • Which tactic closes more deals?
  • Why is your tactic better?

Dan and I had some great back and forth on the subject . . . You should definitely view it when you get the chance.

Watch now – Fill out the form below.

While Dan had some terrific points about leveraging social media as a tool in your prospecting arsenal, I hold firm that calling — cold and warm calling — is still a crucial selling skill. I worry about younger generations of sales representatives who listen only to the social selling trainers. Building a strong online presence takes time, effort, and content creation to gain a strong following and establish a personal brand. Do you want to risk your immediate need to meet your quota by using a long-term, social-only approach?

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in personal brand building through social media. Plus, there can be SEO and website referral benefits when reps are active on social media. However, social media should not be your primary way to attempt to sell. First of all, it’s hard to do well. Second, you’ve got no guarantees when it comes to a platform’s popularity or (free) availability.

Ever hear of MySpace? That’s just one example where a social media platform was totally on fire only to flame out as soon as Facebook came on the scene. Facebook, while still a social media powerhouse, is losing its luster. As for Linkedin, the premier B2B social selling destination . . . Well, who really knows what Microsoft’s long-term goals are for the platform? What’s free today may be paid tomorrow. 

But Hasn’t Selling ALWAYS Been Social?

From the moment someone first traded pebbles for a sabertooth tiger skin, selling has been social. Social selling has always existed because selling — good, effective selling — requires social skills for building rapport, showing empathy, and helping others. One-on-one, person-to-person, dynamic communication is the best means of selling. Typically, that means at least an initial phone call leading to subsequent calls or face-to-face meetings. Social media networks are borrowed platforms where you can meet other people but rarely do you close a sale there.

To be the most effective seller, you need to own both the medium and the message to have lasting sales power.

 Social media is merely a tool – a tool that someone else owns. The owner lets you participate on the platform, but you are ultimately beholden to the owner’s rules. Your website, your phone, your email: these are all things you “own” as a business or a sales professional.

 As you continue to pursue sales, take a little time to consider a balanced approach to your prospecting and sales efforts:

Own it:

Use it:

  • Facebook brand page with targeted Facebook ads. Without ads on Facebook, you may not reach your prospects and customers. If you don’t want to advertise and work very hard to drive people to your page (that’s just driving them to your page before you even sell anything), consider not investing too much time in Facebook as a prospecting tool.
  • Twitter – but keep your eye on future changes. The platform recently had API changes that impacted third-party apps people use to manage their profiles (Twitterific, Twitterbot, etc.). Who knows what’s in store later? Hootsuite has had its fair share of issues with Twitter (and Facebook), too.
  • LinkedIn for professional connections and networking.
  • Quora to demonstrate your knowledge of your niche or vertical – but don’t list your website or business as part of your “expertise” when giving advice/help. You will get penalized for spam.
  • Video outreach — recorded for YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn as well as live streams.

Ditch it:

  • Any social media platform or other approaches that are no longer performing.
  • The mindset that everything can be done through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You are only borrowing those space. You have to be a social media nomad and get ready to go where your prospects eventually flee to when life gets too dull or expensive in the old places.
  • The belief that cold calling and other traditional forms of reach don’t work. Yes, people do not pick up the phone as often anymore if the number is out of state or unknown. However, almost everyone has voicemail. A solid calling campaign coupled with other customer touch points to warm up that call will yield results.

Let me repeat myself on the topic of social: I’m not anti-social media for salespeople. Definitely build your brand as a credible, trusted resource on social networks. Just don’t do it at the expense of meeting your sales quota. If you don’t have the social media following and audience now, you can’t give up on calling leads today.  And never forget that the medium you love today can quickly be gone or significantly changed tomorrow. Ready to pick up that phone now?

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