The Social Selling Mindset

I would like to share a true story with you guys that happened to me recently.  I am not going to mention the person who I think has the wrong social selling mindset because the purpose of this post is not to shame them or call them out for the mistakes I think they made.  The purpose is to learn from this experience and determine if you need to change your social selling mindset.  I will walk you guys through the entire relationship that I shared with this individual.  I do want to note that this individual would title themselves a sales trainer and if I am not mistaken they have been recognized as a top social media influencer in the Sales world.  

In the beginning

Our relationship started when they started following me on Twitter.  I was humbled when this follow came since as I mentioned they have been recognized as a top social media influencer.  I immediately followed them back.  After I followed them back, I received a DM from them with an ask to connect on LinkedIn.  Again, I was humbled and felt like this could be a good connection.  

Mutual Connection

When I connect with someone, I hope that it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.  When I looked at this potential connection. I saw the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship.  

I thought I could benefit this individual in the following ways:  I could like, share and comment on their content.  I could introduce them to other sales professionals in my network.  I could become a client of theirs. They have a blog, email newsletter and a podcast, and I would be willing to offer them content for those platforms.

I thought this individual could benefit me by giving me valuable and industry-leading insights via their blog, newsletter, and podcast.  They could like, share and comment on my content. They could invite me to share content on their platform or I could gain recognition by having them on my channels.  

Because of the potential to have a mutually beneficial relationship, I sent my new connection the following message on LinkedIn: ” Thanks for connecting on Twitter and LinkedIn. I always hope to be an asset to my connections. So, how can I be of assistance to you?” I send this type of LinkedIn message to many of my new connections.  I thought our relationship could benefit each other but I always like to see what their expectations are of this new connection and that is why I ask: “How can I be of assistance to you?”  Within a matter of minutes, I get the following response: ” Thank YOU, Bo! Nice to meet you and do let me know how I can help you too!”  I appreciate the rapid response of the individual.  I appreciate that they offered to help me as well.  But, you will notice this individual never answered my question.  Honestly, it is okay that they did not initially respond to my question.  Maybe they need to think about it. At this point in the relationship, I felt like we could build a positive connection.  

At this point in the relationship, I felt that everything was good.  I failed in the relationship after this point.  I never reached back out to them.  I did do the following: Subscribed and downloaded their podcast and signed up for their newsletter.  After listening to their podcast, I discovered that it was not for me.  Simply put their delivery was just not for me.  The style of speaking and way of delivering may work for other people. I don’t want to rate the podcast on this post.  I unsubscribed and deleted the downloaded pods.  At the same time, as I spent more time reading their newsletter and looking at their post on social media, I came to the realization that while some of their insights were good, the style and how the content was delivered was just not my style.  Again, this is not meant to be a negative comment about their content, we were just different.  I am from the south, I speak slow, with a twang and use the word Y’all.  My writing style is described as conversational.  There may be people who don’t like how I write, how I talk or the vernacular I use.  For sales professionals, you need to be aware of that and find ways to get your message across in a way that is pleasing to your prospect.  Sales coaches, sales trainers, sales thought leaders are a dime a dozen.  Some are really good.  Others have a niche.  I think this individual has a niche and they most likely do very well in their niche.  I was just not one of them.

Failure to launch

As I mentioned earlier, I failed this potential relationship.  I ultimately did not continue to follow their newsletter or podcast.  I did not interact with their social content. (We will talk about that in a minute).  But my new connection did not do anything to cultivate the relationship either.  They did not comment, like or share my content and just like me, they did not communicate privately to me.  Clearly, both of us failed to develop an actual relationship.  This goes back to what I said in my Commencement Address at William & Mary last year.

In the address, one of my suggestions to my fellow graduates was to put down the phone and develop a relationship in person, face-to-face, then grow it online.  This connection and I never really had a true relationship or connection.  Because of that it was hard to develop it online.  

Engaging content

I mentioned earlier that I did not engage in this person’s content.  Part of the reason was that over 50% of the content that was shared on LinkedIn and Twitter were links to their website with either gated content or what I would categorize as a marketing page.  For example, you would see a link on a Twitter post to get a “Free” resource.  You go to the page, and without seeing anything, you have to provide your email address to get the “Free” content.  This is gated content, this is fairly normal in many businesses.  This content could be a whitepaper, a template, or some resource that could be valuable.  Most people use gated content to collect email addresses to put into a marketing funnel.  Since I had already signed up for the newsletter/marketing funnel and had not seen a benefit from it, I never filled out the gate page to get to the content.  I was not willing to pay with my email address to get the content. The example of a marketing page would be information about a paid sales training, or a paid webinar, or a book or some type of resource that you would have to pay to get.  I can not really engage in gated content or a marketing post because I didn’t pay for them with either my email address or my money.  One thing I try to do with my posts is to give you something to think about. I share sales related content two-three times a day.  It may be a new post (Monday mornings), a re-post of an old blog post(Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings), I share a quote from a sales thought leader (every morning, every day) or a quote of my own(every afternoon, every day).  My goal is that one of my posts will either have you go to my blog to read more, spark you to like, share or comment, or at the very least, give you something to think about for the rest of the day.  

I did notice that in the new year this individual did start making comments on social media and asking questions of their followers.  These type of posts have a higher likelihood of getting engagement.  I even engaged in a few posts.

The wheels start to fall off

Seventeen days after we connected on LinkedIn, I get a DM from my connection.  To keep anonymity for the person, I am not going to show the screenshot.  The DM was similar to their social media posts and their emails. It was a “free” resource that they were sharing with their network.  I click on the link and it is gated content.  I close the tab.  The end of their DM mentions if I ever want sales coaching or training to reach out to them.  

Fourteen days later, I get another DM.  This time the message was a little bit better.  The person talks about why cold calls and cold emails are not returned.  Again a “free” resource for their network.  This time the content is not gated.  I looked over it and honestly was not that impressed.  The font used made the content look like something my 10-year-old daughter wrote on her Chromebook.  Also, the worksheet looked like something you would find in a sales training 101 class.  The last page of the content was an invitation to a webinar.  I did not attend.  

At this point in the relationship, I had added no value to this individual and they had not added any value to me either.  But I take the approach of not burning any bridges.  I chalked this relationship up as one that will just be a cold relationship for the time being.  Maybe it is possible that in the future, we could find a way to work together.  

That last DM happened in October of 2018.  It is now January 2019, neither of us has DM’ed each other and no interactions have really happened. I started to think that both of us had come to the realization that we would most likely never work together.  I personally think that is okay, money does not have to exchange hands for a relationship to be profitable or even viable.

Did one of us just have a bad day?

Now I would like to talk about what happened last week.  After sitting and thinking about this exchange, I wonder was this social selling gone wrong or did one of us just have a bad day…or both of us had a bad day?

I get a new DM.  I had not received one since last October. You could say it was a little out of the blue.  This time there was not a message just a link to a post they had recently been written on their blog.  About the first 1/3 of the post talked about a problem.  The problem was that sales professionals do not get good coaching and training from their sales managers.  I do not disagree with this sentiment.  I do think what was written in the first 1/3 of the post was good content.  If it was me, I would then have spent the rest of the post discussing how either a sales manager can get better at coaching or how a sales professional can do some self-leadership to get themselves more training.  Maybe this was the thought process that the author had, but the final 2/3 of the article was about why sales professionals should hire them to be their sales coach.  This post reminded me of the weight loss blog post you see.  No real content, just some bait to get you to click on a link to sign up for a program. 

The day before was a long day for me.  I was up at 2 am to get to the airport on time and worked a full day.  Maybe I was cranky.  Maybe I have turned into a cranky old man.  On a side note, this year, I have been trying to reduce the number of marketing emails I receive.  Opting out of many emailing funnels.  So I decided to add this opt-out to my LinkedIn DMs as well.  I DM the connection and ask him: remove me from the marketing funnel.  See below for the actual conversation

When I asked to be removed, I did not say we didn’t need to stay connected, I didn’t say anything rude I thought.  I just didn’t need to get these marketing messages.  You can also see the response of the connection…well now ex-connection.  They responded, saying I was wrong (they have that right), but then felt we should disconnect.  Before, I could respond in affirmation or contradiction, this person decided to not only disconnect from me (again they have the right too), but they also blocked me on LinkedIn.  If I search for this person they do not appear.  I can could not respond back to them because we were now blocked.  I thought of sending them a Twitter DM to explain my point of view and I am met with this:

Just like that, I am blocked from communicating with this person, because I did not want to be sent marketing messages.  I think the funniest part of his response is that he was connected on LinkedIn with me to interact. He has never interacted with any of my activity on LinkedIn, he never responded to my question of how I can be assistance. Apparently, his idea of interacting is he sends me a message and I buy his services.
Maybe this person was having a bad day.  Maybe they were cranky.  Maybe they did not like my message.  But does that mean we can not stay connected?  Am I being a snowflake?  Are they?  Those are the questions I would like to study a bit deeper with you.  

Social Selling

Let’s face it the purpose of Social Selling is to sell something.  But the point that is missing in many sales rep’s social selling mindset, is that you can connect with someone and never sell them anything.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of different ways that I could have interacted with this person that would have been valuable to both of us.  For example, I share, comment or like one of their posts, one of my contacts sees it and decides to buy from the original poster.  Something has been sold, it just wasn’t from me.  It was from my connection.  Likewise, maybe one of their followers sees that we are connected, checks out my blog, clicks on an ad and I get Google Ad commissions.  Again money changed hands, but not from the initial connection.  

The best way this type of mindset has ever been described is in Ron Willingham’s book Authenticity.  Ron’s thought process is that if you provide enough value, that eventually compensation comes your way.  I highly recommend this book if you want to work on your sales performance and become more authentic.  

I have seen this happen in my real life, with another sales thought leader.  Jeffery Gitomer.  I was introduced to Jeffery’s work when one of my companies hired him to do a sales training.  It thought it was really good.  I find out he has a sales newsletter and I join it.  I have been getting his weekly newsletter since 2004.  I then find out he has written books, I have bought them all.  He is then coming to Virginia to do a talk in 2008 or so and I bring 10 of my friends to the talk.  He now has a podcast and I listen to it regularly.  I have received value from his content and have spent my money to get more.  The reason I have spent my money on his books, seminars and training academy is that I received value first from his interactions with me. Starting with his email newsletter but now via his Podcast and Social media activity. I recommend his books and Podcasts every time someone asks me for a good sales resource. But this relationship is not a one-way street.  I use a lot of Jeffery’s content in my Twitter feed.  Many times, he will like my tweets and reshare them.  On the days that he does that, the reach of my tweets, the engagement of my tweets and the number of follows skyrocket.  After that, I see a spike in traffic to my website.  All because of what Jeffery has done.  I see it as a great reciprocal relationship.  I know Jeffery is never going to buy one of my books.  Hell, I would be starstruck and floored if he ever called me.  But that does not mean we can’t be connected.  He does not want my marketing messages…but that does not mean we can’t be connected.

How would I have done it differently?

So let’s say I was the other person.  I sent a LinkedIn connection request and I get a note back from the person, just like I sent this person.  The note had a question, How can I be of assistance to you?  I would think of a good answer to that question.  It may be as simple as follow, comment, like and share. We could get on a phone call and have a discussion.   If I sent them a LinkedIn DM with a marketing message like this person did and there was no interaction back.  If you could have looked at the DM you would see this person made three straight comments to me without a response until I gave my opt out message.  Could I craft my messages better?  Maybe reach out and ask how we could or should interact.  If someone tells me they want to opt out of my marketing messages, even if I did not think it was a marketing message, I comply.  I don’t fight them over if it is a marketing message or not.  They perceived it as such.  Perception is reality, right?  Just because they are not going to buy from me, doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected.  Even if you feel like you don’t want to stay connected, why burn the bridge?  Why block on LinkedIn and Twitter?  If I was being abusive, rude, disruptive or something else, then sure block me.  But to go from connection to blocked in a matter of minutes is a bit much.  
Social selling is still a fairly new game.   Some common courtesies and rules of thumb are still being developed and change rapidly.  But the key to any relationship, but especially a social relationship is communication. Talk with your connections about expectations and help develop a game plan to help one another.  If someone does not want to buy from you, fine, but keep the lines of communications open.
I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and let me know.      

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