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The Truth About Social Selling

The truth about social selling is that there is no such thing. Social selling is really marketing.

You don’t use social media to qualify your dream clients. The work you do using the social toolkit is about identifying your dream clients. It’s about listening to your dream clients share things that give you a hint as to what they believe is important.

You don’t use social media to do discovery work. The thing that makes discovery work so powerful is that you are sitting face-to-face with your dream client, allowing them to see and feel you listen to them. You can’t replicate that feeling on social channels. You also can’t apply your business acumen and your situational knowledge to their challenges and opportunities over social channels.

There is no way that you are ever going to present using the social channels. In fact, the proponents of social selling (which you now know is really marketing) are offended by the very word “sell.” They chafe at the mere mention of the word “pitch.” The social-only proponents say things like “be helpful,” and “share content.” And for God’s sake, “Don’t ask for anything.” But when you sell, you have to ask for commitments. If you aren’t gaining any commitments, you aren’t selling. You’re marketing.

You aren’t going to build consensus with a LinkedIn post. You aren’t going to really help your dream client resolve their concerns and fears with a Tweet, even a really, really clever tweet.

Social selling, or social marketing, is an awesome toolkit for developing relationships, relationships that allow you to get face-to-face with your dream client. What other toolkit can help you share your value-creating ideas and gain your dream client’s attention before you are known. Social is excellent for positioning and differentiating yourself and your offering from your competitors. Social, if done well, creates engagement with dream clients. Most of all social helps nurture the relationships you need to create new opportunities.

All of this “social” is above the funnel activity, but it helps you with prospecting, the activity that you need to have a funnel in the first place.

Salespeople need to be better marketers. Being a better marketer can help you be a better salesperson. But let’s not pretend that we are really selling when we are marketing.

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  • Mike Kunkle

    Yeah, Dave Stein just posted about this yesterday at and I just did a webinar for Access GE and said (much of) the same. Way too much hype. Social selling is highly relevant in some industries and makes tremendous sense whenever your prospects/clients and their influencers are on social sites, and participating.

    However the sales process starts, as you cite, we need to keep the main thing the main thing… and that’s value creation.

    The “don’t sell, just help people” thing has the right intent behind it, but after the third month of missing quota, you’ll be “just helping people” in a customer service role at another company.

    I do believe there is a difference between social marketing and social selling, though. In smaller orgs, the difference may be minor. But when the nurturing is done by a rep, I see it as selling. Marketing doesn’t connect personally on LinkedIn, comment in groups or on prospects’ status updates, or get beyond awareness and interest to build a relationship. Reps do. Also, what would you call it if a rep does a G+ Hangout with a prospect, to make a presentation or demo, or even conduct an initial diagnosis? G+ = social media. Presentations, demos, and diagnostics = selling.

    There are other ways to get beyond marketing as well, with social selling and social prospecting, but none replace the deep dive with a client, eyeball to eyeball, figuring out how to address real business issues and create desired outcomes.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I agree totally with the big idea that you wrote here and that I’ve written about in the past, and that is this: when the salesperson does the nurturing, it’s value creation. When marketing does it, it isn’t. It needs to be personal. It needs to help develop the relationship, building trust, and building confidence. The social tools are wonderful for this above the funnel work.

      Salespeople need to be better marketers, but we make a mistake when we believe that sharing content alone is selling.

      [Man, you can be brutal with the whole "helping people in a customer service role. Let it never be said that Kunkle is soft!]


      • Mike Kunkle

        The world can sometimes be brutal. The average tenure a senior sales leader is 18-24 months. I prefer to think of myself as a realist. ;-)

    • Jackie Audrey

      Mike, Hi my name is Jackie and I work with a company almost right on in your post…. I give away my time and energy to people in hopes that in the end I make a sale of some sort as an income for myself…. I want bigger, I have alot of creative ideas and very intuitively intelligent …. I am quite unique in many ways, I am a leader, never really a follower…except in circumstances that I’m learning!!! How can I at age 42yrs old be better…I deserve a lot more than begging people to be my friend so I can make a sale!!!

      • Mike Kunkle

        Jackie, you’re reaching out for help and you have a desire to learn and be better, that’s step one. I don’t offer personal or success coaching services, but many people do. I’d start by goal setting and planning, reading “Stop Telling and Start Selling,” and by researching life coaches or personal sales coaches who can guide you. Hope that’s a start.

      • Jackie Audrey

        Thannnnnnk you very much Mike Kunkle for your prompt response … I will be reading the book “Stop Telling and Start Selling” also I have already begun my search with Madeleine Homan-Blanchard Co-founder Coaching Services The Ken Blanchard Companies. I listened to a WebEx seminar on “Flexing My Leadership Style” 60mins length

        On-Boarding: How to Shorten Ramp-up Times for Employees
        Jackie :-)

  • The Responsive Edge

    “The ‘don’t sell, just help people’ thing has the right intent behind it, but after the third month of missing quota, you’ll be ‘just helping people’ in a customer service role at another company.”

    Oh, my, Mike–Brilliant!

    • Mike Kunkle

      LOL, glad you enjoyed that. Every now and again, reality interferes with our fantasies.

      In terms of 14):

      After the 3rd month of missing sales quota w/ “don’t sell, just help people,” you’ll be “just helping” in customer service role elsewhere

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