Everybody talks about how to approach social selling. We want to take a minute here and talk about how not to use social media as a sales prospecting tool.

Before we get into what not to do, let’s outline two key principles:

We are all trying to sell something.
Just about everybody that you connect with and try to sell to on social media also has something to sell. Even if the person is not in a sales role, let’s say a CFO for example, they are still an executive at a company and one of their top interests is for their company to sell its products or services.

We do not really enjoy being sold to.
A key thing to keep in mind with social selling is that it really does not feel great when someone tries to sell to you. One reason for this is that when someone tries to sell to you, they are making that particular moment more about them than about you.

In addition, we want to make wise purchases and when someone tries to sell something to us that we are not actively shopping for, our guard will often go up as we become concerned if the purchase is something we should do. Whenever your guard goes up, you typically will not feel great and enjoy that particular moment.

What We Do Incorrectly When Selling on Social Media
Now that we have put those two principles out there, we can look at one of the most common fails and that is to send a message to try to sell your products right after establishing a new connection with someone.

This happens every day and can happen in a few different ways, depending on the social media platform that is being used. Let’s look at both LinkedIn and Twitter.

On LinkedIn, it can be very common for a salesperson to send an invitation to connect to someone that may be a prospect. And in many of these cases, this is a cold invitation meaning that the two people do not know each other and have not interacted in any way.

What many of these salespeople do is, as soon as the invitation is accepted, the salesperson will then send a direct message that introduces the company that he or she works for, outlines the products and services offered, and usually ends with some sort of soft close attempt.

On Twitter, this same social selling fail might look a little different and that is by sending direct messages to someone right after they follow the company or salesperson. Many of these are set up as an automated response emails.

This direct message does something similar to the LinkedIn message and that is that it says something about the company or products being sold. Again, this is an “all about me” approach and trying to sell the prospect right after the connection is established.

Why this Tactic Is Not Great
Now let’s combine the explanation of the tactic that so many of us do and bring in the two principles that we outlined in the first part of this blog post.

If we agree that we all have something to sell, then when a salesperson sends this direct sales message, they are sending that to someone else who also has something to sell. And by communicating in this way, they are making it all about them (the salesperson). If nothing else, you could say that this is a little rude and that a better way to go might be to make it all about the other person (the prospect).

Now looking at that second point that we don’t enjoy being sold to, not only do these direct messages create this uncomfortable feeling of being sold to, but they also do it right away. Immediately after connecting (or following on Twitter), we get this message which can be a not-so-great immediate and first impression.

A Better Way to Handle Social Selling
If you agree that the tactic outlined might not be the best way to go, you could make these changes when trying to sell over social media.

Make it more about them: When you try to sell in such a direct way, you are making it all about you. Make your messages and communications more about the other person – more about the prospect. Focus on their interests, their problems, and how you can help them.

Offer value: When you try to sell your products, you are coming more as a “taker”. Be more of a “giver” when social selling by giving value to the prospect. This can either be by sharing and liking content they post or sending them content that is helpful or entertaining.

Start a conversation: When a salesperson sends a direct message mentioning their product and going for some sort of a close, they are trying to sell right in that exact moment. Instead of trying to sell the product, try to sell a conversation.

Interact in non-selling ways: There are many different ways to interact on social media other than sending direct messages that try to sell the product. You can like and share their content. You can send them content. You can ask them questions. Interact in other ways before trying to sell.

Delay direct sales attempt: With this social selling fail, we pointed out how the sales attempt comes right after connecting. If you do nothing else, just delay that direct sales attempt for some period of time so that it does not happen immediately. If we connect and then you send me a message trying to sell to me right after, that tells me that you only wanted to connect with me to sell to me, which again is a little rude. Delay that attempt just a bit so that it is not so obvious that all you care about is selling your products.

Also, Read How to Provide Sales Coaching When You Are Also the Sales Manager