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All posts by Jeff Molander

How NOT engaging on LinkedIn is driving buyer conversations

Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers' thought leadership and pushing insights.

But is this an effective way to help buyers get ready to buy? Answer: No.

What if not engaging on LinkedIn via "social selling" could drive more buying activity?

Pushing content doesn't cause buying

As stupid as this sounds, hear me out. The buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. I learned this from Sharon Drew Morgen, creator of the Buying Facilitation method.

B2B buying involves systemic change and (when there’s no other option) solution choice. 

How does the way your reps use LinkedIn support that fact? 

Using solution data (content, research) as the main strategy on LinkedIn won't work. Because it earns objections from clients who don’t know how to hear the seller’s point.

This is where most reps go wrong with "social selling" and LinkedIn.

Because buyers buy according to their buying patterns (not our selling patterns). Thus, pushing solution messages too early causes objections, regardless of need.

Are your reps helping clients decide?

Buyers are buyers until they recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to the status quo, says Ms. Morgen.

Until buyers are certain they cannot solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they cannot recognize what is needed to buy.

"They will resist when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them," says Ms. Morgen.

Think about how your reps use LinkedIn addresses this dynamic. (or doesn't) To be blunt: Many sellers are stopping. They're not pushing content, commenting and "farming the LinkedIn landscape." As a result, they're starting more conversations with buyers using LinkedIn.

They're hunting. Then, helping clients decide if buying is the right choice.

The role of a seller has changed. It is to help buyers understand and manage change. Specifically, to know the full extent of internal challenges. Until you help them understand all challenges they remain unable to understand content details effectively.

"They object when pushed," says Morgen.

Bottom line: pushing information on LinkedIn is easy. Easier than facilitating a discussion about buyers' needs!

Don't allow "social selling" to give sellers a false sense of accomplishment. Instead, give them a better way to start conversations with prospects.

Facilitating decisions is not social selling

Is your team applying a communications methodology to start conversations ... then help buyers buy? In other words, are your sellers able to facilitate change for each stage of customers’ buying process ... even those that do not include purchase consideration?

Closing more accounts has everything to do with creating interest ... little to do with creating interaction on LinkedIn.

Creating interest in your solution is a communications skill, not a social media or LinkedIn skill.

"There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary," to facilitate and enable change before any purchase is considered, says Ms. Morgen.

Pushing content to prospects, commenting, updating, sharing wisdom. These tactics work well to generate interaction, not so well to create early-stage client conversations. Interest.

Teach sellers to facilitate

Social selling focuses mainly on pushing content and sharing knowledge, mostly out of context to buyers. It rarely works. Because it limits outreach to clients who already recognize a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem.

At best this is 5 percent of the market, which often throw objections at your advance.

However, "You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change," says Morgen.

"But you’ll need to take a different, additional, path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this," says Morgan.

Indeed, you can continue pushing content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach. A part that connects with the right customers sooner. One that allows you to enter their decision path, join them as a trusted advisor and facilitate clients who can buy through to buying.

"Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based," says Morgen.

My bottom line for you: Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers' thought leadership and pushing insights. But in the end social selling proves worthless compared to helping buyers get ready to buy.

Do you agree? What is your experience?

Photo credit: Bennett Meier

3 Strategies your reps use on LinkedIn that waste time

You've got LinkedIn Sales Navigator seats ... reps' browsers are fired up. They're sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points ... showing management they can use LinkedIn. They're engaging in "social selling."

Full stop: Are they helping buyers buy? 

If your reps are focusing on...

  1. becoming a thought leader,
  2. engaging clients with insights, and
  3. building trusted, professional relationships & personal brand ...

... they are probably not helping buyers prepare to buy. Each of the above is important, but not nearly enough. These activities are the cost of entry. 

The game-changer is not LinkedIn. It's communications technique on LinkedIn; ability to start conversations with targets. 

Helping buyers get ready to buy.

The big social selling lie

"It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth." (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Our reps are being told to "become a thought leader" online. To do this, share valuable insights with clients on LinkedIn. This earns trust.

So goes the theory.

In practice, customers want problem-solvers, not thought leaders. Problem-solving is where the value is. Problem-solving ability is how customers make decisions. 

Thought leadership is an outcome of a winning strategy ... not a strategy itself! 

Are your reps engaging like this?

Beware. In practice, social selling usually involves:

  • check
    pushing information at customers (often knowledge they already have!)
  • check
    liking, sharing, commenting
  • check
    encouraging (often forcing) reps to use LinkedIn

Because pushing information and engaging on LinkedIn is easy. Easier than facilitating a buying discussion!

Easy comes at a cost. Namely, feeling accomplished without actually being accomplished. Having taken actions that feel worthwhile but are not is dangerous.

"Social selling" is giving sellers a false sense of accomplishment. Instead, it should be giving them a better tool to start conversations with prospects.

A support group for bad behavior

Sellers are being trained by "LinkedIn experts" (and LinkedIn itself) to push information (content) at clients rather than problem-solve for them. Because pushing is easy, immediate and provides a sense of “got that done today!”

Sellers see these view social media counts, "as positive reinforcement of their 'social selling' activity. As they inevitably look to drive more views through content, they stray away from the main message, more towards focusing on number of interactions," says Marc McInnes of Sales ITV.

Sellers are turning to the wrong coaches.

Your team may be developing a support group for bad behavior. Behavior reps often realize won't work. But rather than listen to their good instincts (do the work) they’re buying into the "social selling" lies.

Your reps are likely getting advice from:

  • check
    LinkedIn: A mass media company who's primary market is recruiters (not sellers)
  • check
    A sea of experts pushing marketing tactics (who are often charlatans)
  • check
    Leadership (herein lies the opportunity) 

Ever experience this?

You've experienced it. Sellers pushing marketing content outside the context you buy in. Right?

Why do reps push content out of context? Often because they’re being told to... to share insights.

“That’s what thought leaders do.”

Truth is, problem-solvers apply content within the context as a habit. Because that’s how they think. They don’t push, they problem-solve. They don’t engage in vanity actions, they do the hard work.  

The game-changer is not LinkedIn. It's communications technique on LinkedIn; ability to start conversations with targets. 

What's stopping your team from helping buyers prepare to buy?

Photo credit: Stefanos Papachristou

Is social selling softening your hunters?

The goal of the modern B2B seller is to get into conversations earlier—help buyers get ready to buy. Consult with clients, become a trusted source of knowledge, support the decision-making process with expert guidance.

So why is facilitating buying conversations not a part of your "social selling" program?

Why is starting qualified discussions with customers superseded by sharing valuable content, creating a personal brand and sharing insights on LinkedIn?

Why does farming trump hunting?

Does 'social selling' exist?

I put quotes around "social selling" because it does not exist. Not in my book. When honestly examined there is little new involved... other than the Internet.

Listening, engaging, sharing insights with clients. None of these concepts are new to sales.

In fact, they are characteristics of “old school” sales excellence.

Social selling is a term invented to sell marketing concepts. Just look around at how it's playing out. The thrust of social selling is encouraging sellers (hunters) to behave like marketers (farmers).

Post, share, comment, repeat. If that sounds a lot like marketing it is!

Is farming effective at generating new client conversations? Is pushing content, liking, sharing, commenting effective at keeping sellers emotionally confident, mentally tough?

Is social selling weakening your hunters?

Probably. I study it for a living. Social selling programs at most organizations are de-valuing vitally important practices.

Prospecting. Hunting.

Worse, I'm seeing social selling increasing frustration of otherwise challenged sellers.

I'm seeing it have negative impact on motivation and focus.

Social selling programs tend to reward relatively ineffective behavior patterns. LinkedIn itself rewards activity and encourages gamification of it Social Selling Index. Mere activity.

This gets reps "doing social." But it can be poisonous to rep productivity. 

How it may be wasting reps' time

Driving interest on social requires more skills than driving interaction, says Mark McInnes of Sydney-based, Sales ITV. Most of what reps engage in these days is marketing-focused. This often wastes time.

Time reps should be spending hunting.

Here's the rub: Creating interest in a customer... about your products or service... is difficult compared to creating interaction with them. Mr. McInnes lays out a compelling argument against traditional social selling training:

  • It's much easier to drive interaction.
  • It feels good to interact... as if something worthwhile has been accomplished.
  • Most reps' LinkedIn networks do not reflect the desires of their business objectives.

Here's the rub: Interaction is rewarded with dopamine blasts from your brain, fueling a desire more of the same activity. Lots of likes or views make you feel good. (Just like the lights of a gambling-slot machine do)

"What exactly are you going to do with these 142 Likes, 53 Comments and no doubt 3000+ views? ........ Nothing. Because they are absolutely worthless," says Mr. McInnes who boldly proclaims this is interaction, not interest.

Here's the danger: Sellers see these view counts, "as positive reinforcement of their 'social selling' activity. As they inevitably look to drive more views through content, they stray away from the main message, more towards focusing on the level of interactions," says Mr. McInnes. 

Thus, "with each post, they strive for more views, more likes, all in an attempt to validate (justify) the time they've wasted on social. No wonder so many of senior managers seem to be 'allergic' to social selling programs."

Can your reps start causing sales-focused discussions? Absolutely. Helping buyers buy is where the action is.

Yet the buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. Yet most social selling training programs are not teaching reps how to deal with the deficiencies Mr. McInnes, you and I agree on. Do you agree? What's your experience been so far? 

Photo credit: coba