TL;DR

It’s no secret that the sales process has been changing dramatically over the last decade. Buyers are becoming more and more informed, and this, paired with technology that lets them tune out sales pitches they don’t want to hear, has really shifted the power dynamic so that they are in control.

Salespeople looking to take back a bit of this control are increasingly turning to “social selling”—the process of using social media to engage with prospects before pitching to them. The goal is to build trust and rapport so that when the time comes to make a pitch, the customer will be more likely to buy.


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This is a great tactic, and it works. But there are plenty of ways for things to go wrong through social media that can kill your relationship with a prospect before it’s even begun. Here’s a list of some of the annoying things that salespeople often do on social media, that you should avoid.

1. Getting Personal

One of the downsides of using social media for selling is that, by its very nature, it is a relaxed form of communication. This relaxed atmosphere can lead to sales reps getting personal with prospects too quickly, before true rapport has been built. (This is especially easy when you have the prospect’s entire social media profile on hand.)

Instead of acting like you are a friend with your client from the first point of contact, you should take your time to build rapport and trust. If your prospect offers personal information or takes on a relaxed tone, then by all means feel free to mirror it; but doing this on your own, without prompting by the prospect, can be seen as presumptuous. It’s easy to come off as untrustworthy if you act like an immediate best friend to every prospect you meet.

2. Getting Controversial

On a similar note, your best bet is to stay away from any controversial topics when you are engaging with prospects on social. Talking about these things (religion, politics, gay rights, gun control, etc.) is just plain risky—you never know how the other person is going to react. Even if they agree with your point of view, approaching these topics can instantly chill a conversation.

If you use your personal social media profiles for outreach, it’s best to avoid posting articles about these issues to your Facebook wall or sharing them on LinkedIn (unless your business revolves around said issues, that is). Just as you are likely to research your prospects, they are going to research you, and you want to take every step to avoid making your prospect uncomfortable.

3. Going Straight for the Pitch

Social media outreach, when done right, slowly fosters rapport and trust between a prospect and the salesperson/company. It begins by identifying a prospect, doing a bit of research, and then offering them something valuable—say, a recent blog post by your company on an issue that your prospect seems to be having. This then leads to a conversation which, it is hoped, will lead to a sale.

When done wrong, salespeople try to go straight for the pitch without putting in the time to build rapport. This isn’t the way to use social outreach. Instead of fostering communication, it turns into a cold call sans telephone, and we all know that cold calling doesn’t work . Nobody wants to be pitched to through Facebook or LinkedIn messaging, especially if there isn’t a relationship.

4. Opening a Message and Not Responding

Something that really bothers me is when I send a friend a text or Facebook message and don’t hear back from them for hours. It especially hurts when you see that they’ve opened the message (as is usually noted by a little “seen” or “read” icon).

Now, imagine how you’d feel if, instead of a friend, a company you are considering buying from does this to you. It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic a prospect might have seemed: Not responding to them in a timely manner can instantly chill your relationship.

If you open a message but don’t have time to respond to their question or request right away, just tell them so politely. Say something along the lines of “I’m running to a meeting right now, but I’ll respond to your question by the end of the day.” This way, the prospect knows that you aren’t ignoring them—or worse, trying to come up with a slick response to a tough question.

5. Using Selfies or Closely-cropped Photos in Your Profile

This is a strange on include in your list, but it’s grounded in science. A study by Caltech has shown that close-up photos or selfies are deemed to be less trustworthy (and less attractive!) than photos of the same individual taken from some distance away.

Because social outreach is all about building trust, you should take every step to remove things that might impact it—even if that something is a cherished selfie that catches your face from the perfect angle.

6. Self-Promoting Too Much

It’s obvious that when you connect with a prospect by any means—by phone, email, or social—you want to make you make yourself and your company look good. But you need to make sure that you aren’t doing this too soon, or you might come off as a bit of a braggart.

Instead of starting your conversation with a hard pitch of how amazing your company is, start with a simple introduction. Explain what your company does—briefly—and explain why you are reaching out. Don’t jump into testimonials, rankings, or boast about what a great job you and your company do. Humility can go a long way in fostering trust.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

These other issues didn’t seem to warrant full entries, but they are things that you should nevertheless keep in mind when conducting your social outreach:

  • Avoid Sarcasm: It doesn’t translate well through social media.
  • Communicate Professionally: Avoid typos, internet slang (lol, brb, lmao) and too-relaxed communication or you may come across as unprofessional. That being said, feel free to mirror the language used by your prospect.
  • Stick to Relevant Social Platforms: If your prospect uses LinkedIn for business, and Facebook and Instagram for personal matters, then limit your outreach to LinkedIn (or whatever platform they use). If you start sending them stuff through Instagram when they are more concerned with pictures of cute cats, you risk the chance of coming across as an online stalker. Find the platform that works and stick to it.

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