Do you know what social selling is?  It’s a moving target, I’m afraid.  In our current technology-rich world, many times new technology — and the ways we use that technology — out-pace definitions as well as standardized uses of said technology.

One modern-day example is text messaging.  My guess is you, like many people, send multiple text messages day.  Did you know that you can’t send a text message to 911 in many areas of the US?  The technology has out-paced many local governments ability to have the needed hardware to received text messages to their respective emergency communications centers.

I don’t know who coined the phrase ‘social selling’ or when it was used first.  What I do know is that there seems to be a wide variety of misunderstanding ideas of what social selling is and what it means to be involved in social selling.

For this article I’m going to give you the definition that we at Social Sales Link use:

“Social selling is the process of leveraging online platforms and tools to attract, teach and engage targeted buyers.”

This new idea has out-paced the so-called establishment’s ability to define what it is, and with no concrete definition, the process has been used and misused in many ways.  I’m hoping to clear up a few of the myths of social selling!

Myth #1: Social Selling is the Same as Social Media Marketing

A recent post on Forbes.com did a great job of dispelling this myth.  While most all of social selling is social marketing, hardly any social marketing is social selling.

Social Media Marketing is, for the most part, passive.  It lives at the top of the lead funnel and is meant to draw in prospects.  It is also typically very ‘salesy’ in nature, touting the benefits and features of your product and service.  Social selling can be passive but for the most part, should always be engaging. When you’re using social selling, you’re not leading WITH your solution (Hey! Look at me! Look how awesome I am, and my product/service is!!), but you’re leading TO your solution.  How?  By talking about the challenges your prospective clients face, providing vendor agnostic insights on how to overcome those challenges.  This should then lead to engaging dialogue meant to do one thing: lead to further conversations either in person or on the phone.  Which brings me to Myth #2:

Myth #2 Social Selling is Anti-Phone

There are those on the social selling spectrum that would tout that the phone is dead, long live the computer! I don’t think that way.  Social selling should ALWAYS drive us to further conversations.  These conversations can happen in many different ways: direct messages, emails, in-person meetings, and phone conversations.  All of these mediums of communication have their benefits and their downsides.  A competent salesperson will know when the time is right to reach out and in what way. In my opinion, an incompetent salesperson will only use one medium and discount all of the others.  We all have comfort zones that we live in; we need to embrace new technology while not losing the strength of more traditional tools; that’s just common sense.

There’s a ‘sub myth’ here that those who are pro-social selling are anti-cold calling.  What I’d say is that we’re not anti-cold calling as much as we ask the question, “Why cold call when you can warm call?”

Social selling embraces the idea that a prospect will never be a cold call when you’re engaging with them on multiple fronts and leading with insights and teaching them.  In fact, they’ll WANT to talk to you.

Social selling isn’t about just compiling a list of leads, which brings me to Myth #3:

Myth #3 Social Selling isn’t Lead Generation

You’ve more than likely received some annoying emails and/or LinkedIn messages from lead generation people promising you top leads in your inbox guaranteed! If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky and just wait- they’re coming.  This is NOT social selling! Back when the sales process was very linear, lead generation made sense.  Coming up with a list of potential clients and inserting them into your sales process was the standard practice and usually netted a positive result.  But in case no one has told you- the sales process has changed.  It’s no longer linear.  Brynne Tillman explains this so well in this LinkedIn post.

Social selling CAN get you leads, but it’s not a cut and dry, linear process.  It’s messy, and it takes time! If someone contacts you and promises you leads, my guess is those leads are going to look like what THEY think your clients should be, not what you WANT them to be.  Don’t get me wrong, social platforms, especially LinkedIn for B2B, are excellent sources for leads.  How you obtain them is another story and I, for one, want to control that process.  I find that Sales Navigator is the best place for me to manage my own lead generation process.  This takes time, but not as much as you think. Which brings me to Myth #4:

Myth #4 Social Selling is a Time Stealer

This concern is usually expressed by sales managers who are afraid their salespeople will be lost for hours at a time online, or from solopreneurs who don’t feel they have the time to spend on a social platform. The myth is that they need to spend hours and hours a day on LinkedIn posting, engaging and prospecting. 

That typically happens when one doesn’t have a plan or system in place for their online activity.  James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says it best: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

A system for LinkedIn activity would be a daily and weekly cadence.  Make a list of the regular activities to conduct on LinkedIn: accept connection requests, like and comment on posts, post yourself, reply to messages, etc.  Then, determine how often you want to go on your LinkedIn feed and set a timer for fifteen minutes.  Conduct the desired activity during that time and when the time expires, stop.  You’ve just created a system that will get you away from ‘random acts of social’ and moves you to be more deliberate in your social selling skills.

Anyone, regardless of age or computer proficiency, can do this.  Which brings me to the last and final myth:

Myth #5 Only Millennials are Good at Social Selling

This is a commonly used excuse by people over 40 (I am one!) for not using computers, technology or social media.  They feel that there is this inherent talent that those born after 1981 have that makes it easier for them to leverage technology for business.  This isn’t true.  In fact, one of the great aspects of LinkedIn is what I call its demographic equilibrium.

Sprout social reports the following breakdown in LinkedIn users by age:

  • 29% of 18-29 year olds
  • 33% of 30-49 year olds
  • 24% of 50-64 year olds
  • 9% of 65+ year olds

If anything, that should give us middle aged folks (for the record I’m ALWAYS going to consider myself middle aged!) hope.  Our peers are on LinkedIn, our clients are on LinkedIn, and our potential clients are on LinkedIn. We should be too!

I’m sure there are many more myths. What are some of the myths you know? Leave a comment and let me know what they are.

We recently held a Webinar discussion of the “Truths of Social Selling” among all of the Social Sales Link team members. You can view the entire lively discussion (no PowerPoint!) below.