People don't do business with companies. People do business with people, and that's why social selling, the process of building stronger relationships with potential customers based on truly understanding their needs and problems -- in short, better knowing the people you hope to do business with -- is so important.
And that's why social selling is important to get right.
Recently I talked with Diana Kucer, the director of global product marketing at LinkedIn, about mistakes people typically make when trying to build a productive -- and revenue-producing -- network.
You wouldn't go to a big industry conference and just sit in a corner without talking to anyone, would you? Nor would you go up to random strangers at a conference, hand them your business card without saying anything, and walk away. Either way, this would be strange at best, and off-putting at worst.
It's easy to make network-building mistakes in social selling, and it's easy to slip up because your mistakes are not as obvious as they would be in the real world. But it's also easy to avoid these mistakes with some straightforward social selling smarts.
Here are five common mistakes that are made by social selling newbies, and ideas on how to turn these mistakes into successes.
1. Asking for connections too soon.
Let's go back to our hypothetical trade show where a salesperson is handing business cards to people as if he were playing a game of blackjack. This scenario gets repeated all the time in social selling, where people ask others to connect without introducing themselves or explaining who they are or why the invitee would possibly want to accept the invitation.
Think about how this looks from the recipient's point of view, who knows that saying yes and accepting you as a connection means you'll be able to see all of his or her own connections and have greater access to his or her networks. So this potential connection will naturally wonder if it's worth the risk.
The right way: If you have a connection in common, ask that person to introduce the two of you--LinkedIn has an introduction feature. Our own research finds that buyers have 22 times more favorable impressions of sales professionals whom they meet through a warm introduction, compared with a cold outreach.
Alternately, you can send LinkedIn InMail messages to the desired connection--they're attention-getting, and they give you more space to explain how you can be of service to a prospect.
But don't forget to do your research first and customize the message.
2. Treating your profile like a resume.
Your prospects and potential connections don't need to know that you're a high-performing salesperson--in fact, a profile that goes overboard on your sales prowess will scare them away.
Sure, your profile should highlight your experience, but if you're not looking for a new job at the moment, it should devote much more space to what you bring to the table when it comes to your prospects' business challenges.
The right way: Highlight your value-add to connections. Show off your industry knowledge or content that you or your sales org have created. Our LinkedIn survey shows that 86 percent of buyers are willing engage with sales professionals if they provide insights or knowledge about the industry.
3. Skipping the research.
Some salespeople think that building a social-selling network happens by magic: if you simply hang out your online shingle, prospects will come running. For example, you might be inclined to skip reading a would-be connection's profile because you think the person's title tells you everything you need to know.
The right way: Your prospects' profiles can be a gold mine of information that can help you start friendly conversations--like colleges they attended and nonprofits they support.
Gleaning such tidbits from profiles helps you bring the personal touch to the process of building your network.
4. Forgetting the human aspect of social selling.
Your prospects aren't just names in a database--they're part of a living, breathing network that needs to be nurtured. If you treat your network as just a numbers game, and shoot for getting more connections than anyone else, you're going about it all wrong.
The right way: Instead of spending time on churning out invitations, get strategic--double down your efforts on building the most impactful relationships, and putting the time into understanding who they are and what they might need from you.
That way you'll grow a stronger network that will pay dividends over time.
5: Making social selling an occasional effort.
Social selling doesn't need to take a huge amount of time, but it works best when you can commit to it on a daily basis. Simply dipping a toe in the water--and assuming people will seek you out--won't net you the connections that will lead to sales success.
The right way: Be a participant, not just an observer. Watch your social news feed to see what connections and companies are up to, and take part in conversations. If you use a tool like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you'll get real-time updates on what connections are doing, so you can comment on their status updates.
Think of social selling as a natural extension of what you do in your day-to-day selling world: You keep your eyes open for opportunities to make a new connection, you strengthen relationships by showing you care and adding value, and you go to events where you can get to know your prospects better. It's the same in the social selling milieu -- so avoid the common mistakes by refining your social skills every day.