The post, “What’s All This About Social Selling,” provoked a lot of reaction. As I started reading the discussions, I started thinking more. Do the “social tools,” make us less social?
As you know from the article, I believe “social selling” or “social business” starts with a set of beliefs or values about how you want to connect with, engage, and create value for the customer and prospects. Selling has always been “social,” it’s always been about people connecting, engaging, creating value. The channels by which we connect change and technology enables this.
But do the many of the social tools and technologies make us less “social” or even “anti-social.”
Being social implies vulnerability. Someone may disagree with us, someone may not “like” us, someone may not “want to engage with us,” yet is willing to “engage with our competitors.” Prior to a lot of the social technologies, “social” was one to one, a personal connection. As with any personal contact it creates vulnerability. Sales people faced rejection, ambivalence, or even hostility. It was expressed directly to them, and they have to overcome it. Being social and selling put each of us at risk–and we had to deal with it.
But many of the social technologies enable us to hide behind the technologies. We collect followers–many are faceless and even nameless, but we measure our relationships by the quantity of followers we have collected. We auto-follow, we are open networkers, we measure our influence and relationships not by quality, but by statistics and volumes.
We put ourselves out there–but do we really put ourselves at risk? Sure someone might disagree with us on a forum. But we don’t know them, we have nothing at stake in the relationship. We build communities, we selectively respond to what we want and ignore everything else.
Sometimes we get lost in our communities, failing to reach out to connect with individuals. Sometimes we hide behind our networks and communities, using them as excuses not to put ourselves at risk. But they also keep us from moving forward, from actually selling. People in our communities use the technology to hide from us (As an example, I get a large number of comments on this blog site where people hide their identities and names. I refuse to publish those comments–if you aren’t willing to stand by your words, then I don’t want your comments.).
Social technologies enable us to be “connected,” but incredibly anonymous. How do we sell when faced with anonymity? We need to connect and engage, we need to have conversations. We need to understand and reconcile different point of view.
As sales professionals, we put ourselves at risk. We have to be comfortable with that risk and vulnerability–we don’t have to enjoy it, but we have to be able to deal with it. We have to connect and engage. Until we do, it’s just broadcasting or listening as part of the crowd.
The social technologies and tools extend our ability to connect and engage. They can provide us great power, but only if we use them to connect and engage–with people, individuals. Like any tool, they can be used to help us produce tremendous results–or they can help us produce nothing–or worse.
Social selling is about putting yourself out there–taking responsibility for it–dealing with it–but always connecting and engaging for a shared outcome.