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What’s All This About Social Selling?

by David Brock on June 3rd, 2013

There’s a lot of talk about social selling.  When you peel it back, it’s a lot of talk about technology–choose your favorite; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, and so forth.  In theory, we’re all supposed to be Chattering, Yammering and Jiving.  But is this what social selling is really about–technologies?

Or is it about our customers?  Is it about engaging customers in improving their business?  Is it about helping them grow, improve, achieve their goals and dreams.  Is it about creating value for them in every interchange?  Is it about challenging them, getting them to think differently?  Is it about earning their trust, consistently reinforcing and building it?

I think we’re confused about social selling.  Too many think it’s about the technology.  Meaningless rushes for “likes,” klout, kred, numbers of connections, focused more on numbers but not on improving the quality of our ability to connect with customers.  Then there’s the gaming of social selling–buying followers or likes to increase social media scores—as it means something to real customers.  It seems these technologies tempt us  to increase the volume — read quantity, and volume —- read noise, each of which escalates beyond meaning and understanding.  Yet in the rush to get our messages out and to drive social connections, we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve.

Every day, I’m pummeled with “social” requests–that is, I’m deluged with meaningless garbage from people leveraging technology to reach out to me.  I get 100’s of emails each day–most of which are unfocused, meaningless and end up in my spam folder.  I’m pummeled with connection requests, seems everyone wants to be connected, or friended.  But then, without knowing who I am, they follow up with selling pitches—some even incorporate these pitches in their attempts to connect.

Just because we use the technology, doesn’t mean we are being social.  It just means we are pissing prospects, customers, and strangers off in every increasing volumes—read quantity and noise.

When I’m confused about things, I go to the dictionary for clarification, so I looked up “social.”  I got things like

“denoting or relating to human society or any  of its subdivisions.”

“of relating to, or characteristic of the experience, behaviour, and interactions of persons forming groups.”

“relating to, or having the purpose of promoting companionship.”

“Attitudes, orientations, or behaviors which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account…”

These definitions of “social” had to do with how people engage people, how people interact with each other, how they create value in the engagement process.  I was particularly struck by the last phrase–imagine taking the interests, intentions or needs of other people into account—what a novel idea!

None of these definitions talked about technology.  None of them said “to be social you have to be on Twitter.  None quantified what social means in terms of likes, followers or re-Tweets, Klout, Kred or any of the things that tend to come up in many discussions I see about social and social selling.

See social selling is not about the technology.  It’s about the principles by which we want to engage people, exchange interests, ideas, and create value in the engagement.  It’s about connecting–not in numbers of connections, but in meaning and value.

Social selling has been with us since the very first conversations between two human beings.

Technology gives us alternative channels for commuting.  Just because we leverage technology doesn’t mean we are being social.

So when we talk about anything social, let’s be very clear about what it’s about.  Let’s be purposeful in being more social, in creating greater meaning for those we are being social with.  In leveraging technologies, let’s keep them in perspective, they are means of enabling social engagement–not the ends.

  1. David, it has been my experience that most people using social tools simply don’t know the basis of sales.

    They have automated a bad sales process making it faster and worst.

  2. Robert Koehler permalink


    I like the description that says ‘social selling’ just mimics and accelerates what you’re [hopefully] doing already. Sales people are hopefully trying to build pipeline, gain insights and engage effectively and meaningfully with prospects and customers; something they’ve been doing for a long time. Social media now provides the technology to scale that much more rapidly…if done well, which I think is the basis of your appeal here.

    People will always look at the latest technology (though I think in some ways this is really more a new delivery channel than technology) as a silver bullet that provides shortcuts.


  3. Hi David,
    Very good points here. Social isn’t about the technology. Social media enables social engagement, but without social platforms the engagement would still exist. Thanks for sharing with the BizSugar community.

    • Thanks Heather. You are absolutely right, the technologies enable us to engage–but the issue is engagement, not the technologies.

  4. Good post David,

    The ‘social’ in social selling should be focused on getting to know your customer in a profound way and building relationships. Technology can help but not without the right attitude and processes behind it.

    Social selling as i see it is a component of Social Business: the connecting of the internal company with the external ecosystem (partners, prospects, customers) for sharing of knowledge, co-creation and building relations through mutual value creation.

    In that aspect technology always comes second to a Social attitude.

  5. David. What a sad day it is when people confuse the use of technology with being social. Technology simply provides the tools, the user – and recipient! – will determine whether it’s social or not, or just a pain in the …..

    • Mike, the technologies enable us to do lots of things in extending our reach. However, ultimately, it’s about creating a relationship–in doing this, we put ourselves at risk and make ourselves vulnerable. Until we do that, we are neither connecting or engaging. Thanks for the great comment!

  6. David,
    My first thought is that my customers don’t give a rip what I’m doing in social media. They care what I care about their business and the value that I bring in solving their problems, PERIOD!

    However, I think that companies should begin to adopt social networking principles in how they design their customer facing websites. I don’t know of any open tools that are useful to me. My own company websites are a key to satisfying the customer. This is where I think building communities and being social can help. IMHO, it’s really on broad reaching, low touch scenarios that social selling helps. When it comes to calling on customers and meeting there needs, being sociable (listening, preparing, advising) beats social every time.

  7. I believe it is all about engagement, two people talking to each other, getting to know each other, getting the right information that sales professionals need to help the customer with their growth.
    Everything else is just fluff to some degree.
    I too am inundated with people e mailing, messaging, calling about “new technology” but it is just meaningless in many cases.
    You know the major cause of air pollution is people talking when they have nothing important to say…

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