Nicholas Kontopoulos
Nov 16, 2016

Social selling is killing sales

SAP's Nicholas Kontopoulos points out that social selling is a two-way conversation, so please stop spamming him.

Nicholas Kontopoulos
Nicholas Kontopoulos

Andy Warhol said,

In the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.

I had my 15 minutes last year. LinkedIn ranked me "the most engaged marketer in Singapore." Apparently, even that slight recognition counts for something, as I soon had a deluge of LinkedIn messages.

The bleeding edge of marketing then was social selling. As befitting my lofty new stature, I was approached to endorse the concept. They were shocked—shocked, I say—when I said I hated it.

"But…but it's the next big thing! Everybody's doing it! You can't afford to not do social selling!" they said.

In reply, I put on my prognosticator hat and predicted that marketers and sellers would screw it up.

They did.

Spam, by any other name

Yesterday, I received my 1,000th social selling email. To mark the occasion, I thought I'd share it with you.

I'll spare you reading the full transcript. (It'd be a waste anyway because you yourself have received hundreds of identical PMs/posts/pins/pokes.)

It basically went:

Dear Nicholas,

Hi! You don't know me from Adam, but I wanted to introduce myself! I'm an expert at everything on my LinkedIn profile. My company has done a lot of work for a lot of people and they say we're really great! There's a link below where you can look at the stuff we do! Interested at all? Maybe we could set up a phone call!

Thank you,

Another Cog in the Machine

Just because the Nigerian prince started sending emails instead of letters by post doesn't mean that he's any more trustworthy now. Just because marketers started sending LinkedIn messages instead of emails doesn't mean that they're any more trustworthy now.

It's just spam.

Cog here missed the whole concept of social selling, just like most companies missed the whole concept of social media. They skipped the word "social" and went straight to "media."

"Media? We know media! We've been pushing our stuff through media channels for years! Hey, I know: let's just use some of our same TV ads and put them—what's that? 'Post?'—OK, we'll 'post' them on this new whatever-you-call-it media. Alright! Sales are going to start really pouring in now!"

"Social" means two-way communication. In real life, we call it a conversation. You know how to do that, right? Two people take turns speaking, posing questions, answering, and generally exchanging information?

Cog did none of that.

No interest in me, my career, my life, or my profession. Not even the veneer of pretending to establish a relationship. Clearly cog hadn’t even bothered to read my LinkedIn profile, where he would’ve been able to gain some insights into what makes me tick. In fact, the only personally relevant part of the whole message was my name.

C'mon, Cog. At least buy me dinner first.

Do it right before you duplicate

You've read Bill Gates's quote about "automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

That's what social selling is. It amplifies the bad selling behavior of salespeople. Where a bad salesperson could deter dozens of potential customers, social platforms allow the same person to reach thousands of people…with the same one-night stand, transactional mentality and message.

Does social selling work?

It can…if you focus on the "social" part of it. Relationships. Peer-to-peer conversations. Exchanging views, information, and expertise. A genuine concern to help and fulfill a need. In short, acting like a decent human being talking to another decent human being.

Not just stalking another sale.

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