Wrong Turns in Social Selling

social debt to grow salesThere is no doubt that with many new tools to help sellers and sales leaders grow revenues, much can be misrepresented or misinterpreted. I’m amazed at all of the companies contacting us who want to learn about social selling and all of the confusion in the marketplace.

It makes social selling a goldmine topic – which we appreciate, but the confusion out there among mid-market companies and SMBs is frustrating.

We tend to offer more informational how-to's on this blog than research or discussion, and we will continue to strive to be a good source of knowledge to help you navigate these new social selling waters.

A current pet peeve is about how some B2B sales trainers and consultants are teaching a social selling tactic - they are telling others how to gain “social debt” with people so that they will OWE YOU and, therefore, help you with sales prospects and sales opportunities.

Maybe it’s because I did a stint working with a debt collection business, or maybe it’s because somehow I was born in the land of abundance, the term “social debt” just does not resonate.

First let's think about the definition of DEBT:

  • Something owed, such as money, goods, or services
  • An obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else

My colleague Joanne Black, author of the new book, Pick Up the Damn Phone - How People, Not Technology Seal the Deal was animated when I talked with her about this term. I wanted to see if I was overreacting to it. Here's what Joanne had to say:

The term “social debt” makes my blood boil. Business is not about doing favors for other people and then calling them in like gambling chips. Social debt is not the way to sell, and it’s not the way to get referrals.

People refer you because they know and trust you. Many salespeople believe all they have to do is use technology to get an introduction. Stop. Pick up the phone, have a conversation, and let the person know why you’d like an introduction. As a sales person, it's our job to make the connections that matter. And those connections are cemented with a phone call, not a status update.

When I think of social debt, it reminds me of an exercise you can do with any group of people - ask them to shut their eyes and shout out the first words that come to their mind to describe a salesperson. Yep, even today, very negative images are conjured up. Using tactics like intentionally getting people to owe you seems like more of the negative, and less about positives that professional sellers offer.

Instead, work to add value first in everything you do. Be an abundant thinker - in other words, help others willingly- not to gain them owing you. What you learn if you have an abundant mindset is that just by helping others, the assistance that comes back to you often isn't even from the same people you've taken time with. Now that's powerful.

I have a number of other colleagues who want to share their thoughts on social debt so we will be posting more about this topic in the days to come.

For now think about the traits we do want our buyers to conjure up when we think about professional sellers - high integrity, helpful problem solvers who improve our situation without tricking us.

What do you think?


IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2013" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2013". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.

Topics: B2B

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