Will social selling kill the cold call? Not a chance, according to sales srategist Anthony Iannarino.

During a presentation at HireVue and Sales For Life's Social Selling Summit, Iannarino debunked the myth that social selling is a silver bullet. But when used in conjunction with other outreach strategies such as cold calling, social selling can be a key component of a powerful prospecting strategy.

“We’ve overpromised and underdelivered when it comes to social selling,” Iannarino said. “Social selling is framed as a panacea to cure all your prospecting ills, and it’s not.”

In his session “Social Selling -- No Holds Barred,” Iannarino provided four tactical tips salespeople can use to effectively incorporate social media into their sales strategy, and warned of two social selling pitfalls to avoid.

4 Social Selling Tips You Can Implement Today

1) Update your LinkedIn profile to contain more than your job history.

“We think we’re out there researching customers, listening to them, and following the things they’re interested in,” Iannarino said. “But they can also look at us.”

If your LinkedIn is only a resume, Iannarino suggested, update it. Emphasize the problems you’ve solved and the value you’ve created for customers. Keep in mind that unless you position yourself as someone who can help them, a prospect has no reason to listen to anything you say.

2) Find and share content that establishes you as a value creator.

According to Iannarino, there are two types of prospects salespeople should pull into the funnel -- people who are dissatisfied with their current solutions, and buyers who are using suboptimal tools but don’t yet know it.

“Share content to bolster the case for change before you ever make a call,” Iannarino said.

To start establishing themselves as value creators, salespeople should familiarize themselves with industry trends and metrics. Iannarino suggested reading annual reports from the largest public companies in a sales rep’s segment. Reps should focus on the “risks” and “challenges” segment of these reports in particular to determine what bellwether companies are struggling with. Then, salespeople should share content addressing the root causes of these problems, and offer advice on how to evaluate the options in the space.

3) Combine social selling with other prospecting activities.

Simply connecting with prospects on LinkedIn and then immediately sending them an InMail pitch will not garner any results. Iannarino stressed that while social tools are great for listening and sharing, using them in the same way you would traditional prospecting channels is ineffective.

Instead, Iannarino suggested connecting with potential prospects on social media, then following up with a call. Ask if you can email materials that might shape your prospect’s thinking about a certain topic, and research them on social media to determine what insights would be most relevant.

“You can center everything around a social strategy,” Iannarino said. “But pick up the phone and ask for the appointment.”

4) Stop thinking of social media as a series of individual events.

“For everything you design and everything you do on social, think of it as a campaign,” Iannarino said. “You need to look like you have chops.”

The value of social tools is far greater than a series of one-off events, according to Iannarino. Instead, salespeople need to think about integrating and standardizing all of their messaging across social media platforms and over time.

What kind of message are you trying to send about your value to prospects? Ask yourself this question on a regular basis to ensure you're presenting a consistent persona.

2 Dangerous Social Selling Mistakes to Avoid

1) Social-only sales strategies don't work.

Social media platforms and tools are valuable. A social-only sales strategy is not.

“Selling effectively is about two things -- conversations and commitments,” Iannarino said. “Social allows you to communicate, but it doesn’t lend itself to the commitment side.”

Much social selling experts advise salespeople not to make asks on social media, according to Iannarino. However, teaching salespeople to connect without “closing” -- that is, asking to set up a meeting with a prospect -- is a highly ineffective strategy.

“There’s no sales activity without getting a commitment,” Iannorino said. “You need some opportunity to make the ask because that’s where everything begins.”

2) Social media won't move your prospects through the funnel for you.

Once a lead is qualified and converted to a prospect, social tools most of their value for salespeople, Iannarino said. Before buyers become leads, however, social platforms are incredibly valuable for establishing your brand and identity.

Iannarnio stressed that social media isn't going to move prospects through the funnel for you. For example, a necessary part of prospecting is setting a meeting time with a prospect. Chatting and providing value to a contact on Twitter is valuable for establishing rapport and trust. But unless you’re going to schedule a meeting over Twitter, which Iannarino labels a “clumsy ask,” social media isn’t enough to move your prospects to the next step.

“Prospecting means I ask you, ‘Can we get together on Thursday to discuss this for 30 minutes at 2 p.m.?’,” Iannarino said. “If there’s no ability for your customer to say no, then it’s not prospecting.”

Social selling isn’t a fad, and neither is social media. But salespeople who try to replace their entire prospecting strategy with social media will fall flat -- and may very well find themselves out of job, Iannarino argued. Salespeople would be wise to use social media to supplement their existing prospecting efforts, and reap the rewards.

What’s your take on Anthony Iannarino’s four tactical tips? Let us know in the comments below. 

Subscribe to HubSpot's Sales Blog

Originally published Sep 9, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Social Selling