“Social Selling” is not a new concept

The term “Social Selling” has always been a puzzlement to me.  Why?  Because “Social Selling” is what selling ALWAYS WAS AND IS!?

The best sales people for the past few centuries have known that in order to sell, you need to build a brand, build a rapport, become a trusted quantity, and all of those things that somehow have become some sort of magic revelation in “social selling”.

Twenty-five years ago, when I started selling, I was on the bleeding edge of wireless technology.   I identified people who I would love to sell to, and I started MAILING and then emailing information about the rising wireless industry trends, and new innovations, and what my company was doing.  I created a name for myself, and my company grew.  I found these people by reading magazines in the industries I was targeting (LTL Trucking, Energy, Logistics, and more).  I found the names, researched the titles, and then started my selling technique.  I watched for “trigger events” by reading the Wall Street Journal and Red Herring.  I networked by going to events, and lectures, and calling on university contacts and more.

I did not invent this method of building a brand/following/sales strategy.  I did this because I saw what successful salespeople did.  I mimicked what they did.

Suddenly, in the 21st century we got to a place where no one picks up the phone, and so called “social tools” make us less social.  And now we talk about “social selling” as is if it is a new technique – but its not.

We need to stop calling this “social selling” and call it “selling” because when we try to put it in a new box, it makes people think that they can’t learn from old techniques that have worked – and it puts WAY too much emphasis on the tools to do the work. I am selling, successfully, the way I always have – I just use new tools.  I dont read Red Herring, I look at Crunchbase.  I don’t read the Wall Street Journal, I look at a dozen news sites online.  And I have lots of tools to automate a bunch of the work.

But… none of the tools takes the place of the human interaction that actually gets the sale done, and too many people focused on social selling are expecting tools to do most of the hard work – when in fact, all that has really happened is that a lot of the busy work has been removed from you.   You can set up alerts and send emails with little to no effort.  But then you need to actually sell – the same way its always been done – human interaction.

Indeed, the sales process has changed with a more educated buyer, and with a lot of the sales process completed before you get on the call – so it means the busy work that used to be done is now replaced with needing to be just as educated, if not more, educated that the prospects.  And it means you need to have more prospects, and more data, and deal with their data overload – so indeed much about the sales process is different than before – but its not the parts that social selling claims to have changed.

Once you, as a seller, realize, that social selling is just a set of tools that helps you get to the person in a more automated fashion, you will realize that selling is as it always was:  finding people, explaining and identifying pain, showing how to fix that pain, and getting them to agree to have you fix that pain.   That part has not changed.