What To Do When When Social Selling Fails

'My online social channels have been exhausted for sales leads'.

'I am under pressure to contact a potential customer, but I can't contrive a digital reason to do so'.

'My social-selling strategy isn't adding to my pipeline how the experts suggest it should...what should I do?'

These are questions posed by the salespeople I have mentored recently. They have read the books, attended the online conferences and done their best to apply a social-selling strategy, but it hasn't proven as effective as they had first hoped. From their perspective, they are doing everything correctly, rewriting their social profiles to be more attractive to customers and spending their days trawling (perhaps procrastinating) through social channels to position themselves as an expert, identifying leads and contacting new prospects. They feel demoralised by the reality this strategy hasn't been the definitive solution to their pipeline problems.

Now what?

Social Selling is just one of your tools - a very powerful one I strongly advocate using, but it isn't the end game (yet?!). The best strategy is to automate your social-selling process; give it a fixed percentage of attention per day and have it support your efforts. This way, you aren't reliant on a single prospecting source. The best salespeople leverage all resources to support their efforts.

The following action points supported immediate improvement and a more comprehensive approach to warm client referrals by better utilising the resources within the company and wider industry:

The Sales Team. Potentially the most lucrative source of warm referrals. It takes little effort for a colleague to ask their customers for a referral to their counterpart in another company. This can extend cross-border if the company has an existing relationship in a different geographical region, or has a complementary product with a similar client base. It is important to reciprocate this behaviour.

The Support Teams. Make it part of your strategy to train the support teams to identify new opportunities. Talk to them every day to encourage heightened commercial awareness and to maximise your prospecting reach.

The Marketing Team. The most innovative companies are integrating sales and marketing as part of the same function. However, there are still many companies yet to make this leap. Despite operating independently, it shouldn't stop a salesperson approaching the team and building a direct relationship to leverage everything they do.

Management. Despite being removed from the coal-face of selling, members of senior management often know very senior customers who can open doors. Sometimes, giving them a nudge can instigate a call that saves months of effort.

Your customers. Just like management, your customers are often blissfully unaware that they know somebody extremely useful to you. It's the salesperson's responsibility to extract this information by asking the right questions at the right time. Never be scared to call your best customers and ask for their help. If you add value to their business, they will be happy to reciprocate.

Other salespeople in the industry. Salespeople in the same industry (not direct competitors) are often only one degree of separation (at most) from your key targets. Call them, utilise them and return the favour.

Strategic Partnership Channels. Are there partnership channels or strategic alliances between your company and others? In my experience, these relationships are under-utilised, but nothing stops a salesperson leveraging them with the understanding that you will reciprocate the assistance.

Set-up your own focus groups. A monthly or quarterly gathering of your best customers is a great way to understand their challenges better and identify new opportunities. These can be small groups, but are a great opportunity to invite your most coveted prospects to join, or even have your customers invite them. This group grows over time and is one of the most powerful prospecting strategies in a salesperson’s arsenal.

There are still many sales roles where outbound salespeople operate autonomously, with little guidance or input from their company. They must make it happen alone, and they don't have the luxury of an SDR team, inbound sales process, cohesive inter-company communication or decent leadership.

The people I have been helping are taking it upon themselves to self-improve and I applaud that initiative. The prospecting tools available will depend on your unique sales situation, but it must be a multi-faceted approach. Don't spend your days blindly surfing websites in the hope something crops up. Expand, share your dilemma, and reciprocate with others to build a process of mutual collaboration and a stream of warm introductions to support your goals.

Please comment, share, connect...and check out Mark Hunter's book, High Profit Prospecting, which is a good read and valuable resource for various prospecting techniques.

Happy Selling!