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On integrating social tools

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The proponents of social selling are right about its benefits and wrong in their criticism of other methods of prospecting. And the critics of social selling are right about the far greater benefits of what I call “traditional selling” and wrong in some of their criticism of social selling. The key to good prospecting is, was and always will be an integrated approach.

Proponents of social selling suggest that cold calling is dead, that selling is only serving (providing information) and that the way buyers buy has changed so radically that you can no longer ask for a sale without alienating your prospect. Their criticism of traditional selling is both wrong and self-serving.

Cold calling still works, as do all the other methods of prospecting (such as asking for referrals, for example). Providing the right information at the right time has always been helpful to buyers and a good strategy for salespeople. But if that is all the value you bring, you are already being beat out by Google and YouTube.

The social selling proponent’s worst and most harmful critique is that asking for any kind of commitment is too aggressive—too “sales-y”—and will irreparably damage your relationship with your prospect. Nothing could be further from the truth. Selling is conversations and commitments.

This criticism is self-serving. It’s easy to sell struggling salespeople the hope that they can acquire the prospects they need without picking up the phone. And it’s easy to sell them your solution if they believe that cold calling doesn’t work. Furthermore, a lot of salespeople (especially young ones) would love to believe they can create and win new opportunities without asking for the commitments they need.

Some of the criticism of social selling is that it doesn’t work, that it is really just salespeople wasting time online and that it doesn’t have a place in a struggling sales organization. The way social selling proponents talk about selling, you can understand the criticism. They talk about an accepted connection request on LinkedIn as if it is as valuable as a booked appointment. 

The right answer when it comes to prospecting is an approach that integrates the best methodologies for what you sell, how you sell, what your buyers buy, where they are and how you best engage with them. This is most likely some combination of new tools for research, connecting, and nurturing relationship combined with the old tools and methods for getting face-to-face appointments.

Use social tools in the most effective way — by combining them with traditional approaches.

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