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The biggest mistake salespeople make on social media

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It happened again.

I accepted a LinkedIn invitation from someone I didn’t know, sent a personal response to greet my new connection, and immediately received a cold calling message from someone looking only for lead generation:

I’d love to talk and hear about you, what’s happening in your business and how you think I can contribute to your success. In fact, after looking at your profile I would like to loop in our VP of Marketing, (Name), and invite you to our free strategy call for lead generation and list building. He is one of the best in the country when it comes to marketing strategies. We will get to know each other and I promise to share at least 4-5 new strategies that you could utilize in your business right away to get consistent flow of targeted leads. Here is the calendar link: By the way, what would be a good # to reach you at?

But that’s not all. Two days later, I got another message from the same person:

Thanks for accepting my invitation. I’ll be sure to check out your profile in more detail now that we are connected. I’ve found that talking offline is a great way to obtain deeper connections with my network, and deliver even more value. After you check out my video, let me know a good time for a 5-10 minute chat.

Really? Why would I do anything he asks — attend a strategy call, watch his video, talk to him offline or give him my phone number?

Cold calling on social media

Obviously this seller’s response is automated, or at least “canned.” If he’d actually read my profile, he would know that buying lists goes against everything my business stands for, that my lead generation strategy is asking for referrals, and that my phone number is on my LinkedIn profile.

Like so many salespeople, he’s just clicking buttons and banking on “return on clicks.” It’s exactly the same as telemarketers and their cold calling blitzes. If you make 100 dials, you’ll get 10 people on the phone, schedule a few appointments, and maybe (if you’re lucky) close one deal. Where’s the relationship? Where’s the connection? Where’s the return?

This is not social selling. It’s social stalking.

Stop the madness

Sales reps abuse social media to the extent that I typically delete more LinkedIn invitations than I accept. (No, I’m not a snob; I just don’t have time for cold calling nonsense.) They invite person after person to connect using the same old standard invitation, and then immediately blast sales pitches to anyone who accepts.

This bad behavior is not entirely the reps’ fault. Sales leaders understand that relationships drive sales; yet they measure their teams on the number of connections accumulated, dials made and emails sent.

The problem: Just because someone agrees to connect on social media does not make that person a qualified sales lead. Qualified prospects are actually interested in your product or solution. They want and expect to hear from your salespeople. Otherwise, sales reps are simply cold calling on social media, which is both annoying and ineffective.

Social selling only works if you’re actually social, not selling something. No pitching. No inviting people to connect with you on LinkedIn and immediately following up with a sales pitch. And no spamming people just because you belong to the same LinkedIn group. You might as well be dressed as a giant pizza slice, screaming your sales offering at random strangers leaving a conference for the lactose intolerant. That’s not selling. That’s obnoxious.

Your No. 1 lead generation social tool

The best way to get a qualified sales lead is to receive a referral introduction from someone your prospect knows and trusts. When reps have that kind of “in,” they don’t have to mess with cold calling on social media. Yes, sales reps should use social media to research prospects and learn how they’re connected to the prospects they want to meet. But the next step is to pick up the damn phone and ask their connections for referral introductions.

Here’s how asking for referrals works:

  • The rep asks a colleague or client (the referral source) for an introduction to an ideal prospect.
  • The referral source talks to the sales prospect and gets agreement to meet with the rep.
  • The referral source introduces the two of them by email or phone, or in person.
  • The rep thanks the referral source and schedules a time to talk to the sales prospect.
  • The rep reaches out to the sales prospect, and he answers the phone because he actually expects the call.

Without the personal introduction, the rep is cold calling. Period.

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