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Social selling isn’t a 24/7 job

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I got blasted on social media. No, it wasn’t someone inviting me to connect and then blasting me with a sales pitch (my usual complaint about bad social media behavior). It was someone critiquing me because I write about social selling and the importance of sales reps staying in touch with prospects, clients and colleagues, but I didn’t respond to his comment immediately.

Mea culpa.

It might have been one of those weeks when I was traveling, on deadline or just plain exhausted. (Don’t ask me to put a sentence together after 9 p.m.)

Here is the response I did send: “My communication may not be as timely as some, due to client work and other deadlines. I take vacations and unplug. Weekends are family time. I make these choices intentionally.”

And then we began a productive exchange of ideas. We discussed the differences between digital connections, social selling, and one-on-one engagement. Others built on our discussion and shared similar perspectives. That’s one of the powers of “engagement.” We don’t have to agree with one another, but it’s important to share our perspectives.

However, we all agree it’s a balancing act. Staying connected with others is important, but so is occasionally disconnecting from technology.

Social selling in the digital age: convenient but exhausting

Thanks to mobile devices and social media, we now live in “microwave time.” Did you ever stand in front of a microwave and get really impatient because your food wasn’t heating up fast enough? Similarly, we now expect immediate responses to emails and texts.

The problem with this expectation is twofold:

  1. The responses we get are often in microwave digits — incomplete sentences and quick, truncated messages — which is no way to communicate effectively or to build real relationships.
  2. Being “always on” is taxing and overwhelming, and it distracts us from nurturing meaningful relationships with the people who are right in front of us.

When it comes to balance, technology is a double-edged sword.

Social selling unplug

In an increasingly connected world, unplugging may be your most effective sales technique. (Photo: iStock)

Technology makes our lives (and work) more exciting and, in many ways, more efficient. It allows us to dictate our own schedules and to work when it is most convenient to do so. But it can also wreak havoc on our relationships and ability to function in the real world.

Before we know it, the technology that was supposed to make our lives easier is suddenly running our lives. We can’t sleep without our smartphones within reach. Even on vacation, we bring work with us (or at the very least, clients can reach us). We can’t even get through a conversation with a client or prospect without showing off some sort of tech savvy.

Not only do our relationships — and mental health — suffer. So does our productivity. With mounds of information and data bombarding us, emails and social media messages piling up in our inboxes, and management on our backs to do more with less, how do we choose the right course with so many competing priorities?

Yes, modern sales reps need a regular digital detox.

Go ahead and unplug (you know you want to)

We know we should turn off all electronics at least one hour before going to bed if we want a good night’s sleep. We know we should put that darned phone away when we get home so we can spend time with our families, and that we should unplug when we go on vacation.

While we’ve heard these cautions for years and understand the wisdom in these words, most of us remain plugged in, both night and day. But if we’re always looking at screens, we’re missing out on life and undermining our most effective sales techniques. We’re losing the personal connections and relationships that drive sales.

Yes, sales reps must be responsive. But that doesn’t mean you must work around the clock. If prospects or clients get annoyed because you don’t answer them immediately, be patient. (It’s not my strong suit either.) Maybe they have deadlines, or maybe they’re just having a bad day.

Come on. We need to cut each other some slack. I do what’s closest to cash every day. And that usually means face-to-face interactions take precedence over social selling. I always respond to social media messages and to comments on my posts (at least I think I do). But it may not be at that moment. Please don’t take offense, but “closest to cash” is more important than responding to a post in microwave time.

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