LinkedIn Social Media – Selling Hope To The Desperate

Social Media
Social media does not sell complex products

LinkedIn and social media selling looks like it should work, and it does if you are selling to salespeople.

When over 80% of B2B sales reps are not making quota, a sales VP has a job-life expectancy of 18 -23 months and the VC board is crawling up the CEO’s back for explosive revenue for an exit, what is one to do?

Well, there are a whole bunch of mediocre sales types, late in their careers, who infect LinkedIn and Facebook with the solution:

“You need social media selling!” 

Everyone or almost everyone is on Facebook and/or LinkedIn so you have a place to go to contact them.  Why didn’t you think that up?

Seems reasonable.  What you need is a course in HOW to succeed at LinkedIn social media selling and they have just the course for you. 

As we have continually said: “LinkedIn is salespeople selling to other salespeople and life coaches posting meaningless cliches.”   We never knew quite how right we were.

Anyone can sell to desperate people.  That is the “pain equation” sales training types seek.  Their perfect prospect is one with lots of reps, constant turnover, revenue pressure, who understand cold calling is dead.  These firms have sales management in the 25 – 45 age range, thus mostly digital natives.

These “prospects” live on social media. 

They do not grin at the inflated titles on LinkedIn where 23% of all posters are “best selling authors” nobody ever heard of.  They are not surprised when they open their LinkedIn or Facebook page and see 15 messages from strangers who once liked a forgotten post.  They just delete these as they would wipe crumbs off a table at Starbucks before opening their laptop.

Over-the-hill former sales types seem to have opened shop on LinkedIn right behind life coaches who sell you a $25,000 course in coaching so you can depart your basement and help others find their true calling.  That sort of mindless wandering is not terribly toxic because both parties are in seek mode and both enjoy the trip.

Sales training, selling hope and nonsense that simply does not work at scale is a bit more sinister.  There is a logical fallacy at the opening gate.

The LinkedIn sales trainer claims they get all their business on LinkedIn.  They never had to make a single outbound call.  They grew their business by posting content followed by harvesting those who engaged. 

No doubt this is true. 

That is what selling to sales people and their managers looks like.

Selling social media training is quite a different matter from selling your B2B testing product to a quality assurance VP.  It is not quite the same as getting the CIO of a Fortune 100 firm to ping you since she read your really cool piece on artificial intelligence.  Nor is LinkedIn training of much value if you are selling complex storage products for serverless architectures.

You cannot sell complex, expensive, B2B products using social media.  Period.

Anyone can sell sales tools to desperate sales management.  They can call that B2B success.  No doubt it qualifies.

Then your hapless VP of Sales engages her sales team to bring these guys in – or do it remotely now – paying them real money to teach your reps how to succeed on LinkedIn and other social media.

You definitely will have your reps learn how to do social media selling.  You are unlikely, however, to get a lot of business out of it. 

Selling B2B technology today is a very different game than 20 years ago. 

Nobody wants to talk to salespeople.  Even ones who call title themselves “transformation consultants” on their profile do not get through.  If you spend enough time on LinkedIn, you will see it is almost exclusively salespeople doggedly hunting for someone, anyone to just RESPOND!

Prospects are not stupid.  If they do not want to talk to salespeople, they are not going to engage with sales types on social media.   

Social media selling sounds good until you think about it.  Just what qualified buyer is going to engage on a forum infested with salespeople when they live their lives avoiding sales types?

Maybe those training dollars can be invested elsewhere.

Reprinted from Software Executive Magazine On Line