Tips to Become a Social Selling Expert

by Anthony Iannarino

tips to become a social selling expert

In this session Anthony discusses how he believes Social Selling had 'jumped the shark.' He offers 10 tips and tactics for you to help you get ahead of underperforming Social Selling 'experts.' While many think of social as a one off event Anthony expresses the importance of building a social campaign which is integrated with other departments in an organization.

Webinar Transcript

Hi, its Anthony Iannarino here. Welcome to my session at the Social Selling Summit. I've got pages of notes, because I have so many things I want to tell you, but we have to start by answering the first question, which is, "Anthony, why are you here? You are among the most vocal critics of pure social selling as anyone on the internet and anyone who spends as much time as you do actually using social media." So let's answer that question. 

I wrote this post, and I'm just going to share some notes from this. I've got an iPad right here. I'm using this for some notes. It reminds me to say everything I want to say here. I wrote this post called "Social Selling Jumped the Shark." I wrote down a bunch of reasons why I believe the social selling has jumped the shark, and really what we can do about it, because we still need this tool kit. It's still an important component an important part of your sales prospecting efforts, but we need to exactly how it fits.

So let me share something with you. The first, I think, that it's been oversold, we've overpromised and underdelivered when it comes to social selling. The way that it's been framed is it's a panacea, and it's going to cure all of your prospecting ills, and it's not. The salespeople who have taken this approach and thought, "Well, everything is inbound. I'm supposed to be on social only. I don't need to pick up the phone," it hasn't worked for them, and they're suffering, and they're not making their money, and neither are their customers. It's misled salespeople and sales organizations. They think that this is the right answer to a much more difficult question, and by itself, it's not alone. 

It's a misreading of the trends in the research that's going on, and there's a whole bunch of research. I'm going to point to some in just a minute. Look, this is not what you think it is, and it needs to be used differently. Even the words "social selling" doesn't make sense, because it's really not selling. Selling is about conversations and commitments, and we'll talk about that when we go through 10 points I want to give you. 

For some reason, the proponents of pure social selling, the people who say there's nothing else. You should never pick up the phone, you should never cold call, you should never knock on doors, are all the things that we used to do in sales that allowed us to succeed. For some reason, they framed this as a mutually exclusive prospecting methodology. So what they've said is, "Look, there's only social selling. You should never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting your customer. It's wrong, you shouldn't do it. And it's not true, and it's hurting people."

The curriculum for a lot of social selling programs is not aligned with what really needs to happen. And LinkedIn is critically important, still, and I'll explain why. But the curriculum really has to be about what are the outcomes we're trying to get with these customers or prospective customer, and how do we best accomplish that? Like social media marketing, which I remember when that idea first came out, everybody with a business card that they could get printed this said, "Social media marketing consultant are experts, so they grab the brass ring there and said, 'I'm the expert in social media marketing.'" Even though it was so new, no one was really an expert and nobody knew how to get the results.

A couple more points really quickly. One, the people who are great at prospecting are great at social media, too. They're great at that tool kit, because they are super engaged, and they're brave, and they're courageous and will engage with people and make asks. They also have chops. They have the business acumen and the situational knowledge to be able to benefit their prospective customer give them insights. These are the very same people who are not afraid to pick up the phone and cold call. They're the same group of people. The people who are most effectively using social are also most effectively using all the other tools available to them. I want to talk about one of the point, but we'll get to that in just a minute. 

So that's some things. But I want to share with you, I'm looking at a blog post here called "Experience: The Blog." And basically, the blog post is August 21. It says, "Burn it down, start from scratch and build a social media strategy that works." It points to a whole bunch of research that came out of Forrester. Forrester, of all the people, to start talking about how ineffective social is, these are the people who wrote the book "Groundswell" and went out and explained to companies how to use social media marketing, with a book called "Groundswell." 

So I want to share a couple stats here that they've got in this thing. Social does not deliver purchasers. That's what it says about social media marketing companies. It says it's 1% of e-commerce compared to 16% and 17% for CPC. It says it delivers four conversions with the rate of 1.7 to 2.4 for search and 2.18 for email. So what you're hearing here is that for big brands, social media marketing isn't quite as effective as other things like email. I think it's because of the nature of the engagement. Basically, what they end up saying is that the social and the marketing need to be separated. I think that's a really good jumping off point for what I to share with you here. So I've got a couple of things. I've really got 10 points here. I'm going to roll through them with you. 

The first is I want to address my criticism. I'm a huge proponent of the social tools, but what I am is an active critic of social only. I'm an active critic of the idea that there is nothing else, and here's why. Selling effectively is about two things. It's about conversations, and it's about commitment. And social allows you to engage with people and have conversations, but it doesn't lend itself to the commitment side of that. 

See, the commitment side of it means I have to ask you to do something for me, and the one thing that the proponents of social will tell you is not to ask. There's a very important reason for it. It's because were social belongs in the buyer psychology and where the buyer is, when they're just connecting and they're just searching and they're looking and they're finding things that you're sharing, the social tools are a very clumsy ask. You can't ask people for a meeting very easily on Twitter, and you can't post in a LinkedIn group saying, "I'd like to meet with all of you," and it's a super clumsy way to do things. So the tools can be the activities, but not the commitments, and you need both of those things, so social is different. 

The second point I want to make is this thing about "Just connect. Don't ever close anybody." I see that all over the place. Just connect with people. Just connect with people, and you'll sell things. You won't, you won't sell things to people. You won't sell your product or your service or your solution by just connecting with people. It's a poor idea. It's not the right thing to teach salespeople today. It's about commitment. Still, we have to get that piece of this. You have intentions and you have behaviors. You need to think about "What's my intention in this activity, and what's the behavior? "

There's no sales activity, I know of, that suggests you connect with people without gaining a commitment. The intention has to be to connect, to develop trust, to develop mind share, to develop some sort of an opportunity to make that ask, because that ask is where everything really begins. 

So let me talk about social's place. I'm on point three here. Social's place is above the funnel. It isn't the funnel, it has nothing to do with funnel. Once somebody is qualified, and they moved to prospect, the social tools lose their relevance and lose their value to you. But above the funnel, there're killer. Above the funnel is where you can make connections and you can share your insights. Above the funnel is where you can speak to the challenges that your prospective customers have. Above the funnel is where you can establish your brand, where you can establish your identity,-- as what I call a value creator-- where you can establish that you have the chops and the ability to go and help people.

There's no better tool kit above the funnel than social media. There's nothing better than LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and all of the other tools, Quora, everything. Those things are great where they belong, and they belong right there. So when we say social selling, we're really talking about that important component where we try to move people into the funnel. And it's easier to move them into the funnel when we've done the shaping, and we'll talk about that. 

You're not prospecting unless you're asking for a commitment. If you're spending your time on social media, maybe you're spending your time on building your brand, maybe you're spending your time on sharing your insights. Maybe you're spending your time engaging with people so that they know you, and they know who you are and what you do. That's great, but it's not prospecting. 

Prospecting means I ask you, "Can we get together to discuss this on Thursday at 2:00?" That's prospecting. If there's no ability for your prospective customer to say no, then it's not prospecting. It's an important activity, don't get me wrong, but it's not that activity. So we need a careful blend. How much of the engaging and the connecting and sharing are we going to do? Then how much of the asking are we going to do? I'm going to give you some really strong direction on that.

Number four here. Content creators win, I win. On this list, there's a whole bunch of people. Koka Sexton wins, Joe Riley wins, Grant Cardone. Knowing does he win [SP], it's like he's got the power ball. He's winning more than everybody, there's no question. Thought leaders win and content creators win, but salespeople don't have a great opportunity to be a content creator. 

I've already talked to a number of people in big companies who said to me, "I've got the insights. I can write. I can share. I can shape the mindset of my customers," and their sales leaders and their marketing leaders say to them, "No, we don't want you to do that. We don't want you to write. We don't want you to create that content. We don't want you to go out and establish your leadership, because we're afraid. We're afraid that, one, you'll screw something up. You'll damage the brand. Two, we're afraid other people will think that it's okay for them to do this. They're poor writers and they're not quite as thoughtful about what they would create as you are, and so we can't trust them to do that."

The content creation for salespeople is being shut down, and I defy any "caring" [SP] sales are up to. Go to their sales manager and say, "Listen, I really want to focus on social selling, so I'm going to spend most of my day just creating content and trying to share it." You'll soon find yourself in a new role. Probably, not in the same company. Probably, not sales. It's really tough for us, but let me give you some guidance on what to do about that. 

Here's the first big point. I want to give it for you. This is point six on my list here, and I want to share it with you. It's super important. We think that we're out researching customers. We think that we're listening to them. We think that we are following the trail of things that interest them and all the stuff that they're excited about, but the truth of the matter is they can also look at us. So I go out and I looked at people's LinkedIn profiles, and it's clearly a resume. There's nothing about the value they create for other people. There's nothing about the problems they solve. There's nothing there that would indicate to me that this is a person worth me meeting with. 

So when we go out here, we're worried about pitching. And we're worried about all these other things, but you don't even look like somebody who can create value. So let me give you three tasks here and two other points. Your first task, go to LinkedIn. Look at your profile and decide. If you were your prospective customer, if you were the person who gets a phone call from you, and they go out and they look at your LinkedIn profile or maybe you send them an in mail request or just send a request to connect with you. What do they see when they look at you? What do they really see? They see a salesperson, did they get a pitch? 

What does your LinkedIn profile say about you? Does it say anything about how you create value? If it doesn't, then you're not even giving them the starting point of a good social selling strategy, because they need to look and see inside you somebody who can help them. If your LinkedIn profile isn't right, go look at other people's profiles and see what's out there. Because, there are tons of people doing great work, where you can look at their profile and you can say, "This person probably has the ability to help me get the outcomes that I need." We're looking at our prospects, they're looking back. 

Let me give your second task. This one's a tougher task. You can create the content, I know that. Most of you are not content creators. Most of you didn't sign on to be a content creator. You're either in sales, you're in a management role, you're in a leadership role. Or if you're here, you may be are even in a marketing role. If you're in marketing, you have the content creation piece of this, so you should own it. But I want you to think about three huge categories where you can find content that can help you establish yourself as a thought leader, that can establish you as a value creator, that can open the opportunity for when you make that call for the prospective customer to say, "Yes I'd love to meet with you."

The first area is, above the funnel, there's two kinds of prospective customers we want. There're the kind who are already dissatisfied, and they know they need something. They're not happy with the results they've got, they want to do something different, and they're looking for help. They're totally dissatisfied. Then we have the kind who don't know they're supposed to be dissatisfied. They think that they're going fine. They think that their results are good. They don't have any frame of reference to make that decision, but they're stuck in the status quo. 

So the first piece of content you need to find is the kind of content shapes their thinking. That content says, "Even though you think you're going fine, even though you think you're getting a good result, there are better results available to you." And if they're not dissatisfied, we want to probe them and poke them to say, "Listen, there's better outcomes available to you, and other people are doing this," and give them the vision that something more is possible. 

That's the kind of content that you want to share to help dredge up the case for change. That's really what you want to do. Before you make the call, you want to be established as a value creator. One of the ways that you do that is how people understand that where you are right now, the pain you're feeling, the discomfort, the fear, the anxiety the trouble that you're having, the challenge getting results, all that stuff exists because these things are happening. 

So I want to give you a couple of ideas. Look at trends in the industry. Look at metrics in the industry. Read, you don't go to a bunch for research. Read a couple annual reports from a couple of big customers in your segment, and don't worry about the happy glossy, four-color parts where they have charts and all that stuff that say, "Hey, look we're great. Give us money." Look at the parts where they say risks. Look at the parts where they say, "These are the things that we're afraid of. These are the things that we're worried will derail our strategy," and find a content that helps them understand what they can do about that, because that's the first piece.

Let me give you the second category of content here. The second category is the kind of content that helps people figure out what they can do. A lot of times, customer see a presenting problem, and they don't get to the root cause. So you're looking for information that says, "Listen, this is the root cause of your problem. This is the root cause. It's not the presenting problem that says this is what you see. This is why you see it." 

I'll try to give you a couple of examples. Maybe if you're in the health care industry, we had a huge change in the United States, and we moved towards universal health care. It cost people money. It changes their business metrics. It costs individual's money. There's lots change around that. So when they say, "Look, the price of our health care for all our employees is going up," how can you help them with that? How can you help them understand how to deal with those things?

So you want to find content that says, "Here's the root causes of your problems, and here's what you should be thinking about, what you need to respond to that." What they need to respond to that is what you sell. It's what you offer. That's what you're offering them with. It's the solution to the challenges they're facing. If you want to be relevant, if you want to be somebody that creates value, that's where you go to find that.

The third piece is it about how to evaluate their choices. There's lots of ways people can get different results. So you want to show them here's the trade-offs that you might make. Maybe you want to spend more money over in this area, so you can save more money in this area. Or maybe you want to look at doing this program, because it's a better program for you than that program, and here's why. So the content that speaks to these three categories, the content that speaks to this idea of, "Look, here's the pain. Here's the reason that you should change." Two, here's the things that you're going to need to address those changes. And three, how do you think about those trade-offs?

Listen. None of this content is self-oriented. None of this content is about, "Look at us, were great. Look, we've got products. Look, we can do these things." This is the content where we're shaping mind. That's what we want. We want mind share. Mind share equals opportunities, and mind share equal wallet share. That's where we have to play. 

Let me give you a third task. You need to connect with what I call your dream clients. Your dream clients are these clients who you can create breathtaking, earth-shattering, jaw-dropping value for. Those are the only people you really need to focus on right now, because they're the people who are going to perceive your value. Especially if you have a higher price offering in your space, they're the ones that will pay for the value that you create. 

This is where you spend most of your time, so let me just give you a couple of ideas about strategy. I've got a couple of notes here. Connect with people on LinkedIn, and then don't be stupid. I'll share with you a stupid. I had a young girl, and she's young, so I'm forgiving her. She sent me a note saying, "I'd like to connect with you." And I connected with her, and I sent her a note saying, "Listen, I just looked at your profile. Don't just pitch me straight out of the gate. You're going to pitch me, I know you are." Before she got my response to her, she already pitched me with an email saying, "Listen, we've looked at you and your company, and we have a group of people who makes cold calls for B2B organizations like yours, and we'd like to talk to you about making cold calls for you, which there's a whole bunch of irony in this. 

One, a company who sells the ability to cold call is sending in mails over LinkedIn. Everybody's getting these emails. Everybody's getting emails in their inbox every day, because of these big strategies that have been talked about like, "Oh, email him this thing, email him that thing." They're going right into everybody spam filter. All of us are deleting these things, because it means nothing to us. Listen, we don't care. We don't care. You don't care, I don't care. We don't want the in emails. It's turned into spam.
So you need to do something different. 

Let me talk about integration. Integration is the most important word for you to think about right now as you should think about your social selling strategy. Here's the thing. We're going to use the social tools. We're going to listen. We're going to publish. We're going to share content, and then we're going to share it in a whole bunch of ways. You sent that LinkedIn request. They replied to the Linked In request. You picked up the phone and you called them. Their phone is not ringing anymore. Their phone is not ringing. No one's calling. They've all been told for so long now, all of us in sales, "Don't pick up the phone, don't call them. You're just interrupting them. You're going to actually destroy the relationship instead of creating it."

Call him and say, "Hey, listen. Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn. We have a bunch of insights that I want to share with you. Would be all right if I emailed you a couple of pieces that maybe shape your thinking about these challenges that you're facing in your industry right now? And you can let me know if they're valuable for you, but I'd like to shoot out over to you? Then I can follow up. And maybe if we have something to talk about, we can do that." That's one way to do it. 

Another way to do is just pick up the phone and call, and say, "Listen, I'm happy you connected with me. We're looking at our customers, and we see they're faced with three serious challenges right now, and we've got some great thinking about this. I'd love to get together with you, share with you three big questions that you're going to be charged with answering in the rest of 2015 and 2016. We'll share our best of ideas with you. And even if you never buy it from me, I want you to know me, and I want to know you, and I definitely want to give you this so that you can ask these questions over the next year. What's Thursday look like for a 30 minute meet and greet where I can show these big ideas with you? Whether you'll ever buy for me or not, I want you to know me. And if you need anything, I'll be there immediately." 

Ask, ask for the appointment. We underestimate the value of all the other media. There's none better than the phone. Pick that thing up. If you've got white papers, if you've got intellectual property, if you've got ideas and things that you can share that say, "This is our best thinking on this," and you really need to get into the hands of the customer, shared it on social. Try that for sure. Send it in an email. Try that for sure, no problem. Put it in a FedEx envelope and send it to them. Send them a FedEx envelope with the most important thing that you need to put in front of them. It will get open. Follow that up with another phone call. 

You need to start thinking about the integration. So it's not just that you're using the social tools. It's not just that you're even using the phone. You're going to ask for referrals. You're going to ask people to do introductions for you. You're going to go to trade shows. You're going to network. You're going to use traditional media. All of those things are important in today's day and age, and you can center all of them around or social strategy. All the insights that you're using in one area, all the things that establish you as a value creator are going to work in every other media that you can find and you're going to use them all. 

Let me give you one last point. If you're going to use social media, you have to look like somebody who has chops. So everything that you design and everything that you do, I want you to think of in this way. It's a campaign, it's not a single event. And we tend to think of social as event-driven. We think of it as "I'm going to do this thing on LinkedIn," or, "I'm going to do that thing on Twitter, and I'm going to put this content on Facebook." That's not the right strategy. The right strategy is one where you're integrating all of this, and you're saying, "Listen, here's the messaging that we need to get out. Here's the case for change that we need to make. Here's the trade-offs that people should be thinking about making, and here is our best insights around those ideas."

So the little shift that I would make here, maybe it's a bigger shift is away from pure social media to an integration. It's an integration of using the social tools, using traditional media, integrating all these, leading with insight and making sure that your content helps establish you and make you known as a value creator and as somebody that people should do business with.

I'm Anthony Iannarino. You can find me at When you go there, you're going to have a little pop-up thing that everybody hates that will pop-up in front of you and say, "Sign up for the Sunday newsletter." Do sign up for that. It's my best work every week. It's my most favorite thing to do. It will tell you that if you want to email me, you can email me back. I reply to everyone even if takes me days and days to do it. Thank you so much for your time. Enjoy the rest of the Social Selling Summit, and I'll see you soon.