For years, the above has been a recurring question that I’ve received from sales executives, business owners, and sales leaders. They often misunderstand the word ‘social’ in ‘social selling’ by connecting social media with what their children do on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, instead of correlating ‘social’ as a mechanism to do two important things:

1. Conduct extensive research

2. Open up an entirely different engagement medium

From a sales perspective, you’re trying to find the four major pillars: triggers, referrals, insights, and competitive intelligence.

How does social media become a tool within a seller’s toolkit? Since there’s such a confusion around this, I thought I’d clearly define the difference between what social media does for sales people, and what social selling actually is.

Social media for sales: Trawling the ocean with a wide net

Social Media for Sales vs. Social Selling infographic2

As you see in the infographic, when using social media for sales, you’re fishing the seven seas with a giant net. Think of the seven seas as the seven main social media networks: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Pinterest. Your net is your brand, while your content is the thickness and strength of the net (your brand).

For people who use social media for sales, we’re living in the age of the influencer, where sales professionals are posting content, building brands, and becoming trusted advisors.

The purpose of using social media for sales is to capture a wide net (your brand) and catch as many fish as possible.

When I first started out, I was a pioneer of using LinkedIn from a sales perspective. Some others did this with Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram. Social media can help you find customers that are looking for solutions. They may not realize they have a problem, or they already have a problem and are looking for solutions.

Using social media, you’re capturing the fish that are close to the surface, and can handpick which ones to keep. You don’t get to select which fish end up in your net, but you choose what to do with them.

The problem is while you’re going to catch a lot of fish and generate a lot of interest, that doesn’t mean they’re your ideal customer. Whether you sell to construction companies or power plants, or consumer packaging companies, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically consuming your content and seeing your brand. Social media has set you up as a thought leader, but didn’t help you win an account.

Social Selling: SPEAR fishing for trophy fish

Here at Sales For Life, we use the analogy of SPEAR—which stands for SELECT, PLAN, ENGAGE, ACTIVATE, RUN or REPLACE.

This means you’re looking only for key accounts, focusing on your particular Total Addressable Market (TAM) and your specific account base.

Going back to our fishing analogy, in contrast to social media for sales, which casts a wide net, here you’re only focusing on and selecting the fish in the specific seas where they swim. You’re going to capture your ideal customer using bait targeted to them, and using sales plays that work only for those customers. You might need to venture into the deep water and prepare for a struggle, it’s going to be a fight. This is very specific! If you want to catch a marlin, you’re not standing by the shore – you’re going 17 miles off the coast.

Bottom line: Social selling means highly targeting specific accounts, and your social selling program focuses on your ideal customers. This differs from social media for sales, which is focused on building brands, and casting a wide net.

Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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