Social Selling is about Opening, not Closing

Social Selling calls for Sales Professionals to change their perspective

The strategy of “Always Be Closing” was popularized by the 1992 movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” It’s a mindset that has all to often confused sales people into rushing through the sales process just so they can start working on a new prospect. Some would call it “Sales Efficiency.” I see this resulting in poor relationship building and poor retention. Sales is never about closing. It’s about opening and creating relationships built on trust and value. So rather than say A - Always, B - Be, C- Closing, we should be using A - Always, B - Be, C - Creating.

I have spoken with a few sales managers over the past couple months that wanted to get a better understanding of social selling and if it can help enhance their current selling system. Their initial perspective is that introducing the use of social networks into their selling system will result in reduced productivity because reps will spend the majority of their time researching rather than making outbound calls. Their concerns are common among sales management professionals.

I explained to these sales managers that Social Selling is about opening new relationships, rather than closing business. Social Selling offers a number of principles that guide sales people while they guide buyers through the buyer’s journey. But, having a fundamental understanding of how Social Selling complements your current selling system is critical. Once you understand this, maybe this perspective will help you rethink sending that cold email, making that cold call or sending a LinkedIn invite with a pitch inside.

Sales professionals have become too accustomed to getting to the desired outcome that they forgot how much work it takes to develop a relationship with another human being. For example, I’ve received a number of LinkedIn invite requests that include a product pitch in the invite. And take a look at the discussions, or there lack of, in LinkedIn Groups. Even when someone has a legitimate question, those inexperienced in the ways of Social Selling use the opportunity to pitch rather than assess the question to determine a proper response, if one is needed at all.

Look at your current selling system. Every step before the last involve creating a relationship with the prospect. The very last step is closing the sale. Here’s an example of a simplified sales engagement. The first three steps serve a specific purpose that helps open up the relationship and eventually lead to closing the sale.

1. Initial Contact and Greeting
With Social Selling: Social selling can be used at this stage to identify a specific prospects and develop a strategy that will solicit a response.
Traditional Approach: You are blindly calling into organizations, trying to navigate the phone tree and get past the gatekeeper.

2. Ask Discovery Questions
With Social Selling: Using your professional network on LinkedIn you uncover typical problems that prospects like this fact. Using the resources you have acquired, you ask the right questions and relate answers to to the prospect’s problem. This stage also includes delivering the right content at the right time.
Traditional Approach: Have extensive conversations, by phone and email, hoping to uncover what solution would be best for them. Chances are you are leaving money on the table because you don’t really know what questions to ask that will uncover the actual problem the prospect is seeking to solve. This is extending the buying cycle and allowing for the prospects to make an unfavorable decision.

3. Recommend Solutions
With Social Selling: When speaking with the prospect you point to several members of your network that have had a similar problem and share their success stories. From these examples you are able to offer a recommended solution that is customized to their needs and offer to the client and opportunity to speak with those current customers.
Traditional Approach: You take a top down sales approach and recommend a solutions that doesn’t address their needs.

4. Close the Sale
With Social Selling: You and prospect have built a trusting relationship. Social Selling has helped you become more consistent and acquire the client’s trust. This trust can lead to future sales down the road.
Traditional Approach: You may have closed the deal but the chances that you have established a significant amount of trust with the new client is unknown. The client becomes another contact in your CRM. They may eventually come up again when you call for a renewal or to offer them a new solution that you have no idea if they need.

If you analyze each of these steps, aren’t the first three about establishing a relationship? You spend the majority of the sales engagement opening the buyer up to listening. Once you have shown the prospect that what you are telling them is consistent they begin to trust you. This trust is what leads to closing a sale. But, like I said, they begin to trust you. The first sale may be closed, but that’s not the end of the relationship between you and the new customer.

Social selling is about opening new relationships using social media networks as a facilitation tool. The new relationships you work to establish can eventually lead to trust. It is that trust that leads to a sale. If you ask anyone in Sales if they have ever closed a deal on LinkedIn they will likely answer, “No.” But they were able to find the right person to connect with, built a relationship and established trust. Those engagements lead to new business relationship. That’s why it’s important to see social selling is about opening, not closing.

Always be creating, not closing.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on July 8, 2020 and is authored by Greg Hyer.

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