The progression of technology is constantly changing the way we communicate. The internet has made it possible to make connections that reach across the globe. Social media has evolved from a technological phenomenon to a part of everyday life, providing a means of instant access and communication.

For salespeople this has opened up a new realm of possibilities; there are multiple means of contacting new prospects, tracking online activity to monitor trends, and building brand awareness. Utilising social media effectively can dramatically improve sales performance. A recent survey by Aberdeen Group found that salespeople using social media as part of their job outperformed their peers by an astonishing 73%, and exceeded their quotas by 23%.

Online engagement is certainly a powerful and welcome addition to the sales toolkit, extending the reach of salespeople and helping them to develop new ways to communicate with prospects. Interacting online, however, is still a delicate courtship that requires careful consideration, especially where social media is concerned.

Social media is a realm that comes with rules and regulations of its own. Using the wrong approach or misrepresenting your brand can have serious implications for your online reputation, which will have repercussions in the offline world too. To help you avoid the key pitfalls of social selling, here is our top 10 list of what not to do on social media:

1. Don’t forget to plan
First and foremost is planning. Ad hoc social media simply does not work; contacting the first connection Twitter suggests does not count as a social media strategy, nor does sending out blanket messages to your contacts. Sporadic activity will do nothing promote a reputation of involvement and efficiency, both elements that are crucial for nurturing relationships and making a sale. You need to set clear goals for each and every interaction and carefully qualify prospects before proceeding with contact.

2. Don’t pick up the megaphone
While the opportunity to reach a potentially unlimited audience might bring about the temptation to self-promote; it is better to resist it. The users you are trying to target come to social media to engage with an online community where they can find content and connections that relate to their interests. They do not log on solely to read your ads and click on links to your offers. If your posts and messages are a repetition of the same tired pitch, users will be unlikely to engage. Your communications need to be tailored, relevant, and interesting; providing real value to your targeted reader that will help a relationship to develop.

3. Don’t neglect your presence
Your online presence is your digital footprint; an online version of the impression that you want to create. Just as contacting prospects at random with uninspiring content will damage your reputation, so will a complete absence of interaction. Posting one link a week does not qualify as an active social media presence. Irregular participation can signal that you are neither committed to engaging nor passionate about your brand. It can even send the message that neglect is part of your company culture; not a positive image for customer care. Frequently getting involved in discussions and sharing interesting content is a vital element of getting noticed and demonstrating commitment.

4. Don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach
Though there are a multitude of similar social media sites, assuming that every community is the same is a mistake. Each social media channel has its own language and audience, therefore; targeting all channels with the same message will be ineffective and may across as spam. You need to spend time researching the sites that are the most relevant to your desired audience and construct a specific message for your users and your platform. If your offering can be applied to a range of communities, then individual messages for each community needs to be tailored; value and differentiation are just as important online as in a proposal.

5. Don’t focus on numbers alone
Numbers are crucial in the sales industry; targets, ROI, and performance are measured in infinite detail. Such an emphasis on figures can mean that salespeople take a similar approach when it comes to social media. While certain elements are undoubtedly trackable, focusing on vanity statistics alone, such as numbers of followers, can mean that the quality of interactions is lost. Quality should be the order of the day; 700 followers may look good on an end of month report but the connections that count are those that engage and convert.

6. Don’t jump on the bandwagon
There is a difference between participating in a trend that is genuinely related to your company or product and using today’s most popular headline for self-promotion. Jumping on the online bandwagon may seem like it will gain you more positive exposure, but in fact it is more likely to highlight your lack of authority on the subject. It is vital that the blogs you write and the discussions you join are chosen for their relevance to your organisation and audience. After-all, your aim is to earn a reputation as a knowledge leader, rather than a blind-follower.

7. Don’t overhashtag
Overusing hashtags is a small but deadly sin for social engagement. It has the dual misfortune of entering bandwagon territory and showing very clearly that you are not a social media expert. Once more this is a question of quality over quantity; using a plethora of hashtags may ensure that you have a place on a number of streams but it will not help you to engage with high-quality leads. Picking the trends that are likely to reach your chosen demographic and bringing something useful to the table is a far more worthwhile investment of your time.

8. Don’t get personal
Injecting some personality into your interactions is essential in order to pique the interest of your audience, but salespeople must be careful not to overstep the mark. Allowing personal opinion to interfere is highly ineffective in every area of business practice and airing personal opinions online can be disastrous. The general rule is that if a post would not be appropriate for your most important client or mentor to read, hit delete.

9. Don’t ignore or automate
Most salespeople would never dream of not responding to a missed call or sending a pre-recorded message in reply. The same goes for every tweet, message, and mention you receive. Assuming that online interactions do not require the same immediate and detailed attention as offline communication is a significant error. Not only does a nonchalant attitude imply that the interaction is not valuable to you, it could cost you a potentially valuable relationship. Responses to online interactions need to be timely and useful in order to build a good reputation and relationship.

10. Don’t mislead
Last but not least is accuracy and honesty; every statistic and fact that you share online must be authentic and correct. Posting inaccurate or misleading information can be incredibly damaging to both your personal authority and your company image. Double checking your facts and using statistics that you can reference is essential to ensure that you are associated with valid information. Using verifiable information will help to elevate your standing and establish trust in your band.


By Russell Ward, author of High Performance Sales Strategies and CEO of Silent Edge.

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