8 Social Selling Tactics That Hurt Rather Than Help

Sales for Life Admin
Sales for Life Admin

I really love the power that social media contains regarding the sales process. It’s such an impactful way to engage your prospects and clients. But there’s something about social selling that I think a lot of people seem to forget these days…

It’s not new.

Before the internet came in hot and completely flipped the script for how we engage and do business, many of the same tactics served me well (yes I go that far back in time).

Back in the day, I paid attention to business journals, the news, events, who was speaking, where they went, I asked great questions of people I was talking to to get to know them but also to get to know what was happening in their industry, and threaded that through my sales fabric. It’s NO different than what I still do today that continues to serve me well.

Sadly, I see a lot of people missing the boat on this… and I’m totally sickened by some of the ways people use social media to sell their bag of tricks. And even more so because the consequences are often more deadly online.

The science of first impressions is clear: you only get one shot. However, since what you post online is more or less assumed to be permanent given that it’s written in a public space and tucked away on a server for eternity, everything you post could be someone’s first impression of you.

And given that 75% of recruiters and HR professionals say that they have turned down a job applicant based on what they have found online, the consequences could be huge.

That said, here are 8 things I see people doing a lot on social media that don’t make you look good and can in fact end up working against you.

1. Trying to be funny without adding value

Don’t get me wrong, I fancy myself a good laugh.

That said, in a professional setting where people are trying to have a productive conversation (yes let me remind you, LinkedIn is a professional setting), goofing off without adding anything concrete doesn’t help anyone accomplish anything since it just distracts from meaningful dialog while contributing NOTHING.

And it definitely doesn’t look good for you in front of prospective clients and employers – it’s more of a surefire way to put any credibility you had in the trash can.

Every single piece of content you put online is part of your “brand” (or your company’s). And that includes snide comments and trolling too. So if you want people to take you seriously, keep it constructive and “on brand” online. As my mother would say, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I’d recommend running every post through a “how would this sound in a face to face meeting with a client?” filter before you post it. It will bring a little clarity and a nice “gut check” to what you’re going to say before you hit the post button.

Note: that doesn’t mean you can’t be funny or you shouldn’t challenge someone — just make sure it adds to the conversation.

2. Non-Stop oversharing your inspirational success story or self promotional videos

Remember how the cool kids in elementary school never had to say that they were cool and everyone just “knew?”

Being influential is exactly like that too.

I’m going to be brutally honest… I don’t care about the fact you were an Olympian living in your car who overcame the odds and now makes $10M a year.

I’m proud of you, and applaud your success… but that doesn’t help me at all.

If you want people to listen to you, you have to add value to what they are trying to achieve. And while inspirational, repetition of your rags to riches story ad nauseam just doesn’t.

That’s because success at social selling doesn’t start with your story… it starts with the story of those you are trying to reach. So next time you create a post/video, put yourself in the shoes of your reader – what are they going to takeaway from this? How is it actually going to help them make a change?

If you frame your content like this, I guarantee you’ll have more success. And by that, I mean success with true business engagement versus a just a bunch of likes and lukewarm fans.

PS, If you can find a way to add value with your story, like teaching people the psychology that helped you overcome a particular challenge, that’s a different thing altogether. But your story should augment your point, not “be the point.”

PPS, CUT it out with the sales advice videos while you’re driving (I just saw a video today and all I saw was nostrils and thought to myself, this person is going to get in a wreck as they drive down a snowy, icy road), walking down a busy city street, hanging from a cliff or walking on the beach. I cannot take you or your sales advice seriously about productivity, how is this not obvious?

3. Mass tagging people you barely know to create visibility for yourself

Do I tag people? Of course. Do I do it randomly with people I have no business tagging because I don’t know them and have never had one ounce of interaction with? HELL no.

But yet, I can’t tell you how many times people have done this to me. Sadly, I usually removed the connection altogether too.

Let’s face it, people do not enjoy being used for their connections professionally or personally in real life. And that means nobody is going to stand for it online either. So just don’t do it unless you’ve asked them prior to the post or know that you know them well enough to in the first place.

Instead, a better way to create that visibility for yourself is to have that person go to bat for you willingly. And you can do that by simply initiating the relationship in a different way – by adding value to what they are doing first, or humbly asking for their help upfront.

Find ways to make small “deposits” into the relationship over time first by either sharing their content, giving them props for what they are doing, or creating visibility for them before you ever ask for their help from them. 

If you do this first (and do it genuinely), you won’t come off as someone who is only out for their own interests, and people will be much more willing to return the favor. Leading with a helpful foot pays off much better than the greedy, self-promoting foot.

4. Asking for introductions when I don’t even know you

I’m speaking for myself here (and probably many others), but I am more than willing to help grease the sleds for someone.

However, since I’m putting my own reputation and standing with my connections on the line every time I do that, it’s much easier for me to agree to/feel comfortable doing that if I know it’s not going to come back and bite me.

Taking the time to get to know you is how I make that evaluation.

(Note: I’m not talking about one meaningless LinkedIn InMail where you say you’re excited to meet me and if you can be helpful let you know.) 

Additionally, my last point applies here too. No one likes to be used for their connections, so just don’t do it. It’s like taking someone out on a date to get to their best friend — it almost never ends well.

Besides, your friends wouldn’t like you if you were always taking and never giving, and your professional relationships are no different. I’m more than happy to help if I respect you and know you, but show me that you actually care about me too if you want my help.

5. Connecting on LinkedIn and doing nothing (not even saying “hello”)

You wouldn’t hand your business card to someone and then promptly walk away without saying anything, right? 

That’s why I’m totally baffled by people who connect with me on LinkedIn but never take the time to say hello (and even more so if I send them a note first after they connected with me). Seriously, why are you even connecting with me in the first place?

Having a lot of “connections” doesn’t really get you anything if those connections aren’t tight enough to actually help you out, or have a purpose to help you further in what you’re doing (or so you can add value to what they’re doing).

So if you’re going to connect with someone, have a purpose. Connecting without one blows your chance a great first impression and kills any credibility you might have hoped to have with that person in the future.

6. Hard pitching me immediately after we connect

I know you’re under the gun to produce some unrealistic number before getting put on a PIP, or you think your product/service is amazing and can solve all my problems. Maybe it even does.

But we’ll never know, because even if it did, I will look elsewhere if you do this.

In sales, there’s something that’s just as important as the truth… perception. If I don’t perceive that you understand me and my needs (or that you have taken the time to try), I don’t care if your product or service is factually the best solution or not – I’m not buying it. Delivery is everything in this case!

And it’s not enough to say “I understand your needs,” just like saying you’re smart doesn’t actually make you smart. You have to show me proof that you have actually done the legwork to understand me.

So instead of pitching me right away, ask a question (or six). Get to know me and demonstrate that you have my best interests in mind.

The old adage really applies here: people won’t listen to what you have to say until they know you care.

7. Asking for help but not returning the favor

This one grinds my gears.

Most successful people are successful because they are helpful. Being helpful is what adds value after all, and whether you are selling something or making friends, being helpful is how productive relationships are built. 

But it takes time for busy people to help you. And successful people don’t have a lot of extra time, so if they are offering to help, they are using time that they could be using for other things on you instead.

So if someone does help you and you don’t return the favor, don’t count on them helping you again. That’s not partnership or friendship – that’s using them for your own benefit at their expense.

Respect them and return the favor when they ask.

Additionally, don’t offer help if you have zero intention of doing so. At that same time, ask yourself “why am I spending time here if I’m not truly invested in this connection?” 

8. Saying one thing on social but not practicing it in real life

I’ve seen a lot of people who are big on “personalization” or “quality over quantity” but then spray and pray behind the scenes. And it never works out well for them.

Whether you’re pushing the importance of personalization or something else, make sure you’re actually doing what you’re evangelizing in real life. You have to walk the walk if you’re going to talk the talk.

This isn’t something you can fake just because it’s all out in the virtual world either. You may be able to play that game for a while, but sooner or later you will get caught with your pants down when the virtual world bleeds into the real one. 

Bottom line: practice what you preach.

Wrapping this up

In reality, the common thing that each of these techniques above get wrong is that they start with your needs and only your needs, not those of the people you’re engaging with. And the cure for that is really simple: don’t try to take anything without giving something of value first. 

In reality, it’s nothing more than the Golden Rule, something I love to talk about. And the better and more authentically you apply it, the more you’ll be rewarded for it. It has never once let me down professionally or personally.

I want to hear from you – what are some of the most common social selling techniques you see that don’t work and quite frankly make you want to punch your computer screen? Put it in the comments below!


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The Ultimate Guide to Social Selling