professional relationships


Why Relationships Are Key To Success in Sales (And How To Build Them Using Social Media)

Amy Volas
Amy Volas

Serious question: How well do you think you could function in sales today without technology and automation?

According to a study done by Linkedin in 2017, sales tech is used by over 91% of all salespeople (and only 2% of the top sales performers in the world don’t use it). At Sales for Life, we’re obviously fans of tech, and we use a number of digital tools to manage our own sales process for ATP (more on that later).

But I’ve also noticed a disturbing trend in sales as a result of all this available technology: It has become a crutch for several sellers. For many, tech has taken the place of the foundational elements of sales—namely, relationships.

Let us just state this upfront: The tools are not to blame. Tech is essential, and we absolutely do not advocate dumping them for an old-school approach—we definitely couldn’t function without them.

However, we might be using them incorrectly.

Tools help us build relationships more efficiently, but we still have to put in the effort to communicate properly. Our experience over the last 20 years in sales confirms this. Here’s why you can’t escape the need for relationships in sales, and how you can use tools to build them in a better, easier way in the digital space.

Why you can’t do sales without relationships

No matter how hard we as humans try to make logical and rational decisions, the simple fact is, every decision we make is actually made emotionally. How we feel about it determines what we choose to do, not what we think about it (This is scientifically proven).

The truth is, every single person tends to look out for their own interests first. We can’t help it—it’s a primal instinct. So if we as salespeople want to persuade anyone to do anything, we have to first cater to that primordial selfishness.

Think about it like this: If you were walking through the mall looking for something specific, and someone from another store approaches you and pushes you to buy their products, would you be more likely to buy from them than if they took just a second to say hello and got to know what you were looking for first?

I’m not you, but I’d be happy to bet a fair sum of money that you’d be less likely to actually buy in the former case. No one likes to be ambushed or pressured into anything without feeling like the other person actually cares.

But, I can’t tell you how many calls I get these days where the person on the other end of the phone rams their pitch down my throat as soon as they could, without even stopping to just connect.

Some advice for all salespeople: Showing a customer that you actually care about them and the things that are important to them is the first order of business if you want to be successful (this is also the easiest way to make friends).

The good news is that the technology available today can make this really easy…but only if you know how to use it correctly.

In this day and age, success in sales is a direct result of knowing how to use the tools at your disposal—tech or otherwise—to build long-lasting business relationships. In fact, social selling techniques have always been our secret weapon (even before there ever was such a thing as social selling).

That said, here’s an inside look at how we use social media and social selling techniques to do just that.

How to build sales relationships through social media and social selling

Building any relationship starts with making a “deposit”.

Just like you can’t withdraw from your bank account without putting any funds in it first, you can’t build a relationship by trying to get something out of another person on the first go (well, you can, but we wouldn’t recommend it).

This video nails it:

As creepy as it sounds, the best way to make your first deposit is to simply do your research on the person via social media. It’s easier than ever these days since almost everyone in the world has an active footprint online.

Use your social media accounts to get to know what’s going on in their world, including:

  • What they are talking about online
  • If their job has changed
  • If they’re publishing any content
  • The stories their online reviews are telling
  • What is going on with their investors
  • The business challenges they’re facing
  • The current state of their industry and marketplace
  • What their competitors are doing

It likewise wouldn’t hurt to know personal things about the person I want to connect with (I’ve had success connecting that way when other things didn’t work).

Once you know what your prospects’ world looks like and what their pain points are, you’ll have a much better idea of how you can make a “deposit” that adds value to their world.

I personally like to do this by:

  • Sharing their content with my network to give them additional visibility
  • Connecting them with a person they would benefit from knowing
  • Sharing content they would find helpful and useful (whether it’s mine or not)

The key is to do it without expecting anything in return or making a ridiculous shameless plug of yourself in the process. Your actions should be rooted in a genuine interest to help. Remember that people care about their interests first and foremost, they’ll be more receptive towards people who are helpful. And since likability is one of the six scientifically validated principles of persuasion, this is a critical step in making the sale.

The coolest part about this is that we have an unbelievable amount of tools available to help us do this today.

The tools I use to build sales relationships on social media

The sheer number of software tools out there is mind-numbing. That said, these are the ones that I have tried and liked the most. If you’d like to add some tools that you personally use and love, feel free to drop a comment below (sharing is caring!).

The apps I use daily

Linkedin Premium

I spend way more time here than I care to admit. I follow all of my clients (including my old clients) and prospects, as well as key influencers, people I admire, and leaders I respect, among others. My newsfeed helps me easily keep up with what’s happening with my contacts. It’s where I can easily find content that’s relevant to my profession and interests.

LinkedIn is also a great way to track my engagement—who has been viewing my profile and when they did so, who’s liking my stuff, who’s making comments. My InMail and history of connections can easily provide context on when or how we connected. 

There are also groups, which are fantastic for seeing what my like-minded colleagues, prospects, and buyers are talking about. It’s a terrific way for me to weigh in and start connecting in a more meaningful way.

All of these help me understand what’s happening so I can have better and stronger conversations.

Linkedin Sales Navigator

This is my sales weapon of choice for social selling. It’s like LinkedIn Premium but on steroids, with enhanced capabilities for searching, building lead lists, distilling insights, and getting company updates.


I use this to find leads and contacts. It’s especially useful when I need direct contact information that I otherwise can’t find on the web.


The right approach is crucial in sales. Crystal uses tech to integrate personality insights into the sales process, suggesting the very best way to connect with a prospect.


Sometimes, it’s the most basic tool that can make a big difference. By setting up Google Alerts for my top targets, I’m automatically alerted on major news that could impact their buyer’s journey.


I was BLOWN away by Cliently, a real-time sales and automation app that uses technology to personalize automated lead lists and create customized outreach cadences that include email, Twitter, postcards, and video.


I read a lot to make sure I know what’s going on in my backyard. Feedly is a lifesaver that helps me condense all of my content streams into one place.

Browser extensions all sellers should have

If you’re not using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for your web browser, you’re missing out on a huge number of tools available in the form of browser extensions (plug-ins). I personally use Chrome because my entire business is powered by Google, including Docs, Mail, Calendar, etc. Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite extensions.


This extension makes my email life a lot easier. It helps me stay on top of email follow-up and has an intuitive writing-check function that helps my emails be more effective. I like to compare Boomerang’s suggestions against those of Crystal’s and play around to see which version works better.

this extension gives me an easy snapshot of a person’s online footprint, helping me understand where they spend the most time online.


You can never have too much storage space or security, so a cloud-based backup is a must. I use CloudHQ for all of my apps and data.


Mailtrack is an email tracking service for Gmail. The daily report feature is very useful, allowing me to understand who’s responding to what and what I need to follow up on.

The surprising sales tool that still might be the most useful

Call me old school, but the Almighty Telephone might still be the greatest productivity tool ever. Even if we’re the biggest proponents of technology, we have to admit that so much information is often lost in translation online—in comments, via text, or email. Picking up the good old-fashioned phone works wonders and engages in a unique way that’s hard to replicate these days. Remember, we’re talking about relationships here—and you can’t truly forge a relationship if you’ve never talked to the other person.

In summary

If there’s anything you should take away from this article, it’s that while the tools available today to connect are amazing, we should always remember that selling is, and will always be, a human-to-human endeavor. No amount of technology or automation can remove this aspect of the process (at least not yet…though I don’t think it ever will).

And when it comes to “the human part of the process,” there’s no better way to simplify it than by referring to The Golden Rule. If you put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and act in a way that’s not self-serving, you’re already 90% of the way there.

Now, I want to hear from you. How have you used social media to connect and build relationships successfully? What are you struggling with in this regard? Which tools do you find useful?

Let me know by dropping a comment below!

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