Are You “Social Selling” or Committing “Social Suicide”?

Social Selling is an important tool in the weaponry of sellers for lead generation that nurtures meaningful relationships through conducting research, making a connection, fostering awareness and increasing interest. There is no debate. Social selling is here to stay. It’s another tool in the toolbox of the sales professional along with the telephone, E-Mail and all other forms of communication designed to lead to a business conversation.

The potential impact of Social Selling varies greatly by industry. We think Greg Alexander at Sales Benchmark Index got it right. “Social Selling will be highly disruptive to some industries. Not so much to others. If you are in an industry where social selling has high applicability, peddle faster. If you are in an industry where social selling has low applicability, ignore it.”1

Like every tool Social Selling must be used appropriately. When it is used inappropriately social sellers commit social suicide. Here are some examples ranked from high to low. Your ranking may differ or you may even disagree with our examples. We welcome your thoughts and dialogue.

Example 1: You see this one frequently…..too frequently! You receive a LinkedIn invitation from someone you don’t know and it has some detailed customization to it.

“Hi Tom- I noticed that we are in some of the same groups and that we are both connected to John Adams and George Washington. Since we have some common contacts and interests I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”

All is good…so far. You accept the invitation and before you can even respond with a personalized response, the E-Mail pitch arrives. Here is an example:

“Hey Tom, now that we are connected I thought I’d reach out.  I’ve been speaking with independent consultants and boutique firms about how hard it is to attain a predictable flow of new clients every month. For select firms, I provide a customized digital client acquisition service that’s an innovative and unique process. It’s not a fit for every firm, but to see if yours qualifies, I offer a complimentary strategy session to examine if it might fit your needs in winning more consulting projects. I invite you to book a time for us now and let’s look at this further.”

How does this differ from spam? Where is the cultivation of a relationship? What part of social selling 101 did this individual miss? When we receive a pitch before an attempt is made to build a relationship we go to the LinkedIn Contact, right click on their photo choose delete, block and click. They have just committed social suicide and we are the executioner. We don’t need these types of connections.

Example 2: You receive an E-Mail invitation that says:

“Hi Tom – I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”

This invitation has some minor level of personalization (Tom) but didn’t provide any context about why they wanted to connect with us. For these we typically accept the invitation and then immediately respond with a return E-Mail that says the following:

“Thank you for inviting me to join your LinkedIn network. Let’s begin a dialogue. Can you tell me what prompted you to invite me to join your network?”

If we receive a lucid response it begins a relationship. If we don’t receive a response within three weeks we go to the Linkedin Contact right click on their photo choose delete and click. They have just committed social suicide and we are the executioner. We don’t need these types of connections.

Example 3: We try to read most of the tweets from people we follow. Usually, we will click on their bitly and then read their attachment. Oftentimes, we will retweet the content, quote it or favorite it. Sometimes we will go to their website to look around. You may be different than us but if a little pop-up box shows up in in the lower right-hand corner of their webpage with a photo and the words “we are online if you have any questions.” We are OK with this minor intrusion as long as they don’t start typing and asking us questions. If this occurs we are gone.

A major irritant to us is going to a site to read content and have a large box comes up that prevents us from doing so because it asks us if we would like to register for a webinar, an event etc. When this occurs, we leave…… never to return. We came to your site for a specific purpose and you prevented us until we did another activity.

Example 4: We read a tweet, E-Mail, PR Release or any form of communication and decide to download a paper from their website. Within hours or at worst case the next day we receive a telephone call.

“Hi this is (insert name) I am calling from (insert company). I noticed that you downloaded our (inset report name) yesterday and would like to know if you have any questions?”

Or our favorite from a guy selling LinkedIn advice

“I know it’s only been 24 hours…..but I wanted to follow-up to see if you’ve looked at the ……………..Checklist yet?

This is disappointing on two levels. First, it’s rare for us and we would speculate for most people to download a paper and then immediately read it. Second, if we have questions we will call or send an E-Mail and preferably to the author. When this occurs its social suicide and we are the executioner. We forget about the firm.

Parting Thoughts

We like the sound advice of Mike Kunkle who says, “on social, exercise patience and nurture the relationship.” He has some sound advice in the table below that we would like to share from his August 11, 2014 blog.2


  1. Alexander G. Social Selling Applicability. LinkedIn blog June 23, 2014.
  2. Kunkle M. Stop the Social Selling Silliness. LinkedIn blog August 11, 2014

As always, we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful and informative discourse.

Authors: Thomas J. Williams and Tom Saine

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