Top 10 Flagrant Social Selling Mistakes Reaching Pandemic Proportions

1) Blasting InMail as a form letter template equates to worthless spam.Don't do it. Innovate on the subject line, customize and personalize the messaging, point out something that exhibits diagnosis and research of their business. Reference an actual common connection you both know, event you attended or relevant subject you admire, so that when they back-channel to corroborate your mere existence, it comes back sterling. 

2) If you share 20 articles per day, even if you schedule it with Buffer, you could run the risk of losing some of your finest, top connections.CEO's especially, won't put up with your firehose. They'll just think you're in the camp of the fun-employed or work-life balance is totally out of whack. Find a posting frequency that makes sense. Thought leaders who provide value with every post and keep a super high quality bar, get away with much higher posting frequency into the streams. But they've earned that mouth piece by building a solid platform over many years. Don't assume that just because a subject matter expert Tweets 20+ times a day, that you can suddenly emulate that. It may create scorched earth. 

3) Mass adding C-Level executives even if you do write a personal message to get away with it. Just because you don't use the generic LinkedIn invitation text, doesn't mean you have carte blanche to add everyone who fogs a mirror and could be sold to. Scott Britton was the first I've seen to suggest never sending LinkedIn invites. There is a spectrum of thinking along these lines but again, seek to find your sweet spot based on the golden rule of how your communication is being received. Perhaps interact with your prospect in a LinkedIn group comment thread or chat before sending a request at all.

Just because you presented on-site and got business cards, still think twice about looking "too interested" by thinking that "connecting" is a given. The Principle of Non-Hunger is your friend. Use caution in whimsically adding people. Prune back your network to the essential and start to value each connection like they're worth $10,000 just to meet with. Imagine how powerful 1,000 connections that you know are (or are relevant to your mutual business) versus LION status. Reid Hoffman speaks of the strength of weak ties but keep in mind, they're still actual ties. A total stranger is not helpful unless they are a thought leader which does give context. If you're in mobile technology and they run the mobile marketing association, they'll see you as part of their tribe albeit ambient and be less apt to dismiss networking requests.

4) Duplicate content. Posting exactly the same blog in multiple places is perilous from a Google search perspective. Ultimately, post different content on your WordPress blog from your Navigator, from your guest company post, from your Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Understand that SEO optimization speaks to highly relevant, unique content because Google uses the Panda machine learning, natural language advanced algorithm ingesting your content that it crawls and taking in over 300 signals for rank based on more sophisticated constructs than just backlinks. Be original everywhere and take the time to customize everything. It's fascinating to me how few social sellers are avoiding this mistake. It's subtle and does take a great deal of extra work! You want to put your solution content, case studies, benchmark reports and white papers into your own words. If it's going up in 3 places and spread into social, customize the content in three different ways. 

5) Tactics without strategy. Social media is just one medium. It's one channel to sell with bifurcated into various tacks to the target. The truth is that all tactics fail in and of themselves. They're just tools. Without a coherent strategy that is multi-channel including analog and the phone, you're toast. Radiating that you spend all your waking hours in social media, makes prospects extrapolate that you may not have any clients or you may not close any deals, so you're almost putting out this desperate anathema, over-the-top, "needy" brand. If you look larger than life because you have no life: stop!

Why not batch process, schedule an hour (if you're a heavy user) at the beginning and end of your day. Use Buffer to schedule your content. The converse and caveat of this mistake is balancing it with a need to still operate in real-time. You have to strike a balance. What I've seen the most successful, deft social sellers do is be always on but share case studies from their day about deals they're closing, reviews on their blogs, results clients are driving and quality conversations that they're having with prospects (obviously respectfully leaving the names out). They're basically bringing in their audience to the constructive actions of their day and the results they're driving via execution. This shows a go-getter who wishes to interact. It's a very key distinction which fosters collaboration and intimacy as opposed to a constant sales pitch of "look at me" and "features, functions and benefits." 

6) Failing to leverage trigger events which is another way of saying, pre-call due diligence. Navigator will allow you to passively track target prospects, take note when they move around in organizations, get promoted and look at mega trends like funding, M & A, news and new product releases. Being able to see what a prospect is sharing, liking and caring about along with what groups they're participating in, is a pivotal value add for Navigator that pays for itself in rewards. There's honestly no better way to accelerate traditionally long, arduous enterprise deals, then being armed with the edge of quality, up-to-date information. NOT reaching out until you've pinpointed the correct trigger event, compelling event or data to support the outreach, is a discipline that can pay dividends. Cultivate it! Imagine if a very close connection suddenly goes to that company, or someone your investors know, joins their board. You can be researching these movements and place a hyper-targeted InMail, warm call or referral – perhaps all three in combination. You can watch how your alumni network is moving within your territory and use this as a basis for increased connectivity. 

7) Building a LinkedIn profile to get hired to sell rather than expressing to clients how you can execute for them. Some companies don't even tout the title 'sales' because they'd rather employ wolves in sheep's clothing. Personally, I'm proud to restore the dignity of complex B2B selling when stigmas of the used car pusher prevail. Let's look at a profile where the seller lists quota attainment or how far they crushed and exceeded it. Great, if they're looking passively to get hired but how does that make a potential prospect feel that's researching their company listed as anonymous, to see if they're credible. They may see this and feel like an object, a number or an "it" to be crushed. It's a fail.

The best way to structure your profile is to talk about how you've delivered unexpected value for dream clients in all your previous roles and why it matters to you. What are your mission, vision and values in the startup of one. What drives excellence and how do you solve difficult problems that yield tangible outcomes and mitigate risk? Why not talk about how your solution and your collaboration with customers around crafting it, transforms their businesses and that of your customers' customers for the better.

If you state hard metrics, talk about actual ROI you drove for key clients in revenue driven you or operational efficiencies driven. Make it all about the potential decision maker reading it and existing clients coming back for more. I can't tell you how many times a customer renewed or increased their buy after viewing my profile. It's building brand credibility and trust. Keep your CV, your social media presence and especially your LinkedIn profile a testament of transformational value creation. Sophisticated hiring managers will get this nuance (and feel free to clarify it to them) if they wonder why you didn't release your client list or bonus plan fundamentals especially when much of this info is sensitive anyway. You've probably signed an NDA, frankly. Recently, a less seasoned departing salesperson, released their entire former employer's client list when going to their competitor! Brick to forehead moment and actionable, I may add. Just makes them look amateur and embarrassing for all involved. 

8) Using LinkedIn like it's Facebook. I'm hoping that the powers that be rein in all the cats with snorkels, sunsets, quote memes and Facebook-like fodder that's clogging up the news feeds as of late. Recently, a major Digerati celebrity posted a newborn baby photo into the LinkedIn feed. Beautiful, inspiring and personal. But a contact in his network, commented that it may not have been appropriate for LinkedIn. Honestly, they're pretty liberal about allowing any positive content on LinkedIn but do this at your own peril, as collateral damage and being tuned out is a likely result. Professionals networking with you are looking for unique business value, opportunities and to learn, grow and be challenged by your content. They're looking for utility and insight, not necessarily what Michelangelo said, a dream mansion or sweet ride. 

9) Don't assume just because an executive is connected to you, they know you, like you, remember you or will do something for you. A CEO was approached recently for permission to "use their name" in reaching out to someone else on LinkedIn. Why? Flaunting, leveraging and dropping names or asking for permission to do so wouldn't fly at an analog cocktail party, a networking event and certainly won't in a virtual space like a social network. Sending referral requests to random people that don't know you is similar to blanketing every single person in your network with a request for a personal recommendation or endorsing people you don't know. It's lazy and callous, it turns off the people that really matter and lowers your stock. It trivializes the value of the network itself. Elevate social by making your actions count. There are ramifications of behaving badly in social so be aware that things like endorsing a programmer on C++, Java and Node.js when you've never taken a computer science class, may be perceived as a bit disingenuous. One very august technology executive recently wrote an email requesting that the person not 'flaunt his name' because he'd only ever met him once and had heard back through various channels he was constantly mentioning it. 

10) Narcissism and egotistical behavior in general which manifested in Facebook as notorious 'Humblebrag.' It's not humble and is definitely a brag. Don't be fooled... If you just made a million dollar bonus, flew on the private jet share or bought a spanking new Tesla, maybe that's a Facebook post to just the family or friends (or Path). Tamp down your gloating overconfidence flirting on the border line of arrogance. Flaunting your success may turn off customers who are spending six or seven figures with your company and could have a technical problem or are in the midst of a fire with your fulfillment team. Practice humility and a focus on the client. Always remember like a mantra that our customers and prospects are the heroes, the lifeblood powering our business. Keep your broadcasting of accolades, acquisitions, materialism, self-aggrandizement, political and religious rants and name dropping out of the stream.

From Emily Post to Nelson Mandela, humility is a great secret to likability. Be willing to make fun of yourself with self deprecating wit. Play yourself down as a level V servant leader and always seek to move the spotlight onto your direct reports, colleagues and especially the client. Fly the Bat Signal when they're struggling and help them save the day! Building customers for life is about moving away from transactional promiscuity developed by even labeling a strategic seller a "hunter." It's not a meal, it's a trusted advisor relationship that could last years so treat it with care. Every deal you close creates a legacy. 

Amidst all the social activity; don't forget that the goal is to generate a conversation on the phone!


11) Hide your connections so competitors can't poach them outright. This one was disputed but let me tell you how rapidly I can pinpoint the exact buyer of a competitor's solutions with just 3 mouse clicks. Why invite direct poaching? Competitive point solutions are going to apply enough pressure to your existing clients no matter what you do!  

12) Don't post a profile photo of clubbing in Ibiza with a hot date. Nor of you underwater waving at sharks or crushing it on the golf course.

13) If you're in some profession where you get a new title every month, consider turning off public sharing settings momentarily because it's confusing, even jarring to your network. It's exhausting to congratulate Bob once per month! Go Bob! 

14) If you are passively hunting for a job, avoid showing that you're job hunting. Hiding feed updates will keep all the recruiters you added from filling your stream, and even endorsing them and sharing their content. If you work for the top ERP company in the world, and are suddenly sharing sensational insight-driven content from the senior recruiter of your competitor, it looks very bad. You may not even be aware you're doing it.

Winning in social is fairly easy. It's all about manners and good taste, really. Imagine everything you do being pushed to the screen in Times Square or prime time television and you'll do just fine. Happy closing!  

I am no one to call the kettle aubergine or throw stones at glass houses so I'm obviously working to constantly refine my own approach. Now it's your turn: What are the most flagrant mistakes that you're seeing in social selling? Please comment below as a public service announcement.  

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Main image photo by Flickr:  B Rosen