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May 26, 2016
Sales  |  6 min read

5 Ways to Conquer Your Sales Team’s Social Reluctance

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Colleen McKenna

“It’s overwhelming.”

“I can do all this social stuff like they ask and never actually sell anything or I can talk to my customers.”

“How do I fit it all in? LinkedIn sounds like a full-time job.”

“I am private; I don’t want to be out there.”

“I have a great network, but I have no idea how to make LinkedIn work.”

These are just some of the comments people share with me when I meet and work with them.

I hear the frustration in their voices. Just this week one woman said that her company’s expectation was that she use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to be in touch with clients and prospects. The reality was that she had no idea how to use any of them, let alone, use them well. No wonder she wasn’t seeing any results or was inspired to keep working on her “social presence.”

Many of those in my training are experienced in their field, well-networked, and eager to understand better how they can continue to build their business. But they haven’t grown up or grown accustomed to online platforms and show networks.

We need a time out.

Consider John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Raven’s coach, who calls a timeout when Flacco is four and one with the Ravens down by four points. He needs to decide whether to kick a field goal for some quick points or go for seven and take the lead. This circumstance and play demand attention and intentional conversation.

When opportunities and deals are on the line, when salespeople are not reaching quota and business is off, shouldn’t the same consideration occur? When a group of salespeople is crushing their quota, look at what’s driving their success and begin to replicate it.

Sales leaders need to take pause, align with marketing, and then develop individualized plans for their salespeople. Marketing is now doing a better job than ever on LinkedIn, but it’s the salesperson who will take it over the goal line. It’s the individual salesperson who will personalize and add particular value to the content, message and brand; their own and their company’s.

It’s the salesperson who can authentically engage with a current and potential client. Marketing can not do that well.

I spend a good deal of time encouraging salespeople to adapt to a better way of selling in a social world. Employing smart and efficient selling is a no-brainer, but let’s line it up so salespeople can be successful.

When I asked more than 100 professionals, last week, if they felt confident using social tools like LinkedIn to engage with prospects and clients, the vast majority of people said: “Absolutely not.”

That, in 2016, is not a bit surprising to me.


How would they know how to use these tools?

  • Most are neither intuitive (LinkedIn and Twitter, especially)
  • Each platform has its own nuances and language. (i.e. friend, connection, follower)

Sales training has not caught up and rarely are sales trainers experienced in using these platforms themselves. Be wary of the sales trainer who says they can teach you the finer points of social selling. They are experts in sales methodology, stick with that.

Marketing is not as focused on leveraging their networks for business development. Most marketers are less wired for 1:1 business development. That’s okay. Their job is to build the corporate brand, value, and content.

So, let’s do what best in class companies do. Let’s give sales a break, help them out, and guide them to success.

First, sales leaders need to:

  • Own their own social channels. Be a leader on LinkedIn or whatever channel best fits you and your customers.
  • Prioritize the channels that are, and will be, most relevant to you and your customers. Prioritize one at a time for salespeople. If you are B2B, start with LinkedIn. Remember, telling your sales team to “get on and figure out” LinkedIn and Twitter is like telling them to work on a Mac and a PC at the same time. It doesn’t work out so well for anyone. Trust me—I had a salesperson who was trying that until I politely asked him to leave his MacBook at home.
  • Develop a strategy and a playbook for each of the prioritized channels. 
  • Provide training and coaching. Training provides the big picture, including “the why” and high level “how.” One to one coaching helps individuals dig in deeper and ask the questions they are not comfortable asking in a large group.
  • Encourage your sales team to schedule time for activities such as “LinkedIn workout,” where they have time to develop their skills and competence.
  • Work with marketing to best understand how to curate content that will add value to your networks. I’ve heard many salespeople say they didn’t know that they were supposed to share all of the content that marketing created. “If you build it, they will come,” is NOT a good social strategy.
  • Build updates, milestones, and metrics into your one to ones and quarterly business reviews.
  • Think about how you, as a sales leader, can support and help influence a change in work behavior.
  • I haven’t met a salesperson who doesn’t want to do better, but they struggle with time management, prioritizing and recognizing the need for their permanent beta.
  • Work with your salespeople; teach them to fish and encourage them to build their own brand.

5 Ways to conquer your sales team’s social reluctance:

  • Build, finish, or update their LinkedIn profile, so it is complete and optimized. Start and finish it. No passes for incomplete profiles.
  • Connect and stay in touch with their network. Connect with customers and prospects.
  • Follow the Company Pages of your customers and prospects. Pay attention to what they are posting.
  • Listen before you jump in. Learn the tone and rhythm of Groups, Home Pages, and online conversations. Use it to start better conversations or promote on their behalf.
  • Master the basics before upgrading to Premium and Sales Navigator.

Sales leaders—you and your team will have greater success and feel more confident with a channel by channel approach. And don’t worry, marketing has created a presence for you once you are ready.

Take a pause, settle in, and train to attain the presence and skill you need to move your business forward.

This article was written by Colleen McKenna from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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