Social Selling: How's Your Cocktail Party Etiquette?

by Lenwood Ross August 31st, 2020

Social media participation is way up. A whopping 376 million more people are using social media today than over the same period last year.

That activity is being driven primarily by COVID-19. COVID-19 has taken away events, conferences, happy hours, and every other in-person opportunity to meet and converse with people.

Lots and Lots of Emails

In light of the current environment, salespeople proactively attempt to engage with their prospects through some combination of cold email, cold call, or social media engagement. 

Most sellers understand that their cold outreach, even on social media, has limited effectiveness. 

Low response rates plague cold outreach. 

I've had more than one skilled account executive tell me a 5% response rate is a success (i.e., successfully hearing back from 5 of 100 emails). "That's a great day for me!" is an exact quote from a salesman that I interviewed.

But, I have argued in my article, "A Better Way is Here: Can We Now Please Kill the Cold Email?" that a rejection rate of 95% is not a success. I sometimes hear, "It's like baseball."

But, it's not like baseball. 

I pulled this off Wikipedia:

The league batting average in MLB for the 2018 season was .248, with the highest modern-era MLB average being .296 in 1930, and the lowest being .237 in 1968. For non-pitchers, a batting average below .230 is often considered poor, and one below .200 is usually unacceptable.

If I understand this correctly, a major league batter that makes contact with the ball sufficient to have it considered a "hit" is deemed to be unacceptable if he succeeds only 20% of the time. 

We've become so accustomed to the ineffectiveness of cold calling and cold emailing that we just accept it.

Marketing automation tools make it easier for us. So, marketers and sellers send massive amounts of email. 

More Access and More Conversations

We're all experiencing the fallout. Our email boxes are jammed packed.

We will occasionally open a cold email that has an intriguing subject line. But for the most part, we're in our inbox searching for the emails that we need and deleting everything else.

A friend of mine from college is a top salesman. Let's call him Kevin. 

Kevin's resume is a list of Silicon Valley darlings. Kevin has sold hundreds of millions in cutting edge technology. He knows his stuff.

When I talked to him about succeeding in B2B sales, he said it boils down to two things. 

First, you have to get access to the prospect. I argue the best place to find them is on social media, specifically LinkedIn, and not their email box.

I have support in the numbers. Pre-COVID people were already spending more than 2 hours on social media. COVID then increased social media use. 

Today, people are spending even more time on social media. So, if you want to get access to your prospects, there's a good chance that they are on social media.

Once you have access to your prospect, you want to create opportunities for conversations. 

Conversations are essential to the sales process. Exchanges, where you're listening to the prospect to understand what is meant and not just what is said, is how you learn the prospect's priorities.

How to Win Friends and Influence People on Social Media

Social selling is a misnomer. 

Sure, we may have a product or service that we offer for sale. But, we don't use LinkedIn for selling. 

We use LinkedIn for access and to create opportunities for conversations. 

An experienced sales trainer told me, "selling destroys rapport". That struck a chord with me. 

I don't think anyone likes to be sold. But, people crave human connection. 

Rapport helps to get things started. When we meet a prospect for the first time, we try to establish a connection with them to ease communication and develop understanding.

We want to "connect" so that the experience is memorable, and the prospect says, "more please."  

LinkedIn is the place to meet. It's the cocktail party at the conference where the meeting and connecting take place.

Everyone is invited. When you sign up for LinkedIn, you are at the cocktail party, whether you are active or not.

Why does social media engagement work?

When we send a cold email, the person receiving that email makes an instantaneous calculation about whether they will open that email.

They have two data points, your name, and the subject line. 

When we send a connection request, the person receiving the connection request has your profile and everything you've done on LinkedIn to inform whether they will connect.

There are a lot of other things that go into the calculation, but we have the opportunity to control a significant amount of the input. 

If you think of LinkedIn as a conference or event, your profile is how you show up to the networking cocktail party on the first night. 

If your profile is incomplete, you're that shady fellow lurking in the corner.

I don't wear a tie. I'm probably not wearing a suit. Why? 

At the networking event, I want to be approachable. I want people to feel comfortable with me. I want people to be relaxed with me to help me to build rapport. 

When I was younger and insecure, I was more often than not overdressed for these occasions, or I dressed precisely the same way as everyone else. 

That's no good at the cocktail party or on LinkedIn. 

Our eye is drawn to the different one. You want to stand out in the crowd, so you're memorable.

When I'm engaging, I'm listening and pulling others into the conversation to help them feel at ease as well. We want to be relaxed and help others to be comfortable also. 

Our goal is not to sell at the cocktail party. Our goal is to access our prospect and to create rapport. 

On LinkedIn, humanizing your profile helps immeasurably. It's showing up to the cocktail party dressed appropriately and ready to engage.

How do you want people to perceive you at the LinkedIn cocktail party?