Social selling is a relatively new technique. Heck, LinkedIn and Facebook are each barely 10 years old. So it’s not uncommon for those new to social selling, or new to social networking in general, to make some rookie mistakes.

Here are three mistakes that social selling newbies tend to make, severely limiting the effectiveness of their efforts. The good news: they’re all easy to avoid and won’t require many changes to your existing process.

Mistake #1: Leading with a generic message

Social selling is all about one-to-one, relevant engagement. Knowing who you’re targeting, what they need, where they focus, and other unique details are the key underpinnings of social selling. If you’re not tailoring each message to each person, you’re missing the point and just spamming, not selling.

N00bBlog1A great—and very common—example is using the standard message when inviting someone to connect on LinkedIn. Getting this canned message has absolutely no engagement value:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
–Linda Steven

Receiving a message that’s relevant and that resonates not only keeps the recipient engaged, it reminds them that you have a connection, even if it wasn’t in person or they don’t remember.

Hi Zack,
It was great to meet you at the XYZ conference last week. I’ve been thinking about the production challenges you mentioned and thought that you might find some value in our latest ebook. It’s written specifically for ops managers in the appliance industry, so very relevant to you and your role.
Take a look and let me know what you think, and let’s connect while we’re at it.

Again, if you’re not personalizing the message, you’re not social selling.

Mistake #2: You base your pitch on too little information

Everyone knows that putting all of your eggs into one basket is a bad idea. For social selling newbies, a critical mistake is thinking that LinkedIn is the only network they need to consult. In fact, that’s probably the best way to miss key information.

social selling mistakes


Why? Because even with about 125 million members in North America, LinkedIn’s piece of all North American social sharing was 5% at the end of 2013. That’s a tiny percentage. Even less appealing for those selling to mid-sized or larger companies is that nearly two-thirds of LinkedIn members have never worked at a company with more than 200 employees. Another anecdotal point is that, for many people, there are only two sparks that drive them to update their LinkedIn profiles: when they start looking for a new job or when they just landed a new job or role.

What that means is that, even if your target has a LinkedIn account, they probably don’t rely on it as much as they do Twitter and Facebook. And, there’s much more news, article, press release, and other business information that has valuable insights on them and their business in other places on the web.

The point is that relying a single social source to craft your pitch is risky and will most likely lead to an outdated and/or irrelevant message.

One alternative is to google your targets and their companies for relevant news and information, but that could take hours if not days. A better alternative, obviously, is to use a source designed to help with social selling and that pulls relevant tidbits from tens of thousands of sources, not just one.

Mistake #3: Your own posts are just advertisements

Social selling is all about connecting with your targets, not talking to them. If the only value you add to your social and professional networks is to advertise your products and services, you’ll be ignored.

N00bBlog3Make your posts helpful, informative, and valuable, and refer back to them when reaching out to new contacts. Link to articles and content that’s not only from you or your company, but from other influencers in your sector.

Similar to mistake #1 above, it’s good to retweet or share other content, but it’s even better if you add to the conversation. Simple lead-ins like, “great ideas for manufacturing managers” or “if you’re considering outsourcing your HR department, you should read this piece” are extremely helpful to your targets. It also gives you the opportunity to subtly hit people with the relevant (for them and you) themes.

Social selling is a two-way mechanism. Having your own presence allows targets to learn who you are before they reply. The more relevant and helpful your posts, the more likely they are to connect.

What do you think?

Have you seen (or made) any rookie mistakes in social selling? Let us know in the comments below.