This article begins a series on the biggest mistakes you can make today in B2B sales. We’ll begin with one that I see as one of the largest errors made in sales in the last decade: attempting to sell through social media.
Over the last five years or so, there has been an enormous amount of hype about social selling. It was being proclaimed (mostly by social media consultants) that you had no choice but to dive deep into the social media pool. You had to precisely customize your social media profile and “sell yourself through it.” (And for some reason this advice has led to the establishment of hundreds of thousands of fake profiles littered all throughout social media.)
Social Media in Crisis
It makes no sense to me to embrace something for sales that today has become so tainted by political bias.
Take a look at Twitter. It has become little more than a political soapbox, a fast way to be quoted on the evening news. This is far from a platform for generating leads or creating long-term relationships.
Facebook has become a platform for endless mudslinging across party lines. Beyond that Facebook, from my observation, has never been something through which you could generate B2B sales.
Aside from politicians, the people that draw the most attention on social media, and that have earned big money from doing so, are the so-called “important influencers” of which there is only a handful. A prime example is the Kardashians. This is my opinion, but they have nothing to say, and nothing of value to contribute to society. They even have trouble putting words together correctly.
But one of them buys a Gucci purse or a new pair of shoes—and over a million followers hear about it.
Over on YouTube the examples are really endless. A fine example is Logan Paul, with millions of followers, who goes around pulling meaningless and insulting stunts. How does something like that help shape our culture?
Let’s take a look at some others that get paid for being famous, who have made major contributions in the theater, the arts, society or in sports. They become aligned to a particular brand and are paid for it. A fantastic example is Tom Brady, who contributes an astonishing performance, or actors such as Bradley Cooper. It makes sense that such people promote a brand and are recompensed for it.
Twenty years ago there were people who made millions by collecting and then selling particular URLs. Some even got rich from this practice. Today, you can’t make any money from such a thing, mainly because of the many choices of second level domains (.net, .biz, etc.).
In a similar way, I see today’s social media “bubble” as having a very similar life span. I think that in another year or so, it will not nearly be the big deal it is now.
Meaning for Sales
So what does all this mean for B2B sales? I’ll say it again: the biggest mistake a company can make is to waste their sales budget on social media.
There are other reasons besides the ones I’ve already stated—for example, data security. This issue has led to one of the largest platforms, Google+, to its end; it will be shutting down in April of this year.
Data security is also a problem on Facebook. Because of the issues they’ve had, users are very cautious about their data. I don’t believe Facebook will continue as a business concept, especially in B2B sales. You’ll no longer see large Facebook sites, Facebook campaigns, and Facebook events.
As I said earlier, Twitter is mostly a political platform and not one for sales.
I haven’ t yet mentioned LinkedIn. Despite the fact that they claim to be the #1 social media platform for business, in actuality I see LinkedIn as little more than a very large database of potential employees or employers. It will never be the “vibrant content structure” it aims to be. It’s also certainly not a place for sales to obtain leads—they’ve made it near impossible to effectively promote products there.
What To Do Instead
What should sales organizations do instead? Well, what have they always done successfully? Build real relationships. Social media or no, without such relationships, B2B sales just doesn’t happen.
What’s interesting is that I have thousands of social media contacts. But this does not constitute a network. Does a “like” or a “follow” make for a real, actual relationship? Hardly.
It baffles the mind to think that somehow we were sold on the idea that something that takes years to develop—the relationship—can be accomplished by having someone read your content or your pitch and click “like.” Relationships require time and nurturing. Human beings build trust over time.
It all goes back to the beginning of our lives: trust is built with our parents as we grow. When that doesn’t happen, there is an enormous hole in our heart, in our life, that can take years to repair.
That kind of thing is just not accomplished by a mere mouse click on social media.
The bottom line: B2B marketing dollars and effort put into social media is a total waste. Put it somewhere it will mean something—into building real relationships with real people.