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3 Secrets to Learning the Language of Social Selling

By Sander Biehn | May 5, 2014

Social Selling is Like Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is much more difficult once you reach adulthood. It seems the cerebral cortex becomes less elastic over time making it harder to learn a foreign tongue. But then, on my last flight home – pushed to desperation – I began reading the in-flight magazine. The one in the seat pocket.

In it, I made a shocking discoveryIt was this article by Caillin Murray that surprised me. He believes although it might be more difficult to learn a new language as an adult it is nowhere near impossible. Coming back from training a team of sales people on how to use social media to increase sales efficiency, I saw many parallels between learning a new language and learning social selling.

Here they are:

1. Mr. Murray cites determination to be the decisive factor of whether a person will learn a new language or not. Being dropped into a new place where you are not understood can be a real motivating factor to learn a language. So it is with social selling.

An empty sales funnel and colleagues leveraging Twitter and LinkedIn all around you is a supreme motivator to get good at social media. If you feel that social media is just a ‘nice to have’ addition to your other sales methods there is a good chance you will never become proficient at it. Furthermore, Murray nails it with a quote from Steve Kaufmann a Canadian linguist, “The ones that rely on going to the classroom, they never improve. The feeling is that it is up to the teacher: ‘Teacher, teach me,’ ” The student must want to learn. She must want to change and improve. There must be a reason to learn.

2. Immersion in the new language is a bullet-proof method for new learners to gain proficiency. Once you are determined to learn, frequent practice brings fluency. Social selling is no different. Only by being present and accountable on social channels will you learn to use those channels to make a difference in your paycheck. You need to find customers who can make decisions and buy your products, and then slowly build trust and influence day by day. Certainly you will learn shortcuts over time, and it will be a difficult slog at first. Staying at it and being determined will yield success.

 3. A willingness to learn is a willingness to make mistakes. Having learned modern Greek, Spanish, and Italian over the years in preparation for trips abroad, I have learned this lesson well. I recall a maid on Crete for extra towels entirely in the third person plural because it was the only construction I remembered. I am sure I sounded ridiculous, but I got my meaning across and she was even willing to help me learn better Greek for future conversations.

It is the same with social selling. You may make some mistakes, but if your purposes are pure, others will surely help you along. If you desire to help your customers by giving good advice on social channels with no immediate reward expected, you’ll do fine. There is very little to worry about.

Social media is not just for the kids. Some of the best social media users are not exactly young. If you love to communicate with people, social outlets give you a chance to get your ideas in front of lots of customers and executives. This is why I believe the future will belong to salespeople who have an opinion, are smart, and are willing to share!

Have you had a similar experience? Have you tried learning a language lately? Why or why not? Does navigating social media feel like learning a new language for you?


Thought Horizon is a B2B solutions company dedicated to helping corporations leverage social media and analytics to improve market efficiency. Our approach to social selling includes working closely with marketing and sales to create custom solutions that produce measureable results. Learn more at Thought

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