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Social Selling Gone Wrong: Have you Ever Been Stalked?

By Sander Biehn | Jun 23, 2014

I have watched enough BBC crime thrillers and read too many stories  in the Atlanta Journal Constitution to kid around about stalking. It leads to bad things and can be very frightening for the person being stalked.  But stalking on social media can sometimes happen with the purest of intentions and it can really damage a new relationship, often permanently.  A sales person who just wants to talk to a senior executive often reaches out and begins sending information directly to his quarry with the enthusiasm of someone  who just cracked a secret code. Like a kid in a candy store the seller slides up to an executive and starts giving her his sales pitch. But the timing is all wrong. The executive only sees a stalker and becomes annoyed and sometimes scared. She never even hears the sales pitch, no matter how well-reasoned it is.

Does this mean that social media really offers no advantage over phone calling and emailing? Does it mean that key buyers are stuck in the same jail of countless offers to ‘have lunch’ except now via tweets and posts?

I think the answer lies at the heart of what social media is all about. If social selling is approached from the point of view of sales efficiency for both buyer and seller the stalking problem will never arise. In fact, social media will only encourage healthy relationships based on mutual interest and understanding in advance of any one-on-one dialog.

Let’s take an example. A manufacturer of organic products wants to get their line on the shelves of a high-end retailer. Being heard above the noise of other,  larger competition is difficult.  The purchasing teams of  this top retailer are impervious to calls and emails.  But the Chief Operating Officer of the retailer is active on LinkedIn and belongs to many industry groups.

The organics manufacturer has an excellent opportunity to tell the story behind their products and why organics are better for customers and the environment. In addition, the story behind how three partners first discovered the organic process and why they strove to perfect it, is an engaging human interest story about the product.  By simply telling this story on the COO’s social channels, the conversation with the COO can begin without being inappropriately intimate. If the posted content is compelling enough, group members will read it. If the content is written in an open format that draws in questions and opinions, that content will be commented on and thereby further shared.  The more the content is seen, the better the chance that the COO will read it and reply.

The natural next step is that the COO may reach out to the manufacturer to learn more about their product. She may even feel that the organics manufacturer is a real find and something to differentiate the retailer’s brand.  Or the retailer may not see a fit. Either way it is a win for both the buyer and seller. By making the sales process more efficient using good social selling, buyers find sellers they really want to work with.  Meanwhile, sellers do not have to worry about creating awkward and even scary situations by being over friendly with prospects, because they can allow the content to create the matches for them.

Have you ever been stalked on social media? Have you have stalked someone by accident? I made this mistake a few times and I am careful to not make those mistakes again.

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