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The Social Selling Hotline: Questions From *Actual* Sales People

By Sander Biehn | Mar 12, 2015

A couple of weeks back Thought Horizon launched a Social Selling Hotline for a few of our clients. Helping sales teams in real time has always been a challenge. We want to be there to support the salesperson at the moment she is sitting down with her tablet ready to prospect or converse with her customer. In order to accomplish that goal, we need to be available any time of the day or night.

We decided to set up a hotline and do our best to answer the calls as they come in. It hasn’t been easy – we have missed our fair share of calls because of lack of time on the schedule – but it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to learn firsthand the things that are vexing real life sales people day in and day out.  We are paying close attention and aggregating all of this knowledge into a list of Frequently Asked Questions that we can use to help the sales teams in future training.

In this blog series we will address a few of the questions we have gotten so far, and we will try to answer the questions so any other sales person who may  be wondering the same thing will have the answer.

Question number one:

“What LinkedIn Groups should I join?”

Choose wisely: While I like to remind sales teams that they can belong to up to 50 groups, I am often confronted by the following conundrum: Belonging to a lot of groups will generate a lot of digests and it takes a lot of time to be active in them all. The alternative is to join and turn off the digests and not participate. But how is that any better than not joining at all? These are wonderful and valid points. I agree that belonging to a group and not posting or reading the discussions is worthless. For that reason I suggest that sales people become focused. What did your last big sale look like? What industry was the customer in? What was the solution? What business division did the solution assist and how? By asking these questions you may find just the group you are looking for with prospects who need your solutions and products. Join a group your main buyer belongs to. Getting a referral or selling the same idea to another company in the same industry is a lot easier than reinventing the wheel elsewhere.


Listen for problems your solution can solve: By joining a small number of groups and reading the digests regularly you will find out what issues and challenges people are talking about. You may also find that diet and get-rich-quick schemes rule the discussion post—exit as fast as you can in that case! But if you see real questions from real people, treat them with respect. No one appreciates having solutions lobbed at them by strangers. Ask some questions of your own back and build the relationship. Be a good citizen and cherish these well-run and functioning groups. There are too many groups that have been hijacked by sales types who won’t shut up about their products and services.

Be ready to move on: Give a group a month or two to prove its worth and if it doesn’t yield any good discussions or questions, move on. There is nothing wrong with leaving a group. You can always come back again someday. It is far better to be active in a group, than be waiting for a group to become a place you can be active in.

All the action is in a closed group: If you believe that old “Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross” shtick about how you’d be a great sales person if “you only had the right leads,” then maybe you are the type that covets entry into a closed group on LinkedIn. Take heart. Becoming part of a closed group will take nothing more than the selling skills which you already have in spades. Reaching out to a closed group owner and explaining why your presence would be a benefit for the group is some of the most challenging and rewarding writing you will ever do. Your entry into a group rides on it. I will tell you that quite often, with the right letter of introduction, you will be allowed in. You just need to explain who you are, what you intend to do and why. Be real and be honest. There is nothing wrong with saying that all your prospects belong to this group and you want to learn more about what their peers are saying so you can better serve them. Keep the reasons for allowing you to join positive for the group and the group owner.

Finding the right groups is not a one-time answer.  Most sales people will belong to a variety of groups over time. Understanding how groups work and how to be a good group member will make any group you decide to join a good group. But don’t become too attached.  Being fluid with your group membership will help you to grow as a salesperson and help a variety of customers over time.

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