The Art of Social Selling

November 23rd, 2010 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

You wouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger and start a conversation with “You want to buy something from me?”

What doesn’t work in the real world won’t work in the virtual world. But, why then, when you talk about selling and social media, you see people backing away with this rabid fear that they will be labeled as a “Spammer.”

Because in reality, social selling is a fine line between evangelizing through thought leadership and SPAM. It isn’t easy to figure out when a particular potential buyer is ready to transition into shopping or they are just browsing. Just ask retail clerks, it is a fine line between being annoyed by the omnipresent “can I help you?” when you are just looking versus the I can’t find a someone to help me when I really need them.

If you think about social marketing in terms of evangelism; which is the fusion of sales and marketing; then you realize that most of the marketers who have led the social efforts have been scared to death of the sales part of the equation. The ecommerce people get it; they are ruthless about conversion. The small business owner gets it; they don’t get paid unless they create sales. The challenge is that traditional marketing has been removed from the sales process. Traditional marketing was focused on messaging, value proposition, brand, etc. Individual motivation was something that “sales” managed on a one-to-one basis.

The rarely spoken reality of social media is that you can’t really build an ROI unless someone somewhere buys something. The challenge for most of us is where does the social engagement and sharing convert into sales process and leads. If you think about it, this has been a challenge for sales organizations for a very long time. It isn’t like social media all of a sudden makes it easier. It actually makes it harder as the etiquette of social media and the inability to “read” an individual makes it harder to manage the conversion.

Social marketing has to take into account that at some point, an interest buyer needs to understand how to purchase what you sell. It can’t all be about thought leadership, but something has to lead to some transaction at the end of the engagement; whether directly or indirectly through referral. With respect to the social media purists, the assumption of “give to get” doesn’t mean that there is not “get”. You have to “ask for the order” at some point. Buyers need to see how your solution provides value and make it easy for them to “opt in” to your solution.

It is  a balance though. Asking for an order when you don’t understand the context is challenging and probably going to alienate the potential buyer. Also, when you have millions of customers is even more challenging. But, at some point a for-profit enterprise needs sales to generate profits. The whole conversation about Social ROI is exactly the point in that business executives who have P&L responsibility need customers to see how social engagement will lead to business impact – translation – “ from sales”. The secret to success is understanding the buyer’s motivation (which isn’t just about demographics).

If you don’t understand “why”, you can’t solve the “what” with your “how”. Good sales people develop relationships to establish trust so they can understand the client’s buying process. Good marketers realize that they need to segment the market to understand the differences between segments. Good evangelists know that they have to frame the problem and the solution in ways that a potential buyer can see the value. Good business people know that you need a create a path to purchase that makes you easier to do business with than your competitors. In the new paradigm, businesses will have to combine all of these to master the art of social selling.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at or contact him directly at