Forbes contributor Mike Templeman recently interviewed Mario Martinez Jr., founder, and CEO of Vengreso, about driving leads via social and how reps are doing it ALL wrong. Why Mario? First, he’s walked a mile (or two) in your shoes! Just over a year ago, Mario Martinez Jr. was responsible for launching the North America Social Selling program for a SaaS company. With this practical hands-on experience, he knows what pitfalls to avoid and what routes to take! Second, he speaks the language of the salesperson as he grew up solely in sales and sales leadership. Third, while on the customer side, he implemented a social selling program that was truly able to drive 100% sales rep adoption landing him a spot as a speaker at LinkedIn’s annual users conference! Thus the primary focus of the discussion was driving leads on LinkedIn and how salespeople are really hurting themselves by doing it wrong. Here’s what Mike had to say after his discussion with Mario:
Let me describe to you a typical day on LinkedIn. I log in, I have a few dozen requests to connect. I try and screen them as best as possible, accept the ones I trust, then browse any new updates from my network and log off. It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes per day and I enjoy doing it. You’ll notice that I made no mention of checking my LinkedIn. That’s because I absolutely detest checking my messages.
I’ve relegated cleaning out my LinkedIn inbox to a once-a-month activity. And the majority of that activity is quickly deleting 99% of the messages sitting in the inbox. I don’t give them more than a glance and I can spot the sales pitches from a mile away. And these sales pitches are the thing that is ruining LinkedIn.
Here’s how LinkedIn works when it comes to messaging. You can only send messages to people you’re connected with, unless you’ve paid for a premium membership. If you have a paid membership then you’re allowed to send InMail. This is LinkedIn’s trademarked form of unsolicited messaging. And for all intents and purposes, they should just change the name to SpamMail. Because that’s what it has become.
Now, because salespeople can only send a certain number of InMail messages per month, they’ve devised the brilliant (heavy sarcasm intended) tactic of sending out unsolicited invites to their target audience and then spamming them with free messages because they’re now connected.
This is why I scrutinize my invites so closely. I try and avoid the blatant attempts at sales pitches.
And I strongly believe that if LinkedIn continues to allow their paid members (disclosure: I am a paid member for the purpose of seeing information on anyone regardless of our connection) to harass the rest of the user base, they’ll eventually alienate everyone. Once the users leave, who are the paid users going to abuse?
Instead, LinkedIn should look for other monetization models that don’t rely so heavily on people annoying each other with spam messages.
Some would argue that it’s already too late for LinkedIn and their user engagement numbers in the US are already frightening. Of their nearly 500 million users, only 25% of them use it monthly.
So, if you’ve been one of those spammers, or you’ve been encouraging your sales team to spam their audience, maybe you should look at some different tactics for your social selling initiatives.
While I understand how to leverage LinkedIn for marketing purposes, I needed to reach out to someone a little more versed on the social selling side of things. I spoke with Mario Martinez Jr., the founder of Vengreso and a social selling expert, and got some social selling tips from him and some ideas on how salespeople can be less spammy on LinkedIn and social media in general. He regularly shares these tips and tricks of the trade when you subscribe to the Vengreso newsletter.
Driving Leads via Social Selling
First, let’s start by defining social selling. Mario gave me this definition:
“Social Selling: Social selling is leveraging social networks to help a sales person establish a personal and professional brand, understand their buyers through research, allowing them to relate and build a relationship with today’s digital-enabled, socially engaged, mobile attached and video hungry buyer, which ultimately drives sales.”
Notice there was no mention of spamming people with messages and connecting with strangers in order to avoid paying for messages.
Mario went on to explain to me that social selling, while made popular by LinkedIn, actually works incredibly well on all social networks, even the more B2C focused ones like Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.#SocialSelling was made popular by #LinkedIn, but it works well on #Twitter, #FB, & #Social #Video Click To Tweet
How To Do It Correctly
Mario was just as fired up about the way sales reps are using InMails on LinkedIn as I was. He stated, “There is a very specific way to leverage InMails, and they are a last resort for me. When I train sales teams, I teach how to properly use them to solicit an up to 50% response rate! In addition, if you really put in the time and effort to engage with the network, you’ll be shocked at how much interaction you can have live 1:1 before having to resort to an InMail.”
He also takes the spammers to task. “When you use InMails as just another form of cold email blasting, you damage your professional and personal brand! Rather, every interaction you have with a potential buyer must be with the “customer” in mind. If your InMail does not show that you took the time to get to know the individual, does not speak to solving your buyers business problem, does not provide a succinct call to action and is all about your product…you’ve lost them on your first click.”When using InMail for #sales, do your homework bf u send! Or you'll lose them on ur first click. #SocialSelling #BizSales Click To Tweet
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Tips And Strategies
Mario had some suggestions for social selling and how salespeople can create lasting results from their efforts on social media.
- First understand which networks your buyers engage with. Likely if you are in the B2B industry you will start with LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. Secondarily you’ll use Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. If they are B2C buyers then you’d likely use Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and then LinkedIn
- Next develop a personal branding strategy that maps to your buyers journey. Mario tells clients they need to have a min of two social personas and maximum of four. And he warns that if all you do is post content about your company and what you have to offer, you will wear your buyers out. As an example, he has four social personas and he publishes content around social selling, sales, leadership and motivation.
- Leverage social tools to understand your customers. Understand who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, what they are in need of, are they asking for help if so with what and who are they interact with. Watch what they publish and look for opportunities to create engagement. Mario suggests if you are a sales rep using tools like Owler or NUVI for social listening or a social research tool like BuzzSumo.
- Relate to your buyers. If in step 3 you are taking all this time to understand them, now take the time to develop a level of relevance by engaging with them on a personal level and sharing relevant content which maps to the buyers journey. Join in discussions and answer questions. If you have an ivory tower mentality, where you just pontificate to your audience, they won’t see you as approachable.
- Build a relationship with your audience. You do this by building trust. The way you build trust with your audience is by helping them. Look for opportunities to help instead of sell. Mario always recommends solutions for his audience even if that solution has nothing to do with him or his brand. As long as it helps the person, that’s all a sales person should care about because it will come back to benefit you.
- Move every online conversation to an offline conversation, then do what you do best, drive sales revenue. This final step is important. Mario stresses that while social networks are a great place to get the conversation going, it shouldn’t be the method of communication throughout the sales process. Salespeople are much better when they can actually talk with their audience. So make sure you take things offline and into the real world.
My only hope is that if more people listen to Mario, and experts like him, maybe my LinkedIn inbox will again become a place where I’m actually talking with people as opposed to the de facto spam box it has become.
A version of this article originally appeared here first.
Mike Templeman is the CEO and Founder of Foxtail Marketing. He is passionate about tech, marketing and startups. When not tapping away at his keyboard, he can be found spending time with his wife and kids. He is also Canadian… or more importantly, he is Canadian.