social selling tips, sales recruiting advice

My top 5 social selling tips from 20 years in sales.


I see a lot of newer salespeople struggling these days because they think (and are being told) that the sales game has completely changed thanks to all things social media.


It hasn’t.


I’ve personally used the same foundational skills to close millions both before and after the internet became such a big thing in the sales world.


That’s why (at the risk of getting some serious flack) I’ve got to say – friends, the concept of social selling is NOT new.


Sure, social media is. But social media isn’t “social selling.” It does NOT replace the fundamental skills salespeople need to be successful.


It just gives us the opportunity to implement the basics at scale and in a much more automated way.


Here’s a great video from my sales comrade Rex Biberston over at The Sales Developers that sums up what I’m trying to say perfectly:



Here’s ultimately what I’m trying to say… the best salespeople realize that options like LinkedIn are a feature (or a “tool” if you prefer).


Powerful ones, yes. But still just features… how you use them, when you use them, where you use them, and even which one you use is everything!


That said, here are the absolute best social selling tips I can give you from my 20 years and $100MM+ in deals.


Just so you know, they work outside of social media too!


Social Selling Tip #1: Always connect with a purpose.


I can’t tell you how many times I get people requesting to connect with me simply for the sake of connecting and when I probe to learn why…crickets.


This is super awkward! It’s like shaking someone’s hand at a party but immediately turning around and walking away without saying a word.


Plus, it makes me suspicious of your intentions!


That said, you don’t always need some grandiose purpose for connecting.


Here’s an example of someone that connected with Scott Turner (our Head of Marketing) recently where it was something small but still impactful:

Social selling tips

Flattery in an authentic way is always good! I can’t say I’m not flattered haha 🙂


How to connect with a purpose…


Always have a purpose for connecting. And if you really can’t think of something, wait until the opportune time to do so. It will leave a much better impression that way!


There’s any number of ways you can do this, but here are a few examples that I’ve used which have worked great in the past:


  1. If there was a critical event in their company that got a lot of press, how does that affect them/how do they feel about it? Ask them!


  1. If they commented on something that you find to be equally compelling, this is a great way to trade ideas/notes on the topic. Get in touch and chat about it!


  1. If they were written about in the media/blog article for spearheading a big project or being involved in a philanthropy, offer to pitch in if you have skills that could help.


Social Selling Tip #2: Personalization is everything.


No, not “personalization at scale.” I mean really well researched, well thought out, individualized personalization.


We live in a highly digital world. But we’re exceptionally social beings too. And since the internet tends to “depersonalize” things, we have to work extra hard to make our interactions feel very personal if we want to stand out.


Yes, this takes a lot of work. In fact, you can’t do this well with everyone.


So you need to be very specific about who you reach out to (i.e. pick the ones that you can help the best and set the others aside for the time being).


Here’s a strong example of personalization done right:


social selling tips, social selling best practices, personalization done right, how to personalize your sales messages

This is an exceptionally well thought out gesture for me specifically. Thanks so much Bob!


Bob clearly did his homework here. If you’re not familiar with Pink Socks Movement, it stands for a lot of what I personally stand for and why I started Avenue Talent Partners in the first place.


Not to mention it came with that super flattering handwritten note!


That said, you don’t always have to do something this intense. Here’s another example of personalization that I did:


social selling tips, sales best practices, how to personalize sales messages

Notice how much more depth this has than just the basic LinkedIn suggestion!


This didn’t end up in a sale (nor did Bob’s). But that wasn’t the point… it was to establish a relationship (which both were successful at).


And that’s perfectly ok! It should be your goal actually. Always think about the long game… sometimes the timing just isn’t right.


How to deeply personalize your interactions…


The thing that made both of these examples so effective was that they helped Bob and I stand out from the crowd in a positive way. That’s because they were thoughtful and timely.


Do your homework on the person and reach out individually – not with a mass message:


  1. What kinds of things do they care about deeply (personal and business)?
  2. What are they struggling with (personal and business)?
  3. What are they talking about online?
  4. What kind of story are their company’s online reviews telling?
  5. What is going on with their investors?
  6. What is the current state of their industry and marketplace?
  7. What are their competitors doing?


And so on and so forth.


Find the answers to these questions and look for ways to bridge the gap using them. This takes more time, but it also means it’s more important to be targeted with who you reach out to and twice as impactful.


Remember, personalization doesn’t have to be complex. But it does need to be thoughtful. Your first goal should be to form a relationship, not make a pitch.


Your personalization should also be selfless too (i.e. you should be giving, not taking). More on that below.


Social Selling Tip #3: Deposits before withdrawals.


Just like you can’t withdraw from your bank account without putting any funds in it first, your likelihood of starting a strong relationship by trying to get something out of another person on the first go is low.


This video nails why:



How to make a deposit…


One of the best ways to get to make your first deposit is simply to do your research on the person via social media (it’s easier than ever these days since so much of the world has an active footprint online).


Get to know what’s going on in their world – you can use the questions from the section on personalization above for ideas.


I even like to know deeply personal things about the person I want to connect with (I’ve had success connecting that way when other things didn’t work).


Once you know what their world looks like and what will make an impact, you’ll have a good idea of how you can do something meaningful to add value to their world (your deposit).


I personally like to do this by:


  • Sharing their content with my network to give them increased visibility
  • Connecting them with a person they would benefit from knowing
  • Sharing a piece of content they would find helpful and useful (whether it’s mine or not)


Above all else, remember this: the key to “making deposits” is to it without expecting anything in return or making a ridiculous shameless plug of yourself in the process (i.e. do it with a genuine interest to help).


People like others who are helpful (remember, we care about our interests first and foremost), and since likability is one of the 6 scientifically validated principles of persuasion, this is a critical piece of making the sale.


Social Selling Tip #4: Be a stickler for value. No fluff!


There is more noise on social media than ever before. So if you want to stand out, you need to make sure that everything you post, like, and comment on:


  1. Rattles cages
  2. Changes hearts
  3. Helps people be the best version of themselves
  4. Etc.


Do not post something unless it truly helps the people around you be better – it’s just not worth it and it doesn’t help anyone!


You can either be recognized as an expert with something valuable to add or fade into the rest of the crowd that’s just creating empty noise. There’s not really a lot of in between!


How to add real value to the online world.


On a person to person level, I’ve actually discussed this already in the sections above. Many of the same questions that will help you personalize your interactions also work well for adding timely and deep value too.


However, on the social content side, there’s a lot to consider. This is not easy, nor is it always 100% obvious how to do it better than anyone else. You will likely have to feel it out over time.


And you should, because many of the ideas for my posts (or for what hot topics to discuss with people are) come from interacting on social.


That’s why the most important thing you can do is to just get started. Here are some ideas and examples that will help you do that.


Start a conversation with a thought-provoking post/question:

All these comments came in 24 hrs.


Add to the discussion with your experience:


Love this comment! Thanks for weighing in Bill!


Help solve a common problem with a solution/example:


This post also included a resume template. Big thanks to Mark for shedding light on this!


There are many other ways to do this too. However, three things to keep in mind with whatever you share:


  1. Be authentic
  2. Back up what you say with proof
  3. Be helpful


It’s one thing to challenge, shock, and offer solutions. But if it’s not done from a place of personal experience or you don’t have the proof to back up what you say… it’s going to fall flat (i.e. get tossed in the “fluff” pile).


And if you don’t provide an actual solution… who cares? When in doubt… help them out!


Social Selling Tip #5: The Golden Rule


Take a second and think about the worst connection request you’ve ever received, the worst InMail that’s ever hit your inbox, or the worst comment/post/tweet you’ve read.


Why was it so bad? What did you feel? Why?


Now think about the best of each of those and ask the same questions.


Where do yours fall in relation to each?


Almost all of us know when someone is self-serving… but we don’t always know if we’re coming across that way. So I find this simple exercise done regularly can bring clarity to whether our social selling presence is what it needs to be.


After all, if you wouldn’t like to be treated in a certain way on social media (or in real life for that matter)… why would you do it to anyone else?


How to treat others like you’d like to be treated…


Think about how you’d like to be treated, pitched, connected with, etc. Then do that for others. Simple as that!


In fact, start with the next person you interact with. Dream up what it would be like to be sold to, connected with, commented on, etc. in a way that makes you feel like a genius for buying from them.


Then go above and beyond to make that your next prospects reality. Make that first deposit!


Tying it all together…


Most of social selling success comes from the same things that make salespeople successful no matter what tool they’re using or platform they’re working with. Without these “basics” as a strong foundation, everything else you do will fall flat.


Master the elements of fundamentals of selling I’ve outlined here and social selling becomes just an extension of everything else you’re doing. Even cold calling!