Don't invest in social selling training without knowing this

Don’t invest in social selling training without knowing this

  • By Jeff Molander


Time to read: 3.5 minutes. Jumping-in head first? Beware: Most social selling training investments failed to increase sales in 2015. Let’s quickly understand why most small, medium-sized and large corporations see poor results when investing in social selling training… and tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This way you’re more likely to thrive in 2016.

I’ve learned 3 reasons why most social selling and Navigator strategies fail:

  1. Inappropriate training: Sales training focuses on technical know-how—overlooking effective communications methodology. (using the platform to spark conversations with buyers)
  2. Experimentation with InMail: Sellers use InMail as a message testing ground—rather than testing in a less costly & restricted environment. (standard email)
  3. Misguided content/messaging: Sellers use inappropriate message structure and follow-up cadence—rather than sparking replies by planting questions in minds of potential buyers.

#1: Select communications-focused Sales Navigator training

Navigating LinkedIn itself is not simple. But learning how to get around the Navigator platform is merely the entry fee. The force multiplier is a communications methodology that is simple, effective and repeatable.

Don’t get me wrong. Sellers should be trained on how to use Navigator’s interface. LinkedIn has free video training resources for customers. YouTube tutorials also come in handy.

But make sure you/your team is trained on how to communicate in ways that produce response and meeting requests.

Yes, your team should be expert at:

  • using LinkedIn Navigator’s search tools when prospecting in a territory or industry vertical
  • listening / monitoring news tidbits about prospects
  • exploiting Navigator’s ability track comments, posts and updates made by prospects.

But these tactics alone won’t earn appointments with prospects. You must have a means to spark potential buyers’ curiosity in what you/your team is selling.

Beware. As Anthony Iannarino says in a recent video, “The curriculum for many social selling training programs is not in line with what really needs to happen.”

#2: Don’t use InMail as a testing ground

InMail is one of LinkedIn’s most attractive offerings for sales prospecting. But many sellers start-off on the wrong foot—using InMail as testing ground for messaging tactics. They jump-in head first, yet are not able to generate the minimum 40% response rate to make InMail work.

The results are costly and frustrating—leading to abandonment of what can be an effective prospecting tool.

Instead, become good at provoking conversations using email messages before you start sending InMail.

InMail is usually NOT the best place to test or learn email prospecting because InMail:

  1. costs serious money, it’s expensive;
  2. has limits (there are restrictions on how many InMail messages you can send).

Every InMail is gold. Even if your employer/client pays for it.

I see many sellers becoming frustrated because InMail places pressure on how well an email message is written—how well it sparks replies.

You/your team need to be exceptionally good at generating response before you start with InMail. If you’re not it risks becoming turned-off to prospecting in general.

Be sure to experiment until you are provoking response at least 40% of the time using standard email.

Yes, 40%.

Then bring that successful approach to the realm of InMail.

InMail should be used as a supplemental touch to a tele-prospecting and email campaign. It should be one facet of a prospecting approach that surrounds the target.

There is one exception: Canadian sellers tend to rely more on InMail when worried about CASL compliance.

Alex Castle of Magnetic North agrees. Before I met him he was blowing through his InMails getting next to no response. Today he’s practicing outside InMail and perfecting—then bringing the technique into the realm of InMail. social selling training

I decided to save my InMail credits till I invested in a bit of training. That said, my response rate was almost none existent and I’m not surprised judging by my original emails.

Today Alex has his response rate up to 50% and is making gains on that number.

As a bonus, Alex says he now has, “a framework which could be applying to any prospect and easily followed every time.”

#3: Structure messages to provoke immediate response

Most sellers are using message structure and follow-up cadence that sabotage themeslves—resulting in poor response and lack of appointments. Most “first touch” prospecting messages suffer from deletion because of:

  1. subject lines that provide too much detail about message content;
  2. message content that is self-centered and request appointments too soon;
  3. too much information about the seller’s solution, too fast.

The job of your subject line is to spark curiosity about its contents. This gets the email opened. Most subject lines sellers are writing today are too specific about what is inside the message.

This will kill your chances every time.

Even when subject lines are short, sweet and provocative enough to earn an open most sellers are using too many references to themselves. One litmus test you can apply (right now) is counting the “I’s”, “we’s” and “my’s” in the message copy.

This is the first step in realizing how self-centered your message is—so you can fix it.

Instead, talk exclusively about the prospect. Sounds obvious, right? But it’s rarely practiced to the extent that you see here in this example.

Subject line: Just like Panera

Hi Susan,

Panera Bread is increasing sales over 66% for their most important menu items—over 40% for others and over 24% for desserts. All with just a $40/mo investment. Would you like to hear about their unusual (but effective) approach to making this happen?

In the interest of time would a short email conversation make sense—to see if a detailed conversation is worthwhile? Let me know what you decide, Susan.

Thanks for considering,


Keep it short. Brief, blunt, basic. Just like you’re on a date, don’t forget to create curiosity in the other person by dangling a carrot. In this case, the Panera Bread success story provokes the reader to think, “how are they doing that, exactly… what is this unusual but effective approach?”

It creates questions in the mind of the potential buyer. Even if they’re not in “buying mode” at this moment.

No asking for appointments

Never ask for an appointment in your first touch email. Doing so literally eliminates perfectly good leads that are not in buying mode yet. Instead, provoke a reply based on a pain, fear, goal or desire. Especially if you’re in business-to-business selling.

Develop a writing approach that gets you invited into a conversation. One you can help guide toward—or away from—your solution.

Yes, away from what you sell too. This way email works as a filtering device. In fact, prospects qualify and disqualify themselves faster—so you avoid wasting time warming up bad leads.

Follow up this way

I recommend maximum of 10 attempts when following-up. Research (and my experience) shows it can take as many as 6 attempts to be successful… at breaking the clutter in the buyers’ inbox. It really depends. I tend to quit after 4 or 5 attempts. But this is my own market (corporate directors who hire me for team training).

I coach folks like you and understand your market conditions. What I see working best is:

  • being persistent
  • keeping it brief, blunt and basic with your messages and follow-ups
  • being apologetic about the follow ups (“sorry to pester you” often times works)
  • ultimately issue them an ultimatum (let them know this is it — now or never)

Most of all it’s critical to spark a discussion about a pain, worry/fear or something they don’t yet know about but should. A ‘missing puzzle piece’ that is vital for them to understand—to be successful or to avoid disaster.

These are the best conversation-starters.

Warnings of dangers or opportunity ahead… based on a short bit of information they don’t already know. This sparks curiosity.

Now you know why most social selling training and strategies fail—and what you can do to thrive in 2016. Good luck and let me know what your experiences have been.

Photo credit: John Goodridge

About Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting conversations with busy people. As founder of Communications Edge Inc. he teaches a proven, effective communications technique to spark buyers curiosity in sales outreach & marketing messages. He's a sought-after sales communications trainer to individual reps, teams of sellers and small businesses owners across the globe. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe. Jeff served as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

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