Social Selling Not Working? 4 Reasons Why…

Unless you’ve been buried under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ll be familiar with the term “social selling.”

Social selling is the sales person’s equivalent of buyers’ web researching and being 69% down their buying decision cycle (or whatever stat is being touted this week).

Social selling done well, can be extremely effective. Researching and leveraging news and insights to engage a buyer in a relationship in a relevant and timely manner about subjects, challenges and outcomes that the buyer cares about – helps to get ahead of the buying decision curve and often positions a seller as front runner (or only runner). It’s a powerful new way to initiate new conversations and opportunities.

The problem is, like all the other communication channels, social channels (LinkedIn Inmails, Twitter replies/retweets) or insights and introductions shared via email, letter or phone call/vmail) are only as good as the communication skills of the sales person who is using them.

Here are 4 examples that cause social selling to fail.

  • Requests to connect on LinkedIn with no reason or explanation as to why the person wants to connect. I rarely if ever accept LinkedIn Inmails that don’t offer up a good reason why the person wants to connect. On those occasions when I have accepted a standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” (against my better judgment), here is the kind of pitch that I immediately receive (details anonymized):

“Good Afternoon Matt,

Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn.

As someone within the sales team, you might be interested in learning more about XYZ Co and how we have helped companies such as ABC impact their marketing and sales efforts to gain a distinct advantage over their competitors.

90 second preview:

With all your years of experience, I know XYZ and its capabilities will resonate with you. Are you open to connecting for 15 minutes next week?

Kind Regards,


  • No reason or trigger. Like the example above, no explanation of why a conversation would be helpful or timely to the recipient – other than bland marketing speak.
  • No insight shared. Don’t sell me something, teach me something! Don’t attempt to sell the appointment straight away – teach the recipient something first that causes them to think that you are an expert in your subject and their space that they can learn from. Then ask for a conversation. The Inmail above is missing this. (Note: Most organizations in my experience are very poor at collecting tribal knowledge and creating insights that all sellers can use. Instead, most leave it to individuals. Invariably top sellers/learners who can connect the dots between your products/solutions and the business outcomes your buyers want and need are the ones who are making social selling work. The rest will use messages like the above in absence of anything better.)

All about “me.” Pains me to say, but most companies still train on products and services first and then leave it to sales people to figure out why buyers buy – problems they’re looking to solve or the outcomes they want to achieve (or less common and hidden motives than the standard “pain or gain”). This shows up as emails, voicemails, Inmails and conversations that are seller focused. Sigh…

That’s four reasons that I’ve seen recently that stops social selling from being effective. I’m sure there are others.

What have you seen?

Love to hear your experiences.

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Matt Conway

CEO & Principle at Matthew Conway
If you're a CEO or Sales Leader reading this and you want to fill your pipeline with quality opportunities, win more deals and reduce sales cycles by as much as 6x, then perhaps it's time for a chat?

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Matt Conway
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