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Social Selling Pitfalls You Can’t Ignore

Practically everyone manages their personal relationships via social media, so it’s no surprise that the business world has adopted the practice of marketing via different social channels, or that the term “social selling” has gotten a lot of traction in the past ten years. Because times change so rapidly now, you may be wondering how important social selling has become to sales. For business, social media is undeniably a great asset, one that allows us to be connected to customers and prospects in a way we never could back in the days when direct mail and ad buying reigned supreme. But before you “go post-all,” ask yourself this: “Could my social-media presence be counterproductive to my sales efforts and/or sullying my reputation?”

It’s a Two-Way Mirror
In the current cyber-selling realm, you’re using the net to get the skinny on leads. Guess what? They’re also looking at you—researching your company, examining your offerings and, not least, taking a peek at who you are as a person. There are two central things they’re trying to assess about you: Can they trust you, and will they have a rapport with you. To make those determinations, they’re going to peek behind the curtain of your buttoned-up LinkedIn profile. They could come upon that snarky political nugget you tweeted a year ago, or those crazy tequila-shooters images you posted from your vacation—you know, what happened in Vegas that didn’t stay in Vegas. Think of the current poster child of what not to do online: Laremy Tunsil might have been kicking himself to the goal line over the Twitter revelation that narrowed his options during the NFL draft. Talk about a fumble.

Watch Your Virtual Step
Salespeople can underestimate how much it takes to establish trust and rapport, and just how instantly that can all unravel over a YouTube “HR violation,” or a religious statement, or even a publicly tweeted F-bomb. Any or all of it can burn the biscuit of someone you’re attempting to do business with, because many of us put ourselves out there in ways that seem to directly contradict who we tell customers we are. It’s Jekyll and Hyde: You present yourself as a consummate professional, but that shot of your tan lines on Instagram is so on the edge of not OK; in fact, it undermines your credibility.

You Did What?
So much of our lives are lived online, you might not even recall that you drunk-Facebooked some unintelligible post. Those new to the working world may have left a virtual record of cyber no-nos from their sorority or fraternity days. And veteran sales folks might be unaware of the extent of their reach when posting something angry or juvenile about, say, a politician’s hair.

Beyond the glaring bloopers—140 un-PC characters, political diarrhea of the mouth on Facebook, etc.—you’ve got the less-obvious missteps that can torpedo you professionally, like poorly written profiles, blog posts littered with typos, too much personal information in the “about me” section of your LinkedIn profile.

Go to Your Private Place
If you don’t have time or the inclination to redo your social-media profiles, at least put them on the private setting. Even if you’re super professional in person, you don’t get to take a mulligan when you’ve made a bad first impression by bragging that your specialty is drunkenly maneuvering a golf cart out of the sand trap—impressive as that may be … to your drinking buddies!

Clean up your virtual act by updating your profiles or “hitting the off switch,” as well as closing down the old accounts you no longer use. Hello? MySpace at all? In the sales business, we all know how important it is to make a good first impression, and certainly we’ve blogged about it before. But just to drive it home for you, being online is like shaking hands with the world. Whether you like it or not, you’re out there. Think of it as marketing yourself, and make sure to be consistent when messaging about who you are. Because the private is public these days. Anyone can nose in and have a looksee. And you bet your assets they do!