5 Ways Social Media Can Accelerate Your Old School Sales Strategy

I was talking to a very successful sales executive friend of mine. “Oh, I don’t need any of that social media crap. I’m old school. You know, like building relationships, having a real conversation, solving problems…”

I laughed, “Sounds like the perfect way to use social media to me!”

Whenever someone spouts off about how “The rules of selling have changed,” I raise a skeptical eyebrow. The tools have changed, but not the rules that matter most.

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Improve Your Sales

1. Understand your competition

This used to be so much harder: mystery shopping stores, lurking at conferences, stealing talent from the competition. Now you can go onto Twitter and find out not only what companies are saying about themselves, but also what their customers are saying about the brand, AND how the company is responding in return. Not only that, you can reach out to your competitor’s dissatisfied customer and offer support to save the day. What old school ninja wouldn’t like to have a list of their competitor’s most disgruntled (and vocal) customers?

2. Identify key stakeholders

Whenever what appears to be a done deal turns into a dead lead with no real explanation, it’s typically the result of an unknown stakeholder weighing in. The best old school sales folks know that you’ve got to build relationships wide and deep with your customers and prospects. Whereas we once had to rely on prospects telling us who’s who, LinkedIn maps it for you, along with backgrounds, interests, and where they’re hanging out.

3. Show up where they’re hanging out

Of course not everyone in  your prospective company will be hanging out in forums, Tweet chats, or in LinkedIn groups, but someone likely is. And the old school chaps know all about the strength of loose ties. Begin making connections by inviting yourself to where they like to “party.”

4. Solve a problem

The old school handbook says, “People don’t buy products, they buy solutions.” Social media provides endless opportunities to be helpful, share expertise and save the day from the privacy of your office. 20 minutes a day offering value will open doors.

5. Know before you go

An old school teacher would tell you to scan a customer’s office to look for points of connection: children’s pics, sport paraphernalia, diplomas. Now a Google search can give you more than you’ll ever want. Want to know their birthday? If you’re even connected through one of the most benign platforms, Google+, you can get your connections birthdays all automatically imported to your calendar. Want to talk sports? There are lots of places to look for chatter. Know they’re running a marathon? Google their race time and call them to congratulate them. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t think of social media and relationship selling as competing strategies, but as a beautiful opportunity to leverage all you know, with tools to build your business faster.

I can help you think about your business differently. Call me on 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

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Posted in Career & Learning, Communication and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Regarding social media, I say what’s on my mind, create relevant posts, help people as much as possible, and show my personality.

    As always, be yourself. Your audience will find you.

  2. Karin, you did a great job in showing how social media is a huge asset for any firm or leader and is just a springing-off point to begin to build a relationship.

    I had to laugh about all the research you show we can do online today. There are no secrets and we can learn about people and their careers in a snap. If we have the desire and the drive, we can navigate social media in a very positive and meaningful way.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Thanks, Terri. I’ve learned so much about all this in the last few years. When I was running a sales organization, none of this was on my radar.

  3. Way to go, Karin!

    I agree—the rules in social media are the same ones we use doing things “the old-fashioned way.”

    Great piece of advice about social media NOT competing with relationship building. The difference is that, with social media, you can reach more people and in a faster way.

    Thanks for this important piece of conversation!

    • LaRae,
      Thanks as always for expanding the conversation. Ah yes, the power of broad and fast.

  4. Hi Karin,
    I enjoyed your article!
    Look, I’m a Social Selling Mentor, so I may be biased 😉
    This is how I’m seeing it: the rules of selling may not have changed, but the way buyers buy certainly has. Our customers are now digitally empowered, and are completing extensive supplier due diligence online prior to any deliberate interaction with a sales rep. Customers now have access to far more information than they did in a pre-digital age (when they needed us to provide it), and consequently we who work in sales have to evolve (yes, evolve) – not just ‘bolt on’ social media to a traditional sales mindset – in order to engage the digitally empowered buyer via social media channels.
    A huge subject which is being debated the world over. But it’s not just a matter of adding social media to the mix and carrying on as if nothing’s changed, surely? In my opinion, that simply won’t work.
    I’d love to discuss this more with you and other contributors, Karin!

    • Darrel, I’m totally with you. Excellent points. Another aspect is the linkage between social service and sales. How companies respond to customers concerns via social media is now on stage for anyone to see. I’m concerned when I see companies ignoring social media thinking they don’t need it in the mix, and yet customers are demanding it for service and, as you say, forming impressions long before they engage with a sales person.

  5. Hi Karin, I am ‘old school’ but including Social Media in my selling. I still prefer one on one but have to accept that changes are needed to get more sales. The problem is that not all of the decision makers are on Social Media.

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