If you’re like me, you are 110% sick of the nonstop evolution of your Facebook newsfeed into the 21st century version of the Tupperware party. Plenty of well-meaning “mompreneurs” are joining the ranks of social sellers with the hopes of finding a new career, creating a discretionary income stream or help financially support their families (confession: I find the “mompreneur” term to be demeaning and insulting to real entrepreneurs who happen to be mothers but I know it is used colloquially to describe the assorted Rodan + Fields, Stella & Dot, Arbonne, Team Beachbody, etc sales reps cropping up each and every day, so I chose to use it here to identify with similar discourses).
The Origins of Social Selling
On the surface, the concept of social selling and mompreneurs makes perfect sense. We all use social platforms to share experiences, make recommendations and learn from each other. In the most organic sense, we all sell things to each other all the time by simply sharing our lives on Facebook. Did Jenny just take her kids to an amazing spray park you had never previously heard of? Score! The spray park just picked up a few new visitors through Jenny. Wondering what the oh-so-cute rocker Susie’s son was snoozing in last week in her recent photo? That’s right, that is a Fisher Price Rock’N’Play – and now that you know just how well little Johnny sleeps in it, it is going on your baby registry!
This is the foundation that powers social selling and, when used correctly, can be a very efficient mechanism for sales and marketing. However, since quite a few companies have figured this out and attempted to scale and monetize as a full-blown marketing strategy, social selling has become anything but social. In fact, it has become anti-social. (Unless, of course you actually like reading a non-stop feed of crappy marketing messages. In which case, I know a whole lot of people who would love to tell you just how AHHHHHH-mazing their products are.)
First, let’s just take a close look at simple reality. Your friends are your friends, not your customers. But the wide world of social selling requires you to flip that perspective on its head because they are the first people you should approach with your wares. Remember back in elementary school? You were supposed to hit up your family and parents’ friends during the annual gift wrap sale for the majority of your sales. Same thing here, times 10.
In addition, you’re competing against OTHER friends who have equally decided to take up the call to sling products to their friends all.day.long. And somehow, (this is the part I really can’t wrap my head around), the SAME POSTS and STRATEGIES are being used by each and every sales representative. In a given month I’ve had 3 invitations to Usborne book parties, 2 to Arbonne, 2 for Stella & Dot, several “healthy challenge” invitations, and multiple private message offers of a free trial product from people I barely know – one of which was accompanied by a very uncomfortable intro that referenced my kids, full-time job and the impressive management of all of it though I must be tired and possibly showing it in my facial lines. I can’t decide whether I’m flattered, insulted or depressed now.
What does that result in? Let’s see.
- Some of your friends will worry about your personal financial situation. (personally, I wouldn’t really care about this one, but I am of the “let ’em talk” ilk. If you are not, you might care.)
- A lot of your friends will stop following you (noticed a drop in likes on non-sales posts lately?)
- Most of your friends will avoid commenting or all together stop interaction for fear of a sales pitch
- Other sales people will cheer you. Especially your “team”. Congrats.
But maybe you actually want to succeed in sales. Maybe, just maybe, you want to make this really work. News flash: you can do it. You just have to get back to the roots of social selling.
How to Sell Socially Without Making Your Friends Want to Throw Up
Remember how we mentioned that the roots of social selling actually make sense? Your friends and peers trust your honest opinions (Key: HONEST). Let’s explore how to use that.
- Sell a product you legitimately believe in. (Believing it will make you money if you just sell hard enough is not believing in a product, FYI).
- Avoid all the unnatural posts. No one uses a dozen random characters, camel case text or awkwardly placed emojis to express their real opinions.
- Skip the fake and photoshopped before and after images. We know what your forehead looks like.
- Come up with your own creative ideas for product placement. You can smell the crappy stock posts from a mile away.
- Find the right audience for your posts and reach out to specific people who this would make sense for. In sales, this is called “knowing your audience”.
- For example, reaching out to me for beauty products is FUTILE – I wear chapstick and mascara only and it is actually notable that I have a separate soap in the shower for my face. I couldn’t tell you what brand without looking at it.
- However, you can pique my interest in children’s books ALL. DAY. LONG. Yes, I did buy Usborne books the other day. I love them. I saw the train tracks book and fell in love. Where did I see it? My friend’s kid was pictured playing with it in a routine post. Social selling at its finest.
If all else fails, drop the sales persona version of yourself for a few minutes and try to picture what you would want to hear or see on Facebook that wouldn’t make you want to hurl. Then do that. Good luck!