4 Pillars to Improve your Social Selling

Why Social Selling on LinkedIn?

Ever thought about why companies like Oracle, SAP, Philips, etc., all have a Social Selling Program for LinkedIn in place and you don’t?

It feels like cold calling but 10x better.

Social Selling builds trust, gives a face to your message and directly provides background information on you. Preferably you have at least one common 2nd connection. If done right, it can strongly improve your lead funnel, build potential business relationships at scale and help to position yourself as a thought leader.

It is actually not that difficult, but as everything else in life, it requires some processes, internal stakeholder interest, dedication and execution. Nothing easier than that, right. ;)

So what is Social Selling exactly?

As LinkedIn, the key B2B platform with over 600 million business profiles put it: "Social selling is about leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals." (LinkedIn)

The best part, once a connection request is accepted, the person will stay in your network forever. Okay now, so far so good, but how does it look practically?!

There are 4 Key Pillars that you should improve on (LinkedIn)

  1. Create a professional brand

  2. Find and connect with the right targets

  3. Engage with insights

  4. Build trustful and meaningful relationships

Here is a quick note to each pillar. I’ll deep-dive into all of them in separate articles soon:

1. Create a professional brand

Let’s start with the basics: Fill in your LinkedIn with your customer in mind. Most common mistake is that people fill their profile like they want to be hired. Try to provide value and think of what would be interesting for your potential customer when reading your tagline and second your profile summary. Have a proper profile pictures in place (no selfies, no picture from the 80s, etc.), preferably use a headline picture associated with your company, have a summary, complete your life stations + give more information on each, "show-off" with cool things you have done or a personal fun topic to start a conversation about. Be yourself, be honest and be unique if you can.

2. Find and connect with the right targets

Please please please: if you write someone, even after you found similarities and show interest in the other person - mean it! People will smell it sooner or later anyway, the more experienced, the earlier. ;)

If you are in Sales, I would strongly recommend getting LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It helps you to build customized target lists with 25 different filters. If you are working in a team and use Salesforce - LinkedIn Team is very helpful to prospect, autofill information in Salesforce and update the deal pipeline in LinkedIn Sales Navigator under „Deals“ (Note: I am not affiliated with LinkedIn, only a big fan!)

3. Engage with Insights

Like, comment, share. If you have a hot prospect, add him in Sales Navigator to your personal lead list and check daily what your contact is up to. Engage with interesting articles that you have read, ask questions, support your arguments to topics (data!) and share useful articles for your industry. There are tools out there that aggregate content but following industry thought leaders is a good start for sharing interesting content pieces.

4. Build trustful and meaningful relationships

Let’s take this apart. How do you appear trustworthy? Well common connections, interests, origins, university, industry, title, etc. helps! Point number 3. amplifies trust.

What does meaningful mean? Auto-connecting with hundreds of people that have nothing to do with you? Not so meaningful unless you foresee in the future that you are selling THE ONE product that everyone would like to buy. Keep in mind with whom you connect and build your personal brand around it. Pick 1 or 2 topics that you want to be associated with and focus on them. Quality > Quantity!


Social selling is often called the future of sales. However, very few individuals or corporations have embraced this activity besides their traditional sales channels. Building a professional brand, finding and connecting with the right targets, engaging with insights and building trustful relationships can sound very complicated and time consuming. Like anything else in life, it takes time to get everything sorted and correctly implement a social selling strategy. However, once you get everything in place, you will see leads flowing in from all sides.

If you want to discuss how you can leverage social selling in your organization - send me a message on LinkedIn. Here's my profile.

The Evolution of Social Selling

First of all, social selling is nothing new. The origin comes from Referral Marketing, later also Affiliate Marketing which is a common technique to commercialize recommendations. Basically, it was already used at the first Tupper parties in 1948 by the "circle of friends".

When I took my first steps in sales in the 90s, I was dependent on recommendations. Satisfied customers have recommended me. That's how I built a customer base.

An old salesperson's wisdom says:

“A satisfied customer brings 4 new customers, a dissatisfied customer quits and takes 16.”

This statement makes it clear how important the personal support is on the one hand and the power of the personal recommendation on the other hand. Social networks and evaluation platforms live from this kind of exchange. We are asking for another one’s opinion and advice. And the principle of the Trusted Advisor was already described in 2001 in the book with the same title.

What can be found online?

Making a simple Google search on the term "social selling" will yield over a billion results. If you look for the exact term (in quotation marks) there are more than 3.7 million. Google Trends rejects the term as early as 2004 (previously, there was probably no data) and reached its peak in April 2017. In Germany, the term appeared in 2008 for the first time. Since we are sometimes one to two years behind in Germany, it is not surprising that the topic reached its preliminary zenith in February 2019.

The fact is, digitization has reached sales since a long time. Whilst pure digital business models have existed for more than 20 years, products in need of explanation are still sold face-to-face. However, the way of distribution has changed fundamentally. The availability of information and the comparability of products make it easier for buyers to find out in advance. For the seller, this is once again the challenge of being in the right place at the right time.

What’s the current status?

If you ask around the sales departments in enterprise companies, many have been running a social selling framework for years. However, that does not mean that everyone uses it consistently. On the contrary, there are several companies that are just beginning to discover the topic for themselves.

If we take at the famous German Mittelstand, the topic does not seem to have even arrived yet. If anything, one or the other decider has a profile on XING. This is then rather badly maintained than good, and frankly not actively used for the establishment of contacts. Again, our own experience shows that the purpose and use of business networks go far beyond their use as a digital Rolodex and career network. Here, in particular, we Germans who are trying to protect our data should perhaps show a little more courage to reveal something personal about us.

How does it look in action?

It takes time! No action, no outcome! Only those who consistently work on their personal brand, will build up a reputation for themselves and maybe become an authority in the market. I know it from experience. The mere will is not enough. You have to do it too! Everyone should spend part of their time working on "his" brand.

And when is the work done? That is certainly a legitimate objection. A salesman is there for his customers and he will be grateful for the good service. If necessary, hire a specialist to help you doing the work.


The subject of social selling is not new. We all use the underlying principles for a long time. With the naming, the topic has been given a renaissance in Europe. Using suitable platforms, above all Instagram (B2C) and LinkedIn (B2B), two possibilities of self-marketing are at our fingertips. If used properly, they may lead to a real sales boost.

If you want to discuss how you can leverage social selling in your organization - send me a message on LinkedIn.