Return of the Dragon #strategicsocialselling - new hashtag, old twist

Tony Hughes


The dragon we've all been trying to slay is the strategic [up and to the right] aspect of this value quadrant. 'Up and to the right' is right: get the strategy right and you'll be a sales sensation. Strategic sellers make it rain but how? CEO's often explain it as he or she 'just makes the magic happen'. They've fumbled into the ecstasy of anthropomorphism in describing strategic sellers who effortlessly seem to become trusted as advisor eagles or lone wolves (if they're not housebroken) or even mythical beasts like Lewis Carroll's Gryphon. They've got a similar graph like this on the universal hot vs. crazy matrix (see YouTube sensation below). Aka; the Unicorn. The more you look, the less likely it is to be found. Typically, as humans we fear what we don't understand. Not with top sellers. The leadership may not understand them but they certainly love them. One word - revenue. Then how on Earth could you get more of them into your organization? Maybe you need a unicorn catcher consultant like Dana McLendon in the video below who explains to men the unicorn zone when seeking to find the right women in your life?


For your edification (and my own no doubt!), I took the time to generate THIS STRATEGIC SOCIAL SELLER UNICORN LIST after a few months of scouring the internet and continuing to lose sleep! This compilation is actually dead serious and devised to help us all identify who these folks are. I intend to keep revising and adding to it in contrast to many somber advanced analytics based ways of generating the top 100 social sellers. It's not easy to dominate social selling but it is easier to game algorithms than be strategically seasoned, applying real world methodology that actually produces concrete revenue results and factors in #social.

It's always cool to compare the size of our Klout rankings, Social Selling Index Scores (SSI) from LinkedIn or PageRank of our vlog. Ultimately, I'm simply looking for an insight into the strategic sales process, methodology and traditional frameworks that still work on massive enterprise deals whilst selling into big companies and government infused into the modern social selling methods.

What does it mean to be truly strategic in major deals? That really depends on how you define strategy; something almost any sales person I meet with struggles to define. To me, strategic selling is about engaging early at the highest levels with provocative insights that foster engagement. The quality of your insights will dictate the acceleration of your deals and commensurately, the velocity of your pipeline.

Pure Matter Blog released a list of the top 50 social selling experts it polled about the biggest challenge social selling experts face. There are some wonderful answers here. Outside looking in, as I've only been pushing hard in social for under 90 days, I'm dead certain it's the following so please tweet these if you agree:

Social Selling must become strategic to be leveraged effectively and sustainably in closing repeat enterprise deals.

To achieve a strategic social selling plan for your company, the answer is simple: It's a mashup of what came before with the cutting edge of what's next.

Strategic Social Selling means fusing old world and new world selling methodologies to close enterprise deals and generate predictable revenue.

Who's leading the charge in this regard, especially writing about it?

  • Mike Weinberg who wrote New Sales. Simplified. and riffs on it here.
  • Tim Hughes at Oracle UK. Period.
  • Jill Konrath has always innovated at the cusp. She's even broken this down into agile learning as a meta-skill for high value selling.
  • Jill Rowley - I tweeted out she's a strategic social selling unicorn and she requested to be a bacon #socialselling unicorn. She gets the mashup! She's exceeded quota year after year so she understands the pressures in the enterprise on ACV and crushing the number. She speaks CXO here.
  • David Brock whose Partners In Excellence blog sets a gold standard for prolific B2B writing. He's even more prolific than I've endeavored to become... I don't know how anyone could live on less sleep than me doing all the writing after days filled with clients.
  • Mike Kunkle is a sage - a master of enterprise enablement, I can never stop learning from his posts that seem to presciently fuse everything great on enterprise selling together. He has encyclopedic knowledge of every facet of sales, coaching, enablement and the underlying tech. True gift to the industry LinkedIn Publisher ecosystem. I vote LinkedIn makes the Influencer Network open again and elects him into it.
  • Koka Sexton - There's no secret why Koka is the face of content strategy for LinkedIn. He needs no introduction. Follow him religiously!

How do you prevent history from repeating? Simple. Study it. How do you take social selling and elevate it to a point where it can withstand the forces of procurement, buying committees, more decision makers involved in the buying process than ever before, complexity and commoditization?

It's crucial to have a rock solid strategic social sales process. Have you mapped the politics, power base, picked a military strategy and built a multi-channel plan of attack that includes social as a force multiplier, not the core? Insight is the core. You are the core, the differentiator and the why. People still buy from those they know, like and trust. But they won't let you waste their time, especially executive decision makers.

Sellers fall into hunters and farmers but that's a glass ceiling we've bought into. I'd argue hunting in named account is closer to the mark. And beyond that, moving 'up and to the right', becoming the mythical beast, slaying the dragon or becoming one is our moment-by-moment challenge. Without strategy you are blasting, spray-and-pray, in a house full of smoke and mirrors. Just like martial arts takes years of focused discipline, so does becoming great at strategic selling. Hope is not a strategy and thinking strategically is interdisciplinary in that it requires improving business acumen as well as selling and communications skills.

I love Bruce Lee. He said some incredibly profound things in his short time gracing the world with his gifts. He was a bright light gone to soon but he had a vision and he said the following which applies to strategic selling more than any other quote I could find; it's not what you're expecting! Bruce also believed in his ability to rise to the top, something you must do to stand out as signal in the noise in #strategicsocialselling against a backdrop of #socialselling.

"Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable."

Strategy in advanced selling situations is a great deal like learning something as ephemeral and metaphysical as 'swing feel' in jazz. You must play it to feel it and feel it to play it. Experience is how we learn. The joy is in the doing, the magic is between the lines. The music is in the silence. Ride-alongs by a gifted mentor or sales manager are a good way to get a feel for this when interacting with intimidating executives one-on-one. Coaching your people to look for strategic factors is a great exercise. Strategy sessions where each team member takes turns strategizing about how they'll engineer the win, where are you blocked, who your competitors are, all yields residuals for quarters to come. Laying this all out in TAS Dealmaker or Pipeline Manager... I cannot overstate the level of high value activity this represents.For some, familiarity breeds contempt. The same old marketing pabulum certainly does. Let us strive to fall in love with our customers and help them to fall in love with good ideas that truly break new ground. Let us leverage social media to passively listen to them, which LinkedIn Sales Navigator at last allows us to do. We're no longer the 'awkward fast friend.' Let's engage with relevance, context and meaning. Let's understand where we came from as a global selling community. One of the ways we can protect our livelihoods and jobs is to become more strategic in everything that we do. It starts with you.

I've recently received requests to consult companies in setting up a Social Selling War Room. That link contains my blueprint on the LinkedIn War Room I debuted on LinkedIn Publisher featuring the most enterprise-focused application of I've ever seen. I've innovated on it with a social front-end technology stack. It's the way we combine LinkedIn Sales Navigator with CRM, automation and third party plug-ins that truly makes it game-changing. Here's how you can get the output of 20 inside sellers with a Tiger Team of 5 of your highest performing reps.

I'll be tweeting out insight at a new hashtag I believe I may have been the first in the industry to coin: #strategicsocialselling - Please join me in that stream... I would love your thoughts? How are you making social selling strategic? What is influencing that intention in execution? How are you mashing-up the new school and old school? As thought leaders, let's unite to move social selling from a fad back to just 'selling' - strategic, powerful and thoughtful. Let's make it matter more to our customer and customer's customer.

There's the logistics, the tasks that you outline, that must be done to get you in front of the right people at the right time; and then there's the interpersonal skills... the charm, the charisma, the emotional quotient. I believe the logistics can be learned, but what about the interpersonal skills? Is that something you either have or you don't? Or can it be cultivated?" - Bob Leonard


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image Photo by Flickr: Kenny Louie


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