The Greatest Secret to Social Selling Success Is Hiding In Plain Sight

Tony Hughes



That's it. That's the rub. Millions of words, tweets and concepts compiled everyday on the interwebs about this tragically beautiful human thing we call selling and the social networks we're all grappling to understand boiled down into two words.

It's simple, it's not about you. It's about your customer. It's about your network. So how do you move off the solution, move off yourself and start to be present for others? Being geniuinely, authentically interested in what's in it for them, other's success and OPC - other people's content - will produce shocking results.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

I moved my blog to LinkedIn but I released all the intellectual property I had here. I endeavored to give every shred of knowledge I have away after 30 years in selling back to the world for anyone interested. From 1,600 followers on LinkedIn Publish to over 6,000 was an incredible journey of discovery of each one of you in these last 90 days. So many interesting people have reached out for advice, mentorship, with partnership opportunities, asking about specific business challenges and sharing their story.

The benefit to me is not book sales or speaking gigs. That's the byproduct. The true self-actualized fulfillment is knowing I'm helping you. What I try to do every day is listen in social. I compile lists and add intriguing minds to them on Twitter so that anyone with something uniquely original to say makes it to Web 3.0 Champions. This list is closing in on 700 people. I listen around the clock in TweetDeck and retweet interesting things back out to my followers.

It's lonely on the extra mile of social selling. It's lonely taking five to ten extra minutes to read an entire article and pull out that one tidbit of genius it's self evident that writer worked so hard on. I'll comment that back. I'll ask a question about that silver lining. It's almost like SPIN listening. I want to know why? Why did they think of that brilliant concept? What influenced their writing? What was the situation or story behind the story?

LinkedIn is a gold mine. Not for what it can do for you but for what you can do for others. It's life-affirming and enhancing. You can unlock its secrets and world changing power only by thinking altruistically, philanthropically and in a pay-it-forward spirit of service. Service is the highest form of consciousness and Go-Giver selling is a unique reverse-pyramid paradigm. I'm always looking to take a step back and be thoughtful, to be 'fully there' present, giving that connection my full attention. Does this set me apart?

I'm always impressed when Mike Kunkle reads my entire post or David Brock weighs-in. They are so prolific it's mind-blowing. I read Dave's Partners in Excellence every day and marvel at how he fuses cutting edge social selling with advanced B2B strategic methodology. How about Anthony Iannarino? He's done 2,000 posts and look at the quality and level of insight. Jill Konrath is prolific in social, giving it all away. Jill Rowley makes the most thoughtful comments. She's a master at social listening and recently tweeted a plate of bacon at me - creative genius. The more they give, the more it comes back around in karma. When you write something with the intent of helping people, which hopefully this article will do, it not only puts out more great energy into the universe, hopefully the reader gets a result. They feel empowered, inspired and ready to go surmount the obstacles in their day.

Content marketing and social selling have become an addiction for some. I'll admit, I may not sleep as much as I used to. I am addicted to helping others. My iPhone buzzes with a tweet from the UK or an e-mail from The States. I'll get a new review of my book that makes me tear up for a moment. For those of you that have written a book, you understand the labor of love this represents. I'll get a profound question posed in a thread or group on here and I'll really think about it. Sometimes the questions are more exciting than the answers; the articles on LinkedIn Publisher are so thought provoking I'll wake up in the night with a new answer.

Inspiration is what LinkedIn gifted traditional selling. It opened up all our networks in an exponential way expanding our horizons. It makes the world smaller and breaks down barriers and that's a good thing. It's keeping us all more engaged and inspired than ever before. It's open sourcing knowledge and this synergy is making us all better.

I've warned my readers not to live on a computer even the supercomputer in their hand. We weren't meant to have 3 arms, wouldn't you agree? Maybe it's a bit more of a luxury for me as an independent consultant who's blazed a trail speaking, coaching, training and writing for a living. I hope you find these words helpful and explore what I call MY CORPUS. Dig around in there daily and apply some things to the real world every day. Please let me know how it worked, or could have worked better. After 30 years and many million-dollar deals fought for, won and lost; after incredible failure, rejection and success - I do believe what I've encapsulated here is the essence of professional selling success at the highest level.

Social Selling can be strategic. We can elevate it. It can be your edge and competitive advantage. Social selling is very much about being interested. The more hours you take understanding your customers, the greater partner you are able to be. The more you listen in meetings, the higher propensity to close. Actively listening is one level and the ultimate level is being fully there, smartphone off, notepad ready to write it down, making eye contact. Don't sell with your eyes. Just be there, shut off the past and future and contemplate every word. Don't look to interject or craft the next persuasive retort. Let go of all that: it's worthless, really.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes. The greatest mysteries were often hiding in plain sight. All of sales can be reduced to two words. BE INTERESTED. It shouldn't be that simple but if you just did that every day, you'd quantum leap all your competitors. It's not even about competition, it's about creation and sharing. I recently had the privilege to consult on an eight figure deal with an executive that hardly spoke. Just eye contact, listening and deft note taking. Timely follow-up displayed the depth of their understanding.

If you made it to the bottom of this post it's definitely going to pay off. How can you become more interested? Many people act like they're in Hollywood on LinkedIn: 'Enough about me, what do you think of me?' Buzzer! It's not about you silly!

  • Sort your social stream by Recent Updates so you can see them all.
  • Scroll and wait for something to jump out and grab you.
  • Read through slowly and don't just hit the like button.
  • Click through, read the entire thing.
  • Comment and reference something in the text, image or video.
  • If they reply, comment again.
  • Share a link.
  • @Mention them (use the @ sign to backlink to their name or others who should read it which will notify them and help others discover their work).
  • When you do a big LinkedIn Publish post, pull quotes from the readers underneath and add them back in with the quote feature. I love doing that! #interactive
  • InMail people, message them and admire what they wrote.
  • Give, digitally give. Define what that means to you! I get a thoughtful message from one author after every single post I write. He's a social selling champion.
  • Grab coffee
  • Take it off-line
  • Join 50 groups
  • Start your own group asking provocative questions of the group members.
  • Foster discussion don't just thank. You're giving when you want to know more.
  • Ask why!
  • When you retweet add a comment in that 140 characters.
  • When you read something inspiring, write something of your own in response and Tweet it back at that person.
  • Hashtag thoughtfully don't just stuff every tweet (guilty! - learning...)

This post has profound implications on CEOs and leaders. Please spend twenty minutes a day on your own LinkedIn profile. You could literally change lives with the power of social media by allowing more access to you. Writing a weekly update on Publisher as a thought leader helps many people. It elevates the sector. In order for social selling to work, we need the entire business community to all get online in here forming a super network. It's the promise of the utopian virtual reality. Ultimately, hiding behind a gatekeeper is again convenient for you but you're only further from the end customer you serve. I'm astounded when I tweet something at a brand and they don't respond to my tweet when others pick it up and respond in minutes. Social listening not only protects brand reputation it surprises and delights customers, the lifeblood of your entire business no matter your market share. CEOs: Your boss is ultimately a satisfied customer!

It's extremely difficult to be interested when you have over 1,000 friends, a deluge of Twitter handles you follow and streams that look like stock market tickers from Hudsucker Proxy spitting out data faster than a texting teenager. Get a list together in HootSuite or TweetDeck. Filter out multiple lists by vertical. Slow down to speed up. Re-sort your LinkedIn or Facebook feed to see all the posts and retrain the algorithm by liking different things. Make an old fashioned spreadsheet of targets and check in on just the top 30 each day. Start up conversations with dream customers.

Ultimately this subtle change starts with you. Paradoxically it's not about being more interesting, it's about being more interested! I'm interested in your thoughts about this idea so please leave a comment below. If you seldom ever leave comments make a violent exception even if it's just a share or like. Thank you!


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: Ricardo Liberato


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