The Art of Being Insightful without Being Creepy

Learn how to show prospects you have done your research without seeming too intrusive with these sales lead generation tips.

February 10, 2016


To gain the attention of empowered buyers, sales pros are doing more research than ever before. The goal is to present insights that get potential buyers to take notice, but sometimes these efforts get attention for all the wrong reasons. Social media has its own special etiquette, and you will be far more successful if you follow the unwritten rules.

Read on for tips you can use to ensure your sales lead generation efforts are always insightful, and never creepy.

1. Stay Mindful of Relationship Status

You wouldn’t ask someone you just met to help you move, no matter how good your first conversation is going. A big ask like that requires time spent building trust and rapport. Yet some sales reps can be fooled by the casual nature of social media into asking for a next step the relationship can’t yet support.

As the person making the initial contact, it’s your responsibility to add value first. It’s best to start with liking the prospects’ shares, then move on to leaving insightful comments on their posts. After that, you can ask them to connect on LinkedIn and send a personalized introductory message with a small ask (like reading an article or taking a 15-minute phone call). These incremental steps will help you build to a bigger request, without seeming like you are imposing.

 2. Focus on the Business Problem You Can Potentially Solve

When you have developed a relationship with a long-term customer, it might make sense to take an interest in their personal life. When you are just starting out, though, too much familiarity can come across as intrusive.

A message like, “Hi Prospect, I saw your beautiful picture with your wife and kids, and it reminded me of my family vacation last year” may seem like a good icebreaker, but it may leave the recipient wondering who you are and why you’re looking at their photos.

It’s a good idea to start with who you are and what you do. Make it clear what type of relationship you’re seeking and why. That is, make it clear that you can help this person meet their business goals. You can avoid seeming too chummy and establish your relevance from the first interaction.

3. "Hear" the Message from Your Prospect's Perspective

While you always want to be honest with a prospect, spend a little time in their shoes before you hit the “send” button. As a sales professional, it might not seem odd if someone said they followed you on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, then spent an hour reviewing your LinkedIn profile. But for a prospect, that could come across as an uncomfortable level of attention.

As with the previous point, it’s better to focus on the business problem you can solve than on how you got the information. It’s okay to be vague—a simple “I saw an article about your upcoming expansion” is enough.

4. Use Humor Sparingly

Some sales reps try to establish a rapport by starting off with a casual tone. They greet the prospect like an old friend, and may even throw out a joke or two before getting to the point of the contact. It’s a tactic that is off-putting most of the time even in real life, and it’s even more risky on the Internet. Yes, you want to come across as a human, not a robot, and you want your messages to be memorable. But keep the tone professional and respectful on first contact.

Save your humorous approach for follow-up, once you have established a rapport. Or you can add humor as a backup tactic if a more professional message fails to get a response. Either way, you are better off not leading with the one-liners.

5. Add Value with Every Interaction

As a social seller, your goal is to prove you are a valuable resource for your potential customer. While some prospects may be looking for someone to swap stories or trade memes with, it’s best to keep the fundamental nature of the relationship in mind.

Make sure each message you send stands on its own merits as worthy of the prospect’s time. That means no more “just checking in” or “just seeing how you’re doing.” Include a relevant article or a new insight every time you reach out, and you can be sure not to wear out your welcome.

Even those with exceptional people skills can run into trouble online. It takes time and practice to fully master the etiquette. To make sure your messages are received in the spirit you intend them, keep them professional, relevant, and valuable.

To learn more about integrating social selling into your sales process, download How to Use Social Selling at Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey.