Social Selling and Reversing The Hatred of Salespeople


Ari Levine, now VP of Brand Partnerships at Tumblr, started his sales career importing and wholesaling diamonds for Israeli diamond manufacturer and exporter, Samuel-Rozenbaum. He spent hours in the back rooms of mom and pop jewelry stores, getting to know his clients.

It was during this time, he explains on a recent episode of the Predictable Revenue podcast, that he learned that people hate salespeople. The word “salesperson”, in some circles, is accompanied by words like “sleazy” and “pushy.” Ari is so acutely aware of these associations that he renamed his salespeople at Tumblr “brand strategists” to circumvent them. 

So, he explains, if the cards are already stacked against us before we even send that email or make that call, we only make things harder on ourselves when we are thoughtless with our outreach. We have to do better, and the way we do that is by being more human. 


We’ve all been in the consumer’s seat and had a bad experience with a salesperson. Had our time wasted by disrespectful sales reps or felt slighted by sloppy handoffs. Ari shares that he has more than once opted not to buy a product just because of how he was treated during the sales process.

As a result, when doing his own selling or marketing, Ari has learned to approach everything from the position of the consumer. He asks himself “what does this mean to me?”, “how do I feel?”, “how do I want to be sold to?”, and “how do I want my day to be interrupted?”. Even in B2B enterprises, that buyer is a person. They aren’t defined solely by their job; they have varied interests, goals, and priorities, and it’s your responsibility as a salesperson to understand them.


In Ari’s experience, a lot of the bad habits that contribute to a negative buying process are commonly celebrated by sales leadership in books, blogs, and social posts. Companies boast that their click rates are through the roof, but don’t pay attention to how many of these clicks actually convert to deals, and what the prospect journey is like.

Salespeople dehumanize buyers by thinking of them as nothing but an opportunity tied to a revenue number. We’re so focused on building the machine that we don’t step back to analyze if it’s even working, or how it’s making consumers feel. With all the automation, tracking, and pre-programmed communication, Ari muses, it’s only a matter of time before the salesperson no longer exists.

The only way salespeople can compete with AI is to break these bad habits by becoming category experts and interacting with buyers as if they were buyers themselves. 


“Social selling is about leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals. This sales technique enables better sales lead generation and sales prospecting process and eliminates the need for cold calling. Building and maintaining relationships is easier within the network that you and your customer trust.” This the answer LinkedIn Sales Solutions gives to the question, “what is social selling?”.

To Ari, social selling is about using social media in 2020 the way we all use social media in 2020 – as a primary form of communication, education, outreach, and reputation building.

LinkedIn’s study of social selling on their platform reveals that sales reps with a high Social Selling Index (a score on a scale of 0 – 100 based on LinkedIn activities relating to the 4 pillars of social selling) generate 45% more sales opportunities, are 51% more likely to hit quota, and 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media. 


Understand the problem you solve. This is the keystone of your social selling success. Knowing what problem you solve dictates who you target, and how you want to engineer your social presence.

Learn about your prospect before you ever reach out to them. It doesn’t matter which platform you prefer, where you are in your career, or what you’re selling, social media is your cup on the wall of your buyer’s world. Learn about them, their industry, what they need, and the mentality of their buyers. Understand the language they are using when they talk about the problems you can solve.

Participate in their conversations. Have a presence across all social media platforms. Be passive, share original content, share content created by your marketing team, or share other peoples’ content. Just make sure you’re engaging and adding value.

Celebrate wins other than your own. Elevate people who aren’t yourself. Ari finds that one of the fallacies people believe about social media is that it’s all about you. In reality, it’s all about community.

It’s not about selling. When communicating on social media, talk about things other than what you’re selling. When the legal cannabis industry was first on the rise, Ari attended conferences to learn about it. While that isn’t relevant to the company he works for today, it shows he has broad interests and is another notch to add to his belt of conversation topics. 

All work and no play makes YOU a dull boy. Don’t hide the non-work things you’re passionate about. Instead, share them, and tie them into your business. For instance, Ari shared in pieces of content that his love of the Beastie Boys made him an Adidas brand loyalist, and how that impacted his belief in content, celebrity endorsement, and building brand awareness. 

Don’t be weird. Social intersects with real-life events. You can check-in at a conference, follow fellow attendees on twitter, blog about the event, and shoot an Instagram story about it to share, engage, and build momentum. But when starting conversations with buyers at live events or on social, you have to read the room (more on this later). Don’t be creepy, don’t be pushy, have fun, learn, and create value.

Figure out what’s going to work for you, your product, and your consumer. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to social selling. What do your consumers do? How can you ape their behavior to get on their radar?

Trust the long game. Social selling isn’t about booking meetings and making sales. It’s about establishing who you are and what you do over time. 


Ari was VP and Head of New Business at VaynerMedia for two years, where he worked under the legendary Gary Vee. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur, 5x New York Times Best-Selling Author, and just released his fourth sneaker line in collaboration with K-Swiss. He’s kind of a big deal in the sales world. Gary is a beloved figure amongst salespeople, Ari notes, of giving value before you earn the right to ask for something, and his ideas bridge the human/social divide.

Ari shares three tenets of Gary’s social selling success: 

  1. Remembering that you have to communicate with all people the way they communicate (on social or in-person).
  2. Reading a room and understanding what people want, and having that knowledge because you’ve done your research.
  3. Adding value and striving to help people above all else.


Being able to read the room comes down to preparation. The reason most people aren’t able to do it effectively is that they’re too busy worrying about what they have to do and say to take in what’s happening around them.

So do your prep, know your pitch, and believe in your story so that you can throw that all away and just sit there and listen. Like Mark Zuckerberg’s uniform of grey t-shirts, curated to waste less brain power on frivolous decisions, Ari’s absolute preparation is one less hindrance to being present. 


If you want to find out which social platform your buyers frequent, you’re going to need to do a little digging. But it’s easier than you might think.

While there are hundreds of niche locales where they might be hiding, there are a handful of centralized places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn that are a great place to start.

Follow your buyers on these social media giants and then follow the trail of crumbs to where they’re spending their time. Go there and participate in conversations, or gather information to share with your buyers that may be new to them. Rest assured that this will be a lot more exciting to them than the TechCrunch headline that every other seller will be referencing.


If you have a great product or service you can probably get away, for a while, with bad salespeople, but eventually, they are going to impact the buying experience, your brand, and your business.

According to Ari Levine, social selling is salespeople’s ticket away from the smarmy connotations and into your buyers’ good books as a trusted partner. By communicating authentically with your buyers the way they want to communicate, you can become a leader in your field, put humanity back in selling, and stave off the AI invasion for one more day.


More on social selling:

How to turn engaging activity on LinkedIn into prospects and personalize at scale with Sarah Hicks

How to turn 100 LinkedIn profiles into 10 meetings with Tom Abbott

Rand Fishkin’s ‘No BS’ Way to Grow Sales Through Social



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