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While social media has become more and more important in terms of relationship building, it is now wrongly interpreted as a sales tool instead of a brand building tool by the woefully inept. Annoyingly the slimy sales character of yester-year who used to cheerfully traipse into your office with samples or chew your ear off on the phone now inundates you with unsolicited contact requests and sales messages. So how to get sales online?

We would all do well to remember the golden rule of #Sales, regardless of whether your sales environment is on- or off-line:

“People love buying but hate being sold to!”

Covid19 has now seemingly let loose every “Sales” person in the universe (“” because Sales is an art to me and I would never disrespect the craft of a full blooded sales professional) with no instruction on minimum requirements as to how to sell online. Here are the six typical selling types that I increasingly encounter. You could argue that they would still behave the same way in a meeting room – which is part of my wider point. Offline these characters would have no chance in hell to get past the front door – unless they climb like spiderman. Online they are much more easily able to impose on our time and attention. 

Six toxic and one great sales type

  1. The Spammer: This character will send you a connection request and then immediately fill your inbox with spam messages. “Hi, I will help you remortgage at better rates immediately. Best rates guaranteed. Act fast. Etc.” I will literally block you everywhere, add a picture of you to the darts board and blacklist you until such time as you come back and apologise, explaining that you have learnt how and why not to be “that guy”. I will then invite you to guest-star in one of my “how to sell online” training sessions to share your now relevant experience. 
  2. The Fisherman: The spammer’s slightly more sophisticated sibling. “Hi, Henry (not my name – simpleton). I read your profile with great interest (lie). The world of packing (the what now? I don’t work for Santa Claus) has always fascinated me (oh?). I was wondering when would be a good time to give you a call about our new digital platform that will revolutionise everything you do?” Perhaps you contacted me during office hours and I will just politely decline your generous offer. Or perhaps you decided to multi-channel inconvenience me during the week-end. In which case hell hath no wrath as an executive being sold to and I may just lead you on for the next six months and document everything to use as a case study for my students. You have been warned!
  3. The Name-Dropper: Hi Hery-Christian, I work with the likes of (insert big potential customer here) who we partner with and I think you would be perfect for completing our lineup at the first edition of our conference for polymerisation of grey-matter widgets. Well done on paying one big company to come to your event. Now scram. 
  4. The Not-So-Covert Operative: This type will suspiciously populate all of your social media at once and like your posts. Perhaps even drop a vacuous comment such as “so true” or “could not agree more”. Will then move to read your profile and contact you praising you for your language skills, endorsements or alma mater “my brother had an Ex who went to Trinity – what a coincidence!”. He will then drop a pre-prepared letter outlining his value proposition. And then insist on a phone call. Again. And again. And again.
  5. The Pity Farmer: “Hi. Can I work for your company please”. I respond: “Dear Sir, thank you for contacting me. We have an open positions process in place via our website. Kindly submit your CV via the official channel. Thank you and best of luck with the application!”. “Can you at least write me Linkedin recommendation”.I patiently copy paste from my standard responses: “Dear Sir or Madame (could not resist a bit of mischief here), as I do not know you and have never worked with, for or against you I am unable to form an educated opinion on your potential performance for whatever role you may look to receive a recommendation for. Neither do I know you intimately enough to write a general endorsement of your, no doubt, multi-faceted and scintillating personality. Best wishes etc.”. “Can you at least do something for me. Is that too much to ask?” 
  6. The Bad Mouther: “Hi Henry, I trust all is well? Good, good. Lovely to catch up with you and your associate (we were two people, Michael, do better and remember her name). I hear you are also considering ‘competing solution X’. That is of course entirely up to you (“why, thank you, Michael!”) but – and I should not be saying this, but in confidence – they are fairly shoddily run and we are considering suing them because of an IP issue we have with them”. You are right, Michael, you should not have said. Neither will you be saying anything of the like in the future because I don’t work with people like you. Good bye.
  7. The Rock Star: She understands the algorithm and knows that when she engages with my content it means I will increasingly see hers. So she connects on various social media, likes content, “frequents” the same industry groups and occasionally writes a thoughtful, researched, value adding comment on one of my posts. Down the line with growing emotional equity she might tag me in something that she knows is relevant to me (sustainability, packaging, leadership theory) or better yet of personal interest (football, equality, East-Africa) with a quick “hey, thought this might be of value to you”. Her posts provide free value and food for thought without an implicit ‘Ask’ or an explicit one of the ‘sign up here – for the real stuff pay a small amount but do note the 4725% discount only valid today’ variety. 

Cometh the time that I am looking for a supplier of the kind of service she provides. For some reason her brand springs to mind first. For some reason my subconscious has a very high opinion of her. I go “Hey, Karen, I remember you do something around sales funnel automation – could we perhaps have a chat sometime next week?”. And Karen the Rock Star thinks “we sure as hell can!”.

How to become a great online sales person like Karen

In order to build brand and have guaranteed sales, be like Karen. This is how you get sales online. This is how you build brand. For some great resources on how to provide value see materials by and if you need an update on the nuances between brand, sales and marketing there is no greater place to start than with Also check out my other blogs on related topics here

Published by Hery Henry

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Nils says:

    Good read, as always. I hope your blog-brand building is going well 😉

    You seem to have a very specific scenario (personal brand building) in mind and outside that scenario, things depend on a few things you don’t mention.

    First, whom you are selling to. Some people buy from you just because they like you, others buy from you only if they like your product. Most people are in between these extremes. Some people don’t even care about your product, they just require sufficient justification to give to their superiors. Some people become suspicious if you spend a lot of effort on them, others are flattered by it and even transfer that pleasant feeling on the transaction or even the product. Some people like a good argument, others hate you for it. Some people are actually in need of your product, others are actually not, do you want to sell to them anyway? Some people become suspicious if you start talking about personal interests, other love it – and even others even buy your product just because they like talking to you. Some people like to talk (most), but some prefer to listen. Some people despise you if you pretend to not want to sell something, some people effectively demand to be mislead in this way. Some people can potentially be convinced, others cannot – don’t spend time on them. …

    Second, the kind of product. Some products can be explained reasonably well. Some products cannot. Don’t explain unexplainable products – but consider explaining a product you can explain, depending on whether the potential buyer may actually care. Some products can only be sold once , other products can / need to be sold multiple times. Some products have a strong link to the seller (like with this blog), sometimes, the product is not linked to the seller at all…

    I understand your post cannot cover all scenarios, but I recommend to spell out the specific scenario you have in mind.

    • heryhenry says:

      Dear Nils,

      thank you for your comment. Very much in line with fictional-Karen’s approach I just enjoy creating, hope that it brings value to someone and then in turn will build my brand.

      I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding in your response and I see that I may have to write a separate section on the difference between sales, marketing and brand building. My upcoming book will have all that but that will still take me a bit of time, I’m afraid.

      I am not referring to any specific scenario or any specific product. If you try to access someone outside of their buying cycle and especially online the barrier to entry is often attention and the large number of lazy sales types make it that much harder for the genuine ones. The type of brand building Karen does is not specifically designed to “hunt” one customer. It is designed to create and share a value proposition that builds up enough brand around Karen so that when the time is right and the potential buyer wants to buy something he thinks of Karen. In that sense your example of people buying because they like the sales guy fits very well. Types 1-6 are doing everything in their power to not be liked and therefore not be considered. The comparison between product specifications comes at a later stage – attention and consideration come first

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