I have a client who persists in assaulting unprepared “prospects” with sales messages on social media. Not that this “jump them” attack can’t result in someone buying something. It is just the lowest percentage approach when it comes to actually generating revenue.

Selling tactics of the past

In the early days of selling, sneak attacks had a kind of novelty to them. A door-to-door salesman would ring the bell of a lovely suburban home, and on the homemaker’s smiling appearance – he would throw a small cup of dirt on the rug inside. Then, pulling out the vacuum cleaner he hoped would soon be on an order form, he’d suck up the dirt and then some.

For the unsuspecting homemaker alone with her housecleaning, laundry and gardening chores, the interaction with the itinerant peddler (in a suit and shiny shoes) was itself a lift from a lonesome day. If she had the budget much less the need, she saw this unexpected visitor with a gee-whiz appliance as a welcome break, plus the visit threw a bit of optimism onto her self-esteem and status.

So, in the earliest iteration of selling tactics it was true that you could compel people into buying products and services with tricks, sleight of hand approaches and high-pressure techniques.

Selling tactics of the present

That worked until it didn’t. Today selling assaults do not work in part because we have become accustomed to building relationships – even faux relationships – that qualify sellers by their personalities and behaviors: their personal brands. We expect to come to know the people we buy from, although we generally know them only through their interactions on social media, like their contributions to LinkedIn group discussions.

Note that the bar of familiarity is “interactions” not “appearances”. Appearances are posts and pins. Interactions are responses and comments. Simply linking your latest blog post or announcing your new product, and doing it relentlessly as you create or make news, may get your photo and link pasted up there– but it won’t make relationships.

Success with social, outreach calls and emails, and in-person networking now demands that you don’t just offer something of value – or that you push who you are or what you have on other people’s desktops. Success demands that you become interested in the lives, businesses, activities, accomplishments, concerns and needs of these other people.

If you’ve stopped progressing or you’re stumped completely even after you have nailed down your personal brand, your strengths, talents, skills, interests, and social media activity: your lack of forward motion might reflect your failure to focus on someone other than yourself.

Rather than force yourself on us, consider how you can arouse our interest in you. It starts with your arousing your interest in us – and expressing that in a way that causes us to think, “Wow, this person gets who I am, and that’s why I want what he or she has.”

Remember, this is an audience economy. Until you’re more interested in your audience than you are in yourself, you may find yourself on the margins of not just society but also the economy.