We all heard the stories: cold calling is dead, more than two-thirds of the buying process is already completed online, and it’s far more complex than our CRM systems can depict. In addition, Digital Natives (some of them allegedly addicted to Social Media) are streaming into the workplace. Trollishly stated that 50% of decision-makers in the purchasing-departments are less than 30 years old.
So companies, especially their marketing and sales departments, are desperately looking for new ways to reach potential buyers… and “Social Media” is supposed to hit that very spot. I mean: Customers who are happy to profile themselves are open to meaningful discussions? Just take LinkedIn’s famous quote In this article will share experiences as an internal program manager who has completed a 6-month pilot project and a full year of business-as-usual: that is 18 months of
It seems to me that LinkedIn SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) have convinced every large and medium-sized company out there that using their tools is the remedy to all problems mentioned above. Hands down: LinkedIn has a top marketing team and an even stronger sales force – they deliver. At least the increasing number of connection requests with immediate follow-ups of sales pitches, which I have experienced since the COVID-19 lockdown, makes me feel this way.
For LinkedIn, the „eat your own dog food“ approach fits perfectly: To demonstrate to prospects via InMails and Point drive presentations (now: Smart Links) how the sales funnel should be filled in the future is indeed very persuasive. And what’s even more important, it works: When we signed our first Sales Navigator contract, we haven‘t had a single face-to-face meeting during that three months sales cycle with LinkedIn. All it took was some e-mails and (not even) fancy online meetings, or to be more precise: video calls.
Start with Social Selling
We’ve been doing paid and organic social in marketing for about a year before we started a social selling pilot program. The primary difference between social selling and social media marketing is that sales professionals lead the charge in social selling. In our case those “pioneers” had to apply for it, so we only got those who really wanted to participate – which is a good thing, if you ask me.
The first steps are free of charge, and there’s no excuse for not taking them
We’ve read some books (Melonie Dodaro’s “LinkedIn Unlocked” is a good start) and did some desk research to train our guys on the essentials, i.e. having a decent profile to start with. Together we drafted some nice headlines, wrote Google-friendly texts for those info-blocks, did photo-shootings for professional-looking profile pics, and shared best practices every other week. Soon enough everyone was having that “superstar profile” icon on their “digital twin” (that’s how we call our online alter egos).
Sales Navigator is a (GDPR-compliant) Beast
Normal LinkedIn search kind of s*cks, once you’ve had your hands on the Sales Navigator search engine. The number of searchable options is just insane – I think, it’s even better than the one marketers can use for paid social (it must be, it’s down to the person). The best part for sales: bypassing gatekeepers – for me as a marketing guy: accuracy of data. As people use LinkedIn profiles for job applications, they tend to keep their curriculums up to date – from what I can see now, the data is much better than what is stored in our CRM-system. We’ve even invested in a CRM-integration because from a marketing point of view, it’s much better when customer and prospect information is stored there – where else would I get the data for campaigns?
Personally, I like the saved searches a lot, as they’ll pop up new results as soon as someone matches your description. So, if a new person enters the network or raises into the position you can jump right on it.
Most of my sales colleagues fancied 2nd-connections as they were quite easy to be “harvested” – mostly even without a personalized connection request – thus regarded as “quick wins”. Contacts of your contact are more likely to join your network, that’s true. The thing is: if you don’t know them at all, they are of low value to you. I’m not against this practice – it’s just not best-practice. For the same reasons, we do not invest in bots.
Relationship with Social Selling Index (SSI)
Basically, the SSI is a good thing, it’s LinkedIn’s measure of your profile strength and presence on the platform. It’s only known to you unless you brag about it or are part of a company subscription (as we do with Sales Navigator Enterprise). Now everyone in your team can see their ranking… and with sales – this immediately becomes a competition.
I love challenges, but I’ve had just too many calls on this topic and I’ve seen hours and hours spent maximizing these SSI scores, just to stay on top of that leaderboard of ours. The time that would have been better spent building relationships, not optimizing the algorithm for just another high score.
For social sellers, everything above 65 (from 100) should be just fine. Below 45 (with a premium subscription that probably adds a couple of points by just having it), it’s time to move that license to someone more eager to put it to good use.
If your SSI is above 80, maybe you spend too much time on LinkedIn.
During the peak period of the pilot program (with all the 1:1 training and testing involved) my highest SSI was 84. If you need more findings on social selling basics I would jump to John E. again: he’s done a massive 24 slides summary on his discoveries after hitting 30.000 connections (which is more than my entire group of social sellers combined).
Back to our project: Due to the positive feedback from our pilot group, we were granted the extra budget and were excited to expand the program to the majority of our salespeople as soon as possible. As one of my sales managers put it.