Before we begin, I realize it's a bold statement to say there are four secrets of social selling (as in things you're most likely not doing on LinkedIn, but should be doing to drive social sales). So let me prove it to you with a single click. Go to this LinkedIn site and, assuming you have a LinkedIn profile, you will immediately see how you rank on LinkedIn's Social Selling Index (SSI). While I have a score of 75 (out of 100), most of my peers rank around 25.
If you have a score of 50 or less, this article will arm you with the four things you can do to immediately improve your score and dramatically increase your social selling effectiveness.
According to a recent case study with SAP, the sales pipeline increased by more than 40 percent when SAP's Inside Sales team implemented LinkedIn's Sales Navigator. In other words, social selling has crossed the proverbial chasm. We know that social improves the selling and buying process for all parties. Companies such as SAP, Microsoft, and EY are going all in on social selling. Mike Derezin, vice president of LinkedIn Sales Solutions, is seeing this first-hand with salespeople signing up for its Sales Navigator product.
And while Derezin would love you to sign up for his team's platform, he was kind enough to share several things you can do right now today (for free) to boost your social selling game. Think of these steps as training wheels (or a "gateway") to taking full advantage of the 400 million members in the public domain that the world's largest B2B network, LinkedIn, can help you attract into your business.
Put another way, if you're not leveraging social to expand your relationships and engage your customers, someone else will. And, eventually, your competitor(s) will build a rapport using the Know, Like and Trust model of doing business online today, which will inevitably take business away from you and your company. So here's what you need to do to turn it around.
1. Build a professional profile and establish your personal brand (25 percent).
Sounds obvious, but chances are your profile needs significant improvement. If you set up your LinkedIn profile to get a job, then I can tell you it's woefully out of date. "Buyers today are doing research on you and your company on LinkedIn," says Derezin. "Most sellers still have a bullet-point resume format and that's not helping them win business."
Instead, think about your ideal customer reviewing your LinkedIn profile. What problems do they have that you not merely solve, but eat for breakfast? Remember my previous article when I asked you "What's Your Superpower?" -- perhaps it's time to go back and update your LinkedIn profile to really speak to the incredible power you have and how you can unleash that power to solve the most difficult problems your ideal customer is looking to solve.
This is by far the easiest place to start and will have an immediate impact. Add photos, videos, links to presentations, and white papers. Anything that makes you stand out like the badass you are should be front and center for your ideal prospect to quickly learn about you. Because, let's face it, nobody agrees to have a meeting with you without first Googling you and checking out your LinkedIn profile. So do you like what they see before they meet with you? If not, spend an hour spicing up your profile and track the immediate impact it has on your sales.
2. Find the right people and prospects (25 percent).
"The days of having a single buyer are over," says Derezin. "Today there are, on average, 5.4 buyers in the B2B sales process. And when you include the key influencers, there are probably closer to 10 people influencing the buying decision."
So if you've got a buddy inside a company and you're relying on that one person to help you close a deal, you're betting your sale on an incredibly outdated system and chances are you're losing deals to a more savvy social seller who's using LinkedIn more effectively than you are.
How? By mapping out the different buyers (and influencers) in the organization. You can start with a basic (free) company search on LinkedIn. As you become an expert, you're going to want the more refined search filters and look-alike modeling that are available via LinkedIn's paid (Sales Navigator) version. But if you're not doing this at all, get started immediately with the free basic search.
Most sales people aren't even doing the most basic research on their buyers. Start by looking up the titles of director and above and immediately identify the 10 other people who are likely to be in the sphere of influence. You can ask about them by name when you speak with your primary contact and strategize with them on how to build consensus among all influencers and decision makers. Knowing the names and titles of the people you need to influence makes your job a lot easier than relying on one buyer to do the heavy lifting for you.
3. Engaging with insights (25 percent).
Cold calling sucks and you shouldn't do it. How many times has someone called you out of the blue and tried to close you on something over the phone. Sure, you can get deals done that way, but you'd better be prepared for 80 to 90 percent rejection rate and be able to not take all that rejection personally.
Instead, why not be the thought leader that you actually are? "Start simply by sharing, liking, and curating content relevant to your audience," suggests Derezin. "Not everyone is a prolific writer, and you don't have to be. A single one-line comment on an article you found to be relevant is more than enough to keep you top of mind."
The point is that you can't just reach out when you're ready to sell someone something. Wouldn't you much rather receive an email or phone call from your ideal prospect that starts like this: "Hey, Bill, I saw the article you shared and I've been meaning to reach out to you. I have a question that I know you have the answer to ..." I'll take that call all day long, wouldn't you?
Have a top 10 or 20 key prospect list? Then pay attention to when theses prospects: (1) change jobs, (2) get promoted, (3) are mentioned in the news, (4) have a birthday, or (5) celebrate a work anniversary. LinkedIn keeps track of what's going on in your network and serves up reminders you can review each morning before you start your day. A simple "Congratulations" or "You deserve it" may not seem like much, but it's way better than trying to force a sale on an unqualified non-sales-ready prospect.
4. Building strong relationships (25 percent).
Having a strong first-degree network is important. These are the people whom you've done business with or have a strong relationship with who can help you grow in your industry. A strong first-degree network means having a couple hundred or more people who support what you're doing and think you're a good person to know. Most people either invite too many or too few people into their network and both are a problem.
Those who invite too many people are going after anyone and everyone who has the title they want to connect with -- even when they don't know this person personally. This is a mistake. Not only is it discouraged on LinkedIn, but it also dilutes the true value of having a strong first-degree network. People who are not interested in you and what you have to say will not support your engagements or requests to connect with more of the people you want to do business with.
For those with too few connections, these people tend not to reach out before or after a meeting to establish a social connection. These are the road warriors who believe that face-to-face is the only way to get business done. That may have been true in the past, but not today. Only a combination of social and real-world engagements delivers the results you seek. So go ahead and invite the people you have established meetings with. It will remind them to take a look at your awesome profile (which you've already cleaned up in Step 1) and give you permission to show up in their news feed.
More on social selling.
When you go to https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi you will find links to short slide shows on each of the areas we've covered in this article. But if you're really digging this content, you can see Mike Derezin and his team live at their annual Sales Connect (LinkedIn's Social Selling conference) or sign up for Sales Navigator. What you can't do is ignore the power of social selling. Otherwise, you're likely going to be fighting an increasingly unwinnable sales battle in the future.
You simply can't bring a knife to a gunfight, and without leveraging the power of LinkedIn, you're not connecting with or influencing the right decision makers. Now that you know what to do differently, it's time to take massive action against the four steps outlined in this article. Let this year be the year you crush your stretch sales goals by leveraging the power of social selling.