Without sales, your business isn't a business -- it's a hobby. So what is the best way to get better results from your sales team.. and improve your own sales skills, too?

Don't try to reinvent the wheel; instead, do what top sales performers do. In short, do what the pros do.

Here's a guest post from Trish Sparks, who leads the Global Customer Success team for LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

Here's Trish:

Success in any industry often comes down to two factors: commitment and the right tools.

Nowhere is this more true than with sales professionals, who now have a wide range of software tools to chose from when designing their ideal sales toolkit.

What's more, sales as we know it is changing. Technology has nearly eliminated the cold call and its analog companion, the rolodex.

Most salespeople fit into two groups: the top-of-the-line pros that use technology to outperform their peers, and everyone else. To find out how the best of the best set themselves apart, LinkedIn surveyed over 1,000 sales professionals on the tools they use every day in the office.

The survey uncovered how top performers -- those that meet their sales quota; consider themselves in the top 25% of their departments; and expect to exceed their target revenue by 25% -- do things differently.

Here's what you can learn from the cream of the crop about closing deals, exceeding quotas, and growing revenue:

1. Embrace CRM and Social Selling

Successful salespeople spend more time using CRM tools: 22% of top performers reported spending 20 or more hours a week on CRM, compared to 13.3% of all sales professionals. While professionals still love CRM, it's just one element of a quickly evolving sales stack top salespeople use to get ahead of their peers.

Social selling -- the art of leveraging social media to build relationships that drive sales -- is quickly becoming an essential strategy for those who outperform. In fact, 76% of top salespeople said that social selling tools are "critical" or "extremely critical" to their ability to close deals, compared to 59% of all respondents.

Social selling isn't just the latest shiny toy -- it's changing, for good, how deals happen.

2. Throw Out Your Rolodex

Of all the tools salespeople have to choose from, social selling tools including Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook were the most widely used. 71.2% of salespeople -- and 90% of top performers -- said they relied on social selling to close deals.

Likewise, 71% of sales pros said relationship-building tools were "impactful" or "very impactful" on their ability to grow revenue. Top sellers were also more likely to indicate that their companies use social selling strategies to close more deals than the overall group.

It's clear that the sales industry is phasing out the rolodex and ushering in an age of intelligent, contextually-based social selling sales tools.

3. Research Your Leads

Sales intelligence tools -- which professionals use to gather relevant information on potential leads -- are an increasingly important element of the modern sales stack. 77% of top salespeople said they relied on sales intelligence, compared to 52% of all professionals.

Sales intelligence tools are also taking off among Millennials, 62% of whom reported using them. As intent and interest continue to be some of the most valuable signals sales professionals look for, context offered by sales intelligence tools will continue to be critical for top salespeople.

Stacked for Success

Salespeople have an ever-increasing number of tools to choose from. Our survey found that while certain tools like CRM and email tracking are widely adopted, top professionals are using them more often and for longer than their peers.

What's more, social selling is becoming an integral part of how top performers build relationships that help them close deals and drive more revenue. The best salespeople are using a combination of tools to deliver results and outperform the rest of the pack.

As technology continues to define the sales stack, professionals will have to adopt the relationship-building tools that deliver.

And so will you.

Published on: Jun 30, 2016