It's all over the Internet: Social Selling. One of the newer buzzwords added to our business vocabulary. But what is social selling? How can the most powerful business development tool, LinkedIn, play a key role in you generating more business opportunities? How can you benchmark your progress with metrics? How is your LinkedIn presence helping or hindering your sales?
Social Selling & Its Role in Your Business
Thousands of results populate when searching for the definition of social selling. Why? The term itself is newer to our business pocket dictionary, but the truth is that selling has always been social. From networking events, to business meetings, to countless phone calls…In order to sell we must be social. We must interact with other professionals and build relationships to determine who is the right fit for our products and services. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last fifteen years, you know that the buying process has changed.
How the Buying Process Has Changed
Business is conducted virtually through online platforms at an ever-growing rapid rate. Buyers are engaged online and vetting your company throughout the entire purchasing process, even through implementation*. A study released by LinkedIn in early 2016 states that buyers are also 7.2x more connected than the typical LinkedIn member. What does that mean for you? If you are not connected with your clients and prospects, you better be, or else your competition will be.
Also, according to Forrester Research, “90% of the buyer’s journey may be complete before a prospects reaches out to a salesperson.” This is critical. As salespeople, we cannot be content with finding one key decision maker and directing all prospecting efforts to only them. We must reach a broader buying group, which means targeting messages to scale within multiple parts of a prospective company so we can influence the final buying decision. Not to mention that there are now 5.4 people involved in the average B2B buying decision*.
With the majority of buyers saying they do not respond to cold outreach, it makes sense to hear that buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional via a warm introduction than cold outreach*. This means that knowing the people in your immediate LinkedIn network is critical if you want to utilize it as a business tool in your prospecting tool belt. The more you can authentically know those 1st level connections, the greater chance you have in asking for and receiving warm introductions.
Measure, Benchmark, Commit, Repeat
Less and less I am challenged by a potential client asking me, “What success can you guarantee me through LinkedIn?” Those who do not ask this question understand that they are going to get out of the tool what they put into it. This is not to say we cannot measure and benchmark your progress and success though. On the contrary, LinkedIn developed a score called the Social Selling Index that allows us to capture our current status, see where we need to make improvements, and then adjust as necessary.
The LinkedIn profile accounts for 25% of the SSI score and it reveals, in my opinion, the most important element of the score and your success with LinkedIn in general. I always say that I can teach you how to be the most proficient LinkedIn user, but if you do not look reasonably intelligent, no one will engage with you.
How complete is your LinkedIn profile? Is it an accurate and complete reflection of how the business community knows you offline? Have you looked at your colleagues on LinkedIn? Dedicating time to this is paramount to incorporating LinkedIn into your business prospecting.
As you continue to build and improve your LinkedIn profile, engaging with your network on a consistent and personalized basis is also critical. If you do not use LinkedIn regularly today, I recommend committing thirty minutes three times per week in your calendar to get you started.
By measuring your LinkedIn SSI score to benchmark your starting point, committing time in LinkedIn throughout the week, and repeating the process, not only will you build momentum and create a habit, but you will undoubtedly see how LinkedIn plays a key role in your social selling success.
If you are leading a team of sales people and do not give them access and training to LinkedIn, you are giving away deals to your competition.
Selling is not altogether a completely different animal than it was even just a decade ago; now, the relationships you are seeking to develop are more accessible and enhanced than ever before with tools like LinkedIn. So, what is your next move? Commit time to update your LinkedIn profile? Hire a consultant for private LinkedIn training? Delegate your company development funds to improve your team and organization’s presence and knowledge of LinkedIn? Wherever your priority lands, take action. Start the conversation.
Articles I wrote for this series to improve your SSI score:
* Ref: “Rethink The B2B Buyer’s Journey” by LinkedIn