1 Deadly, False Assumption About LinkedIn Social Selling

What constitutes social selling on LinkedIn? LinkedIn answers with [trumpet blare] The Social Selling Index. (SSI) It’s a measure of a social seller’s effectiveness. Effectiveness. It’s what sales is all about. You either open discussions with prospects and close ’em — or you don’t. But that’s not how your marketing team may be seeing it.

What constitutes social selling on LinkedIn? LinkedIn answers with (trumpet blare) The Social Selling Index. (SSI) It’s a measure of a social seller’s effectiveness.

LinkedIn Social Selling IndexEffectiveness. It’s what sales is all about. You either open discussions with prospects and close ’em — or you don’t.

But that’s not how your marketing team may be seeing it. More importantly, the number of qualified leads in the pipe and close rate is not how LinkedIn expects you to measure effectiveness at selling using their tool set.

Do I have your attention?

This ‘Best Practice’ Isn’t
I see one deadly, false assumption being made by sellers when “social selling” on LinkedIn. Worst of all, it is being sold as a “best practice.” But, increasingly, savvy sellers and sales managers say it’s not.

Here’s the rub: Most sales reps are being told (by LinkedIn and “experts”) to maintain a strong LinkedIn Social Selling Index — connecting with prospects and regularly sharing valuable content to generate leads.

However, investing time in this “social selling” strategy often leads to uncovering fewer leads and closing fewer sales.

I say “social selling” because frankly I don’t believe the term has merit — beyond serving gurus and LinkedIn as a marketing gimmick.

The Problem With the Social Selling Index
“SSI is purely a marketing tool used by LinkedIn for selling LinkedIn Sales Navigator,” says Mark Birch, managing director of Birch Ventures, a seed stage investment and enterprise sales advisory firm.

“It does not provide even one, single useful data point other than to say you have lots of connections, have a completed LinkedIn profile, and share a bunch of stuff on LinkedIn … none of which has to be content that you create,” says Birch who doesn’t mince words.

More importantly, Mr. Birch sees a huge flaw in LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index.

Sellers cannot establish a causal relationship between SSI and actual revenue generation, quota achievement, size of deal, length of sales cycle, or any other relevant measurement of sales capability.

Even though LinkedIn says it’s possible. The company often claims SSI is linked to performance — not just activity.

In response, Colin Daymude, director of sales at Frontline Selling, is pushing back. For example, when LinkedIn says 78 percent of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media, Mr. Daymude has a thoughtful response.

“One hundred percent of all Presidents Club winners drink water on a daily basis. That doesn’t create a direct correlation to closed business either,” says Daymude.

“The top sales person (by leaps and bounds) at my company enjoys a full 20 points less on their SSI score and is nowhere close to my CEOs or newbie sales rep’s ranking among peers. How can that be, LinkedIn?” asks Daymude.

The Problem With ‘Sharing Valuable Content’
The SSI’s practical use is simple, according to LinkedIn: Measure “how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.”

The SSI is composed of four categories.

  1. Establish your brand (be a thought-leader by publishing meaningful posts).
  2. Find the right people (identify prospects faster).
  3. Engage with insights (share “conversation-worthy” updates to grow relationships).
  4. Build relationships (“finding & establishing trust with decision-makers”).

That said, here’s the problem.

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

5 thoughts on “1 Deadly, False Assumption About LinkedIn Social Selling”

  1. Great blog post, Jeff. I’ll be curious to see if anybody is able to prove a correlation between their LI prospecting/relationship building work and sales.

    I advise clients that when they create content they should distribute it in multiple channels (including LI). It helps to increase brand reach… period. Limiting marketing efforts to the LI channel with fingers crossed that it’s the magic bullet, is just naive.

    1. Hi, Carolyn. Well, there are a lot of people convinced of the causal link. I see people I respect a LOT falling all over themselves to participate in gamification of SSI and Leader Boards. Many fully admit it’s a vanity metric and point to a causal link between productivity and activity. I’m just trying to offer levity. Ok, maybe sanity 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Thanks Jeff for sharing my strong opinions on the subject. To be clear, I do see social selling as a valuable channel for engagement, just not in a way that most of the gurus suggest. Sharing content is really just another mechanism to create more noise, it is rarely targeted and purposeful and tied to real metrics. As you put it in one of your posts recently, SSI is simply a vanity metrics. As I say, it is the Money Metrics that matter, and SSI ain’t one of them.

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