Update Your LinkedIn Sales Navigator Best Practices

LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. Misconceptions about Sales Navigator best practices are causing many to sabotage their diligent efforts — resulting in fewer conversations started with prospects.

LinkedIn Sales NavigatorLinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. And it’s not your fault.

Misconceptions about best practices are causing many sellers to sabotage their diligent efforts — resulting in fewer conversations started with prospects. A “best practice” depends on many factors. Mainly this one:

By time it’s considered “best” it is no longer best. Because everyone is doing it results are weaker!

How are sellers using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to set more and better meetings? Here are a few emerging best practices you need to know about.

Building a Target List

The most effective sellers use Sales Navigator as:

  • their only research tool to target & identify companies & target contacts … to develop a list from scratch
  • a primary tool — adding profile data from various other sources (e.g., purchased lists with email and direct-dial phone information)
  • a secondary research tool — using purchased data or proprietary “house” lists as primary… supplementing with LinkedIn profile data (to qualify leads)

Beware: The days of using LinkedIn for sales prospecting, at no cost, are gone. You no longer have choice. Since acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft has clamped-down on free users … hard. I’m not a fanboy, so here’s why purchasing LinkedIn Sales Navigator is required:

  • Search filters. You need them. Sure you’ll get a few using the free version of LinkedIn. But you’ll be hard-pressed to make LinkedIn’s database search filters spit back quality leads for you. For example, need to search for companies based on their size? Yup. You’ll need to invest.
  • Access. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is required if you need unfettered access to LinkedIn’s database of prospects. Truth is, if you want to search for prospects and view profiles, for more than a few hours, you must pay to play.

LinkedIn restricts free users ability to search for and view profiles. It’s called a “commercial search limit” and believe me you’ll hit it … quickly. You’ll be stopped and asked to invest.

In pre-Microsoft years it took a while to get cut-off from searching companies and viewing contacts’ profiles. Today, LinkedIn demands you slap down a charge card in short time.

Want to search the database? Want to view profiles of your targets? Do so using the free LinkedIn. But believe me … take your credit card out of your wallet. Set it on your desk. You’ll be reaching for it.

Investing in Sales Navigator is no longer a decision-point for sellers using LinkedIn. It’s mandatory. Sorry! Of course, there are other very good data sources to consider investing in too.

The Truth About InMail

Decision makers are less-and-less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn.

Still, most sellers use InMail and connection requests as a primary communications tool. However, this is no longer a best practice, not recommended in most B2B sales environments. InMail is best applied as part of a multi-pronged approach. (email, phone/voicemail, InMail, direct mail, etc.)

Thus, InMail is not a big value-add, nor why sellers invest in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Nor is it a secret weapon to get more and better conversations started with prospects. InMail can be used productively but it has serious disadvantages to consider.

Overall, Linkedin is weakening as a communications platform — all while the company builds an image as the premier “social” sales tool.

This weakening isn’t my opinion — it’s the accumulated experience of our customers. People like you.

My sales team (and our clients’ teams) report decision-makers becoming less-and-less responsive. In all B2B industry sectors? No. In most? Yes.

Increasingly.

Some blame the “Facebook-ization” of LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Decision-makers are increasingly less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn. Quick analysis of LinkedIn’s public discussions about user base stats and you’ll see it too.

Access to the LinkedIn database (and use of targeting filters) is the primary reason to invest.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Your CRM

Most organizations (large or small) use their CRM to track “Navigator sourced leads.” This helps you understand how many deals flow from contacts leaning (fully or partially) on data found on LinkedIn and Company profiles.

Beyond this simplistic level of tracking most organizations do not track a hard ROI on Sales Navigator; instead treating it as a cost of doing business. (a line item expense)

Buying Navigator is like buying any other kind of list to call from. (except this is on a subscription basis) However, many organizations do wish to understand how many leads are being pulled from LinkedIn’s database — and how many of those leads actually close.

This helps one understand quality of leads from LinkedIn overall … assuming a level of sales rep proficiency, of course.

The most effective sellers also do not use Sales Navigator as a CRM itself beyond temporary storage of leads. Most sellers choose to move contact and company profile data sourced within LinkedIn into their CRM or sales automation tool of choice — then pursue the lead.

Other Worthwhile Research Tools

Research is truly LinkedIn’s most valuable deliverable to you. That said, data on LinkedIn is supplied by users. Thus, it’s accuracy is only as good as the user provides.

Navigator’s “Business Insights” feature is a popular way to monitor useful news & info about target contacts & companies. Thus, this best practice remains. While Google Alerts and other services offers similar monitoring LinkedIn’s Business Insights feature brings this into a centralized stream within Navigator.

“Headcount growth by function” and “Total job openings by department” are two very useful Sales Navigator data sets. These allows sellers to see where within an organization current investment (budget growth) activity is taking place—and is planned to take place in immediate term—from a personnel perspective.

Research is LinkedIn’s strongest value to sellers.

What do you see changing lately? What best practices do you experience as being ineffective these days? And which are emerging as a better practice?

 

3 Reasons to Not Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is where the social selling action is. But is truly needed? Do you need it? Over time, LinkedIn has changed the rules and features of the offering to sellers.

LinkedIn LogosLinkedIn Sales Navigator is where the social selling action is. But is truly needed? Do you need it? Over time, LinkedIn has changed the rules and features of the offering to sellers.

Bottom line: There are many ways to prospect new business. But for some large and small organizations, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a go-to source for new business leads — I use it and my students do too.

But is it a fit for you? Today I’m presenting three reasons it may not be.

What This Article is About

Sales Navigator has lots of great features. But this article aims to present reasons why you may not want to use it. The title may sound provocative. But my criticism will be constructive.

Sales Navigator will be the right choice for a lot of people — maybe even you. If so, please let me know why in comments.

Many sellers I meet have dropped (not renewed) their accounts. Mostly because they don’t realize tangible value from the investment. Often with good reason. Others use Navigator on an “as needed” basis. Others decided their target market is simply not available on LinkedIn.

Then again, you may feel forced to use Sales Navigator. Due to LinkedIn’s new restrictions on how many “commercial searches” (of its database) you are allowed, this is often the case.

There are a lot of reasons to invest in Sales Navigator. But there are also a few good reasons to consider not investing.

1. You’re not good at starting conversations with words

Email is seen as the means to communicate with prospects on LinkedIn. However, the most productive sellers are using it in combination with cold calling (voicemailing). But the only way to recover a LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator investment is to possess a means to start conversations with buyers.

Reliably. Consistently. At scale, yet personal.

Don’t have confidence in getting responded to from cold? Don’t invest. If you don’t have the tactical ability to use written and spoken (voicemail) words in ways that provoke conversations, don’t invest. Not yet.

Instead, commitment to becoming effective. How effective? You should be receiving a minimum:

  • 40 percent email open rate
  • 30 percent response rate

If you are not starting conversations with prospects (minimum three out of every 10 cold InMail/call attempts), Sales Navigator may not be a smart investment.

What happens when you do have strength here? It can get exciting. Remember: InMail is not unlimited. You can only buy a maximum of 30 InMail credits (needed to send them) per month.

That is unless you get credits returned to your account — LinkedIn gives your credit back each time a message is responded to, even if it’s a “no.”

Thus, the primary way to recover a LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator investment is to possess a means to start new conversations with buyers — at scale.

2. You/your team is already spamming with it

Most sellers I meet are, in essence, spamming customers with standard email, InMail and other forms of LinkedIn messages. At best, mass-emailing reps pushing everything from marketing content to pre-mature meetings earn a 2 percent response rate.

Are you/your people cutting and pasting marketing prose into InMails and hitting send? Asking for meetings — from cold — using InMail?

You are probably spamming prospects. Time to own up.

“I have received dozens of InMails over the last few years and not a single one as merited more than ‘ignore’ or ‘no thanks not interested’, says Mark Johnston, president at Telementrix. “A lot of education is still required in this area.”

Johnston describes how most InMail messages have not performed any research on the approach. He is clearly not in the market for what is being pushed his way.

“Here’s what I get from social selling: a LinkedIn invitation, acceptance of invitation, and receipt of an email that clearly shows they know nothing about my company, me or my needs. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not accepting very many LinkedIn invitations as they seem to be an invitation to spam me,” says Michael Jones of Centurylink Business.

Are you or your team already using standard email (or LinkedIn InMail) to push spammy messages at customers? Have you already formed the losing habit? Again, most folks who I meet have. I’m not judging, just warning.

3. You place priority on Social Selling Index numbers

To encourage use of its platform and adoption of social selling, LinkedIn offers its Social Selling Index (SSI). This is a scoring system designed to reward what LinkedIn considers to be productive sales behavior using its platform.

But is it encouraging productivity or rewarding noise?

I get criticized as raining on everyone’s parade, but the bottom line is LinkedIn’s SSI is not as helpful as it may be harmful to sellers or those who manage them. I have years of experience coaching sellers. This remains my experience. I’m not alone.

The SSI encourages (rewards, with a number) quantitative use of LinkedIn. This actively discourages qualitative use.

Here’s the rub: Sellers most precious resource is time. Most social selling efforts are, thus, seen as defensive. In other words, sellers feel they are forced: “you must spend time on LinkedIn to reap rewards from it.”

The result is usually ugly: Buyers are being smothered by content being pushed by sellers. What buyers are not getting is context.

Sellers are often not good at, and rewarded for, offering guidance to customers via LinkedIn — in context.

3 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Sales Navigator

Wondering where your LinkedIn Advanced Search is? Poof! It’s no longer part of your free LinkedIn user account. If you want to search for prospects on LinkedIn you must buy Sales Navigator. At roughly $500 annually for individuals — and as much as $200,000 for teams — sellers are under pressure to make the investment pay off. Here are three must-ask questions to be asking yourself — before investing (or continuing to).

Locked cloudWondering where your LinkedIn Advanced Search is? Poof! It’s no longer part of your free LinkedIn user account. If you want to search for prospects on LinkedIn you must buy Sales Navigator.

At roughly $500 annually for individuals — and as much as $200,000 for teams — sellers are under pressure to make the investment pay off.

Forget about your Social Selling Index. Sellers need new customer relationships, not vanity metrics. Here are three must-ask questions to be asking yourself — before investing (or continuing to).

  1. What are people saying about Sales Navigator? (is it worth it?)
  2. How, exactly, will my investment pay for itself?
  3. What can I do to make sure Navigator works for me?

What People Are Saying

The most common feedback I hear is how target-rich LinkedIn’s database of prospects is, however, the support provided (to make use of these contacts) is poor.

The No. 1 reason sellers cancel Sales Navigator won’t surprise you: Lack of response from prospects they’re approaching using LinkedIn InMail. Sellers find it increasingly difficult to start conversations with potential new buyers. This causes some to cancel their Navigator account.

However, LinkedIn’s recent move forces your hand. Do you need to research LinkedIn’s database to find business leads? You must pay-to-play. Previously, you could prospect LinkedIn’s database throughout the week — and avoid the “commercial search limit” on the advanced search feature.

Not so today.

Behind closed doors this is what I hear most often about LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool:

  • I wish LinkedIn helped me effectively contact prospects — not just use the tool.
  • LinkedIn’s database of contacts is large, growing and rich with profile details.
  • Some decision-makers are hiding their authority (due to overzealous sellers).
  • The company’s support team does not provide email or phone help.
  • I love Sales Navigator’s ability to help me monitor my prospects & companies.
  • LinkedIn’s training webinars aren’t helping me start conversations with customers.
  • My sellers’ Social Selling Index is not correlating to sales productivity.
  • LinkedIn’s guidance on using InMail is confusing and contradicts itself.
  • The automated leads Navigator sends me are not fitting my target criteria.

How will my investment pay for itself?

Many sales teams investing in Sales Navigator are not seeing returns needed. Some teams are pulling out — looking elsewhere for prospecting data, or returning to pre-LinkedIn sources.

It’s common for teams to invest from $10,000 to $200,000 annually on Sales Navigator. Individual sellers, paying $79 a month (roughly $500 annually), also struggle to justify the investment. What if a team of 25 sellers could go from $19 million in new client quarterly revenue to $70 million? (using Sales Navigator)

Sounds good, right? But only if we:

  • Increase number of reps actively prospecting (it’s got to be fun/productive for them)
  • Increase sellers’ ability to start conversations by a mere 10 percent

It’s true. I’ll work out the math for you. Prospecting success on LinkedIn boils down to:

  • Finding appropriate, new prospects (Navigator does well here)
  • Starting conversations with targets
  • Bringing conversations toward closure

It’s the last two where people most struggle. This is where the gold is.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator: By the Math

Here is how the math comes together — for teams of sellers. For sake of example, let’s use a three-month scenario: February to April 2017. A projection.

Let’s say you have a team of 25 sellers. Most are not prospecting much. They don’t like it. Here are the assumptions:

  • Seven reps (who are prospecting) targeting an average of 20 new clients per week each = 140 potential new discussions
  • This means 50 conversations are being started (average of two per rep: 36 percent success rate)
  • Thirty-eight new clients will likely be closed (78 percent) valued at an average of $500k annual revenue
  • Net new client revenue $19M (achieved in February-April)

But let’s say we:

  • Convinced just six reps to become better at earning conversations with Navigator
  • Increased these six sellers’ ability to provoke discussions better — by just 10 percent (and become effective at securing good meetings faster)
  • Keep close rate flat and unchanged

Here’s what that team’s performance would look like after investing in a method to effectively start conversations with prospects via LinkedIn.

  • Thirteen reps (plus six) prospecting, targeting an average of 30 new clients per week each = 390 potential discussions
  • We are now getting 10 more targets called per rep/week
  • This means 180 new conversations are started (average 8.5 per rep, 46 percent success rate)
  • 140 new clients closed (78 percent) valued at an average $500k annual revenue
  • Net new client revenue equals $70M (achieved in February-April)

What You Can Do to Make Sure This Works

Ignore LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. Instead, strengthen your and your team’s ability to start conversations “from cold.” Get good at attracting customers to talking with you.

It’s not about buying — it’s about what it will take for them to buy, eventually. Issues. Challenges. Or even the status quo. Challenge it.

Being able to consistently spark conversations with potential buyers will increase your:

  • Email response rate
  • Voice-mail response rate
  • Appointment setting rate
  • Number of customers closed per month

A Fundamental Misconception About Sales Navigator

Your potential buyer values more what they ask for. Buyers value less what you offer them. It’s human nature. Getting meetings with prospects doesn’t require Sales Navigator. It requires you to help prospects feel an urge — to ask you or invite you to talk.

Sales Navigator is nothing more than a tech tool. It is not a prospecting magic wand. As obvious as this may sound many who invest in Navigator treat it as one. Take your communications technique more seriously than you take LinkedIn. LinkedIn is merely the cost of entry.

Yes, LinkedIn’s tool set will help you:

  • Find new people to call on quickly
  • Discover knowledge about targets that can be used on your approach
  • Find “hidden” prospects in your territory that are currently being overlooked
  • Contact potential customers directly (InMail)

But your ability to earn customers attention — and request for a meeting — is the game-changer. Just look at the math!

Why You Must Stop Believing Social Selling Exists

“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you’ll be left behind. What? You don’t know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I’ll show you the way forward!” Revolution they cry! Problem is, the sales revolution they’re selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet. There is no revolution, only evolution.

Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to doSocial selling does not exist. Believing it does trains you and your sales force to fail.

Sure, LinkedIn and countless self-appointed “social selling experts” say social selling is a wave — catch it.

But have you noticed their tone lately? Many of these folks talk down to you.

“You are not doing it right, you are not taking it seriously enough.”

Or perhaps more accurately:

“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you’ll be left behind. What? You don’t know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I’ll show you the way forward!”

Revolution they cry!

Problem is, the sales revolution they’re selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet.

There is no revolution, only evolution. Believing there is a new selling paradigm risks your team’s ability to adapt.

Are you willing to risk it? Are you risking it right now?

We Should not Name This a “New” Strategy

There is nothing new about sales — other than customers having better access to information, more quickly and easily. There is no need to invent a fancy new name for sales as it evolves.

“But Jeff, you’re wrong: Giving this new strategy a name could help explain this new skill set in sales operations internally, to management. Especially if the company is still a bit behind in evolution when it comes to sales approach.”

But are you behind? Behind in what? Knowledge of how to work the tool?

Working a new tool like LinkedIn or Twitter is not making anyone successful — despite the marketing claims of companies and expert gurus who have a stake in the game.

Using the term “social selling” is, so far, most helpful to those selling tool-focused education or rah-rah cheerleading fodder themselves. These are the instant experts whose qualifications rest on “I use LinkedIn a lot.”

Literally anyone can be a part of this club.

Here’s my beef with this situation: In the end, I’m witnessing less emphasis on sales techniques that work for sellers, and more emphasis on how to use tools.

I suspect this is because the people involved don’t have (or practice) good, traditional sales skills!

The result: A lot of sales people practicing marketing on LinkedIn. Farming with it. And failing to start conversations. They’re pushing posts, updates, comments, etc.

3 Questions to Ask Your Sales Team

The social selling backlash has begun. You might sense it or be experiencing it. But you won’t read much about it online. I’m reading a lot of self-appointed experts whining, “You’re doing social selling wrong, dummy!” It’s as if the market is changing. Experiencing. Maturing.

The social selling backlash has begun. You might sense it or be experiencing it. But you won’t read much about it online. I’m reading a lot of self-appointed experts whining, “You’re doing social selling wrong, dummy!” It’s as if the market is changing. Experiencing. Maturing.

Rest assured: For most sales and marketing leaders the backlash against social selling is becoming tangible. Personal. Reps are pushing back.

This in mind, here are three questions you should be asking sellers in every pipeline meeting.

  1. Why do you invest time on LinkedIn? (at all)
  2. How do you invest that time?
  3. Would you rather reassign that time? Why or why not?

Yes, these are basic questions. But that’s the point: You want raw, un-filtered answers — insights on how your team’s productivity is being hindered or helped by current social selling practices. These questions can be asked on a private basis or in a group. Both strategies can yield productive results.

Is This Your Sales Team?

Social selling has, for many, been a bust. It’s a time-wasting venture in farming (marketing) conducted by those we’ve hired to hunt (sales).

We’ve wisely invested in tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. However, many organizations are subscribed to a dangerous practice: ordering reps to abandon their hunting instincts — instead, focusing on planting seeds. Marketing.

For example:

  • Sharing valuable content and articles and hoping for engagement
  • Sending self-centered, templated email scripts via LinkedIn InMail
  • Re-posting press releases on LinkedIn blogs and updates

The result:

“Management is forcing me to waste time posting updates on social,” say many sellers. Instead, they want to be on the phone — dismissing social entirely.

This attitude is often based on experience. They tried it; social didn’t move the needle.

But did your reps go to battle with the best weaponry? With an effective, repeatable communications methodology? Or did they just push content out to customers and go back to their day?

1. ‘Why Do You Invest Time on LinkedIn? (Or Not)’

Asking your reps why they do (or do not) invest time on LinkedIn can be a real eye-opener. Especially when your organization mandates participation. If you’re invested in Sales Navigator reps must be using it — frequently and effectively.

You want that ROI. Sales Navigator is expensive.

But getting to effectiveness isn’t easy. I know, because my clients struggle with earning sellers participation in something they often:

  • don’t believe in (the status quo rep)
  • know won’t help them (they’ve tried and failed)
  • are afraid of (they don’t want to be a spammer or loudmouth)

If reps are comfortable with the status quo do they truly need social selling? The answer may surprise you. In some cases buyers are:

  • not active on LinkedIn
  • not contained in the LinkedIn profile database (at all!)
  • disguising their purchase authority (to hide from over-aggressive sellers)

LinkedIn may not be a fit.

Validate Failure and Move On

You cannot argue with experience. Experience drives our behavior. Humans do more of what rewards them, less of what doesn’t. Especially good sales reps!

If your reps have tried and failed with tools like LinkedIn, validate that failure and investigate why they failed. Nine times out of 10 it’s lack of an effective “hunting” communications technique — and over-focusing on “farming” activities.

Your Social Selling Strategy Is Broken

At the heart of most social selling strategies are poisonous ideas. Concepts that “experts” claim are best practices — that actually decrease chances of earning buyers’ business. Ideas like: Never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting you customer. It’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it.

How to Avoid Broken Links, Broken Layouts, and Unhappy Subscribers (2015 Direct Marketing Day Virtual Conference Session)At the heart of most social selling strategies are poisonous ideas. Concepts that “experts” claim are best practices — that actually decrease chances of earning buyers’ business.

Ideas like: Never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting you customer. It’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it.

“Saying this is wrong and it’s hurting people,” says sales trainer Anthony Innarino.

“More and more self-styled gurus popping up and pontificating to the sales profession that one form or another of prospecting is dead,” says author and sales trainer Jeb Blount.

“They pander to the salespeople who are scared of, uncomfortable with, or simply don’t want to do the hard work of sales.”

When it comes to selling on social media Blount and Innarino have a provocative perspective.

“Selling is about conversations and commitments. But conversations without commitments isn’t selling. It’s just conversations,” says Innarino.

In essence, it’s marketing. Broadcasting.

Marketing is often about soft outcomes. Sales is about hard outcomes: Commitments.

“I defy any quota carrying sales rep and go to their sales manager and say, ‘listen I really want to focus on social selling … so I want to spend most of my day creating content and sharing it.’ You’ll soon find yourself in a new role. Probably not in that company, probably not in sales,” says Innarino.

Is Your Team Hunting or Farming?

The lines between marketing and sales are blurring. This is precisely the problem. Today’s digital sales forces are been reduced to farmers, rather than being armed as better hunters.

It’s becoming more about usage of LinkedIn, less about qualitative outcomes. Sales conversations!

“The big push on ‘social’ selling has turned a lot of SDR teams into ‘send a LinkedIn invite then try to sell them 5 minutes after they accept,” says Mike Andersen, VP of Inside Sales at Mimosa Networks.

Sales people are not, and should not, be marketers (farmers). Yes, they should be listening using social media like LinkedIn and Twitter. But they should be using social to hunt more — farm less.

Are your sellers exploiting LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find potential customers and qualify them as buyers faster? Great. But don’t let them get bogged down with commenting on posts, posting updates, sharing articles and press releases (creating noise).

My research and experience leads me to conclude: There are loose correlations between being visible on social media and closing sales. Farming is important. It’s just less important than prospecting.

Today’s most effective sellers are using LinkedIn to locate, research and provoke problem-solving discussions with potential buyers. Hunt.

Are Your Hunters Being Forced to Farm?

Do your sellers feel they’re being forced to perform pointless activities on social media — that do not help find, nurture or close business faster?

Is there tension between sellers, management and marketing? Disagreement over what direction to take, why and how? You’re not alone. This is the hunter-farmer conflict.

Are You Making a $250K LinkedIn Sales Navigator Mistake?

Sales teams are spending big bucks this year on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, primarily to access LinkedIn’s database and InMail — allowing full access to prospects’ inboxes. From $30,000 to $250,000, most sales teams are “all in.”

LinkedIn LogosSales teams are spending big bucks this year on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, primarily to access LinkedIn’s database and InMail — allowing full access to prospects’ inboxes. From $30,000 to $250,000, most sales teams are “all in.”

But marketing teams are making a big mistake when training sellers on social selling. They’re failing to focus sales teams on an effective communications technique to spark conversations with buyers. Even worse, sellers are going in cold — with their cold email approaches.

Most sellers are sending InMail messages on a test-and-learn basis. Big mistake considering one cannot test InMail open rates (at all).

Graceful Interruptions
Prospecting is all about interruptions. Cold calling is part art, part science. And it ain’t easy. But when a seller masters the ability to earn discussions, look out! They churn through prospecting lists — booking appointments like mad.

When a seller figures out how to interrupt customers gracefully, everything changes.

Today’s top reps are effectively interrupting prospects gracefully. Effectively. Using the phone, LinkedIn, email … whatever it takes.

As Hank Barnes of Gartner Research puts it, the best sellers

  • are relevant to the buyer’s situation
  • quickly help the prospect tell if they should care (they’re to the point)
  • offer a clear next step that honors the buyer’s time-frame

Good cold calling and cold emailing techniques leverage graceful interruptions. Problem is, most marketing teams undervalue (or just don’t plain understand) this part of sales.

The Problem With LinkedIn Sales Navigator
“The simple truth is most people and companies on Linkedin use it to sell to other companies and members,” says Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logik. “But ironically they don’t want to be sold to.”

Marley conducts surveys of CEOs and studies how C-level contacts are using LinkedIn. He’s been documenting a growing problem for sellers using Sales Navigator.

LinkedIn’s InMail is a new piece of the prospecting puzzle. Small, middle and large businesses are spending serious money testing the waters. Yet for most sellers (and teams) it’s been problematic.

Honestly, it’s been a bust, because little investment is being made to help sellers master earning the right to speak with buyers via digital.

Is Your Team Spamming?
Most likely, they are. Specifically, most sellers are sending email (InMail) with nearly zero confidence in their ability to earn response.

Are you or your reps being reduced to figure it out on their own — for $10-plus per InMail!?

I see one practice more than anything else: Spamming on LinkedIn using InMail. Yes, LinkedIn does everything in its power to prevent such use. Yet I see it repeatedly. Why?

Reps aren’t receiving training or communications guidance. Sadly, they’re getting LinkedIn guidance from marketing teams — without the crucial communications guidance.

It’s crazy. Sales reps are given cold calling training. Why not cold emailing training?

The Most Overlooked Digital Prospecting Method

Is LinkedIn effective for prospecting? For 95 percent of sellers invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s been a bust. Identifying leads in the vast LinkedIn database has proven effective. But there is a better way to prospect.

Converting Website Visitors to Sales OpportunitiesJoining conversations and contributing value — without expectation or trying to sell yourself. This is what generates sales leads on digital/social platforms, like LinkedIn. Right?

Meh. Not really. Like most advice coming from self-appointed social media experts, it’s not that easy to reach and qualify top-level decision makers. However, there is a better way: providing incentive for prospects to talk about themselves. In fact, it’s possible to help them qualify or disqualify themselves as buyers of what you’re selling. Fast.

Is LinkedIn Effective for Prospecting?
For 95 percent of sellers invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s been a bust. Identifying leads in the vast LinkedIn database has proven effective. But sparking conversations?

Not so much.

“We are reviewing tens of thousands of C-level profiles per month and it’s clear C-level are not engaging,” says Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logic Ltd.

Mr. Marley is matching LinkedIn profiles to a database of C-level contacts. He reports:

  • top executives are hiding the fact they are Officer level on LinkedIn
  • 90 percent of executives show no signs of activity in the past 30 days on LinkedIn
  • 2 percent will add their email address or contact details to their profile
  • a huge number of C-level people are not listed on LinkedIn.

“Our experience shows C-level buyers are on the network but they are not engaging with other members,” says Marley who notes that most companies using LinkedIn to sell to other companies don’t want to be sold to via the platform.

A Better Prospecting Method (and Why It Works)
Your prospects want to talk about their pains, goals, fears or urgent objectives. We all live in a world filled with uncertainty. Bottom line, all humans love to talk about themselves.

We are self-centered creatures.

Here’s the rub. Think about it like a first date. The more you talk about yourself the faster you:

  1. get comfortable with talking more with the person who is listening;
  2. start discovering reasons why you want to talk more, or not;
  3. realize if you are willing to act on your challenge.

Once a prospect starts realizing why they want to continue the discussion everything gets easier. Because why a buyer wants to talk more is connected to one thing — purpose.

Whether you help them in a LinkedIn Group or in an InMail, the you get prospects talking about their challenges, hopes and ambitions the more they begin to:

  • Understand if they’re willing to change (at all)
  • See investing in you (changing) as a path to stability and excellence
  • Experience your advice and assign value to it

When messaging prospects using the phone, email, LinkedIn, are you helping them to start talking about themselves — as a means to break-the-ice and get a conversation going? If not, don’t worry. It’s an effective, yet overlooked digital sales prospecting method.

Because it’s so simple, so obvious.

Brief, Blunt and Provocative
You’ve got to be brief, blunt and provocative. Getting prospects to start talking about themselves via email messages may feel unnatural. But it works. Plus, it is a repeatable prospecting method that helps buyers qualify/disqualify themselves.

There are a handful of different ways to effectively spark and steer conversations with executive decision-makers. However, they all involve these characteristics. Your message must:

  • Encourage introspection on the buyers’ current situation
  • Provide an incentive for response
  • Pique curiosity

The main idea in your first-touch email is to give them an incentive to reply by revealing “the conversation already going on” in their mind. The goal is not to get an appointment.

For example, can you think of a missing puzzle-piece that they don’t have right now — but should? Can you help them discover a fact about something important — that is probably unknown to them? Can you help them avoid an unseen danger or threat that will cause problems?

These are effective first-touch message writing starting points.

As your email exchange progresses, ask them if they’re willing to do something with this new found knowledge. Help them see how damaging lack of change is—and see the disruption change causes as a path toward excellence and stability.

Step 1: Provocation
Here is an example from the managed print services industry. Managed print services is mostly a cost-savings opportunity for owners of large fleets of office copiers and printers. However, breaking into a cost-reduction discussion is problematic.

Most managed print service sellers (among others) are bombarding the potential buying market with messaging focusing on one issue: Cost reduction. It’s a non-starter.

However, one client I work with uses a clever approach to sparking conversations. He warns prospects about an issue they don’t know about — but should.

Data security. Avoiding data breaches. Here is the approach template:

Subject: How secure are your printers?

Hi, [first name] …

Real quick — how secure are your copiers and printers at XYZ LLC? Did you hear about the Illinois law firm — sued because the janitor removed hard drives? He walked-away with hundreds of thousands of documents.

Are you doing everything possible to mitigate your risk?

I don’t pretend to know your situation, but I’m curious. How are you managing security of your printers/copiers at XYZ LLC?

Thanks for considering, [first name],
[signature]

Don’t Follow the ‘Social Selling’ Pack
Giving first without expectation often results in wasted time and lack of leads. There. I said it. Nobody wants your whitepaper or e-book. And nobody wants to receive your long, self-centered email soliciting their business.
You know that. So stop sending these messages.

By structuring conversations to help customers understand why they want to talk they’ll trust, engage deeply and consider buying from you.

Starting the conversation is often the most difficult prospecting challenge. And that’s why this methodology works.

Buyers are primed for uber-short, pithy conversation-starting emails. Yes, from strangers.

Remember: Buyers buy for their own reason, not yours. So the more you help potential customers realize their own reason for talking the faster they will self-qualify themselves for you.

Good luck! Need help with this? Get in touch in comments below.