3 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a LinkedIn Trainer

Good LinkedIn sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales—not better proficiency at using the tool. Are you considering investing in a LinkedIn trainer or LinkedIn training for your reps? Ineffective training will cost you dearly. Here’s a quick guide to hiring a LinkedIn trainer that will help sellers set more appointments, faster.

Good LinkedIn sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales—not better proficiency at using the tool. Are you considering investing in a LinkedIn trainer or LinkedIn training for your reps? Ineffective training will cost you dearly. Here’s a quick guide to hiring a LinkedIn trainer that will help sellers set more appointments, faster.

Avoid failure by:

  1. Considering if you really need LinkedIn training;
  2. Evaluating trainers with criteria that produce behavioral change, not learning;
  3. Measuring results of your training in hard numbers.

A sales rep’s success on LinkedIn has little to do with mastering LinkedIn. It has everything to do with presenting prospects with messages they cannot resist acting on.

Do You Need a LinkedIn Trainer—Really?
Do you need what you think you need? Maybe you’ve decided, “I need a LinkedIn trainer.” However, what do you want more? A sales prospecting coach—or a LinkedIn trainer? Do you want to increase leads or proficiency with a social platform?

Assuming you value leads more, be sure your trainer shows reps how to create an urge in potential buyers. Because a rep’s success is based on their ability to create dialogue with prospects. That’s more important than knowing how to use LinkedIn’s system.

A B2B sales rep’s goal is to create an urge in the potential customer to talk. If you don’t create that urge, you don’t get to talk with the prospect. Period. Mastery of LinkedIn’s platform is secondary to your reps learning an effective, copy-able process to get more appointments, faster.

This requires learning a way to help prospects get curious about how a sales rep can help them.

The idea is to help customers wonder, “How can this person help me solve a problem?” Or, how can the rep relieve a pain, help the client avoid a risk, or fast-track a goal?

A sales rep’s success on LinkedIn has less to do with mastering LinkedIn. It has everything to do with presenting prospects with messages they cannot resist acting on. And marketing cannot always be relied upon to do that!

Evaluate: Choose Trainers Based on What They Create, not Teach
After short-listing a handful of potential trainers put them into two buckets:

  1. LinkedIn trainers (who teach how to use LinkedIn)
  2. Sales trainers (who teach how to generate response and appointments using LinkedIn)

If your goal is to learn LinkedIn hire an expert. There are literally hundreds of trainers who are self-appointed “LinkedIn experts.” Their qualifications: They’ve used LinkedIn more than you.

However, this does not make a good LinkedIn trainer for sales reps, in most cases. In fact, it can be disastrous.

“I recently encountered a couple of people in LinkedIn groups claiming to be LinkedIn experts and LinkedIn trainers, who were giving out poor advice and clearly breaching the terms of the LinkedIn User Agreement,” says Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific.

Gary says any trainer who does not teach clients how to play by LinkedIn’s rules is not doing a very good job. In fact, many LinkedIn trainers are, themselves, often unaware or knowingly breaking the User Agreement.

Avoid all of this. Make the primary criteria for evaluating your LinkedIn sales trainer:

  1. If they teach a practical, repeatable communications approach that produces leads and
  2. Results that approach is creating for clients. (or lack thereof)

Measure: Good Trainers Measure ROI in Measurable Leads
This is an investment. Your investment. Good sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales-not better proficiency at using tools. From a management point-of-view, your LinkedIn trainer should create better proficiency with LinkedIn. However, they must also help reps:

  • Develop prospecting lists—faster
  • Target & qualify potential clients—faster
  • Earn demos/appointments with leads—faster

It is not enough to measure how many sales reps or distributors attended the training—or how deeply they engaged with the LinkedIn training. Nor is it enough to measure how many reps refreshed their LinkedIn profiles.

Training must be measured in terms of how many leads your team is producing now—versus before your training investment.

Yes, it makes sense to measure your reps’ mastery of how to use the LinkedIn or Sales Navigator search function… when prospecting for new customers. Research is an important piece of prospecting and LinkedIn is a new, unfamiliar tool. But ultimately their success relies more on mastering the ability to earn a conversation with prospects.

Your LinkedIn trainer or training program should be structured to teach both “how to navigate” LinkedIn and a communications methodology that creates appointments, demos or meetings, faster.

Questions? Let me know in comments. I also welcome your criticisms of what I’ve presented here.

How Many Leads Do You Need?

One key to successful B-to-B lead generation programs is to calculate exactly the right number of qualified leads to provide to sales—as part of your campaign planning. If you generate too many leads, you’ll be wasting precious marketing dollars. If you generate too few, your firm may be at risk of missing its revenue targets, with potentially disastrous financial implications. Moreover, you’ll annoy your sales team by not supporting them properly. So, let’s look at a neat way to figure out in advance how many leads your company needs, so you can invest accordingly.

One key to successful B-to-B lead generation programs is to calculate exactly the right number of qualified leads to provide to sales—as part of your campaign planning. If you generate too many leads, you’ll be wasting precious marketing dollars. If you generate too few, your firm may be at risk of missing its revenue targets, with potentially disastrous financial implications. Moreover, you’ll annoy your sales team by not supporting them properly. So, let’s look at a neat way to figure out in advance how many leads your company needs, so you can invest accordingly.

This easy method uses your sales people’s quotas to back your way into the number of leads required, based on sales productivity per lead. You will need four numbers:

  1. The average revenue quota per rep, in the period, whether it’s a year, or a quarter, or a month.
  2. The average revenue per order, or per closed deal.
  3. The percent of their quota that the sales people generate naturally, without the help of leads. This revenue typically flows from repeat sales, from deeper penetration within the accounts, or from referrals.
  4. The conversion rate from qualified lead to sales.

The first three numbers are likely to come from a discussion with sales management and your finance department. The last number you probably have on hand, from sales and marketing experience.

Here’s an example of how to do this calculation, based on a set of hypothetical numbers that might be common in large-enterprise selling environments. We are saying that each rep is on the hook to deliver $3 million in sales in the period. As a first calculation, subtract out the percentage of that revenue that the rep can produce without any leads supplied by marketing. In this example, it’s 40 percent self-generated, leaving 60 percent, or $1.8 million, that the rep needs help with from marketing.

We divide that remaining revenue by the average deal size, which is $60,000 in this example, to get the number of closed deals that each rep, on average, needs to complete to deliver on the revenue quota. In this example, it’s 30 deals.

Finally, we divide the number of deals required by the lead-to-sales conversion rate, which is 20 percent in this example. Voila. Now we know that each reps needs, on average, 150 qualified leads to make quota.

You can also take this to the next step and calculate the campaign inquiries required by dividing the 150 leads by your inquiry-to-lead conversion rate. With that, you can plan your campaigns to generate enough inquiries for your pipeline that will convert to a known number of qualified leads, and thereafter to the needed revenue.

So, with this simple math exercise, you can avoid waste and keep your sales reps as productive as they can be. Do you use another method that you can share?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

How to Create a LinkedIn Social Selling Strategy

What is your LinkedIn social selling strategy? If you don’t have one—or your sales team isn’t generating leads on LinkedIn—you’re not alone. In fact, most dealers and reps are mimicking the mistakes of marketers. They’re relying on attraction and influence tactics. Instead, trust your selling instincts to an effective LinkedIn social selling strategy.

What is your LinkedIn social selling strategy? If you don’t have one—or your sales team isn’t generating leads on LinkedIn—you’re not alone. In fact, most dealers and reps are mimicking the mistakes of marketers.

They’re relying on attraction and influence tactics. Instead, trust your selling instincts to an effective LinkedIn social selling strategy.

Avoid what we already know doesn’t work: influencing. Help your reps start provoking prospects. The key to unlocking more appointments is compelling prospects to share pains and ambitions sellers can work with—not hoping to influence them into action.

Why Your Sellers Are Failing
A sales rep or dealer’s LinkedIn profile can be a lead generation magnet. Likewise, groups, direct messages and InMail can be too. So why are sellers experiencing such poor results?

LinkedIn experts keep pushing techniques that FAIL. Not because they’re bad people. Because their ideas are simple to execute. Too simple.

“I think it is so unprofessional when people just keep regurgitating or recycling articles that they wrote in the past or sharing links over and over to try to gain interest,” says Mike Reed. Mike is a front line rep for a client of mine who’s asked to not be named.

This is why most sellers fail. They’re going to modern-day battle with pitchforks being sold by self-appointed experts. Many of which have never sold anything!

“Next thing I know is that seller or subject is now being seen as credible (by their superiors) just because they are constantly in regurgitating information,” laments Reed.

And the beat goes on. Monkey see, monkey do—we fail more.

What You REALLY Don’t Have Time For
I know many sellers say, “I don’t have time to invest in a LinkedIn social selling strategy.” My clients tell me this daily. Plus, most don’t know what to do with it—and how to go about it.

The result is reps doing as little as possible of what is as easy as possible.

What you REALLY don’t have time for is techniques that are easy to do—that fail!

  • Promoting content in updates and in Groups
  • Adding rich media to your profile
  • Being seen as an expert in Groups

Fail, fail, fail.

Dump Attraction and Influence as Goals
The first step to setting your LinkedIn social selling strategy is to disregard success metrics coming from today’s LinkedIn gurus. Your sellers must reach beyond grabbing attention of buyers or trying to influence them. They must reach beyond:

  • teaching connections something new—so reputation rises
  • counting number of views and comments on posts/updates
  • applying a personal view to company-supplied content when posting

After all, how can “improved reputation” a meaningful outcome for a rep?

Today’s top social sellers know—they cannot afford to live like marketers. They don’t get paid to broadcast on social media and hope for attention and engagement.

Sellers get paid when we engage in ways that move us down the sales funnel—closer to a closed deal.

That’s why your goal must be direct provocation of prospects that connects to a lead capture and nurturing process.

Start Asking These Questions
Need a LinkedIn social selling strategy that empowers reps with the right tools? We’ve got to start asking better questions of experts, consultants and sales trainers.

Questions like HOW, exactly, does:

  • promoting content shorten selling cycles?
  • adding rich media to a profile create leads?
  • being seen as an expert lead to more appointments being set?

Your team isn’t failing because they’re slow or stupid with LinkedIn prospecting. Nor are you a laggard for not having a LinkedIn social selling strategy. If you’re still reading you’re ready to take action on my call to action.

Make sure your dealers and reps don’t mimic B-to-B marketers. Trust your selling instincts. Let them guide your LinkedIn prospecting strategy.

Help your reps start provoking prospects to take action and arm them with content that scratches customers itches—in ways that generate more appointments for sellers. Let me know how it’s going or if you have questions in comments!

Lights, Camera, Action: Video Helps You Stay in Touch With Customers

One problem that plagues B-to-B sales and marketing is coming up with relevant, timely messages for nurturing customer relationships. A territory-based sales rep may be trying to keep in touch with hundreds of contacts at a time, but struggles to find a steady supply of good-quality reasons to use to reach out—without being a pest. I recently ran across a particularly compelling solution to this problem: Personalized email that links to entertaining, but useful, videos.

One problem that plagues B-to-B sales and marketing is coming up with relevant, timely messages for nurturing customer relationships. A territory-based sales rep may be trying to keep in touch with hundreds of contacts at a time, but struggles to find a steady supply of good-quality reasons to use to reach out—without being a pest. I recently ran across a particularly compelling solution to this problem: Personalized email that links to entertaining, but useful, videos.

Here’s where I ran across this: Glenn Diehl, owner of the New York distributor of Skyline Exhibits, has a team of eight sales people selling custom trade show exhibits and portable displays to marketers and trade show managers in New York City and several northern counties. Diehl came up with a program whereby his reps can send to their contact lists emails embedded with a link to an informative video created by Mike Mraz, a trade show marketing expert with a creative knack for video production.

Mraz was already producing his “Today’s Trade Show Minute” videos every three weeks as a way to promote his own consulting and training services. His arrangement with Diehl includes access to fresh “Minute” videos twice a month, plus a custom landing page with a personal introduction from each rep.

Here’s a sample email (see the first image in the media player to the right) from Skyline rep Al Mercuro, who was the first at SkylineNY to adopt the program and make it part of his regular customer outreach. The cover note is in plain text, inviting customers to have a look at the latest “Minute” video.

Customers who click through find themselves at Mercuro’s dedicated landing page, which includes his friendly face, a short message, the “Today’s Trade Show Minute” video and a call to action (see the second image in the media player to the right).

There are three reasons why I like this program:

  1. The content is fresh, lively and relevant to both the recipient and the sales objective of the vendor. The videos deliver a useful trade show success tip in only 60 seconds.
  2. Outsourcing the video content to a third party like Mike Mraz ensures an ongoing supply of new material for Skyline’s customer communications. The relentless challenge of creating new content is one of the most common impediments (PDF) to long-term communications success for B-to-B marketers.
  3. The program is managed by marketing, but goes out over the name of the sales rep, providing tangible help in relationship building with the rep’s key contacts.

I learned from Skyline’s sales and marketing team leader, Frank Cavaluzzi, that the program is scheduled for some fine tuning this year. Currently, it’s up the sales reps to take the initiative to send out the email. Cavaluzzi is planning to streamline the process, make it more automated, so it’s a bit easier for both sales and marketing to execute.

How about you? Are you seeing productive new ways to keep in touch with customers and prospects?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.