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.

B-to-B Marketing Is Falling Down on the Job

I heard a horror story the other day—a consumer packaged goods executive ranting about a meeting with a vendor. “I gave the guy an appointment, and he spent the whole time presenting his product,” she said. “Never asked me a thing about my situation, and what I needed.” Another exec chimed in, “Yeah, when I hear about an interesting new solution, what I need most is to sell it internally. I’m not getting the help I need from the vendors these days.” I am cringing. What is going wrong here?

I heard a horror story the other day—a consumer packaged goods executive ranting about a meeting with a vendor. “I gave the guy an appointment, and he spent the whole time presenting his product,” she said. “Never asked me a thing about my situation, and what I needed.” Another exec chimed in, “Yeah, when I hear about an interesting new solution, what I need most is to sell it internally. I’m not getting the help I need from the vendors these days.” I am cringing. What is going wrong here?

Of course, my first thought was sales training. Clearly the reps in these situations need a training refresher—and stronger management, and possibly an improved incentive compensation plan—to handle the engagement more effectively.

But I also cringed at the marketing failure. We marketers should be helping with these sales opportunities, to increase their chance of success.

So, herewith, I set down a list of oft-forgotten B-to-B marketing imperatives.

  1. Marketing’s Role Is to Provide Sales Support
    Unlike consumer-facing companies (where marketing owns the P&L and sales is one of its levers) in B-to-B, sales typically owns revenue responsibility. Our job in marketing is to make sales more productive. It’s a mindset that doesn’t come naturally to marketers. And some would debate this interpretation of marketing’s role. But when a sales rep goes in to a meeting without the tools needed to close, it’s marketing’s failure as much as anyone’s.
  2. Provide Sales With the Tools They Need
    This means presentations that can be easily tailored to target industries, and particular target accounts. It means pre-call preparation documents—company history, personnel backgrounders, installed technology analyses. And a library of content assets the sales rep can choose from, filled with white papers, research reports, case studies, infographics, videos and e-books.
  3. Prove the ROI on Your Solution
    Marketing must gather the data—and the stories—to prove the value of the product or service to the prospect. This might mean independent third-party research. It also means case studies, ROI calculators—whatever points can help the internal advocate represent the project inside the firm.
  4. Resist the Plea From Sales to Pass Unqualified Leads
    I’ve made this point before. But it bears repeating. Some sales people will claim that everything going on in their territory is their business, and there’s logic to that. But if you let them know that a mere inquiry came in from an account in their territory, and they pounce, only to find it unworkable, you know darn well what you’ll hear from sales: “The leads marketing gives me are useless.” A legitimate complaint. But the even more important consequence here: Marketing has failed to enhance sales productivity.
  5. Be Careful How You Promote Marketing Success
    If marketing is heard in meetings to claim responsibility for a certain level of revenue, watch out. Sales is making the same claim. So you might want to couch it in ice hockey terms, like an “assist.” And take full responsibility for interim metrics like cost per lead, and lead-to-sales conversion rates, which are more in the direct control of marketing.

I hope readers will comment on other imperatives for successful B-to-B marketing today.

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

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.