Why Your Social Selling Index Means Nothing

You and your sales force are selling socially. You’ve got a LinkedIn Sales Navigator seat. Browser is fired up. You’re sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points … showing the world you can use LinkedIn. Full stop: Are you helping buyers buy?

LinkedIn Logos Social Selling IndexYou and your sales force are selling socially. You’ve got a LinkedIn Sales Navigator seat. Browser is fired up. You’re sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points … showing the world you can use LinkedIn.

Full stop: Are you helping buyers buy? Helping buyers buy is where the action is.

Yet the buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. I learned this from Sharon Drew Morgen, creator of the Buying Facilitation method. I have yet to find a social selling training program teaching us how to deal with these facts.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying.
  • Buying involves systemic change and (when there’s no other option) solution choice.
  • Using solution data (content, research) as the main skill to make a sale restricts possibility, netting objections from clients who don’t know how to hear the seller’s point.
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need.

Morgen teaches us buyers are buyers until they recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to the status quo.

Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize what is needed to buy.

“They will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them,” says Morgen.

So what’ your role as a seller? To help buyers understand and manage change. Specifically, to know the full extent of internal challenges. Until you help them understand these challenges they remain unable to understand content details effectively.

“They object when pushed,” says Morgen.

Facilitating Decisions Is Not Social Selling

Is your team applying communications techniques to help buyers buy? In other words, are they able to identify and facilitate change for each stage of customers’ buying process that does not include purchase consideration?

Closing more accounts has everything to do with creating interest … nothing to do with creating interaction on LinkedIn.

Creating interest is a communications skill, not a social media or LinkedIn skill.

“There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary,” to facilitate and enable change before any purchase is considered, says Ms. Morgen.

Pushing content to prospects, commenting, updating, sharing wisdom. These tactics work well to generate interaction, not so well to create early-stage client conversations. Interest.

Teach Sellers to Facilitate

Social selling focuses mainly on pushing content and sharing knowledge, mostly out of context to buyers. It rarely works. Because it limits outreach to clients who already recognize a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem.

At best this is 5 percent of the market, which often throw objections at your advance.

However, “You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change,” says Morgen.

“But you’ll need to take a different, additional, path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this,” says Morgan.

Indeed, you can continue pushing content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach. A part that connects with the right customers sooner. One that allows you to enter their decision path, join them as a trusted advisor and facilitate clients who can buy through to buying.

“Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based,” says Morgen.

My bottom line for you: Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers’ thought leadership and pushing insights. But in the end social selling proves worthless compared to helping buyers get ready to buy.

Do you agree? What is your experience?

 

Why LinkedIn Connection Requests Aren’t Working for Sellers

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.” But then? Usually crickets. Right?

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.”

But then?

Usually crickets. Right?

True: Connections may earn sellers the ability to message (for free) in the near-term. But it’s a matter of time before my students see erosion in post-connection response rates.

Prospects (in all categories) are burning out on sellers’ LinkedIn pitches. Some industry segments experience fatigue faster than others. How about yours?

Why Are They Connecting and (then) Ignoring Me?

It’s easy to have a positive impression when a prospect accepts LinkedIn connection request. In fact, it’s logical to think, “aah, great!” But what, exactly, is on buyers’ minds when they accept? Why did they accept?

Curiosity?

Out of an urge to grow their networks by increasing their connection numbers?

Because they’re in the market for what you’re selling and waiting for you?

Until you’re on speaking terms, there’s no way of knowing.

Thus, many of my students are confused: “Why am I being invited to connect — only to be ignored?”

3 Factors You’re Forced to Consider

Most sellers’ post-connection messages fail to start conversations. Here’s what I’ve learned is causing this:

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s system is (over time) discouraging personalized invitations from being read. Thus, sending “false positives” to sellers.
  2. Saturation: Most sellers use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch. But requesting a Connection (by itself) is increasingly signaling “I’m a sales person looking to spam your inbox.”
  3. Context: Being connected on LinkedIn is (over time) becoming a highly personal thing. It’s increasingly being seen as a privilege.

In essence, LinkedIn is combining with sellers’ behavior for a one-two punch.

False Positives

You may interpret acceptance of a Connection request as an invitation to start a discussion — but the other side doesn’t. Why is that?

Short answer: The personal message within your invitation is often not seen.

Remember all the agonizing over the personalized content inside your Connection request? It’s squandered.

LinkedIn has, over time, updated its user interface. These changes are great for LinkedIn’s network growth but not helpful for the quality of your communications.

LinkedIn continues to make it:

  • easier for any connection request to be blindly accepted (in general);
  • more difficult to see who sent a personalized request and read it.

In many cases, your request to start a conversation has, actually, never been seen. Worse, it’s not your fault.

You’re Just Part of the Spammers

Most sellers using LinkedIn at the free or paid level use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch when approaching prospects. Problem is, sending a Connection request is increasingly (as time marches on) signaling, “I’m a salesy spammer.”

As sellers rush into social selling most are taking the lazy route: Spamming marketing messages. I’m talking about sending mass marketing, non-personalized messages to prospects via LinkedIn.

This has trained prospects to accept fewer Connection requests in general! If this practice hasn’t trained them (past tense) in your business sector yet, it will.

Bet on it.

Because this is how a majority of sellers use LinkedIn. They’re sending poorly-written, unsolicited sales pitches. Even if you know better, you risk getting caught-up in that crowd when requesting a Connection as your first point of contact.

Beware.

Against my advice, most sellers still ask for Connections first for a number of reasons.

  1. Cost: You want to message the prospect directly at no cost. You don’t want to pay for InMail.
  2. Saving InMail credits: If you hold a Premium/Navigator account, you would rather not risk losing the InMail credit. InMail messages cost money and are subject to monthly use limits.
  3. Connecting seems like the most logical thing to do on LinkedIn. That said, LinkedIn’s policy tends to confuse users: Connect only if you know the other person yet use it for sales prospecting.

Bottom line: Asking to connect with a prospect is becoming less-and-less effective because it is a tactic used by low-quality sales practitioners.

Stranger Danger: Customers Are Camouflaged

Being connected on LinkedIn is, increasingly, becoming a highly personal thing. Perhaps for you too. But especially among decision-makers who are being bombarded by social sellers. We are trying to help customers … but we are strangers no less.

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.

Picking the Right Social Selling Training: A Cheat Sheet

Social selling training is on the agenda for B-to-B sellers in 2014. Sales reps and dealers are under increasing pressure to speed-up prospecting using LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and more. But how can you choose the best social selling training or trainer for your organization?

Social selling training is on the agenda for B-to-B sellers in 2014. Sales reps and dealers are under increasing pressure to speed-up prospecting using LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and more. But how can you choose the best social selling training or trainer for your organization?

Here’s where to start. Follow these steps to make the best decision. Plus, I’ll show you a way to make sure you, personally, benefit in the eyes of your boss.

7 Point Social Selling Checklist

  1. Create selection criteria and request for proposal email.
  2. “Short-list” candidates and solicit proposals.
  3. Review proposals.
  4. Interview best candidates & check references.
  5. Negotiate, review and sign contract.
  6. Assess your team.
  7. Start the training and report effectiveness.

Want to get started on this process? Print-off this Social Selling Training Cheat Sheet PDF. (No registration needed)

Selection Criteria
Will your sellers learn social selling tactics or will they start doing? Only consider training that:

  • teaches a practical, repeatable system based in traditional copywriting skills,
  • helps sellers take “first steps” to apply the system,
  • promises outcomes like more appointments & more response for sellers, in less time.

The more you stick with the above criteria the more you’ll be able to measure the performance of your training investment.

When considering what social selling trainer is best for you consider the instructional design. Only invest in training that:

  • includes worksheets that get sellers DO-ing, (not just learning)
  • is directly relevant to current challenges, goals and ambitions of your sellers,
  • focuses on a balance of platform (eg. LinkedIn) and prospecting tactics and

Beware of social selling training promising outcomes other than measurable increases in response to—and appointments with—your reps and dealers. Hire a trainer who measures his/her own success based on sellers taking action. (not merely repeating what they learned)

Place all of your criteria in a short, focused request for proposal (RFP) email. You’ll put this list of requirements to work in the next step.

Cost and Delivery of Training
Overall quality of the trainer, skills the training will develop and delivery of the training. These factors drive cost.

If your team is geographically disbursed an online training will be most cost effective. Are your sellers ambitious do-ers? Will they actually make time for the training? If so, a self-paced, “home study” program may work.

If your sellers will be reluctant to take the training, mandate attendance from your sales leader. Also, choose to deliver training using a live Webinar format. Make the training assignable to a date on their calendar.

Short-List Candidates
Using Google and LinkedIn search, scan the horizon for training candidates. Identify a short-list of potential social selling training trainers.

Use your selection criteria to solicit proposals from trainers. If you don’t wish to mail out a formal RFP, no problem. Use your selection criteria as a guide to identify the most capable vendors.

Review Proposals: The 3 ‘Must Have’ Components
Effective social selling training must result in sellers getting better response from prospects, faster. Make sure training you invest in focuses on a process that creates:

  • attention from a targeted group of potential buyers,
  • engagement that is provocative enough to spark
  • response—conversation that generates a lead or sale.

Choose a social selling trainer that basis his/her training in direct response copywriting that helps get more attention, engagement and appointments.

Assess: Make Sure You Succeed
Make your social selling training relevant and effective. Start with an assessment. Discover your team’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges—right now.

Require your social selling trainer to perform a low-cost assessment to guarantee your success and avoid disaster.

Make sure the assessment:

  • justifies your investment,
  • identifies and sets performance metrics,
  • uncovers current attitudes & experiences with tools like LinkedIn,
  • identifies both resistance to social selling and early adopters.

Identifying early adopters will insure success in the eyes of your boss. By finding reps and dealers eager to sharpen their skills you can focus the training on increasing their success (and reporting back to the boss on it).

You can stack the deck in your favor!

How to Avoid Failure
One of the most common reasons social selling and/or LinkedIn training fails is lack of focus on how to get response. Make sure your training provides more than how-to lessons on managing LinkedIn’s privacy settings and controls.

The primary goal of your training should be earning more appointments by increasing response.

When interviewing final candidates ask them for references who can tell you how their sellers are generating more response after the training.

Do you have more questions about investing in social selling training? Let me know in comments or send me an email. I’ll be glad to help! Or print-off this Social Selling Training Cheat Sheet PDF. (No registration needed)

What Is Social Selling and Where Do I Start?

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process. Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process.

Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and discover: What is social selling and how are sellers generating more leads, faster? What is the process your sales team should be applying?

Social Selling Is a System
Let’s grip the wheel, firmly. Revolutions bring about change that make things easier or better. Has social media made your life easier lately? Are you getting more leads and closing them faster?

I rest my case!

Effective social selling is a system. Systems are not sexy.

A system is a repeatable process with a predictable outcome. Input goes in, certain things happen and out pops a result.

Social Prospecting: New but not Complex
The prospecting piece of social selling is mostly about:

  1. Getting buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turning response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

If anything is new about this process it’s the role direct response marketing techniques play. For example, social media copywriting is catching on.

The process today’s best social sellers are using generates leads faster by helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via short-form social content)
  • realize they just found part of it (using longer-form content) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Engagement and Trust Are not the Goals
Will you agree with me that engagement is not your sellers’ goal? Engagement is the beginning of a process. It’s a chance for front line reps and dealers to create response—and deeper conversation about a transaction.

If not, engagement is a chronic waste of your reps’ and dealers’ time.

I know “experts” insist that being trusted is a strategy. But it’s not.

It is the output of a successful prospecting strategy!

Increased trust is a sign your sellers are applying the process effectively. It’s not a goal!

As a small B-to-B business owner myself, I know what gets you paid. It’s not engagement. It’s not your image or personal brand.

You or your boss measures performance based on leads.

So let’s keep your social prospecting approach practical: Attention, engagement and a simple, repeatable way to create response more often. These are the components of an effective social selling system.

Why You Don’t Need a Social Selling Strategy

“What’s your social selling strategy?” I hear it all the time.
“You need one,” the experts insist.

But I say no, in most cases. Here’s why: Listen to what the experts say. Pay attention to what they say goes into a social selling strategy. Hint: It’s nothing new!

Yet we keep hearing “experts” claim listening is a new idea—or how we must get trusted to earn the sale.

So I give you permission to fire your social selling consultant or sales person if this is the best they can do.

What’s Your Telephone Strategy?
Not convinced? Consider how we don’t have B-to-B telephone strategies for prospecting. We have systems, approaches to applying the tool effectively. What defines our success in tele-prospecting?

Listening to customers? Nope. That’s the entry fee.

Trust? Nope. That’s the outcome we desire.

Success when dialing-for-dollars is based on if your system works—or not.

“You didn’t need a telephone strategy when the telephone was invented,” says sales productivity coach Philippe le Baron of LB4G Consulting.

“You learned how to use the new tool … to reach out to people you could never have dreamed of reaching … and get a face-to-face meeting with the ones who qualified.”

Today, tele-prospecting success has little to do with phone technology. It has everything to do with your telephone speaking technique—your conversational system.

Just the same, you don’t need a social media strategy today. You need a practical, repeatable process to increase sellers’ effectiveness (productivity) and make their output more predictable … using social media platforms.

Systems work for you. You don’t work for systems!

So don’t let gurus trick you into feeling like a laggard. Don’t let me catch you throwing money at sales trainers claiming buyers are fundamentally revolutionizing the way they buy. Focus on ways to:

  1. Get buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turn response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

Good luck. Let me know how I can help!