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?

 

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.

1 Deadly, False Assumption About LinkedIn Social Selling

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

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

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

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

Do I have your attention?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The SSI is composed of four categories.

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

That said, here’s the problem.