LinkedIn Keeps Changing it Up

You’ve probably noticed that LinkedIn continues to make changes to the platform. There are so many rolling out – and at various times with no real warning (except if you read their blog) – that you might be having trouble keeping up.

In an earlier post, I talked about changes to the navigation structure, which you can read about here.

In this brief guide to what’s changed, learn about these feature changes and additions:

  • Who’s Viewed Your Updates
  • Unified Search
  • Groups
  • Company Page Analystics
  • Sponsored Updates
  • Education

Who’s Viewed Your Updates

The sharing of content is a core component of today’s social selling strategy. Visibility counts, as does being able to demonstrate that you are a thought leader in your field. But how do you know if anyone is actually paying attention to what you are sharing? Well, now you can.

LinkedIn provides you with the ability to monitor how well the content you share resonates with your audience. On the home page, you find the feature in the right sidebar beneath Who’s Viewed Your Profile. Quickly, you will be able to see the number of people who Viewed what you shared, who Liked the content or who added their Comment. Pretty cool insights to help you determine quickly what content works and what doesn’t. You can also scroll back through prior updates to compare numbers against prior topics.

Search

Unified search is the term used for a streamlined way to search the information on LinkedIn whether it is People, Companies, Groups, Jobs or your Inbox. You don’t even need to select the drop down arrow to the left to select your topic. As you can see in the picture, I typed in the word “sales” and those things that are related to sales pop up in an ordered list.

As happens when changes are made, some features are gone that you may have liked. If you were a fan of searching Updates AKA Signal to find content that others were sharing quickly, you’ll be disappointed to know that – for now anyway – that feature is gone. I’ll keep you posted if that changes.

To see more details on the rest of the changes – CLICK HERE!

Don’t School Me!

After 29 years as a sales professional, I believe that there are some things that just do not change if you expect to be successful selling. 

  1. You need to follow a repeatable sales process consistently.
  2. You need excellent consultative selling and communication skills.
  3. You need to care more about your buyers needs than your own.

When it comes to developing new business, today’s sales process includes the use of technology to network, cultivate referrals, prospect, track opportunities, prepare for sales calls, educate, present solutions and communicate with prospects. And these same steps apply when you mine for new business with existing accounts.

Communication Matters

“If you are a B2B marketer, you’re no stranger to content marketing. It’s quickly risen to the top of every marketer’s to-do list. But it’s the way that you are performing content marketing that can be the difference between gaining and losing a customer.” –Nancy Pekala

Nancy’s observation is equally applicable to sellers. The message matters!

Don’t School Me

Here is an example of a marketing message that someone needed to think about a little more carefully. As a subscriber of a popular magazine, I evidently let my subscription lapse. The magazine is one I’ve long enjoyed reading, so I have no problem with being reminded to renew. However, the way the message was phrased speaks directly to my point about messaging. The email I received began with…

“Dear BARBARA GIAMANCO:

Your subscription to XYZ magazine has expired. We have sent several letters reminding you to renew but have not received a response.

We want to continue encouraging your success. To demonstrate our commitment, by renewing your XYZ subscription today, this is our gift to you…”

I take exception to the first line and first paragraph of the message.

First, don’t scream at me by putting my name in all caps. This is basic email etiquette.

Two, don’t chastise me for not responding to your reminder letters. So what? I’m busy; you are not owed a response! What they just told me, in a not so subtle way, is that they only care about the money.

A better approach would have been to simply start with something along the lines of the second paragraph. Why not say, “We value you as a past subscriber and to welcome you back, we want to give you…”

Sales People Are Doing This Too

Marketing isn’t the only culprit here. The smart use of content to engage prospects and create credibility in advance of sales opportunities is central to a social selling strategy.

How and what you communicate is vital to selling, whether it is email, phone, face-to-face, sales presentations, social networks, texting or webinars; it needs to be done well. Nothing is sold without communicating with others. Sales people need A+ verbal skill, and in a wired, socially connected world, they better have good writing skills and understand the nuances of communicating in social networks too.  Though I hesitate to make a sweeping generalization, I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that an extremely high percentage of sales people need a lot of work in these areas.

Stop Broadcasting, Target Your Message

Typical sales and marketing messages of the written kind, whether it is email or via social networks, are one way communication and nothing more than broadcast pitches. A lot of phone calls are that way too. At the end of the day, you may think that all that activity is netting you a return, but I can say with certainty that a one-size-fits-all approach does absolutely nothing to create any true sales impact.

For example, I’m a small business owner with less than 10 employees. Your message to me should look much different than the messaging you might use when communicating with a large enterprise. My needs and theirs are very different. And unless your product or service supports a small business, why are you even sending me email or cold calling me in the first place? Someone is being paid for that activity, and it is a complete waste of time, which translates into a complete waste of money. Yet, it happens every day.

What’s the Problem?

In my opinion, management is measuring the wrong things. Activity is being measured…number of phone calls made, events attended, webinar registrations, white paper downloads, connections made or emails sent. But the quality of the activity is what you should be measuring. How can it not be obvious that 50 calls made to the wrong people, people not qualified to buy from you, is a big fat waste of resources?

Simply measuring tactical activity is a throwback from the “good ole days” of selling when coffee was for closers. If more attention isn’t paid to quality versus quantity, you won’t have anything to close, except perhaps your doors!

SocialTech Tuesday: Have You Been SWAM’d?

For important reasons, today’s post is longer than normal, and I hope you will take time to read through to the end. Your comments are also appreciated!

Since today is SocialTech Tuesday, it seems appropriate to jump into a controversy that has ignited a firestorm of angry discussion among LinkedIn members. Many people are incensed over a new LinkedIn policy introduced (very quietly) in January. The policy relates to groups and is called Sitewide Auto Moderation dubbed SWAM.

Though I am a LinkedIn power user and am pretty well versed in the platform, I had no idea that this policy had been introduced. Chances are that as a group member or a group manager/moderator, you didn’t know about it either. In fact, it seems the only way that people found out about the policy change is if they personally became affected by it. I found out about it a few days ago when a colleague of mine was SWAM’d and asked me if I knew anything about what was going on. That’s when I started digging.

In essence here’s what the policy is all about.

In an effort to reduce spam in the discussion area of groups, which I support by the way, LinkedIn made it possible to force an automatic moderation of posts and comments across “all groups” by any member who had been blocked in just one of the groups that they belonged to. The assumption is that if a Group Manager deemed you a spammer in their group, then all your posts and comments were suspect in other groups as well. While I appreciate the spirit and intent of the new policy, I believe it is pretty far reaching and perhaps pushes the boundaries of censorship.

The official policy is this…

“If a group manager blocks you from their group, your posts to other groups are automatically subject to moderator approval. Your postings to other groups are still submitted, but they are now pending until a member of the group’s management team approves it for posting.”

That means that those messages sit in a cue waiting for a group manager or their team of moderators to approve the comments.

Why is this needed?

That’s the million dollar question, and I am wondering what is the REAL why behind this decision? Group managers have always had the ability to block someone in their group that they felt were spamming versus participating in group conversations. Why is Big Brother stepping in? Is there some reason that decisions cannot be left to the individual group managers? Why is LinkedIn arbitrarily deciding that an infraction in one group means the member is an offender in every other group?

Stop Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

Is this yet another example of how companies become too internally focused when it comes to their decision making? Not only does it seem like the far reaching effects were not considered by asking tougher questions internally, it doesn’t appear that LinkedIn bothered to seek out external feedback either.

Here are other questions that I believe needed to be asked and answered before plowing ahead with this decision:

What is the ramification to the member if we put this policy/technology change into effect? LinkedIn will tell you that if you fall victim to being SWAM’d you only need to approach each Group Manager and ask them to reinstate you. Imagine you belong to 50 groups. Does LinkedIn really think that forcing someone to reach out to each group manager individually will be an easy task? Can you imagine the time it takes? What if those group managers aren’t actively managing their group and never bother to respond? It happens all the time and now the individual is sort of screwed if no one pays attention to their reinstatement request.

How will this affect revenue we earn from premium subscriptions? I will say up front that I do not believe premium members deserve special consideration per se, although you could argue that maybe new features should be rolled out to them first. What I do believe is that somebody should have done a little analysis to see what it means if premium members are being kicked to the curb by Group Managers with no notice, warning or explanation. As of this writing, I can’t give you numbers, but I can say that several hundred people affected have publicly said they reverted back to the “free” version. That lost revenue will start adding up.

Does each group clearly communicate guidelines with respect to what content is appropriate for posting in the “discussion” area? It is very easy to create group rules and remind members to read them. If there are no group guidelines, is it really fair to ban someone who chooses to post self-promotions? How can you be accused of breaking the rules if there are none?

What will be the administrative impact on Group Managers? One Group Manager told me that this new policy has placed an impossible burden on him. His group is quite large – 30,000+ – and overnight he started having upwards of 500 posts DAILY to have to moderate. Manually. The policy was intended to help deal with SPAM. Didn’t anyone ask the question about whether or not these group leaders would have the bandwidth to deal with the outcome of this decision?

Is it possible that Group Managers with an act to grind will use the ability to block people unfairly? In other words, is there a chance that knowing a member could be blocked in all groups, would they use that as an opportunity to retaliate for a perceived infraction, the fact that they didn’t like the individual’s comments, or worse, use it as an opportunity to put their competitors at a disadvantage? In the course of researching the situation, it does appear that there are instances of this happening.

What will this decision mean for the power that participating in groups has represented? Being able to contribute to conversations or start discussions gives a group member the ability to demonstrate their thought leadership and capabilities. Done smartly, that visibility leads to sales opportunities. But if members know that a Group Manager could get pissed off at them, cut them off because they didn’t like what they said or posted, or accidentally clicked on the wrong button, why would anyone waste time participating in groups at all?

Aren’t we obligated to clearly communicate this change to all members? For me, this is the most important question that LinkedIn should have asked. If you believe in the decision, why hide? Why not clearly communicate what you are doing and why and ask for feedback before actually putting it into application. It seems to be common practice for social sites to makes changes without bothering to tell anyone. When it comes to policy though, I think the company should be obligated to make a public statement. As a member of the platform, I’m bound by the terms of use, but if you keep slipping in whammies like this one, how is that really being transparent?

What will be the impact on our Customer Service team? My point above might have mitigated many of the support tickets and complaints being filed. Without having any knowledge of the change or what happened if a group member was blocked, hundreds of support tickets have been filed. That is a heck of a lot of manpower to waste.

I plan to keep watch with respect to this policy, so expect more posts to come.

For now I will close with the following…

After 29 years working in technology, I’ve seen a lot of big players come and go. Arrogance slowly creeps in as people think, we are big, bad and no one can touch us. LinkedIn is not immune to this insidious disease, which may be a small crack today, but a chasm in the not too distant future. Guaranteed, a band of super smart tech nerds are out there somewhere working away in their garage to create the next best thing.

When a social networking company forgets that it is the members that got them where they are now, the fall may be slow but it certainly will be imminent.

NEW LinkedIn Navigation

For an admitted tech geek, such as I am, I love that the one constant with technology is that it is always changing.  Since last fall, LinkedIn has been making some substantial changes to the platform and more are coming. Earlier this month, I wrote about the new Mentions feature. Today, I am going to give you the low down on the new Navigation structure.

BEFORE

NOW

I’ve known for a month or so that LinkedIn’s navigation structure was changing.  As with all changes to the platform, they roll out slowly over time. That does present a bit of a challenge when conducting training for people, because some might have been affected by changes while others have not.

This morning when I logged in, I noticed that I now had the new navigation bar. With more of a minimalist look and feel, certain features have been moved or changed.  It might be a little unsettling at first, so excuse the pun…let me help you navigate your way through the changes.

By the way, I’m teaching an online LinkedIn class next week, and I’ll be getting into greater detail regarding these changes and more. For details and registration, click here.

If you look at the before picture, you see that the structure was: Home, Profile, Contacts, Groups, Jobs, Inbox, Companies, News and More.

In the new layout, you see Home, Profile, Network (contacts are here), Jobs and Interests. Here are some of the features that have been moved or changed:

  • Over on the upper right, you’ll see the envelope icon, which is your Inbox. The flag indicates any network notifications, the head with the plus sign gives you a quick way to add connections and then you’ll see your avatar aka your picture. Hover your mouse over the picture and you’ll see a host of other options.
  • The search bar has been moved to the upper center. To the left of the search box, you’ll see what looks like people. Click the arrow to expand the menu and then you can elect to search People, Updates, Jobs, Companies, Inbox and Groups.
  • When you scroll down any of the pages, the bottom portion of the navigation bar – the place where you see Home, Profile, Network, Jobs and Interests will disappear. Don’t be alarmed though. To see it again, move your cursot to the top of the page. It will also reappear when you scroll all the way to the top.
  • Interests – underneath this tab is where Companies, Groups and  Influencers (news) have been consolidated.
    • Groups – I always liked that you could basically get to any of the groups that you are most active in with one click. Now you need to go to Interest, click on Groups and then you see your group list. You won’t find the Group Directory tab any longer. While in the Groups section, you’ll use search at the top of the navigation bar.
    • Companies – When you click on companies you’ll find the Updates for the companies that you follow, you can search for companies, etc. As the administrator for the Social Centered Selling company page, it was nice that it was easily accessible from the drop down menu that used to reside under the companies tab. No longer. Oh well, guess you can’t have everything.
  • Recommendations – they haven’t disappeared but the tab for them that was under Contacts (now Network) has. Recommendations are still found on your profile page.
  • Here are three more things that you may have been used to using, but you will no longer find on the navigation bar:
    • Skills and Experience – Go to http://www.linkedin.com/skills/, or move your cursor over any of the skills listed on a profile and click the title of the skill.
    • Polls – Go to polls http://polls.linkedin.com/ or share polls within a group.
    • Signal – Go to http://www.linkedin.com/signal or click the Search icon at the top of your homepage page and then click Updates in the drop down menu to the left.

Though the navigation is more streamlined, it will take a little getting used too.

Get more detailed help by REGISTERING NOW or next week’s LinkedIn class.                                                                                                                                                        .

 

Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code: A Sales Mastery Interview with Jill Konrath

Without question, LinkedIn is the premier, powerhouse B2B selling tool. With over 200 million users leveraging the platform, LinkedIn’s power is undisputed. For the pasts 9 years, I have not only been an avid user, but I was convinced – even before the addition of all the features and functions available to us today – that LinkedIn would become an indispensable tool to sales people.

In our recent report, The Impact of Social Media and Sales Quota and Corporate Revenue, we wanted to know if using social sales tools like LinkedIn actually led to revenue results. Not surprisingly, the answer is yes! Sales leaders need to know that not only do sellers who use social media outperform their sales peers in relation to quota objectives, but they are also able to track back their social selling activity to closed deals.

Of the social networking tools that sales people told us they used when networking, prospecting or doing their sales call planning, LinkedIn is by far the leader. And that leads me to my Sales Mastery Interview with Jill Konrath.

Jill recently co-authored an e-book with Ardath Albee called Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code. Their survey of 3000+ salespeople revealed that 4.9% of them were blowing it out on LinkedIn. And, what they’re doing with LinkedIn is fundamentally different from what most sellers were doing.

During the interview, Jill and I talk about:

  • What differentiates the top sellers and everyone else using LinkedIn.
  • How top sellers use LinkedIn as a platform to build their professional presence.
  • LinkedIn capabilities that top sellers use frequently.
  • Social selling strategies that lead to more sales.
  • How top sellers use LinkedIn to prepare for their sales calls.
  • The differences in how top sellers approach groups versus everyone else.
  • The truth about the investment in time and why it matters.
  • Action steps to better leverage LinkedIn for prospecting.

As with all of my interviews, I learned from another sales master! Jill is a sales thought leader and best-selling author that I’ve followed for years, and just a few weeks after this interview, I had the opportunity to hang with Jill and enjoy dinner and drinks while she was in Atlanta on business. If you don’t know Jill, and I’m not sure how that could be possible, here is what you need to know. She is the author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. Using fresh strategies that actually work with today’s crazy-busy buyers, she helps sellers create new opportunities, sell more to existing clients and speed up sales cycles.

Her newsletter is read by over 100,000 salespeople globally. And, she’s a frequent speaker at sales kick-off meetings and conferences.

Her expertise has by featured by ABC News, Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, Inc. and Selling Power. Everywhere you look, you see Jill’s name today; she’s on the leading edge of what it takes to be successful in a challenging business environment.

Enjoy the interview!

Sometimes its the Little Things

If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know that I have some strong opinions on things related to social media and what I would call “right sales behavior”. It isn’t that my way is the only way, because of course, it is not. Having sold professionally for close to 30-years, I do have just a bit of experience in this area. There are just some things that salespeople continue to do that drive me a little nuts. Add social media into the mix and well…more stuff to rant about.

My mission (and that of our company) is to help sales leaders and their sales team members bring their “A” game to the evolving world of sales. Though aspects of the sales process remain important…things like identifying and assessing needs, crafting solutions that help your customers improve their business or gaining commitment haven’t changed, other things about the process today have changed.

What’s different?

What has changed is that your buyers buy differently! That means that YOU as sales professionals need your sales A-game to include the smart use of social media as part of your overall sales process. Does it?

On to my rant about the little things…

  • Take 30-seconds and personalize your LinkedIn connection invitation. I ignore the “friend” requests…save those for Facebook folks. I also pretty much ignore the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Really, why? Why are we good connections for each other? Why should I have to figure it out? LinkedIn’s policy is that you know the people you connect to, but honestly, I’m open to connect with people I don’t know just yet, but ONLY if you take a minute and let me know who we can help each other. If it isn’t reciprocal, I’m not interested.
  • If you want to send me sales spam, could you at least do your homework? Yesterday, I received an email from a Salesforce.com rep asking for 15 minutes of my time to talk to me about the service. Guess what. I’m already a client and have been for several years. Hello?
  • Show some respect. If I have explicitly stated on my LinkedIn profile that I don’t want sales pitches, then don’t send them! You only serve to annoy me, and I just tell my net to avoid you like the plague. I don’t care what LinkedIn says about the positive ratio of people willing to respond to your InMail. That only works if you are darn good at personalizing, which most are not, and the person on the other end really needs what you sell. Recruiters this works for but for salespeople, not so much. Respect what people put on their profiles about the type of mails they are open to. Be creative, find another way!
  • Stop asking for favors and never offer to do one in return. You have no idea how many people want to “pick my brain” to get FREE information. I’m all for sharing, but too many people cross that line. I’ve learned to be very discerning and say no as needed. But hey, if you buy me an awesome lunch or dinner with a nice bottle of wine, sure I’m open to sharing my valuable expertise. All I ask if that people respect that I do this to earn my living…I can’t give you everything for free! I know people who reach out to me for help with introductions and they NEVER offer to do anything to help me. Don’t even get me started on the people who show up every couple of years looking for help securing a job. Really? You haven’t talked to me in 3 years and the first email since is to send me your resume and ask that I ask my network to help you? Uh…not going to happen.
  • Be relevant. Might mean you need to do some homework. I am soooo tired of receiving spam emails that have zip to do with me or my business. It’s lazy and a time waster to shoot out hundreds of email to people that you don’t know and that you haven’t bothered to learn about. Oh, and don’t school me if I have not responded to the sales crap you sent me last month. I didn’t respond because what you offer has nothing to do with me.
  • Follow the rules of email marketing. The CANN-SPAM act is very clear…don’t send spam email to people who’ve not opted in to a list. And, you MUST give them an easy way to “opt out”. When you send me email without that option, it really makes me mad. The act says you are “forgiven” if you spam someone once, as long as they can easily opt out. Follow the protocol. In another blog post, maybe I’ll rant about the people selling Opt-In Database services who spam me – I didn’t opt-in to their list – and then give me no way to get off their email. Do you get the concept of opt-in?
  • Say, thank you. Is it really that hard to acknowledge people and thank them for mentioning you, sharing your content, tweeting about you, helped you get that introduction, speaking gig or whatever? No, it isn’t. Do it. It is the right thing to do!

Folks, sales is a people business and people buy from people that they know, like and trust. In today’s social world, your prospects also buy from people that their colleagues and friends know, like and trust. Isn’t it time you figured out how to put social selling to work for you in a way that’s focused on what you can give versus what you can get? Relationships matter.

I’d like to suggest that it is time to play a bigger game! Bring it!

Sometimes It is Better to Say No

I had the pleasure of speaking to room full of female entrepreneurs on Friday about how to best leverage social media and social networking to increase their pool of sales opportunities. It was a good discussion that I kicked off with the idea that selling is marketing but marketing IS NOT selling. Sharp crowd who absolutely understand that at some point you have to stop your marketing and sell something. Selling is what brings revenue in the door.

At what price does that revenue cost you?

During the meeting, we talked about the sales funnel, and I asked audience members where they were finding themselves stuck. Was it on the front-end moving connections to close? Or, were they getting stuck somewhere else, like in the closing portion of the sale. Several told me that they were having a hard time moving sales meetings to actual closed business. I wondered why. As I’ve heard women share before, it came down to being fearful about asking for the money. In addition to concerns about the money conversation, I have certainly noticed that many women tend to price to low from the very beginning. Both circumstances are obviously a problem. No sales, no revenue, no business. It is that simple!

Do you know what you are worth?

It starts with being crystal clear about the value that you bring to clients. I know that I do great work and always give more than expected! If I am negotiating a deal and someone tells me that my asking price is high, I say, “It certainly is; I’m worth it. My references speak for themselves.” It is very important that you stay focused on the value that you deliver and not get sucked into a price war. Can someone else do it cheaper? Maybe, but it won’t be you and the work will certainly not be the same as what you can deliver.

Beware of discounting.

This is where the power of NO comes into play. If you’ve submitted a proposal and your prospect asks you to reduce the pricing, are you willing to say no to the deal? The question was asked of me during our session. My answer is yes. Even if I’ve done the best possible job selling the value of what I offer and the prospect still wants to beat me down on price, I’m more than willing to walk away. I know that if price is the sole focus, there are likely to be issues down the road.

Conversely, I may be just fine to reduce my pricing, but I never, ever give them the exact same services as originally proposed. In other words, I might say something like, “I’m happy to consider reducing the price to support your budget constraints. What portions of the original proposal are you willing to get go of?” This creates a dialog about what they are willing to give up in exchange for a price reduction. If they aren’t willing to give anything up then perhaps want to rethink whether or not you’ll offer them a discount.

As an entrepreneur, I know how easy it can be to want to default to your prospects terms to get the deal even when it will likely not end up being the best deal for you. But experience tells me that if you don’t value yourself, no one else will either!

Sometimes…it’s better to say no.

Sales Opportunity Through Right Access

Increasing revenue depends on being able to quickly penetrate targeted accounts, get to the right decision maker fast, shrink sales cycles and close business more quickly. The question many sales managers are grappling with is how? And in the urgent rush to move leads into the sales opportunity pipeline, I see a tendency to look to the past and default to “what used to work” when times were better.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

Marshall Goldsmith’s book of the same name, clearly illustrates the pitfalls of thinking that whatever strategies worked in achieving past successes will still work now and into the future. In most cases (maybe in all cases), they don’t.

A case in point…

I know of a very large, highly successful company who sells B2B services to their clients. They sell to the business owner or CEO of mid-sized organizations and their services are designed to improve business performance. Like many companies, revenue has been stagnant or slightly declining, which led to senior management determining that something needed to be done. Their solution? Insist that their salespeople hits the streets to “knock on doors” on a weekly basis. These reps are required to visit at least 25 companies, which is followed by completing a form detailing exactly where they went and who they talked too.

Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is about as lame as it gets. What business owner or CEO is sitting around waiting for a stranger to barge into their office with something to sell?

Doesn’t it strike you as ironic that a company selling business performance improvement solutions is using a 1970’s approach to reaching new prospects?

You might be wondering, as I did, who actually believes this will lead to qualified leads and the right kinds of clients for this company. The answer is that senior management does. These folks are the people who started the company, and in its inception, they used tactics like knocking on doors and cold calling to build the business. Because it worked then, they still believe it works now.

Activity should never be confused with effectiveness.

It isn’t the number of doors that you knock on or the number of people that you talk to that leads to the creation of new sales opportunities. What leads to new opportunities is targeting the right type of client for your business and getting an audience with the person who can make the buying decision. Walking into a business office and talking to the receptionist (because I’m pretty sure the CEO isn’t going to take a meeting with a stranger) is activity and not necessarily an effective sales approach if your goal is to move lead to close fairly quickly.

There are 4 ways to gain access.

In an excellent sales book called “Selling to the C-Suite“, authors Bistritz and Read talk about the 4 ways to gain access into an organization and the decision maker you want to reach. They are:

  1. Overt – cold calling and knocking on doors falls here.
  2. Sponsor – someone credible in the company sponsors you in the door.
  3. Referral – a trusted 3rd party makes an introduction for you.
  4. Gatekeeper – you connect with the administrative assistant and hope that building a relationship with her or him will lead to that desired appointment.
“84% of executives say they will take a meeting with someone who has been sponsored into the company.”

Clearly, finding ways to be “sponsored” is the way to go. And, as it turns out, 44% also said that they’d meet with someone who had been referred to them by a trusted, credible source. Why then do so many salespeople remain fixated on using approach #1 and #4 to gain access? I believe the answer is that it is easier and creates a false impression that they are “doing something”, instead of focusing their attention on doing the right something.

Seriously, would you rather close a deal in 60-days or 6-months or more?

In the end, shrinking the sales cycle and closing business more quickly won’t happen with a perceived “quick fix”. Achieving this goal requires a little more leg work on the front-end, and the effort is well worth it!

 

4 Obvious Prospecting Tips for Your LinkedIn Profile

This week I had the opportunity to write a couple of guest posts for the Sales 2.0 Conference blog that offer salespeople tips for ensuring that prospects can easily contact them. The first focused on LinkedIn and the other focused on the things that you can do to enhance your Twitter profile and you can read both of them here on my site also.

Let’s start with LinkedIn…

When was the last time you viewed your social profiles through the eyes of your prospects? Although many salespeople have LinkedIn accounts precisely to network and build referrals, a high percentage of them unwittingly make it difficult for prospects to connect with them.

Buyers are impatient. Make it difficult for them to reach you, and guess what? They move on to your competitor.

If you want to shrink the sales cycle and improve your chances of being contacted by a prospect, here are four things you can do immediately:

1)     Add your phone number to your LinkedIn profile.

Select “Edit Profile” (under the “Profile” tab) and scroll down to the Personal Information section (all the way at the bottom). Although the section is titled “Personal,” add your business phone number and address. Because LinkedIn only makes your phone number visible to first-level connections, I also suggest that you include your phone number in your profile summary and specialties areas.

2)     Include your business email so that your first-level connections have another communication option beyond emailing through the social site.

Remember, not everyone visits LinkedIn on a daily basis.

3)     Set your email settings so that LinkedIn invitations and messages come directly into your email inbox.

View your inbox as your communications hub. Use inbox rules to automatically organize and forward your message to folders you designate for your LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook messages. Be careful, though—don’t forget to check those folders regularly.

4)     Download the LinkedIn mobile app so your LinkedIn network is always with you.

This lets you respond quickly to connection requests and incoming messages; it also allows you to reach out to others when you have down time.

By the way, on November 15, I will present “Sales Meets Social: Identifying and Reaching High-Profile Prospects: at the Sales Strategies in a Social & Mobile World Conference. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

Solve the Right Sales Problem!

Sales executives are feeling the pressure to ensure that sales quotas are met and that pressure often leads to fear, desperation and a focus on short-term sales results.

Don’t get me wrong…achieving monthly sales objectives are important. If there are no sales then ultimately there is no business to run. I’ve been a sales professional for close to 30-years and a business owner for almost 10, so I get it. Consistent revenue flowing in the door month after month is a must. Here’s what worries me though. This short-term focus leads many sales reps to ignore some of the basic fundamentals of selling in a social sales world. I know this because of the steady stream of unsolicited sales pitches I receive on a daily basis.

Don’t Abuse the Medium

A phrase that I’m fond of using is “Just because you can, that doesn’t mean that you should.” As the world of sales continues to evolve and transform as a result of the widespread use of social media, many sales professionals need to take a crash course in online etiquette. Sending potential buyers a spam sales pitch is akin to a cold call only worse. With voice mail, your message leaving time is typically pretty short, but when you send email you can go on forever about how grand your product is service is and believe me…many do.

Relationship First, Selling Second

If sales teams aren’t producing consistently, perhaps the answer isn’t in pushing them to “work harder”. Let’s face it folks… activity should never be confused with sales effectiveness. Insisting that your sales reps make 100 cold calls per day is activity, but is it truly effective? Though many old school sales folks will respond with a resounding – yes, cold calling works – the reality is that cold calling doesn’t work and adds expense to the sales cycle to boot. To me, it seems a bit delusional to think that calling 100 strangers whose business you know nothing about will lead to anything meaningful from a sales perspective. The same goes for sending your peeps out into the world telling them to “go bang on doors”. Seriously?

Social media provides a unique opportunity for today’s social sales professional. Instead of banging on doors, sending spam email or calling 100 strangers, why not put that time to better use? To improve your sales close ratio, what if..

  • You created a target list of the top 50 companies that you want to do business with and you used tools like LinkedIn or InsideView to learn more about their people and their business BEFORE making that first connection.
  • You looked for ways to do something of benefit for the prospects that you are targeting without asking for anything in return? Use LinkedIn to share industry presentations, articles, white papers or perhaps send a sales lead their way.
  • You understood that you get ONE chance to make a solid connection and a great impression. Don’t blow it by sending people the same old boring sales spam email that you just sent to everyone else.

Fix the Right Thing

When sales are off, please avoid the temptation to insist that your sales people just “do more”. Doing more of what already isn’t working will not lead to different results. Einstein defined that as insanity.

If you want different results – do something differently!