If you are like most business leaders you have been around a bit and know the value of growing business through personal connections and referrals. You may also understand the need to cold call when referrals don’t generate enough business. But, how do you help a less tenured salesperson gain enough referrals? Enter Sales 2.0, which is just a slick term for using social media for sales generating purposes. Many company leaders disregard the use of these tools, especially in the B2B market, because they falsely lump Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn together. It is the savvy leader who understands the power of the different social media vehicles and causes his sales team to harness that power. This is NOT going to be an article about social media for marketing purposes. Rather the purpose of this article is to open eyes to the potential of social media for selling. Specifically I am going to explore the power of LinkedIn.
According to LinkedIn statistics, they have over 300MM members worldwide and over 100MM in the United States. It is the self-proclaimed number one social networking site for professional purposes. These statistics are why you as a business leader need to pay attention and why your sales team needs to learn how to use it for selling purposes.
For business development purposes, salespeople can have incredible success finding people that they want to get to know. There are several ways to reach people on LinkedIn:
- Direct request to connect: This can be dicey. If you don’t actually know them, aren’t in a group with them, and don’t know their email address, it can be less effective to connect. LinkedIn has rules about requesting connections, which hamper one’s ability to just send connection requests to anyone they want. Although, people do it, they sometimes get a slap on the wrist about their conduct and can have their privileges revoked for awhile. If you do know the person, though by all means, connect. One of the easiest ways to get to people you don’t know is to see what groups they are a member of and join those groups. One can belong to 50 groups before LinkedIn cuts you off. You can then reach out to other group members within the confines of the LinkedIn rules and ask to connect, ostensibly because you have the same interests since you belong to the same group.
- Use connections for referral: The more one expands his or her network of connections, the more people one has access to. I have nearly 1400 first level connections and because of that network I have 752,030 second level connections, which means the 1400 people I am connected with can introduce me to 752,000 additional people. That seems kind of powerful. In practice how should one use that network though? First, a salesperson should make a list of the most connected people in their network. Next, they search that person’s connections to see if there is anyone they would like to meet based on their title, company affiliation etc. Then simply ask for an introduction. The easiest way to do this is to inquire about those second level connections and request permission to contact them, using the mutual connection as a reference, rather than waiting for your connection to actually make the introduction. People that do this regularly get about a 50% response rate. Meaning, they get appointments with 50% of the people they ask to meet with using a third party as a reference. This process produces far better success than cold calling by phone ever did. Feel free to read my white paper titled Cold Calling in the 21st Century for more on this topic.
- Direct search for targets on LinkedIn: Salespeople should all have a targeted prospect list of companies they want to get into. They should use LinkedIn to find the appropriate people in those targeted companies (or people that can get them to the targeted person) and then search their groups and the connections they have in common with them. Ask those connections for introductions. If no connections exist, join the groups the target is in, then ask for a connection with them directly.
LinkedIn is an incredible tool that makes prospecting and referral gathering so simple. Unfortunately many business leaders and sales leaders don’t embrace it, so therefore don’t encourage their sales teams to use it. Don’t get caught up in the old way of thinking, by counting the number of phone calls a salesperson makes. Focus on the number of first appointments your salespeople have with quality targeted prospects and encourage them to get those appointments any way possible, in the most efficient way possible. Proper LinkedIn usage can be a powerful prospecting tool. Make sure your salespeople are well-versed in using it to increase sales efficiency, and make sure to hire those salespeople who will use all tools available to reach prospects. If you want to review a sample salesperson evaluation and how we know whether or not a salesperson will use such tools, feel free to review one here.