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Social Selling: 5 Takeaways from LinkedIn Sales Connect 2016

This was the 3rd year of the LinkedIn Sales Connect conference and the first time I have attended. I use LinkedIn Sales Navigator every day in my prospecting and outreach efforts but I wasn’t sure what to exactly expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be a heavy dose of pitching the paid upgrade of Sales Navigator (there was some of that) or if I was going to be overwhelmed by technology and software conversations that I am not all that familiar with past a basic understanding.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and it reaffirmed my belief that LinkedIn (and social selling overall) is something that should be embraced and implemented by all sales teams in the future. Below are 5 of my takeaways from LinkedIn Sales Connect 2016. Please feel free to share your thoughts on social selling success or hesitations with me.

1.      Social Selling is happening. Either get on board or get left behind.

In a panel discussion headlined by Jill Billhorn, Bryan Caplin & Anthony Robbins all three shared what they believe are the benefits to social selling which included success rate statistics, incentivizing sellers and Sales Navigator being a recruitment tool in convincing new talent to join their teams. However they also discussed some challenges they have experienced in implementing a blanket program across their organization due to uncertainty by some. A transparent marketplace has created a more empowered customer and Anthony Robbins assertively stated, “A customer’s journey has changed and we need to join them on that journey. Meet the customers where they acquire information and provide it to them at the time they are looking for it and being active in engagement”.

I’m a firm believer that cold calling is not dead but it is on life support. According to the SBI 2014 annual research project, social sellers realize a 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional prospecting methods. If social selling is not a part of your personal or organizational strategies then you are not using all the tools at your disposal to break through the clutter and engage prospects with insight.

2.      Social strategy is empowering.

In a breakout session highlighting the success that AXA Advisors have had with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, AXA Director of Digital & Social Media Nicole Pesce pointed out that if we do not provide a framework to social selling for our sellers then they will simply do it themselves. In a 2015 survey conducted by the MHI Research Institute comparing world-class performing companies to all other companies it found that 48% of the world-class performers have implemented social media guidelines for customer-facing people vs. 19% of the rest of the companies.

I am as guilty of this as anyone. If I feel like I am not given the resources or direction to do something that is going to benefit me in my role and responsibilities, specifically when it comes to driving revenue, then I am going to do it myself. Has this gotten me in trouble in the past, absolutely. However, I have learned from some of those experiences and now believe I am competent enough to not overstep my boundaries but there are many others that will not be so careful in what they share or how they reach out. Providing simple direction, best practices and strategy could prevent future headaches while empowering sellers to step out of their comfort zone and embrace social media as a way to sell.

3.      Your customers are using it.

There were a handful of individuals that attended the conference from companies that have either been clients of mine in the past or I am actively engaging with now. Janet Balis & Woody Driggs of EY spoke about how social selling and their 30,000 Sales Navigator licenses have helped them get the attention of their customers in an ever increasing world of clutter. They have been able to create an end to end content strategy where sales is the most important marketing channel.

I am a consultative seller. I work with companies on maximizing their investments in event marketing to drive revenue and quantitative results for their business. It is important to me that I am using the same technology and tools that my customers are using so that I fully understand how they are engaging with their audience and the challenges they experience. How do you have the credibility to make recommendations to a prospective customer on what can help their business if you don’t fully understand how they conduct business. Your customers are using it, why aren’t you?

4.      Adoption is a barrier.

Fear. Cost. Time. Misuse. Increased workload. Education. These are some of the excuses that are used when deciding not to embrace change or technology. But as Rita McGrath told the group during her presentation on Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset in Your Organization, all these obstacles (and the ones on the slide below) are "self imposed". These sentiments are not indicative of an organization that innovates and explores all opportunities for success.

We've all seen that one meme that makes the rounds on LinkedIn where a CFO asks the CEO about investing in employees and then they leave followed by the CEO responding with what if we don't invest in them and they stay. Investing in technology is no different. Think about your competition. What if your competitors are investing in technology to be more efficient, more data driven, more social and more engaging but you're not? Will you lose business or even employees to the competition?

5.      It's only getting better.

One of the things I was interested in learning at the Sales Connect conference was how other sellers and organizations are using Sales Navigator to be more efficient, create more opportunities and drive more revenue. As much as I have liked Sales Navigator, there are limitations. Currently there are some functions that might be useful to some but just aren't extremely useful for me and vice versa. In talking with other sellers at the conference I heard similar experiences and some frustrations.

That seems to be changing in 2017. Earlier this year it was announced that Microsoft has acquired LinkedIn with a scheduled close date of late 2016. That acquisition has elevated intrigue of what the future of LinkedIn could look like. Some of the new features that will be added to Sales Navigator in 2017 include:

  • InMail 2.0- A more efficient, personalized platform for InMail engagement.
  • Enhanced Mobile App Features- You can now call leads directly from the app (if the lead is in CRM) and that call automatically syncs to CRM as an activity.
  • PointDirve integration- Recently acquired by LinkedIn, PointDrive is a sales engagement software that allows you to personalize customer content (proposals), distribute that content and track the engagement in a clean, shareable platform via LinkedIn.

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