Expert Point of View

Kristina Jaramillo

Chief LinkedIn Marketing Officer
GetLinkedInHelp.com

Could LinkedIn Be Your Ultimate Sales Machine?

In The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes mentions that only 3 percent of your target market is ready to buy; 7 percent of your target market is open to buying but not looking; 30 percent of your market is comfortable with the status quo; and 30 percent of your market believes they aren't interested.

When it comes to LinkedIn marketing and social selling, where do you think everyone's focus is? It's on the top 3 percent of the market, meaning they're missing out on 67 percent more opportunities.

In a recent article, SAP's Nicholas Kontopoulos mentioned that social selling has become another form of spam. He wrote, "Social media is now just amplifying the bad selling behaviors of salespeople. Where a bad salesperson could deter dozens of potential customers, social platforms allow the same person to reach thousands of people…with the same one-night stand, transactional mentality and message."

You see, LinkedIn marketing and social selling have become a volume play. The focus is on how many connections are being made, how many prospects are joining the LinkedIn community, how many views the content is generating, how much website traffic are they getting, and how many people are being reached with messages. They're focused on how many people are being added to the pipeline, even if they aren't validated and qualified. They're focused on lead generation, even though most leads go nowhere, when the focus should be on prospect development.

Jay Baer has mentioned in his talks that social media is a volume play. You have social media and social selling experts coaching clients and followers to take a templated approach that lacks relevance to try to book as many calls and sales conversations as you possibly can. For example, a digital sales prospecting trainer and coach teaches clients to use templates like:

Hi, Sam.

How are you adding new capability to your ______________ [insert area of business your product addresses] at any time soon or in future? I work with organizations like _______ [prospect’s business] to make sure ________ [goal]. Would you like to quickly explore, via email, if a larger conversation makes sense? Please let me know what you decide.

Instead of taking an account-based marketing approach and focusing on issues that are relevant to targeted organizations, key decision makers and influencers, sales, marketing and social media lead-generation firms using this approach are hoping that if they send it out to enough people, it will be relevant to someone and stick. They are focused on trying to hit the 3 percent of the market—the people who are most likely ready to buy now. If those leads that may or may not be part of the 3 percent do not move forward, then you have a high cost for business growth, and your efforts on LinkedIn are nothing more than a cost center. It doesn't matter how low your cost per lead is if leads are being stuck at the top of the funnel. It's still a cost and an investment that isn't leading to revenue!

I recently spoke to the president and CMO of a logistics company, and they were both so focused on how many leads we are able to deliver on a weekly and monthly basis. They proceeded to tell me how another social media lead generation firm was delivering 5 to 10 leads for sales calls per week.

However, those sales leads they were delivering were terrible—90 percent of the calls were with prospects who were not in the right stage of the buying process at the time, or they were with people who were not even decision makers or influencers. The people who said "yes" to a call were just looking for free information, to network and maybe to refer the company. What good were those leads if there were no relationships being created and leveraged to create revenue opportunities?

So how can sales and marketing capture 67 percent more opportunities instead of just leads that go nowhere? Consider the following points of advice:

1. Focus on relevance across all levels using an account-based sales and marketing approach. Adding the person's name or position to a message or talking about their industry does not make you relevant. When you're engaging in prospect development, you're not just relevant on one or two levels; you're relevant to the industry, the company, the person's role and the individual decision maker or influencer.

Being relevant to each key decision maker and opening doors with different demand units is what account-based sales and marketing are about. It’s how you can forge stronger connections within individual people within potential customer organizations. Remember, developing relationships requires getting to know the potential customer and demonstrating how you can bring relevant value to them. This is how you’ll move those that are indifferent or think they are not interested in your solution.

2. Engage in marketing for sales alignment. Marketers who go beyond lead generation and focus on sales and marketing alignment to achieve revenue goals using LinkedIn can prove a clearer, stronger social media ROI. By providing rich insights into buyers, their companies and their territories, marketers enable sales to better prioritize their efforts. And by focusing on relationships and how to leverage them, marketers can become the social bridge between buyers and sales. They can help build familiarity between salespeople and their customers. Together, sales and marketing can improve sales effectiveness using LinkedIn.

But marketing has to use its influence on LinkedIn and become more of a sales enabler by supporting sales in a more meaningful way so they can close deals. Silos need to be eliminated where marketing is focused on the company page, sponsored updates and the solutions that LinkedIn Marketing Solutions provides, relying on sales to make the relationships. Marketing needs to become a sales enabler on LinkedIn by focusing on the complete awareness-to-revenue customer lifecycle that includes a set of psychological transitions where customers become aware of, evaluate, like, advocate and invest in a specific product or service. We need to go beyond the awareness tactics that social media and digital marketing executives take and meld traditional marketing with LinkedIn to increase the percentage of transitions and the speed at which they transition.

3. Focus on breaking down the potential customer's status quo. When going beyond the 3 percent of the market that is ready to buy, you have to spend time breaking down the customer's status quo. As the CEB mentions in their “Challenger Demand Gen Marketing Role Guide,” "Without breaking down the status quo, potential customers may engage with your content, talk to your sales reps and nod along. But ultimately, they won't take the hard actions to drive consensus and take the next steps toward investing in your solution."

It’s not enough to just challenge prospects and show them a new approach. You need to give prospects a reason to change. For a positioning and messaging firm client, we were only able to help the firm gain clients once the firm’s president was able to show sales and marketing how their positioning and messaging was affecting sales and marketing performance, especially in the areas that were high on the priority list. Once we were able to target specific companies with specific positioning and messaging issues and show sales and marketing leaders why they needed to change, the firm gained many important clients.

4. Don't optimize content for social media engagement. When you're optimizing content for social media engagement, you're optimizing it for reach. You're optimizing the content for top-of-the-funnel awareness, which may attract that top 3 percent of the market that is ready to buy, but it won't move the other 67 percent of the market. As the CEB mentions, you want to optimize your content for consumption of disruption. In other words, focus on how your content is driving changes in thoughts and actions.

5. Focus on lead validation and qualification. The chief learning officer at PeopleLinx and CEO of Social Selling Link tells clients: “With each new connection, determine if they are someone you’d like to speak with and tweak the LinkedIn message slightly: NAME, it is nice to be connected on LinkedIn. Typically, I like to have a brief call with my new connections so we can explore ways we might be able to work together now or in the future. Here is a link to my calendar: xxxxxxxx. Please pick a time that is most convenient for you. I am looking forward to our call.”

So she’s telling business leaders and sales and marketing professionals to go for the call–don’t worry about lead qualification and validation. She’s saying don’t worry if they haven’t seen your value yet and that you haven’t demonstrated your relevance. Don’t worry if you haven’t identified a need yet, and don’t worry if they are not in the right buying stage. This shotgun thinking assumes that getting the sales information out there may eventually lead to a sale. But all it really does is cost you time and money.

By following these actions, you’ll go beyond the top 3 percent of the market to achieve real sales opportunities—not leads, but actual sales opportunities that move forward.

About the Author:

Kristina Jaramillo, Chief LinkedIn Marketing Officer at GetLinkedInHelp.com in Cary, North Carolina, uses the challenger sales and account-based sales and marketing approaches on LinkedIn to drive more revenue opportunities for B2B organizations like Schneider, technology firms and professional service firms that have complex sales cycles. Within her recent webinar, you’ll learn how she’s helping sales and marketing teams go beyond brand awareness and lead generation to drive a real social media ROI. Watch the webinar at http://www.freelinkedinmarketingtraining.com/beyond-brand-awareness/