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.
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.
- Establish your brand (be a thought-leader by publishing meaningful posts).
- Find the right people (identify prospects faster).
- Engage with insights (share “conversation-worthy” updates to grow relationships).
- Build relationships (“finding & establishing trust with decision-makers”).
That said, here's the problem.
There is too much emphasis being placed on not prospecting with LinkedIn to engage in “social selling.”
Not selling in order to sell.
I'm referring to the idea of “sharing valuable content” as a means to “become seen as a thought leader” by leads and, ultimately, somehow, sell something.
Personally, this strikes me as an idea cooked-up by an artsy brand marketer — as opposed to a scientific direct response marketer.
Cold calling coach, Kraig Kleeman says the SSI, “encourages people to re-post already regurgitated content that is largely irrelevant.”
The net effect, says Mr. Kleeman, “is that our news feeds are being overwhelmed with unhelpful and unnecessary content that is hindering sellers from being productive.”
Mr. Kleeman says sellers investing in this marketing-like form of social selling risk spending needless hours weekly scanning through irrelevant data.
“LinkedIn continues to monetize its community at the expense of intellectual integrity,” says Kleeman.
Measure Your Team's Use of LinkedIn This Way
“If you want a measure that helps tie social selling to actual deals, capture how a lead becomes a prospect and across what channel that engagement happens,” says Mark Birch.
Birch says knowing the source of leads is not enough. We should understand how a lead (whether bought list, trade show, targeted account list, etc.) was engaged in a certain way. This can be compared to outbound prospecting methods.
“From an inbound perspective, tag content links with UTM codes that tie back to shares via sales reps. SSI is a fun vanity metric, nothing more, nothing less,” says Mr. Birch.
Bottom Line: Should Sellers Use LinkedIn?
“Social selling is a myth created by so called sales experts,” says Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logik. Marley spent the last year researching LinkedIn for sales prospecting data and intelligence. He says it's an invaluable resource.
However, “After trial and error we came to the conclusion that LinkedIn is only good for two things: Research and InMail,” says Mr. Marley.
I agree. Sales people tend to be expensive. Having them spend their time sharing content strikes me as a pretty expensive broadcasting mechanism.
Think about it this way: Do you run out the door to buy a new truck after seeing an ad during the football game? Of course not. Then why are you expecting someone to come running to you with a purchase order after sharing content on LinkedIn?
You might reply, “I'm not, Jeff. I'm a) soft selling by b) staying on-the-radar of potential customers and c) listening for signals that prospects might be in 'buying mode' soon."
To which I would ask, "What's your process to make that happen?" or “can you prove to me this will be an effective use of your time — with numbers?”
What do you think? Is 80 percent (or more) of “social selling” pushing content in order to stay-on-the-radar of potential customers?