Is Your Sales Team Enabled for LinkedIn?

April 12, 2013 | Brendan Cournoyer
Is Your Sales Team Enabled for LinkedIn?

Is social selling in need of sales enablement?

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That’s the question posed by sales and marketing influencer Ardath Albee in a recent post for her Marketing Interactions blog. The article is in reference to a joint report from Ardath and Jill Konrath titled Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code, which covers some of the ways top reps use LinkedIn to prospect and engage with potential customers.

As far as “social selling” goes, I’ve long maintained that LinkedIn is the most appropriate channel for reps looking to connect with potential prospects, if only because it’s a place people go specifically for professional reasons. Folks are less likely to be turned off by proposed business opportunities on LinkedIn than they might be on Twitter or (especially) Facebook.

Of course, that doesn’t mean salespeople can just reach out to contacts and make a pitch out of the blue and hope to have any success – it’s just not that simple. As with social marketing, the key to effective social selling is engagement, and as Ardath notes in her post, “LinkedIn has a bit of a learning curve.”

Content is the key to social sales enablement

I’ve written before that the goal of content marketing should extend beyond brand awareness, lead generation and other inbound strategies. It should also enable sales teams to sell better and engage with customers throughout the buying cycle. The same principles apply to how businesses use social media, where content is once again a key component for success.

Consider this comment from an anonymous salesperson that Ardath shares from the LinkedIn report:

[I] don't have the right content and approach yet to really engage with potential customers on LinkedIn to gain new prospects, thus new sales.

The “right content” is a valuable selling tool for sales reps, and sharing content with target audiences is critical to developing relationships on social media sites like LinkedIn. The problem is that it’s highly unlikely that your typical salespeople will inherently know the right way to do this, or even what the right content is they should be sharing. This is where marketing can help enable sales teams in a major way.

For example, Ardath suggests marketers take a “weekly primer” approach, sharing information with their sales teams to help them better utilize LinkedIn. Here are the primary components she suggests, with my own thoughts on each.

  • Relevant groups for sales reps to join. Did you know that many reps don’t even know that LinkedIn groups exist? It’s true. As any marketer knows, choosing the right groups to join puts you in a better position to connect with people who at some point may be interested in your products or services.  By sharing this information with reps, you’ll be able to direct them more clearly toward the most viable groups to prospect to.

  • Appropriate content resources. Again, it’s not enough for a rep to just jump in and make pitches to strangers on LinkedIn. Social media is about building relationships and engaging with others, and sharing content (blog posts, infographics, videos, etc.) is a great way to do this. Once again, sales reps don’t always know what the best content is and how to use it – but marketers do. Your content strategy should be aligned with sales to help reps access the right resources quickly and easily.  This can be done via a weekly email, as well as a more sophisticated content portal that enables teams to access a wide variety of content in a more organized format.

  • Ideas to stimulate discussions. For me, this comes down to messaging. Engaging with people on LinkedIn is different than going on a sales call or presenting at a meeting. Marketers are usually well-versed in the types of messaging that resonates on social channels like these, but salespeople will likely need some coaching up.

As Ardath points out, most of these areas come as second nature for many marketers, as working in social media and sharing content is all part of the job now. When it comes to sales enablement for LinkedIn and other social channels, the key is to find ways to pass these skills and resources on to your salespeople, closing the “content gap” within your organization and ultimately, helping to create more selling opportunities for your reps.

For more details on how the best salespeople use LinkedIn to sell better, I recommend downloading the free report from Ardath and Jill, Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code. And for additional details on using content to enable your sales teams, check out this three-part blog series and visit the Brainshark Sales Enablement Products page to learn more.

Have you had success creating new business opportunities on LinkedIn? What are your challenges? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

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