Over 75% of top salespeople use social media to beat their competitors, Forbes figures reveal. So we invited Peter Staveloz to our most recent Connoisseur event to tell us how to use LinkedIn efficiently to boost sales.

Social selling is becoming increasingly important in business, and LinkedIn is part of that. Staveloz does not only call it a ‘digital form of word-of-mouth advertising’, but also a unique way to access new customers.

LinkedIn as a lead generator and nurturing tool

“The most successful salespeople spend one to two hours a day on LinkedIn looking for the right way to access a company. Rather than hunting the decision maker, they try to create a warm connection indirectly. They do this for example by engaging the CEO’s assistant in conversation and guiding them towards a sales talk”, Staveloz explains. “Anyone with a broad network can get in touch with every decision maker through indirect ways.”

Once the connection has been made, a salesperson cannot just come straight to the point and ask the decision maker for an interview. According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, about 90% of all decision makers simply do not respond to a cold call. Staveloz therefore advises salespeople to maintain and expand contacts by actively blogging on LinkedIn Pulse and by mapping their social network and filling the gaps. They can also check who visits their profile and what they read or share, and actively participate in conversations.

Measuring and knowing, but first learning

LinkedIn offers its own Social Selling Index (SSI) so that salespeople can quickly adjust their strategy if required. However, LinkedIn’s SSI is not really easy to use, and this is the major challenge of social selling: only 26% of users feel like they really know and understand social media. So a lot of work remains to be done in terms of training and coaching.

Practical tips for social selling via LinkedIn

  1. Begin: you need to prepare your profile before expanding your network. A polished LinkedIn profile is your best marketing tool
  2. Measure: have a look at LinkedIn’s SSI and set clear targets: do you want a certain number of new connections? What actions can you take to get closer to a desired customer? Arrange coaching if required
  3. Blog: write down your expertise on Pulse and post on other blogs. Look for content you can share. Generate interest and show you are an expert in your area. Don’t hesitate to ask questions
  4. Connect: make a connection as soon as possible after meeting someone. Business cards are not only exchanged physically. You can also invite someone to join your network after an interaction on social media
  5. Monitor: check regularly who has viewed your profile and try to make a connection quickly by sending personalised invitations. First determine whether the name is already in your database and then identify where your prospect is in the buyer journey. This will tell you whether direct interaction is appropriate
  6. Gather information: use social selling to complement the information you already have. Not only in CRM, but also to further define your buyer personas. Social media provide a lot of information on a person’s everyday activities and interests.

Even before most customers go to a supplier, they have gathered information and seek an answer to specific questions. A traditional salesman who displays his excellent product knowledge in his sales pitch and who has mastered the conventional negotiating techniques does not meet his quotas anymore. An exceptional salesman, on the other hand, knows in which buying phase the customer contact has arrived, understands the situation and is able to give advice. It takes three things to turn any salesman into an exceptional salesman: content, technology and a continuous learning process.

Content

To illustrate his words and continuously learn about the product range and its possibilities, the salesperson needs the right content, sufficiently flexible to be combined and supplemented at his own discretion. The content is created in a dynamic process so that other salespeople always have the most recent knowledge and documents at their disposal as well. Content creation becomes one of your principal sales support processes so that your salespeople constantly improve their knowledge and adapt to any customer situation.

Technology

Your seller needs software not just to be able to show the content in the right manner, but also to be able to consult the most recent information on the customer in advance. CRM should be more than an automated filing cabinet or tedious administrative work. It should support the seller in doing the right thing at the right moment with the right contact. Sellers should use the tools willingly and constantly so as to store and share knowledge as well as to review their own actions. This brings us to the third aspect of our topic.

Continuous learning

The learning process of each seller should also become part of the corporate culture. Your sales team needs permanent training and coaching. Everyone considers it normal that the best athletes have to train and are coached on a daily basis. This is also necessary for sellers whose environment changes continuously. Their own products develop, the market changes, the customers evolve and the competitors are not sitting back and doing nothing. A seller who acts as a talking catalogue is not much use in this context. To be a good adviser, they need to be able to count on your support. Training and particularly coaching are more important than ever. Empathy and commitment to the customer are capacities which require lifelong learning.

These three elements ensure better and deeper relations with customers and will make sales talks more relevant than ever for the customer.

 


Most CRM systems are used as a reporting tool for the management and not as a supporting tool for the sales team. Many salespeople consider CRM an administrative burden, while in fact it could be their personal coach. If you use CRM efficiently, the entire sales team can monitor the positions of the different customer contacts in the buying cycle and better prepare themselves for a next meeting. If you use CRM wrong, your sales team will lose valuable time and miss out on potential deals.

Investing in CRM is always worth the effort and the investment does not necessarily make up a large part of your budget. Time and attention will already help you to benefit more from CRM. Make sure your customer contacts are central to your system. Rather than the measurement and reporting of general statistics.

Leads

Turn your CRM into a pleasant system for everybody: increase the user-friendliness, delete unnecessary fields, use live CRM screens at meetings and adjust your processes. You will achieve results within one month and especially reduce the time spent on leads that are not ready yet and lead nowhere. A lead is only useful if you know where the contact is situated in the buying cycle. That is when sales and marketing can intervene at the right moment and in the right way. Coaching helps you align sales and marketing.

Small data

Spend more time on small data. We focus too much on how we must continuously gather new information and big data are a hype. As a result, we may forget to use existing data properly. A great deal of CRM systems are full of incomplete or outdated information. Instead of considering a new CRM system, you should make an in-depth analysis of the current situation. You will see that you are able to advance a lot with a few minor adjustments.

Improve quickly in five steps

  • Examine each step of your potential customer’s buyer journey and make sure this is highlighted in your CRM
  • Make sure sales and marketing are on the same wavelength in terms of buying stages and use the same definition of ‘lead’
  • Analyse the situation of the current data in your CRM and focus on the most important information
  • Adjust CRM so that it can be used as soon as possible by marketing and sales, asking less information, making it less compulsory and providing more structure in the screens and choices
  • Do not turn CRM into a reporting tool, but instead use it as a supporting tool for salespeople to offer added value to the buying customer