Leaning in

Henk Olivier, Ozone Information Technology Distribution
Salespeople are relying on LinkedIn to grow revenue, close deals and build stronger relationships.

Social selling might not be the silver bullet that finally puts cold calling out of its misery, but it does appear to work. According to ‘Social Selling: A New B2B Imperative’, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Hootsuite in 2017, which surveyed 265 sales and marketing technology decision-makers at B2B companies, companies see social as the place where customers are, with 36% believing that social selling will become the ‘default way to engage with buyers in the future’.

LinkedIn itself reports that 90% of top salespeople use social selling tools, compared with 71% overall, and 46% of social sellers hit their quotas, compared to 38% of other reps who don’t.

Sales has changed

The biggest difference between social selling and traditional sales is that while the latter focuses mainly on short-term sales results, social selling is more about building longlasting relationships.

Today’s buyers have all the power and can do all their research online long before reaching out. Social selling through platforms like LinkedIn makes it that much easier and quicker to seek out prospects, identify their challenges and approach them with your solutions. And because you know upfront that they are more likely to be interested in your product or service, it increases the chance of conversion.

Why LinkedIn works for B2B

LinkedIn stands apart from most other social media services by focusing more on cultivating a business environment than other platforms – it’s not the place to post photos of your new puppy or anything unrelated to work. It may not offer the same easy social interactive elements as Facebook and Twitter, but for B2B companies, it offers a way to interact with customers while also boosting sales leads.

In South Africa, LinkedIn has more than 6.7 million members, and 270 000 member companies, making it the go-to network for companies when it comes to B2B sales, and providing users with a way to prospect for leads that is far-reaching.

With 45% of people on LinkedIn in upper management, it’s an ideal platform for B2B sales as salespeople can connect directly with them via InMail, and because there is a lot of information in people’s profiles, it’s easier to create more personal relationships and build rapport. It also allows you to see who has viewed your profile, so you can see who’s interested, and the recommendation feature helps to build credibility for those who ask happy customers to write recommendations.

Optimising the sales approach

LinkedIn Sales Navigator, a paid feature of LinkedIn, is intended to streamline the social selling process, including finding, contacting and keeping in touch with prospects, leads and customers. Sales Navigator uses algorithms to find the prospects best aligned with what you have to offer. It generates reports that make analysis and fine-tuning easier, and it integrates CRM programmes such as Salesforce, Oracle Sales Cloud, HubSpot, and Microsoft Dynamics so users can access most of the data on Sales Navigator directly from their CRM programme. LinkedIn reports on its site that Sales Navigator users see 5% higher win rates and 35% larger deal sizes, with 34% of their opportunities sourced through the tool, and 61% of revenue influenced by it.

Vinay Hiralall, the GM for demand generation at Tarsus On Demand, says  his team uses Sales Navigator to engage with prospective channel partners, establish trust through mutual connections, and understand their businesses better. He says they’ve been using it for 18 months.

“Sales Navigator is a great tool to ensure that your message is reaching the right audience,” Hiralall says. “It has created a new medium through which we can engage with customers and partners. We have shortened the time taken to engage with prospects because the tool provides us with buyer personas that meet our target market. Dynamic list generation ensures that our reach is much further than what we used to achieve by traditional means. A major challenge for sales teams is having up-to-date information in your databases and LinkedIn solves this by ensuring that you have the most current view.”

Hiralall says his team uses the information to target prospective buyers when they are ready to buy. “Finding qualified buyers is a tricky practice that we have refined over time. We’ve embedded a unique qualification process that provides us with insight on what the right customer profile looks like and then feeding that into our acquisition criteria.

‘You have to talk about it, everywhere’

To get qualified buyers to find you, he says, you have to make sure that your offerings solve the problems your target market faces and then you have to talk about it, everywhere, including social media.

“We have a strong digital presence that works to promote our unique offerings and the value that we add to business. LinkedIn has significantly increased the number of opportunities we have to sell to the channel in the time we have been using it.”

Henk Olivier, the MD of channel business at Ozone Information Technology Distribution, uses LinkedIn to reach IT resellers throughout the country. “We have been using LinkedIn Premium Business for the purpose of lead generation and social selling for just under a year. It’s pricey, but it’s proving to be worth the investment. We have gained a better understanding of channel buyers, many of whom are buying products to add onto their own solutions portfolio, and we engage with them more personally now.”

Search functions allow his sales team to seek out IT companies that focus on SMEs. “When we contact them to set up meetings, we are able to off er them complementary solutions that they can resell to generate additional revenue, so it becomes much easier to set up meetings. This is good for our business because some products have a long sales cycle so maintaining momentum is key.”

Olivier stresses that it’s important to have a sales and CRM tool in place to track prospects, even if you are using LinkedIn, especially from a sales management point of view. But where LinkedIn really pays off  for his team is that the data on people and companies is generally accurate and up-to-date.