State of
Digital Selling
with LinkedIn®
2019

State of
Digital Selling
with LinkedIn®
2019

Introduction

Imagine your sales team gets invited to attend an exclusive networking event filled with senior decision-makers at companies that fit your ideal customer profile. Would you expect them to do their homework before they arrive at the event? How would you expect them to behave at the event?

Would they grab a cocktail and stand against the wall for the entire event, quietly making comments to people as they pass?

Or would they work the room, confidently striking up conversations with people they’ve researched online, connected with and began developing authentic relationships proving they have the experience these buyers are seeking from a seller?

As a sales leader, you’d never hire a rep who couldn’t represent your brand at an important event without proven experience and know-how to conduct meaningful conversations with qualified buyers.

This is precisely how high-performing and experienced sales professionals approach digital selling with LinkedIn.

While there’s proof digital selling works, we discovered that few sales professionals are leveraging social selling platforms—notably LinkedIn—to their full potential.

Vengreso surveyed 862 B2B sales professionals across companies spanning professional services, technology, manufacturing, healthcare and financial services about their LinkedIn habits as part of our Digital Selling Benchmark Assessment. We asked respondents 10 questions about their specific behaviors when using the platform. We also asked them to share their LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) score. After combing through our data, we discovered four key takeaways:

1

High SSI scores are linked to common behaviors, habits and successful sales results.

2

Only 27% of survey respondents are using Advanced Search more than 11 times per month.

3

More than one-third of respondents never share content with their network on LinkedIn.

4

Nearly 3 in 5 respondents said they do not publish any media (documents, videos, presentations, etc.) on their profile.

Bernie Borges

Co-founder, Chief Marketing Officer Vengreso

“In this report, we’re sharing a summary of our survey data and findings, as well as several tips to help sales leaders guide their team to strengthen digital selling behaviors most likely to increase their skills resulting in more sales conversations with qualified buyers, which ultimately leads to higher win rates.”

Digital Selling vs. Social Selling

While these two terms sound similar and are often used interchangeably by well-meaning sales and marketing pros, they mean two different things. Just in case you’re a little fuzzy, here’s a quick refresher:

Digital selling, in the context of B2B, is the process of leveraging digital assets and communicating one-to-one with targeted buyers through digital channels to build trust and credibility. Digital selling is an Omnichannel method that may include social media as well as other digital channels such as email, text, instant messaging and personal video to ultimately generate leads and referrals.

Social selling is an essential component of digital selling and refers to sales professionals using social networks to find, engage and connect with prospects to start conversations and build relationships.

Both terms include the word “selling,” but in reality, B2B sales professionals do not sell on digital. Buyers respond negatively to sales pitches through digital channels. Both terms refer to a process of connecting and engaging to start more sales conversations with qualified buyers.

Mario Martinez, Jr.

Founder, CEO Vengreso

“The modern seller engages the modern buyer through an Omnichannel digital selling strategy. Using the Vengreso PVC™ method whereby sellers Personalize, Add Value and engage with a Call-to-Action, they create more conversations with qualified buyers and increase their win rates.”

LinkedIn is the most prominent B2B social selling network in North America.

LinkedIn provides sales professionals the greatest potential in social selling thanks to the following attributes when executed properly:

  • A profile that allows salespeople to communicate their value to the buyer
  • A search feature to help find the right people and build an extensive network
  • Access to critical insights about their networks (and their contacts’ networks)
  • The ability to consistently share relevant content that builds credibility
  • An opportunity to develop trust with buyers through value-based networking behavior
  • A messaging feature that bypasses overcrowded email inboxes

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 State of Sales Report 62% of decision makers look for an informative LinkedIn profile when considering talking with a sales rep.1

The single biggest obstacle sales leaders need to overcome is recognizing that LinkedIn is more than an online resume. It’s a salesperson’s individual website and it needs to be written through the lens of the buyer.

Once salespeople recognize LinkedIn’s power in helping them build trust with customers and prospects, their mindset will shift and they’ll begin developing the behaviors necessary for proficient digital selling.

Of course, making sure each member of your sales team establishes a presence on LinkedIn isn’t enough.

To unlock all of the business social network’s potential, sales professionals need to boost their SSI scores.

Demystifying the Social Selling Index

LinkedIn provides users with a key performance indicator (KPI) called the Social Selling Index2 — a quantitative score that assesses individual users’ efficacy as social sellers. Or, according to LinkedIn, the “measure of a salesperson’s social selling skills and execution.”

The business social networking giant clearly spells out the four (4) components that make up users’ SSI scores. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • It’s updated daily
  • It’s based on a scale of 0 to 100
  • It compiles the score by ranking a user’s activity on four pillars,
    each of which totals 25:

    • Pillar 1: Establish your professional brand
    • Pillar 2: Find the right people
    • Pillar 3: Engage with insights
    • Pillar 4: Build relationships

To help us determine whether there are links between a salesperson’s SSI and their sales activities, we reached out to Joël Le Bon, Ph.D. After reviewing our survey data, Dr. Le Bon identified five activities common among survey respondents with the highest SSI scores:

1

They have a high number of unique connections.

2

They regularly use the Advanced Search feature.

3

They have referrals from within the last three months.

4

They consistently share content with their network.

5

They leverage video.

Joël Le Bon, Ph.D.

Marketing & Sales Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Faculty Director for Leadership in Digital Marketing & Sales Transformation

“LinkedIn SSI Score helps assess your digital reputation, presence, and reach. It also helps focus on specific social engagement behaviors that matter, such as engaging with valuable insights so you can become a subject matter expert within your network. In today’s world of digital information overload, sales professionals should leverage LinkedIn and social engagement strategies to provide value to their customers and differentiate themselves from the competition. Indeed, in social selling, getting ahead starts with getting social!

In Volume 11 of The Social Business Journal3 released in 2018, SAP shared results from its social selling program, with more than 14,000 sales reps trained in social selling techniques.

After training its sales team on social selling best practices, the SAP sales team enjoys a 46% growth in individual SSI scores and a 56% growth year-over-year in profile views among LinkedIn Sales Navigator users since January 2016.

They discovered the reps with the highest SSI score were…

  • 3.4x more likely to hit their quota
  • Achieve an average 55% boost in sales performance
  • Complete 3.6x more closed deals

Kirsten Boileau

Head of Digital Enablement Services – Marketing Cloud, Digital Marketing, Digital Selling, SAP

“Digital Selling has been a game-changer for SAP. Delivering this program has made such a difference in the lives of so many at SAP and how they perform their daily activities. Marketing and sales people can connect with their customers where, when and how the customer wants, and really build relationships that drive results for everyone.”

But how exactly are sales professionals using LinkedIn?
And how does your team stack up?

1. Most sales professionals are still using the free version of LinkedIn.

The survey found 3 in 5 sales professionals use the free version of LinkedIn. Of those using a paid version of LinkedIn, the majority use a company-paid Sales Navigator account.

Survey Question 1: Which version of LinkedIn are you using?

Should Your Company Pay for LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is available as a free business networking platform with optional
premium versions that offer additional features such as advanced search to help salespeople when they are prospecting. The ultimate premium version is LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Sales Navigator includes robust lead-building tools, a lead recommendation engine, the ability to share saved prospect lists, real-time insights about your target accounts as well as suggestions to improve your sales pipeline.

Other valuable features in Sales Navigator include the ability to send messages to non-connections, view profiles of individuals outside your network and PointDrive, a content distribution and tracking application.

Additionally, Sales Leaders can view reporting that tracks digital selling
activities across the team.

Altogether, Sales Navigator allows sales leaders to gain insight into how well their team’s activities are driving your target audience to take action with your reps.

Kurt Shaver

Co-founder, Chief Sales Officer, Vengreso

“Every sales leader wants their sales reps to get measurable outcomes from LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is the world’s largest social networking platform for business.

Regardless of which LinkedIn version your sales team uses, if you want to attribute sales pipeline and increased win rates, reps must be trained. As a foundational baseline, reps should have an optimized profile that uses the language of the buyer and offers value, i.e., it’s not a resume.

With proper training, reps can find, engage and connect with buyers to build their network and pipeline with any version of LinkedIn.

Truly sustained pipeline results, however, are proven to be achieved when reps have adopted proper digital selling behavior. The advanced features of Sales Navigator alone DO NOT equip a rep with the behavior skills they need to succeed any more than an Indy race car equips a 16-year old to win the Indianapolis 500. Success requires the Tools AND the Training.

Sales leaders should ensure that reps have been properly trained on the fundamentals of selling with LinkedIn. Ideally, reps should be properly trained across these six disciplines:

Mindset, Brand, Find & Engage, Connect, Feed and Cadence.

These six disciplines provide the foundation reps need to get maximum return from selling with LinkedIn regardless of whether they’re using the free version or Sales Navigator.”

2. Most users say their LinkedIn headshot is “professional” or “acceptable.”

Half of the respondents said their photos on LinkedIn are professional, and another 32% say their photos are good enough (“acceptable for business”).

Survey Question 2: How would you describe your LinkedIn photo?

What does your headshot say about you?

It nearly goes without saying: Anyone working in sales should display a professional headshot. But what qualities can elevate your image from acceptable to memorable?

Be sure to use a headshot that projects the right look and feel for your industry and area of expertise. Those in the financial sector, for example, may select a more buttoned-up, traditional photo while those in more creative fields might opt for an image that expresses more character. The best shots capture your personality as well as the context in which you work.

Viveka von Rosen

Co-founder, Chief Visibility Officer, Vengreso

“A salesperson’s profile headshot is VERY important. It’s the first thing a visitor notices. It should represent your professional brand. It should be a headshot in attire that is appropriate for your company. Don’t underestimate the importance of your sales rep’s profile photo!”

3. Most not adding media to their LinkedIn profile.

Nearly 3 in 5 respondents said they don’t share any media on their LinkedIn profile. Of those who do share media, images are the most common (i.e., a snapshot from a conference booth), while others share documents, such as reports or whitepapers. Very few share video (17%).

This is surprising given how well video performs. A whopping 97% of marketers claimed video helped increase user understanding of their product or service, and 76% claimed video helped them increase sales, according to a study from HubSpot.4

Survey Question 3: What types of media have you added to your LinkedIn profile? (Select all that apply)

Why sales reps should add media to their LinkedIn profile?

With B2B buyers increasingly moving along their journey on their own, sales reps who share relevant media on their profile can offer buyers the ability to learn about your offerings and your expertise in the industry. 82% of buyers are consuming 5 or more piece of content from the vendor they ultimately select.5

Sellers who are empowered by their sales enablement colleagues to add rich media to their LinkedIn profile will increase the odds of engaging with buyers in sales conversations.

Chris Sikora

Vice President of Marketing for Strategic Enterprise & Public Sector at CenturyLink

“After the acquisition of Level 3 Communications, CenturyLink recognized
the need for its salespeople to project a consistent and professional online brand.

That’s why we upgraded the LinkedIn profiles of 1,100 salespeople with the right images, messaging, and media.”

Discover the rest of the results:
Download the full report now!

Bibliography

1 LinkedIn State of Sales 2018 Report:
https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/blog/sales-reps/2018/10/announcing-
linkedin-s-3rd-annual-state-of-sales-report-2018-
2 Social Selling Index
https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/social-selling/the-social-selling-index-ssi

3 Social Business Journal Volume 11:
http://bit.ly/Social-Selling-SAP-LI-OM
4 State of Video Marketing – HubSpot:
https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/state-of-video-marketing-new-data
5 Source Demandbase: https://www.demandbase.com/resources/account-based-marketing-
resources/

Image Credits

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LinkedIn is a registered trademark of LinkedIn Corporation.
All product names listed in this report are for identification purposes only and are property of their respective owners. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.

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