LinkedIn Centers Key To Outbound Success

Strategic selling is fundamentally defined by the seller targeting the buyer and proactively engaging to create value and set the agenda. Before LinkedIn we would rent databases and engage telemarketers to call and set appointments to build our pipeline. But cold-calling yields have been relentlessly trending down and currently have a success rate below 3%. This is because databases tend to be poor and phones are screened by either voicemail or Executive Assistants.

On the other hand, LinkedIn provides accurate contact information and context for targeting people who make decisions. LinkedIn is the world’s most powerful database for B2B selling with approximately 75% of professionals having LinkedIn accounts in the USA and more than 90% in Australia. These people are motivated to keep their profile up-to-date and accurate because it’s about "personal brand" and credentials. LinkedIn is the database-of-record from heaven for those who want to sell like hell. And Sales Navigator from LinkedIn is a massively powerful tool for both marketing and sales.

Call centers still have a role but if you’re in the world of B2B solution selling (yes solution selling is still very relevant and Challenger works with, rather than replaces it) you need to be making your own connection with the senior executives you are selling to. You need to build relationships and initiate physical world contact after strategically positioning yourself in their network.

Every business should invest in building a LinkedIn Center where sales and marketing come together to create highly targeted campaigns that build communities, engage stakeholders, create conversations and position sales leaders as credible partners. Here is my post/blog on how to do create your LinkedIn Center.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

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Your LinkedIn War Room

We’ve all seen the situation room at the movies – Martin Sheen in West Wing as President Bartlet down in the White House basement or Bill Pullman as President Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day. It’s an impressive scene with multiple screens displaying data on command. Profiles of the bad guys, enemy analysis and everything available at the click of a mouse to make the big calls based on the best available intel and ‘on balance’ probabilities.

Enterprise solution selling needs the same paradigm because complex selling is more analogous to war than sport. We need to defeat the enemy by navigating complexity. We need the very best intelligence about individual players, organizational drivers, industry trends, financial profile, political power, competitor incumbency, SWOT analysis, data about the customer’s customers, the consultants who influence them, their weighted decision criteria, approval gates, business case… we need it all and more. This is because a strategy is only as good as the intelligence and thinking that leads to it. Fact-based decision-making without supposition, ignorance or blind hope is essential.

Here's a secret weapon for your sales arsenal: Make the investment in your LinkedIn War Room and here’s why it’s a must. I’ve won massive deals as the lead salesperson selling to IBM at 70% higher prices than the competition. As the Managing Director of a software company, we won the whole of a government license deal after we’d been told that we were eliminated but managed to get back into their process. As the external deal coach, I recently helped a client win a $100M contract selling to a client with the power-base distributed across three countries. These career-making deals are earned with strategy, teamwork and excellence in execution.

Imagine this scene. A dedicated War Room in your company with screens on every wall; think Salesforce Social Media Command Center meets LinkedIn Navigator on steroids. There is a boardroom style table in the middle but higher than normal and with no chairs. People do their best thinking on their feet and meetings are faster and more productive when participants are not reclining. There is a big sign on the wall: If you’re here – be here! Turn your phone off and focus on the task at hand – how will we win? Every screen has a purpose. Skype or video conferencing for face-to-face interaction with customers and team members in other offices. See their eyes to ensure they are focused and engaged – human to human (H2H) interactions without distractions. According to Citrix case studies, video-conferencing can increase close rates by 34%.

Collaboration deal room software is displayed on one screen. Another screen is a Gantt chart building the win plan, capturing all of the interdependencies, milestones, events and dates; aligning with the buyers own internal process highlighting what has been validated. Everyone is side-by-side, collaborating with this Tiger Team of 5 or more with Social Selling Index (SSI) scores of 70+, scouring the contextual web for something that can make a difference: news, job changes, promotions, innovation, new product launches, funding, thought leadership content, tweets, curation, shares, comments and likes. Another screen shows the opportunity snapshot. CRM screens abound capturing every detail as the single source of truth for the account, opportunity, players and action-tracking.

In between the various big screens, the walls are glass white boards full of relationship maps, color-coded to highlight power players, supporters, enemies, competitors, and external influencers. Post-it notes are everywhere. The whole room is a living three-dimensional account and opportunity plan. Strategic maneuvers and purposeful tactics are played-out. On other screens, the constellation of social apps are provided on heads-up displays Minority Report style. Key targets stream down a screen, Lead Lists tracked passively in Navigator.

Twitter: Like stock tickers, lists representing all the players show who they follow and what they’re talking about in Social.

LinkedIn: For profiling and seeing social proximity, and for tracking human trigger events. Of all the screens in the room, the LinkedIn ones are most important to leverage 2nd and 3rd degree TeamLinking and networked intelligence.

LinkedInPublisher: Sales people become micro-marketers sharing subject matter expertise (SME) content based on business challenges universal to your sector on a daily basis back-linking to Forrester and Gartner reports.

Blogs: Anyone in the customer organization who blogs is monitored. Grass roots early signs of what’s going on inside, behind the barricades.

Facebook: Who are the key people connected to, personally and professionally? Competitors, consultants, influential players in their industry? And you thought Facebook had no role in B2B selling.

Annual Reports: The team is trained to read and understand them, they sit on iPads at the ready for mission critical intel to reflect CXO insight.

ROI calculators: A dedicated technical member of the team is at the ready to help collaboratively build the business case, making and proving out a value hypothesis, quantitatively not just qualitative.

Join all the dots, crack the code by managing this room with leading measure KPIs, know what you don't know and set tasks for further intelligence gathering. Develop a cunning winning plan based on best value and lowest risk for the customer. Everyone who enters the LinkedIn War Room leaves his or her ego at the door. Their job is simply to play their role and contribute where they add the most value. Regardless of your corporate methodology (Challenger, SPIN, TAS), apply the RSVP meta-framework for creating clarity amidst all the complexity. It represents a quantum leap for your social sales force. Do it simply by relentlessly asking these sets of questions to govern your metaphorical laser-guided tactical assault:

R)elationships: Do we have the right relationships? Followed by: Are we selling at the right level? Do they have genuine political and economic power? Do our relationships provide differentiating intelligence, insight and genuine influence?

S)trategy: Do we have an effective strategy for managing relationships and competitive threats? Followed by: Do we understand the power-base and have we identified the competition (external and internal including the risk of them doing nothing)? What's our strategy for winning while engineering a positive bias in the customer's requirements toward us?

V)alue: Are we leading with insight and uniquely creating compelling business value in the eyes of the customer? Followed by: Why will they buy anything at all and is there a risk of the status quo prevailing? How are we differentiating and evidencing our credentials as lowest risk and best value?

P)rocess: Are we aligned and do we truly understand the customer’s process for evaluation, selection, approval and procurement? Followed by: Do we understand how they define and assess risk with suppliers and solutions? Do we have a close plan validated by the customer?

I named it RSVP because 80% of success is simply showing up and being fully there. In Social, you can always be ready, listening proactively; real-time reconnaissance of your dream clients is finally possible. Be ready to make a relevant entrance to their conversation which they will find maximally refreshing.

It's a brave new world! Make the investment in your War Room and bring Social Selling 3.0 alive where tried and true selling methodologies are super-charged by social platforms and collaborative technologies. But make it exclusive by prioritizing for your best people and most strategic deals. Salespeople should compete with each other for access to it. Is their deal truly qualified? Have they earned the right to use it with enough base-level information and intelligence? Is the opportunity big and strategic enough?

How will you know that you are winning beyond any single KPI, even revenue? One word, one key metric: INTERACTIVITY

An ode to the Social Selling 3.0 War Room (The world's first LinkedIn Poem?)

Everyone who has ever bought from your firm

Every SOW engaged, tactically short or strategically long-term

Relationships and strategy trump technology for technology's sake

Listen closely to the leaders you seek, work a process and records shall you break

The dawn of true sales leadership, victory over shiny object syndrome

The customer is the star in this quirky B2B poem

The insightful message at the right time accelerates the deal

Pipeline explodes with qualified prospects in your zeal

Selling is social helping in the cloud, no spam allowed

Social Selling 3.0, shout it out loud!

Authentic connections and KPIs that lead rather than lag

Cracking the sales management code, the right activities mean it’s in the bag

This room is a place of active listening and engagement,

Of strategic thinking and quota attainment

Understanding the political power-base with fresh intel from LinkedIn

Provides the knowledge that’s needed to engage and win

Intelligent conversations fill the air, collaborative ideas tantamount

Disruptive selling at its finest, top gun mavericks, micro-content marketing is paramount

Challenging the status quo with insight selling aplomb

Strategies and tactics are iterated just like an agile software dev team in the era of dot com

Technology will never outpace human ingenuity, this human selling innovation will shine

Behold, the LinkedIn War Room a modern construct of our changing times

In the eyes of customers, we all look pretty much the same. It's not what we sell, it's how we sell it. Reinvent the way you manage complex strategic opportunities. Your CEO will be stunned by the quantum leap in execution through the Social Selling 3.0 War Room paradigm. She could even use it for M & A activity! There's been a chorus of management talk about driving 3.5X pipeline and this is a great insurance policy. What if you could drastically increase conversion rate by making said pipeline exponentially stronger filling the funnel via social omnipresence? Impressive revenue and margin will follow but remember, there is no magic bullet. Could this radically transform the face of B2B inside sales, further reducing cost of sales (COS) and accelerating sales cycles on six and seven-figure closes fully inside? Will the world's first SVP of Social Selling be hired this year? Yes, I believe it will happen. You read it here first! As Marc Benioff puts it best as a mantra, "Become a customer company."

I predict it will all be trending this way, freeing up sales executives' time for innovation and more meaningful interaction lower in the funnel where it counts the most. Closer to the customer, closer to the deal flow; a shift to service and fulfillment. You will have more time to nurture and grow your existing business explosively and in venture-backed companies this solves an age-old Achilles heel: too great a focus placed on net new logos, cutting off the nose to spite the face. After all, Gartner reports 80% of revenue comes from 20% of existing accounts. The coveted sales job of the future will somewhat paradoxically be Sales Writer/Researcher, once a soft skill transmuted into a hard skill. So perhaps Shakespeare himself would be a top sales performer if transported in a time machine to 2045?

Technology acceleration has implications on enterprise field selling as well and I'll be touching on that in greater detail in future posts. This may be 2020 but imagine an Account Executive wearing Google Glass or a SmartWatch getting real-time updates synced to CRM & Social Streams from the corner of a smart contact lens corresponding with a manager on another continent (sitting in the LinkedIn War Room no doubt!) advising her on the meeting agenda and strategic talking points at every crossroads. Imagine the implications on training and ramping reps if you can ride along with a rep digitally through wearable tech? Benioff is already running the whole company off a smartphone and CRM will at last be fully mobile, as every rep is equipped with a supercomputer tied to the cloud with more computing power than a warehouse mainframe mere decades ago, at there disposal with one tap.

Remember that selling is serving and you can be at peace in the war room, if you follow elements of this blueprint and make it your own. To quote Jill Rowley, "Your sales force is on the brink of EXTINCTION. They are being replaced by search engines and social networks. It’s time to adapt or die."

More on How to Build Your LinkedIn Center at this link. Inspirational credit is due to the following authors for concepts in this poem: Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto, Shift!, Cracking the Sales Management Code, Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana, Jill Rowley #SocialSelling, The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson & Matt Dixon, Jim Holden's Power-Base Selling, David Meerman Scott's New Rules of Sales & Service & Marketing & PR, Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You, Jeff Thull's Mastering The Complex Sale. Special recognition to Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling and Donal Daly, Account Planning in Salesforce.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Robert Raines

The Sales Virus That Could Destroy LinkedIn

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I am grateful to LinkedIn for the way they are changing the business world and for how they provide unprecedented reach and leverage for members. LinkedIn has brought me more clients than I can cope with and in less than a year my LinkedIn followers have gone from 1,600 to more than 10,000 with almost 500,000 reads of my posts. I, along with the vast majority of other members, have adopted a positive and professional approach to networking in respectfully using the platform. But I'm seeing a troubling trend within LinkedIn driven by spammers and sales people adopting annoying 'connect and sell' behaviors.

LinkedIn recently decided to embrace advertising and last week I received my first unsolicited InMail trying to sell me a Porsche... "Fortune favors the brave... who drive the 911 Carrera GTS".

The following day a dodgy LinkedIn member tried to invite me to receive a bucket-load of money from an unbelievable 'business opportunity' but I blocked him and reported the scam behavior to LinkedIn. I also regularly received other solicitations for services relating to lead generation and website optimization. All I need to complete the trifecta is a mail-order bride who will comes with a lifetime supply of Viagra funded by millions of dollars that her royal cousin in Nigeria is seeking to get out of of the country if I can just send a deposit of $20,000 along with my bank account details. Just as I was publishing this post I received this InMail and you can see my response under it.

LinkedIn should be the professional online network and the Facebookifation of LinkedIn is a real threat to the platform and company's future prosperity. What has LinkedIn learned from members being bombarded by recruitment consultants in phase one of the platforms success? How will they seek to moderate hyper-active sellers and marketers that are now emerging on the platform? Despite adjusting my account profile setting (see below) and being clear about the basis on which I am happy to engage, unwanted solicitations still get through. If you have not already done so, you should invest time in understanding and updating your LinkedIn profile settings to do what you can to reduce unwanted bombardment.

Facebook's biggest drawback is narcissistic trolls who bully, badger and blast members but the sales and marketing animals within LinkedIn could be the Achilles' heel of the social giant for business.

How will LinkedIn create a member culture of good mannered, high value networking and block the 'connect and sell' spamming?

Beyond anything that LinkedIn themselves do, it is us the members who can create the greatest value and drive a networked culture of professionalism and value. The rules of networking are the same in the physical world as online. You would never walk up to someone at a business event and say: "Hi, great to meet you – would you like to buy my service?" We know that good manners dictate that we first take an interest in the person to understand them. Trust must be earned as the first transaction in any relationship and it is destroyed by anyone who is disingenuous, pushy or manipulative.

LinkedIn is becoming the next Google for professionals and should be used as intended by the creators. It is a high value professional networking platform to connect people and ideas. Your brand is precious so don't damage it with clumsy selling activity in LinkedIn.

What are your rules for engaging in LinkedIn and what are the most bizarre encounters you have had on the platform?

P.S. This is what I did with Mr Omah Khan so that LinkedIn can eliminate him from the platform.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally posted in LinkedIn here where you can comment, like, share. Please follow my LinkedIn Blog for many more articles or visit my leadership blog at his keynote speaker

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