Social selling is a hot topic right now. If you’re in sales or work with sales teams you can’t escape it. For hopefully obvious reasons, Linkedin is ground zero for social selling right now, especially in the business-to-business world. They are both the primary professional social network (at least here in the Americas) and a leading selling of sales enablement tools, chiefly their Sales Navigator product. Yes, like a good drug dealer they got us all hooked for free, but now we gotta pay.
Full disclosure, EveryoneSocial is a Linkedin Sales Navigator customer. With it you get access to additional insights and information on other Linkedin members, integrations with other systems (e.g., with Salesforce), and some team-related functionality. One of the bits of information you get access to as a Sales Navigator customer is your and your team’s Social Selling Index, which is kind of like Linkedin’s version of a Klout score (can’t you just see the Linkedin folks cringing at that analogy ;-). However and unlike Klout, Linkedin’s SSI kind of matters, at least for now.
What is the Linkedin Social Selling Index?
Linkedin’s Social Selling Index is a score from 1 to 100 and is based on your activity on Linkedin in four areas: profile, sharing, communicating, and searching. While Linkedin hasn’t come out and said it, it seems likely that they track an SSI score for every member of their network. That said, the only users that can actually see their SSI and get insights on how to improve it are those who pay for Sales Navigator. Even then, you can only see your and your team's SSI scores; you can’t view the SSI of a user outside your org.
What does SSI tell us?
The Linkedin Social Selling Index is a general indicator of a sales rep’s activity and proficiency on Linkedin: have they filled out their profile, are they using search and other tools, are they using inmail, are they sharing content, etc. It does not measure the effectiveness of a sales rep’s efforts: increase in new opportunities created, number of meetings set, new deals closed, etc. That level of tracking can be facilitated by Sales Navigator, however it’s up to the program manager to connect it w/ their CRM and any other tools to measure what results their reps are driving.
Why does SSI matter?
Should you care if your sales reps are active on Linkedin? According to data being reported by teams using Linkedin Sales Navigator, an increase in SSI has a direct correlation with increased opportunities and revenue. Why? In short, it’s new. I know that sounds like a cop out, but hang with me. Especially if you’re a business that sells to other businesses, chances are the majority of your prospects are active on Linkedin. However it’s also likely that your competitors sales teams are not actively prospecting on Linkedin. There simply aren’t that many sales teams actively using Linkedin, which means that if your team is active they’re likely going to see results.
How can we prove this? Look at Inmail (Linkedin’s internal messaging service) response rates versus traditional email. What’s the response rate on a cold email? A few percentage points? According to Linkedin the average response rate on an Inmail to someone you’re not already a connection with is over ten percent. From various sales teams we’ve spoken with that number is likely conservative: one sales leader who presented at a recent Linkedin conference stated that her team’s response rate is in excess of 50%. Even if she's off by half, that is a number you can’t ignore.
Point being, if your sales team members are active on Linkedin, especially if their sending Inmails, they’re more likely to make contact with the people they’re prospecting. It’s that simple. Need more convincing? Let’s look at some information Microsoft recently shared about their social selling program at last week's Linkedin Sales Connect event.
Microsoft social selling results:
Microsoft put a significant number of their sales reps on Linkedin Sales Navigator in the last year. When they first onboarded these users their collective median Social Selling Index was 48. After some number of months of training and increased activity on the part of the reps that collective median SSI was raised to 56. Here’s what they saw as a result:
- Highly engaged sellers (those with higher SSIs) saw a 38% increase in opportunities
- Every 10 point increase in SSI equalled 4.3 more opportunities
- Their Sales Navigator users are generating 1.7x the number of opportunities and revenue (breakdown by team below)
- Enterprise & Partner Group: 3x more opportunities and 5x more revenue
- Corporate Group: 1.9x more opportunities and 1.5x more revenue
- Public Sector: 2.3x more opportunities and 1.2x more revenue
Impressive, right? Again, all of these numbers need to be taken with a fat grain of salt, however it’s undeniable that there’s a major opportunity available to teams who are willing to embrace Linkedin (and make an investment in some sales enablement tools). It’s not often that simply by participating you’re significantly more likely (as in double-digit more likely) to achieve the result you’re looking to achieve, and like most great things it’s not going to last forever.
So is your/your team’s Social Selling Index the only thing you should care about? No. Think of SSI as a heart-rate monitor. Is your team alive? How active are they? To run a successful social selling program you need to invest in tools, train your team, and (most importantly) put in place a process for tracking how your reps’ activity is driving your company’s bottom line. That last part is the tricky part. Without real tracking and accountability, social selling and SSI are just more buzzwords.
New to social selling? I highly recommend checking out our Beginners Guide to Social Selling. It provides a great breakdown of best practices and supporting data to get you and your team pointed in the right direction.