The Four Networks of Sales: Sales Leaders

Part 4: How understanding your professional network can help you gain an edge in the market.

August 14, 2020

In this four-part series, we’ve examined the professional networks of four different sales professionals. Using LinkedIn’s vast network data, we analysed the networks of four groups of people: account executives, relationship managers, customer success managers, and sales leaders, and analysed the differences in each of their professional networks. Then, we explain how we can tap into our network’s distinct attributes and use these to help us become better sales professionals.

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The influential network of a sales leader

In this final instalment of this series, we look into the network of a senior sales leader and identify the key characteristics that separate it from the networks of other sales professionals.

Here, we’ll talk about another key concept in social networking: Homophily.

The idea of homophily could be summarised by the saying, "Birds of the same feather flock together". Simply put, our natural tendency as social beings is to gravitate towards people with whom we share the same characteristics, whether ascribed (e.g. ethnicity or gender) or acquired (e.g. our work or school).

As executive-level representatives of their company, the network of a sales leader is strategic: well-connected, but also highly externally-focused and in-tune with their peers. Sales leaders are particularly well-placed with their executive and C-suite counterparts in other organisations, as they are expected to be influencers and strong advocates for their team and their company. The role of the sales leader is aspirational, always ensuring that the team is motivated, empowered and equipped with the right tools and the right people to connect with.

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Figure 1. The network of a sales leader could be best described by “like for like” and characterised by people from the same leadership circle.

How does homophily manifest in the network of a sales leader?

In Figure 2, you'll see a real-life network of a sales director with over 10 years experience. Each of sales directors' contacts is coloured according to their level of seniority (based on their listed title on LinkedIn), from white (entry-level) to dark blue (CXO+). It's immediately clear that the network of a sales leader is vast, and built on lasting relationships with other key decision-makers. Similar to the homophily principle, most of the sales leader’s direct contacts are within their level of seniority or higher, depicted below in the darker shades of blue.   

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Figure 2. The network of a sales director is vast, but well-connected and strategic. Most of the sales leader’s connections are within their range of seniority.

Now let’s look at the same sales director’s network again, but this time, the coloured dots will represent the industry/sector of each contact. Using the concept of homophily and the below graphic, could you guess which industry colour our sales director works in? If you guessed green, then pat yourself on the back.

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Figure 3. Using the concept of homophily, one can infer that the sales leader belongs to the “green” sector that is well-represented by their network.

Grow your influence and network with LinkedIn and with Sales Navigator

With over 690M members and 50M companies globally, LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to set your team up for success. Our real-time access to data on over 16M daily buyer/seller signals, which can help your sales team create informed, profitable sales decisions.

As a sales leader, are you providing the right tools to empower the varying needs of the different people on your team? In the first three parts of this series, we’ve learned that each person in the sales team taps into different aspects of their network in order to be successful in their function. Sales is, and will always be, driven by the quality of your team’s social network. LinkedIn Sales Navigator maximises the potential of growing your team’s sales network by allowing them to tap into the world’s largest professional network. 

Consider building your personal brand on LinkedIn as an influencer. Produce and share relevant content on the platform, and monitor the audience engagement by using the Smart Links tool. This highlights what your audience is most interested in, and helps focus buyer outreach. 


Parting thoughts

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to selling. Each part of the sales process is performed by different members of the team, each with a different priorities. Understanding the nuances of each role's social network will unlock new business opportunities, and maximise the outreach potential for sales teams.