Gain a Competitive Sales Advantage in 2016

January 6, 2016

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With 2015 in the books, we can all look forward to the New Year. For sales professionals, it is an especially exciting time with fresh start, updated account books and new pipeline goals. We’re getting ready for our sales kickoff and thought it would be fun to pick the brain of our own VP of Sales for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, Mike Derezin for a closer look at the state of sales today and predictions for 2016.

LI: Looking back at 2015, what are some of the key sales trends you've noticed? Have any major themes emerged from your conversations with sales and marketing leaders around the world?

MD: The main themes revolve around the changing buyer environment, sales adapting to that new normal, and leveraging technology to help reduce inefficiencies in the sales process.

One of the most compelling statistics that always resonates with our customers and my sales peers is that, according to CEB research, the average number of people involved in a typical B2B purchasing decision is now 5.4. That’s a completely different world from what most sales professionals are used to. To make matters more complicated, the type of people involved in the buying decision is also changing. We’re increasingly seeing influencers and budget holders in purchasing decisions sit in business lines or functional areas like marketing, whereas historically sales may have worked more closely with procurement or IT.

LI: What challenges do you think sales faces today?

MD: While we all know the cold call is dying and sales professionals utilizing social selling will increasingly be the norm, I do foresee challenges in driving adoption of modern sales tactics across your sales force. There are still many experienced reps who would rather hit the phone and rely on traditional tactics to try and get their meetings.

The key to helping your sales team become great social sellers is to:

1) understand that their senior leaders are behind their social selling program and expect them to adopt it,

2) tailored education is provided for both advanced and beginners

3) provide them real success stories from their peers and measure their social selling adoption through SSI (Social Selling Index).

At the end of the day, empowering your sales team to help themselves using proper training will make them feel confident about leveraging technology and their social networks to their selling advantage.

Another related challenge is legacy performance metrics. We have seen situations where sales reps buy into the idea of using social cues for context on buyer relationships and buying cycles, but their hands are tied if their performance is still measured by number of dials and minutes on the phone. Performance metrics of the past do not translate directly to the sales tactics of tomorrow. If you want your sales organization to evolve with the industry,  commit to tracking the right data points - like the Social Selling Index (SSI) - and keep up with the latest technology trends.

LI: What excites you about the sales profession today?

MD: I always think it’s exciting when there is an opportunity to reinvent the old and explore new ways to get things done. The silver lining in the challenge of the new buying process is that technology is rapidly evolving and those who leverage it will gain a competitive advantage and adjust to the transition much quicker. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is one solution that takes new technology - in this case - social data on over 400M members from the world's largest professional network - to help sales professionals find the right buyer at the right time and make the sales process more efficient. I’m really excited about what we’re bringing to market and look forward to seeing how the adoption of these tools will form and shape the sales force of tomorrow.

The other piece that’s very exciting to me is the move towards predictive modeling. We're moving to a world where reps will get more and more buying signals and alerts about their accounts and prospects.   Imagine walking into the office and being alerted by an app on your phone that several leads you’ve been working are now ready to buy. We’re getting close and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the technology advances this year.

LI: Why do you believe social selling is an imperative for sales teams in 2016?

MD: Our data suggests that the time to adopt social selling as a team is now.  Looking at the growth in the Social Selling Index, a score that measures social selling behavior, over the last two years, it is apparent that social selling has gone mainstream. Sales leaders are creating formalized programs to drive adoption across all the ranks of their sales force. We’re seeing amazing results from our customers who have gone all-in. Microsoft is a great example of a company that is transforming its sales force by implementing a social selling program. I truly believe the window of opportunity for being a first mover and gaining that corresponding competitive advantage is rapidly shrinking -- the time to act is now.

Mike will be continuing the discussion on the state of sales today, predictions for 2016 and how social selling can unlock a competitive advantage in a webinar on January 19th. You can join him by registering here.

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