Planning for success with Sales Navigator

December 3, 2014

linkedin-sales-navigator-story-SAP

We’ve experienced a great deal of success from rolling out LinkedIn Sales Navigator across SAP in Asia Pacific and Japan. We have seen as much as 40% plus increase in pipeline, and more than US$4 million could be attributed  to the program. A lot of this success obviously comes down to the software itself and its features. But had we simply rolled out our Sales Navigator licenses and hoped for the best, then I’m fairly certain we wouldn’t have seen the numbers that we have. As with any deployment of a new sales platform (not to mention a new methodology in the form of social selling), planning is everything. In our case we planned to establish success first – and then to scale it up. Here’s how we went about doing it:

Step 1: Training and getting buy-in from the leaders

It’s essential to make sure that your sales leaders aren’t just willing to give their support to a social selling culture; they need to have the training and skills to be able to do so as well.

As the Linkedin Sales Navigator program owner for APAC, I had access to LinkedIn’s Instruct program to help plan the training of our reps and explore ideas for building a social selling culture. Instruct was built around comprehensive workshops in New York, and it was hugely valuable in planning our deployment strategy. We looked at onboarding and training delivery for both new hires and existing reps, plus planning the framework for social selling workshops that could get the whole region on-board.

We then backed this up with training support for our sales leaders. We introduced social selling manager training to help our key people lead by example and give them the skills to review our reps’ performance. Our sessions covered professional branding, thought leadership via targeted content sharing, blog posts and use of rich media content, and expanding networks through LinkedIn groups.

Step 2: Choosing champions

Offer any sales rep a high-powered piece of kit that will build their personal profile and they are likely to snap your hand off. It’s important to focus on potential social selling champions first, who can demonstrate best practice and get the right kind of momentum behind your roll-out. In our case, we were careful to maintain control over which reps received the first licenses in our deployment. We focused on those people whom sales managers told us would be able to make the most effective use of them. Ensuring that our use of LinkedIn embodied best practice from the start was a priority.

One of our key early priority areas was the quality of profile pages. We made it a condition of getting Sales Navigator that reps had to update their page to reflect our values as a business, our interest in the subject areas (such as cloud) where we are focusing on establishing our expertise, and the value we could add for clients. We didn’t want our people boasting about being a great sales person. That means nothing to the customer – apart from perhaps, they should be careful about being manipulated. We established best practice around explaining ourselves in terms that mean something to customers: helping our clients to overcome challenges, achieve their goals and find new opportunities. And I made sure to discourage my colleagues to use cryptic, or simplistic job titles that often mean nothing to the customer or someone outside the company.

Step 3: Securing executive sponsorship – and incentivizing best practice

LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) provides a great KPI for measuring how reps are adopting best practice in the use of Sales Navigator. We made it a priority to secure sponsorship at an executive level so that we could embed this into weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews, and bonus our reps on the basis of it. We integrated SSI further into the spine of our sales culture through quarterly social selling blitz days, and townhall meetings that reward and recognize high SSI reps. This helped us to scale best practice across the region.

Step 4: Being ready with the marketing back-up

Our Inside Sales teams were very quick to spot the opportunity that Sales Navigator presented – and their example has played a key role in embedding social selling culture across the organization as a whole.

Our Demand Generation Agents began using content in targeted drip campaigns that could keep leads warm and ensure we were front-of-mind when it was time to take a decision. As an example one of our agents in South East Asia joined a LinkedIn group on HR issues and started to post questions about how different businesses went about managing their talent assets. He got a lot of responses and ended up closing a deal on the back of a contact made with an HR manager. It could have taken thousands of calls to get to that person – but inbound marketing hugely shortened the sales cycle.

Now we’ve got our Inside Sales teams and field sales all posting regularly to help reinforce their credentials as expert providers – and that’s leading to an ever-more productive relationship between sales and marketing. We feed back on the types of content that we need – and we are able to leverage that content directly to increase our profile.  We are also running some pilots with other complementary apps and services to automate the content gathering and delivery process.  We don't want our sales people spend too much time browsing sites and publications to find relevant content.

What happens when a plan comes together

By having a plan to scale social selling from the outset, we’ve been able to deploy Sales Navigator very effectively across a diverse region, including territories where our teams on the ground had initial doubts about the value it could deliver. Sales Navigator has proved equally effective in North Asian markets such as Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan as it has in ANZ, Singapore, Australia and India. The results have been reflected in the speed with which we’ve been able to scale up our social selling efforts. From an initial pilot of 50 seats in South East Asia, ANZ and India, we scaled up to 500 seats within our first year, and we’re now looking at rolling out a further 1,000 licenses across the region.

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