What is Modern Selling?

The Selling Landscale is Changing

At LinkedIn, we work with thousands of sales organizations every day. And when we step back and consider why companies are having more and more difficulty achieving their sales targets, it really comes down to one thing: conventional sales tactics are limiting pipeline and losing deals. 

Here are three of the biggest trends we’ve discovered:

1. First, salespeople are often missing critical players involved in the purchase. In other words, they might be speaking to 1 or 2 decision makers, but as a result of not having EVERYBODY at the table, deals often get delayed, stalled or even lost completely

2. Second, salespeople often lack credibility when they don’t understand their prospect’s business. Today’s buyers are savvy, busy people. They expect salespeople to know what’s going on in their businesses, and if they don’t, they just tune them out 

3. Finally, salespeople are increasingly losing touch with prospects during the sales cycle because they use weak connections to get in the door and they don’t have meaningful reasons to stay in contact throughout the deal cycle

This is happening everywhere, and it’s all part of a larger trend: that conventional sales tactics simply don’t work as well as they used to. 

Enter a new way of selling

Some people call this “social selling” or “digital selling” -- we refer to it as modern selling: the leveraging of insights from digital platforms to better target, understand, and engage with your potential buyers 

Here's a real example of how modern selling works: 

  • We had a Sales Navigator customer named Lisa. Lisa is an account executive at a multinational software company who was working on a very important account. But she was having difficulty getting in touch with a decision maker
  • When she finally DID find the right person… they actually left the company a few days later!
  • Under a traditional sales approach, Lisa would have to start all over again -- or worse, she might not even know this person had left
  • But here’s what happened next: A few weeks later, Lisa got an automated, proactive alert from Sales Navigator that a brand new Head of Sales had started at that account. Sales Navigator also told her that the two of them shared a mutual connection in the form of a former colleague 
  • And just like that, she was able to secure a warm introduction, schedule a meeting, and had a huge potential deal on the table

Stories like this happen all the time. And the bottom line is this: Businesses that adopt modern selling secure higher win rates, close bigger deals, and source more opportunities than those that don’t!

Building Your Modern Selling Foundation

So what does this mean for you?

After all, your company invested in Sales Navigator, so that should solve the problem, right? Well… not exactly.  

It’s not enough to simply acquire new tools. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of being introduced to a new tool or process or system, only to have nobody actually use it!  

The fact is, we’re not just changing tools -- we’re also changing attitudes and behaviors at an organizational level. And that’s much harder to do.

What you need is a program -- a set of initiatives, measures, and activities designed to achieve a long term goal. And that’s where you come in as the Program Manager: your job is to own the program that results in the implementation and widespread adoption of Sales Navigator in your org. Not an easy task! 

So where do you begin? It all starts with one thing: Stakeholder buy-in. Studies show that as many as 68% of programs fail due to lack of management buy-in.

The first thing you need to do before you actually build anything else is to identify and speak with all the relevant stakeholders of your program. 


Gaining stakeholder buy-in

There are four general types of stakeholders:

1. Executive sponsors. This is the person who serves as the face of the initiative -- often a Sales Leader or other high-ranking senior executive who is fully in support of the program

Having an executive sponsor is critical in order to give your program the authority and credibility it needs to be effective. They’re the ones who can truly speak to the “why” behind the program. They can also help clear any roadblocks you may run into down the line

2. Sales leaders. Depending on the size of your organization, you may have one sales manager or dozens! Regardless, it’s very important to get input from these sales leaders, as they’re the ones who will be responsible for actually implementing your initiatives with the field, as well as holding their teams accountable for results

3. Sales professionals. This is your front line: your account executives and account managers that are going to be using Sales Navigator on a regular basis. You’ll definitely want to hear their perspective too, as well as identify any potential champions 

4. Cross-functional partners. This could mean your marketing team, sales operations, business development -- anybody who might be interested in modern selling should be considered a potential cross functional partner, as they can also help drive your program goals forward


Let’s pause for a second: What might this list of stakeholders look like at your organization? Pull out a piece of paper and start writing down a few names. Try to think of at least one name from each of these four categories before moving on. 

Your first step is to meet with these people, starting with your Executive Sponsor, and talk to them about what they consider important when it comes to modern selling 

Your goal is to walk away from these conversations with clear answers to these 3 questions: 

1. WHY did we decide to invest in Sales Navigator? (Not just “why” at a high level, but “to do what”? What specific use cases?) 

2. What is our GOAL with Sales Navigator? (And where does this fit within your organization-wide goals?)

3. What METRIC (or metrics) will we use to track our goals?  


Here’s an example:

  • Let’s say your challenge is that your team has low-quality leads, resulting in salespeople wasting time trying to connect with people without any buying authority 
  • A goal might be that you’re going to use Sales Navigator to find key decision makers faster
  • A metric might be: Reduce the average sales cycle length from 120 days to 90 days 


This is just an example: Your situation might be different, or you may have multiple goals and metrics.

Don’t worry about getting this perfect right away. Instead, think of this as the beginning of an ongoing conversation: An important first step to ensure that as you build your program, you do so with the right goals in mind AND the right people involved. 



Administering Access

In your conversations with stakeholders, you want to identify exactly who should receive a Sales Navigator license. Get crystal clear about this so there’s no confusion -- for example, if you bought 100 licenses but were only given 50 names, there’s probably a disconnect somewhere.

Licenses should be provisioned to corporate email addresses only, NOT your employees’ personal emails. This is important for both security & compliance reasons as well as to maximize your users’ Sales Navigator experience. 

Once you assign a license, the user will receive an email from Sales Navigator to connect their corporate email address to their personal LinkedIn.com account.  That’s because Sales Navigator is designed to leverage your sales professionals' existing networks in order to give them relevant insights and recommendations.

We recommend proactively letting your salespeople know that connecting their  accounts to Sales Navigator does NOT relinquish any rights or LinkedIn.com data to their employers. 

In our experience, this is a common stumbling block for a lot of Program Managers, so it’s best to be proactive and address any concerns before they come up.

Finally, be sure to follow up with any users who hasn’t activated a provisioned license. You can always find out who has and has not activated their accounts through the Account Center.


Enabling Users

Once users have access, you’ll want to provide them with all the tools, training, and guidelines they need in order to become successful modern sellers.

To start, we recommend creating a formal training & education plan that clearly identifies who should attend training, what training they should attend, and when & where those training sessions take place. 

Thankfully, you won’t need to reinvent the wheel on this: We offer a number of educational resources in our Customer Hub, which you can access via the link below. One great starting point for new users is our Introduction to Sales Navigator training.

Beyond the initial training, you’ll also want to think about how you can enable users on an ongoing basis. This means keeping them up to date on tips, best practices, new product features, templates, and more.

And finally, remember to integrate enablement into your existing processes wherever possible. For example, let’s say you have a cross functional partner that handles new hire onboarding -- what if you worked with them to make sure that EVERY new salesperson is trained to become a modern seller from Day 1?


Driving Adoption

Once you’ve provided the knowledge and resources, how do you ensure that users actually do what you want them to do? How do you make all of this “stick”? 

One of the easiest ways is to give every user a small, specific, and attainable monthly development goal. You’ll want to work with each individual team to figure out what makes the most sense for them, but this could be something as simple as:

  • Saving 10 key accounts in Sales Navigator
  • Sending 15 InMails in a month
  • Saving 25 leads
  • And so on

Having clear goals gives users a sense of direction and accomplishment, while increasing the likelihood that they’ll actually discover the value of Sales Navigator for themselves

Next: Once your team starts using Sales Navigator regularly, they’re going to start seeing results. Be sure to capture and circulate those wins in order to encourage and inspire others on your team to do the same. Nothing catches a seller’s attention like hearing about a colleague’s success!

One of the best ways to do this is to create a dedicated Slack or Teams channel so that users can share Sales Navigator success stories in real time. This is a great way to make sure Sales Navigator stays “top of mind” on an ongoing basis.

Finally, we all know that salespeople love to win, so why not try using gamification to inspire a little friendly competition between teams? This can take the form of a contest, a leaderboard, awards… there are no rules here, so get as creative as you want! Anything that motivates salespeople to use Sales Navigator more often is fair game.

Note: We have a Sales Navigator Community where program managers from around the world come together to share adoption best practices on a daily basis. We highly recommend everyone in this training join and participate in the Community. 

Managing Communication

All the ideas we’ve talked about are powerful. But in order to turn any of these ideas into reality, you’ll need clear and effective communication. 

Plan these out! The more organized and intentional you are with your communications, the smoother your entire program will be.  

We recommend planning your communications at least 30-90 days in advance. Be sure to include things like:

  • Important dates and reminders
  • Team wins and success stories 
  • Modern selling tips and best practices
  • New Sales Navigator features and product updates 

To save you time, we’ve provided a number of sample email scripts & communication templates in the Customer Hub. Feel free to leverage these as much as you need. 


Measuring Success

Eventually, you’ll need to be able to go back to your leadership team and actually make the case that YES, your program is successful. So how do you do that?

Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

Start Small

A lot of PMs try to “boil the ocean” when it comes to metrics reporting, with fancy spreadsheets, advanced formulas, dashboards... only to end up totally overloaded with information 

Instead, it’s better to start with metrics that are simple, accessible, and easy to understand 

We know how important this is for modern selling, so our Product team built Usage Reporting into the Admin Center that allows you to easily pull these kinds of light, but significant engagement metrics. Metrics like: 

  • Logins 
  • # of searches 
  • # of InMails sent
  • # leads & accounts saved

Now you don’t want to report on just anything, so make sure you evolve the metrics you track to align with your business goals. For example, if one of your goals is to increase personalized outreach to decision makers, it could be helpful to show the # of InMails your team is sending growing over time 

Run a user feedback survey

So we just talked about quantitative metrics, now let’s talk about the qualitative side 

One thing you can do is to send your team a simple survey asking them: 

  • Has Sales Navigator been valuable to them?
  • Have they used it to secure new connections, introductions, meetings, and opportunities? 

Surveys are a great way to showcase how your team is getting value out of Sales Navigator, especially from those star salespeople. Include 1 great story to go along with the numbers and you’ll really… 

(By the way, for those of you on our corporate accounts, you can ask your CSM or Relationship Manager to help you design and set up the survey. Just keep in mind you typically want to have a program live for at least a couple months before running your first survey) 

Integrate Your CRM

For our third option, we have the holy grail. If you really want to put all questions about ROI and sales correlation to rest, Sales Navigator offers CRM Integration for customers using either Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 

By integrating your CRM, you can map your users’ actual Sales Navigator activity directly back to opportunities within your CRM. That allows you and your team to see exactly which activities in Sales Navigator are actually influencing revenue! 

What if you’re using a CRM that doesn’t integrate with Sales Navigator? There’s usually a creative workaround -- for example, some of our customers will create a custom “lead source” field to easily identify opportunities that were sourced by Sales Navigator. Consult with your LinkedIn team to find the best approach for your situation 

There are a ton of benefits to integrating your CRM beyond data tracking -- from logging relevant sales activities, to improving sales efficiency. Setup is simple, so visit the link below to learn more

Finally, I want to take a second to point out that Sales Navigator also offers a wealth of other  integrations via our SNAP partner program. So if your organization uses any of these sales or marketing tools, definitely visit our SNAP page to learn more