How to Improve Your Social Selling Approach on LinkedIn
The problem with social selling lies in the name itself. In the world of B2B companies, it’s crucial to lead by building relationships, trust, and credibility first with your target audience. How can people do this more effectively on platforms like LinkedIn? How can they improve their current approach?
We discuss these topics in this week’s episode with LinkedIn expert Sandra Long (Company Owner, LinkedIn Trainer & Speaker, Post Road Consulting). During our conversation, Sandra talks about what social selling is NOT, what some of the most common mistakes and misconceptions are, the importance of having the right strategy and content, and why B2B companies need to use thought leadership for strategic differentiation on LinkedIn.
Topics discussed in this episode:
Christian Klepp, Sandra Long
Christian Klepp 00:00
Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for B2B marketers that helps you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry, and take your marketing to new heights. Each week, we talk to B2B marketing experts who share inspirational stories, discussed our thoughts and trending topics, and provide useful marketing tips and recommendations. And now, here’s your host and co-founder of EINBLICK, Consulting, Christian Klepp. Okay, welcome, everyone to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast, where you get your weekly dose of B2B marketing insights. I’m your host, Christian Klepp. And today I’m joined by someone on a mission to help companies and employees succeed with LinkedIn. So coming to us from Connecticut, I believe it is. Sandra Long, welcome to the show.
Sandra Long 00:47
Thank you, Christian, I’m excited to be here.
Christian Klepp 00:50
Great to be connected Sandra. And I’m really looking forward to this conversation because as we were just discussing before I hit record. While this is such a pertinent topic of something that’s been going on on LinkedIn and will continue to take place. So let’s just dive right in. So here comes the understatement of the year. You are no stranger to LinkedIn. In fact, you are an early adopter of LinkedIn who is also an authority on topics like personal branding, and social selling. But just for this conversation, let’s zero in on the topic of how people can improve their B2B, social selling on LinkedIn. Let’s start off this conversation with well, talking about what social selling is not. And I think it lies in the name itself, the name doesn’t really give it justice.
Sandra Long 01:41
It really is a name that can get people confused. And I think there should be more emphasis on the word social than selling, it’s really a place to build, build relationships, and be social and attract people to want to do business with us. It’s not, you know, it’s not Amazon, this is not like, you know, it’s not just like you have your products up and people are going to buy them or you’re just gonna spit out advertising. In fact, those kinds of strategies really don’t work that well.
Christian Klepp 02:11
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I mean, it was just like, what I was saying to you earlier, like, you know, people trying to reach out to you, and I think the, the trending word these days is pitch slap, right? So when somebody immediately tries to solicit their business, or you know, their services and products to you, before they even find out whether you are a right fit for their company or not. And that seems to be like a bit of a game of what do they call it numbers, spray and pray, probably all of the above.
Sandra Long 02:42
It’s just way too prevalent. I’m seeing it too often. And people, for some reason are bought into that. That’s the way to go, and it’s really more of a turnoff than anything.
Christian Klepp 02:52
Right. So, you know, that said, um, talk to us about what you believe some of the common and you mentioned some of them already, but like, talk to us about some of the common misconceptions and mistakes when it comes to B2B, like social selling on LinkedIn, what people need to do to address them?
Sandra Long 03:08
Okay, well, no, that’s, that’s a big question. There’s so many, you know, we started a little bit into this path. But so I’d say the first thing from an organizational perspective, one of the mistakes I see is lack of alignment, because you really want to make this more of a team effort. And even you know, between marketing and sales, and for some companies is even tying in the HR (human resources). So getting the alignment. And, you know, coordination and cooperation across just enhances everything that we’re trying to do on LinkedIn and social in general. So that would be the first mistake. The other mistake I see sort of on an individual perspective, is that a lot of sellers, LinkedIn profiles are not really oriented toward their buyer. So you’ve got maybe you’ve hired some salespeople. And those salespeople have a profile that was really just their resume. You know, it was the same profile that when you hired them, you know, they were trying to get hired by you, and you’ve hired them. And now, what happens is your potential prospects, look at them, and they don’t, they don’t connect the dots, they can’t figure out well, how is this person going to help me I don’t understand this, it just looks like a resume. It’s really actually the profiles are more suited for your people to get hired by recruiters versus selling to prospects. So that profile pieces is a big missing piece. And then we talked about messaging, there’s a lot of confusion. And, you know, we’ve got sellers that are out there thinking that they should just be pitching and without thinking through the better ways to approach people and to make things to turn things from cold to warm. And the best way to do that is to be really focused on that individual, and do the research about that person’s profile in that person’s company so that you can understand, how can I be valuable. And so when I am sending a message, it actually is something that people want to get, versus like we were talking about earlier, where the walls go up, right? I’m getting this pitch message. I don’t want that. And then And then even on the posting side, being, you know, I hear well, this mistake is something that you see, as folks are wondering, I’m posting I’m posting How come we’re not getting any traction? Well, I would say back up and think more broadly, about engaging. So all those kinds of mistakes starting, you know, starting with organizational in terms of alignment all the way through individuals, there’s a lot of opportunity for, for everyone to get to the next level.
Christian Klepp 05:53
Yeah, that’s absolutely right on, I want to jam on something a little bit that you said a while ago, if we can, let’s try to look at this, I guess from a like, by diagnostic point of view, I think might be the right word. And go back to the root of the problem, because as you said, it’s a case of organizational or internal alignment, and also about like motivation, like, what is the reason for them to do all this outreach? And yes, at the end of the day, you want to generate new business and, you know, close these leads and deals. But it’s obviously got to be more than that. Right? But I suppose it’s because these people were mandated to try to reach out to as many people as possible, and try to like book, well, connect with them, book the call and close the leads, right? Do you see that as being one of the major issues on platforms like LinkedIn?
Sandra Long 06:44
Well, so Yeah, gotta be in setting up goal. Goal setting is important. But I think that for those organizations that are focused on the client first, they’re just going to be more successful. You know, and I see this all the time in the training that we do. And you know, but folks, the average seller needs to get guidance on this. They don’t necessarily know we want to grow up with this information naturally. Right. And I think people, that’s why we’ve seen seeing so many sort of bad behavior, not just from the automation, but from people thinking, well, here I am. And they’re, you know, if you think about it, it’s more, how would you engage in real life and real, you know, when you meet someone at an event, or you go to their office, or you have… you’re introduced, you’re not going to immediately start saying, Here’s my brochure, here’s, here’s what I have to offer, you’re going to try to get to know someone, so why is it that people it’s, you know, why is it that they’re taking this other approach, and they’re just starting to do that pitching. It’s something that we, you know, we really need to educate people about.
Christian Klepp 07:51
That’s absolutely right. And let me just go back to what you said earlier, bad behavior, and specifically bad behavior online, because you’ve probably experienced this, I’ve experienced it too, I call it being active aggressive versus passive aggressive. So people that pitch slap you or they try to solicit their, their, their business, or their services and whatnot. And if you don’t respond to them, then they send you these like, well, they’re very pushy messages, like, okay, almost to the point of like, why aren’t you responding?
Sandra Long 08:22
Christian Klepp 08:23
Yeah. So yeah, I suppose it is a question of like, educating people and saying, like, Hey, you would never do that at an in person networking event or at a conference. So why would you be doing it online? Because it’s easier?
Sandra Long 08:35
Right. Right. Yeah, I guess they’ve never thought about it. But you know, when you’re when anyone, when you approach anyone and say, when you’re on the receiving end, nobody wants to get that. So why are people sending it?
Christian Klepp 08:46
Exactly, exactly. Um, talk to us about a social selling challenge that you’ve managed to solve in the past 12 months or so with a client or with a partner.
Sandra Long 08:58
So I would say I have a client that I work with on a regular basis. And they wanted to have their team members use LinkedIn for thought leadership for visibility. And there was a challenge in terms of their engagement. We were doing, you know, training sessions for, you know, hundreds of people. So the way we solved it and what worked out great, was created a small focus group. That was basically a thought leadership groups are sort of leading the way for the company. And then having a real focused effort on with those people that was specific. It wasn’t like a training that was more generic was very specific to them and the kind of value that they could bring to their specific clients in their specific territory. So that worked out really well.
Christian Klepp 09:50
Yeah, I love how you talked about thought leadership because I wanted to get your thought. I wanted to get your thoughts on thought leadership. Because I’ve seen some companies get this wrong, especially on platforms like LinkedIn. Because you know, what happens is more often than not is somebody develops that content. And it usually ends up being somebody in marketing. And the rest of the employees just push that out on LinkedIn. But that’s not really, that kind of defeats the purpose of thought leadership am I right? So what would you say would be the better approach, right, going back to your case study.
Sandra Long 10:24
So it really depends on the team and the organization, because I’ve seen different companies gravitate toward different approaches. So some companies want to have their people become creators of content. And they want to encourage them, they want to give them training, they want to motivate them, and even incentivize them to be creators. But then there are other companies that do not want to have their folks particularly sales folks, pull time out of their territory or out of their selling conversations, to be creators. They want to have them be sharing, curating content, engaging with content. So it really depends on the organization, I would say, majority of the companies that I work with, want primarily to be teaching their folks about the engagement, and maybe do a little bit of the creating, but not have a heavy pressure on create, you know, creating, you know, posts every week or anything. So that’s, and again, you have to find out what the leadership, what they want to how they want to do it, how do they want to use their time? What’s important to them? And from there, we then make the proper approach.
Christian Klepp 11:43
Yeah, yeah, no, that’s absolutely right. It’s almost as if you could probably say, like, not all content creators are created equal. Yes. Because it’s different motivations. And it also, I suppose, depends on the content or what they’re talking about when it comes when it comes to the thought leadership? Because that’s such a broad topic, too, right?
Sandra Long 12:03
Yeah, I mean, think about it, too. And this is my belief that you can be a thought leadership without doing a lot of creation. If you are finding and curating and sharing really valuable content with insights, not just sharing it, but with valuable insights with your twist, with your perspective, with your valuable story around that content. That’s tremendous, or going and finding this content and adding your commentary that takes it to the next level, not just says great post, but takes that content further down the path of a conversation, that kind of thing. That kind of strategy is definitely thought leadership and can attract the buyers that we want.
Christian Klepp 12:48
That’s such an important point. I’m glad. I’m glad you brought that up. Because, you know, you’re talking about curating content or saying, Okay, this was a great read. You know, it was an article written in the Harvard Business Review. But why was it so great? What are your what’s your take on it? What’s your point of view? Right? Or maybe even why did you disagree with it or not? I mean, that could be an interesting conversation as well.
Sandra Long 13:09
Yeah. The why is key. And if it’s if it’s left out, 100% yeah.
Christian Klepp 13:13
Yeah, exactly. So this might seem obvious to people like you and I, but why do you think it’s important to conduct the relevant research and have the right social selling strategy in place? I mean, I think there’s plenty of examples out there, of how it can go wrong if you don’t have those things in place, right?
Sandra Long 13:31
So there’s research sort of from the organizational perspective, and there’s research for the individual. And I think it’s all important. I definitely think it helps inform us with our strategy, and it helps us do a better job, when we are reaching out to a prospect or client. One of the things I do want to caution, though, is over-researching, right, I have one client who has been researching for so long, and I’m trying to get them out of the research phase into the action phase, right?
Christian Klepp 14:07
Yeah, yeah. Over planning, right.
Sandra Long 14:09
Christian Klepp 14:10
Over planning and neglecting the execution.
Sandra Long 14:13
Yes, yes, I’ve seen it.
Christian Klepp 14:14
Or what is that saying? Like a plan is only as good as its execution. Right?
Sandra Long 14:18
Yeah. I mean, and there’s and the thing is, it gets back to that initial part of our conversation, it’s social. You need to just be try to be comfortable and relaxed and build relationships. So if we can do that around content, around thought leadership, being interested in other people, yeah, you know, there. Yes, there’s a certain amount of research but then it’s getting into it and, and participating. Right? Engaging.
Christian Klepp 14:44
Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, you know, people talk about that all the time on LinkedIn, don’t they? Like the engagement is just as important, if not sometimes even more important than posting your own content sometimes.
Sandra Long 14:55
Christian Klepp 14:56
Sandra Long 14:57
Christian Klepp 14:57
Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here. We’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting, our experienced consultants will work with you to help your B2B business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.
Talk to us about the importance and role of having the right content for social selling. Because you know, we’ve seen people that are curating content, but it’s not necessarily relevant to them, or the people that they’re trying to reach out to.
Sandra Long 15:36
Yeah. So think about our prospects that we want to attract. And they really are all on a journey. Think about why do they come to LinkedIn, they come to LinkedIn, to become informed. And they’ve come to learn that they want to see what’s happening with my network, what’s happening in my industry. That’s why I’m coming onto LinkedIn. So if you’re part of that conversation, things that they care about, right? Whether it’s people that they care about, you’re engaging with them, or topics that they care about, then you will become part, you know, you will be put yourself on that radar screen of that prospect and buyer and especially you meet some let’s say, you have a great meeting with someone. And it’s October, and now here we are, it’s March, April. And does that person remember that fantastic conversation you had back then? Or if they if they, perhaps if they’ve seen you on LinkedIn, you’re automatically you’re visible, you’re reminding them you’re like being top of mind. So that as they’re thinking through all of the things that are happening in their industry, they’re making decisions, they’re moving along, you’re part of their thought process, which is what really what we all want to have happen. We want to be in the minds of all these people that want to buy from us, potentially.
Christian Klepp 16:57
Absolutely, absolutely. Top of mind, you know what, like, as you were given that answer, I actually thought of another question. I wonder, What’s your take on… I mean, speaking of top of mind, what’s your, what’s your take on dark social, like these channels that you can’t, you know, these channels that you can’t necessarily measure in quantifiable formats, like, you know, people are having conversations on in online communities and Slack channels, and DMs and messages about, about companies or their products and services?
Sandra Long 17:33
I mean, I mean, think about that. There’s so many online platforms, online places and spots, and now we’re seeing a lot with audio. Right? So there’s just enormous amount of places that people are spending their time. And I think for all of us, we need to determine where is our prospect spending their time and our buyers and our network in our clients, and then focusing on those areas. So I mean, I spend majority of my time on LinkedIn, because that is where my business is, my network. I certainly I’ve dabbled in some of the audio pieces, you know, clubhouse, and I used I do LinkedIn audio events, which I’m enjoying, because I’m a beta tester for that. And so but I mean, I think we all our clients are everywhere. The you know, the Think about the buyer, when I talk about that buyers journey, they’re going everywhere looking for information, right? So yes, LinkedIn is a great place for that engagement, but they’re really there, but the buyers are researching across the board. So we kind of have to be aware of that and realize what’s out there.
Christian Klepp 18:43
Yeah, so be aware, be conscious and be informed about? Well, you’re talking about an ecosystem essentially, right?
Sandra Long 18:52
Christian Klepp 18:53
Okay. Great. So we get to the part of the conversation where you give us something actionable, because that’s what the show is about as well. Right? So let me just set this up for a second here, Sandra, Let’s appreciate that this stuff doesn’t happen. But not all of it anyway, it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t download an app. And presto, you’ve got a successful social selling strategy. But what are some steps that people can take right now to improve what they’re doing on LinkedIn when it comes to social selling?
Sandra Long 19:21
Okay, so there’s a lot of things. But I’ll, I’d love to share this quick idea, which is focus, I mean, focus on your prospects, profile and content. So you go to your you go to your CRM, and look at your pipeline and look at through all of who are these who are this this set of prospects? Am I properly engaged and connected to all those companies that are on my current pipeline, because you want to have the deep connections, not just one or two connections, which can put you at risk. If that company’s on your pipeline, you’ve only got one connection, I’m a little worried for you, right? Because we’ve got this thing called a great resignation or reshuffle or whatever. And it’s too risky. So being deep with all those companies on your pipeline, and then looking at those people looking at their individual content, and following them and engaging with their content. And I can tell you that by doing that, it’s something that your, your prospect will notice you, especially if you’re putting valuable comments on their content. Now, not every one of our prospects is posting on LinkedIn, if you’ve got a pipeline, that maybe you’ve got, you know, 15 opportunities on the pipeline of various stages. And if you’ve got, you know, five or six decision makers or participants from each one of those, and you’ve got over 100 people, and so if you, even if just a few of those people, you should be aware, who are the people that are posting and that are active, and making sure you’re engaging with those people, because they’re there. And that’s an easy way for you to make really fast impact. So I base it on your own pipeline, like make your own pipeline, be stronger and more effective and help your process.
Christian Klepp 21:13
Well, that’s some pretty good advice, but some pretty good advice. And on that note, that’s a great segue into the next question, how can you make sure that what you’re doing is working? So let’s try to talk about metrics if we can.
Sandra Long 21:26
So metrics are tricky for a lot of companies, because of the fact that, you know, we’ve got to get reporting in of how these things happen. And you know, salespeople, you know, it can be notoriously difficult to get that type of information. Now, definitely, you can have tags on your CRM(customer relationship management), so that you can understand when business or opportunities were generated as a result of LinkedIn activity, which I think is great to do. For me, I’ll tell you, my measurement is a new meeting, if I’ve got a new meeting, or new conversation was really what I’d call a new conversation, whether that’s a zoom, or a phone, or a live or coffee. But that new conversation is what I’m looking for, for any type of, you know, social selling activity. So you know, having that if you can track that on your on your CRM, that’s the best way to go about it.
Christian Klepp 22:24
Yeah, and I would probably also throw in when you’re having these meetings with these, these new connections, also ask them, okay, how to? How did I even come up on your radar? Right? Like, where did you? Did you hear something like about me? Or did you listen to one of my interviews? Or did you read my post? Or, you know, what, what made you decide to jump on this call with me today?
Sandra Long 22:46
You know, that’s always my first question for everybody is, how did you… How did you find me? Because if they’re reaching out, they’re either reaching out through LinkedIn, or they’re sending me an email. And I always want to know, did someone refer me? Did you see my post? Was there something an article you read? Was it my book? Was it what was it? Because we all want to get that information? And even keeping track of it is great.
Christian Klepp 23:07
Exactly. Exactly. Oh, wow. The next question. Okay, let’s try to keep that one, this one focus to social selling, because LinkedIn has changed so much, right. But just specifically, with regards to social selling, what are some major trends and shifts that you’ve seen on LinkedIn that people should be paying attention to, if they’re doing social selling.
Sandra Long 23:31
So I think the biggest one would really be around video and audio. And we’ve that’s so much opportunity. And not just in the posting, I mean, obviously, we can do great video in the in the feed. But using video and audio in the messaging, I love to do that with clients and prospects, it makes your message more impactful, they will you differentiate yourself well. So let’s say you have a very nice initial conversation with a prospect. And perhaps they’ve talked to three or four of your competitors. And then after that call, of course, we want to be connected to that person, then we send out a really nice video message thanking them for the meeting, or audio message. And that’s going to distinguish us from everyone else. So I think that using video and audio is terrific on the messaging side. And of course, we have very nice video opportunities in the profile. So you can put a video right now it’s your headshot, you can use video in the featured section, and their beta testing LinkedIn audio events. So depending, you know, if you can get your get your hands on that, that’s great. And you don’t even have to be a host like I am. You can be a person who joins, raises your hand to speak or even joins and then participates in networking while you’re in this event. Because you can see profiles you can connect and message people while this event is going on. If it’s about your topic, your thought leadership topic. How great is that? So really, I think video and audio is probably the most exciting.
Christian Klepp 25:13
Yeah, absolutely. And I think the other one um, to take note off is and for me personally, this is for the better. But LinkedIn has started becoming a little bit more vigilant and policing folks that are trying to use automation to do outreach, like mass outreach. Yeah. So they’ve reduced the number of connections or people you’re able to connect with on a weekly basis and so forth. Right?
Sandra Long 25:39
Yeah, yeah, that’s true. And so I mean, I think that LinkedIn wants us to be connected more authentically. And I think they don’t they definitely are against automation can get you in trouble. Automation. So the kind of automation that can get you in trouble is the automated messaging, automated profile viewing. Now you are able to do automatic automated posting, that’s something that they allow, and there’s third party apps you can do, but definitely not profile viewing or messaging.
Christian Klepp 26:10
Right. Right. That’s probably not something you should automate anyway, in my humble opinion.
Sandra Long 26:17
Totally agree. I mean, it’s, it really… it comes across, right, if that happens.
Christian Klepp 26:22
Oh, absolutely. Well, I mean, case in point, well, what I was telling you about earlier, right. Okay, speaking of which, tell us about a status quo that you passionately disagree with? And why?
Sandra Long 26:36
Um, well, first of all, from a status quo perspective, there’s depending on the person and depending on who we’re, you know, the group of people, there’s, there’s, there’s various status quos. And there’s very there’s, there’s definitely like, I would say, friction on certain topics, right, that there’s different opinions. So one of them is having to do with how personal are you on LinkedIn, so that the status quo was always this is the business site, this is only professional, and that status quo that’s evolved into where we are today, which is much more personal. Now you’ve got people that have been using LinkedIn for years, some of whom are very upset and call it the Facebookization of LinkedIn, and all of that. But I think most people have come around to the fact that social means personal too, and that there’s sort of like, we all have to decide where do we create those boundaries, we all want to… I think, and I recommend that we, we do bring in the personal element, but that we create those boundaries, that is right for us, for us as individuals. And so that whole topic, I think, is something that’s got a lot of friction and conversation around it. And then, of course, the pitching and the messaging, which we talked about, I think one other topic for companies, which I’ve seen a big evolution, you know, companies used to be reticent about teaching their employees about LinkedIn thinking that this is just about a job search platform. And more and more companies have gone away from the all the savvy ones know that their employees are part of their brand assets, right. And those employees have much greater impact and influence across LinkedIn than just their LinkedIn company page. So those savvy companies, but you still once in a while here, the companies that will say no, we’re worried about this, or we can’t have that. So that’s definitely been a big evolution. So a lot of change. A lot of things are changing. And I think mostly for the better with regards to a lot of that.
Christian Klepp 28:57
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I mean, you know, I love that last bit too where you’re talking about, like, I suppose it’s empowering employees to help also build their own personal brands, but at the same time also being evangelists for the organization that they’re working for. Right. Right. And I suppose it depends on the organization because you can you can argue that yeah forward thinking organs the organization’s would empower their people that way. There’s, there’s the other faction that will disagree with that point of view.
Sandra Long 29:28
Well, you’re right, Christian, because years ago, companies and maybe in some companies, even today are afraid of the personal brands, whether it’s their employee that has a big blog following or a big you know, YouTube subscribers, or is doing video on LinkedIn, some of them are very afraid or nervous, but I’d say the savvy companies know that they can power that up, right? That they… that really the best scenario is you combine the personal brands with the company brands to really excite people about the organization and excite people about the industry and what’s happening professionally. And that attracts people more than anything rather than just doing the company line, right? People care about people. So combining that and harnessing that power, just like you said is is key.
Christian Klepp 30:20
Absolutely. interesting times we live in.
Sandra Long 30:23
It really is interesting.
Christian Klepp 30:25
Yeah. Sandra, thank you so much for coming on and you know sharing your expertise and insights with the listeners. So quick intro to yourself and how folks out there can get in touch with you.
Sandra Long 30:35
Well look for me Sandra Long. I’m on LinkedIn is where to find me. And you if you had… there’s quite a few Sandra Long’s. So if you have trouble, you can put in LinkedIn or put in New York. I’m in the New York area. You can also find my book on Amazon, which is LinkedIn for personal branding, and love to connect with everyone who’s listening. Let me know you listened to the show. That would be great.
Christian Klepp 30:58
Fantastic, fantastic. Sandra. As expected, this was such a great conversation. So thanks again for your time. Take care. Stay safe and talk to you soon.
Sandra Long 31:07
Thanks, Christian. It was great.
Christian Klepp 31:09
Bye for now.
Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. To learn more about what we do here at EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.einblick.co and be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.
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