The hype around social selling has reached fever pitch – and for good reason. According to Sales Benchmark Index, individuals who use social selling achieve 66% higher quotas than those who use traditional selling techniques. IBM purports to have boosted sales by 400% in only one quarter thanks to social selling.
Social selling involves the use of social media and other social platforms to more effectively connect and build relationships with prospects. Historically, a salesperson’s social selling prowess has been difficult to quantify. LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) is a first-of-its-kind tool that attempts to measure social selling prowess. According to LinkedIn, your SSI “measures how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.” These four pillars, each out of a 25 point score, constitute one’s SSI.
The SSI was derived from a LinkedIn-administered survey that aimed to pinpoint how top performing reps use LinkedIn. It’s worth investing the time to monitor your own SSI. According to LinkedIn, social sellers create 45% more opportunities and are 51% more likely to achieve quota than peers with lower SSIs. By maximizing your SSI, you’ll be better able to connect with the right prospects. After all, research shows that for B2B companies, LinkedIn is 277% more effective than Twitter or Facebook for lead generation.
Here’s an overview of the four SSI metrics and key tricks and tactics to maximize each score:
1. Establish your professional brand.
According to LinkedIn, 81% of buyers are more likely to engage with a strong, professional brand. The first step to establishing your professional brand is to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete. Fill out all possible fields, including job title, industry, and skills. An often-overlooked “hack” to increase this SSI score is to add rich content to your profile. Include videos, presentations you’ve created, and links to any white papers you’ve published. Completing the “endorsements and recommendations” section is especially important in boosting this part of your score. Reach out to past and current peers who can advocate for you and solicit them to write an endorsement on your behalf.
Another proven tactic to increase this part of your SSI is to publish long form content pieces. A word of caution – don’t publish content just for the sake of it. It’s important to generate meaningful content that will resonate with your target audience; your score is influenced both by the volume of content you publish, as well as the number of followers you receive.
2. Find the right people.
According to LinkedIn, sales reps who exceed quota engage with prospects via LinkedIn 39% more frequently than other sales professionals. The first step to boosting this part of your SSI is to log in to LinkedIn every day. Build the practice into your daily routine. Next, search for prospects frequently. You’ll optimize this component of your SSI if you use Boolean searches such as “OR” and “AND.” When searching for decision makers, for example, include multiple titles (e.g., “CMO OR CTO”). After completing searches, spend the time to view the profile matches. Resist the temptation to stop after reviewing first and second degree connections as your score is influenced by the number of third degree connections you view as well. When you’ve stumbled on a lead that meets your target criteria, be sure to save it in Sales Navigator or Lead Builder. Finally, keep in mind that your “find the right people” SSI score is also influenced by number of profile views you receive. Your best bet at amassing profile views is to ensure that you’ve “established your professional brand” and have a complete profile.
3. Engage with insights.
According to LinkedIn, almost 64% of B2B buyers appreciate hearing from a salesperson who provides knowledge or insights about their business. The easiest way to increase this SSI metric is to “like,” comment, and share other members’ posts. Next, focus on publishing your own content; your score in influenced by the number of members who interact with your posts. Share both content related to your own company, as well as third party content.
An often-overlooked way to maximize this SSI component is joining groups. From a lead generation standpoint, it’s often more effective to join groups related to the markets you are selling into rather than the market you operate in. After you’ve joined a group, don’t exploit it for selling purposes. It’s not a marketplace. Flaunt your knowledge. Engage in thoughtful discussion. Your potential customers will appreciate it. Finally, to maximize this part of your SSI, send inMail messages to prospects. When sending messages, be strategic. You’ll need to ensure that your response rate is at least 10% to optimize your score.
4. Build relationships.
Your best bet at rapidly increasing this SSI metric is to connect with second degree and third degree connections via referrals. According to LinkedIn, 73% of B2B buyers prefer sales professionals who have been referred by someone they know. Once you’ve stumbled on a target prospect, look at your mutual connections and reach out for referrals and introductions. Just as in the case of sending inMail messages, be strategic. Your acceptance rate is taken into account in calculating your score (it must be at least 20% to achieve a perfect 25/25). A little-known secret about this SSI component is the fact that type of connections matters in determining your score. You’re scored on how many “VP”s you are connected to, as well as how many of your coworkers you are connected to.
It’s time that sales professionals focus on maximizing their social selling prowess. Research shows that social sales is a priority for only about 7% of sales professionals. LinkedIn has made a valiant effort in developing a way for sales professionals to monitor the strength of their social selling efforts.
Admittedly though, the SSI is biased towards rewarding raw activity and not necessarily quality of activity. There are ways to game the system and achieve a stellar SSI. But, to truly move the needle in terms of your sales efforts, you’ll need to ensure that you consider quality. When “establishing your professional brand,” don’t just complete your profile with a bullet-point list. Invest the time to ensure your profile resonates with prospects and illustrates the value you bring to the table. When “finding the right people,” don’t just save all potential leads in a “laundry list” in Lead Builder. Group prospects into well-defined categories by industry, estimated budget, likely willingness to buy, etc. When “engaging with insights,” share relevant content and don’t spread yourself too thin. Demonstrate that you are thought leader in a select few areas. 92% of buyers engage with a professional if he/she is a known industry thought leader. Finally, when “building relationships,” don’t just add “VP”s for the sake of maximizing your SSI. Select the ones that are likely to be involved in the decision-making process – chances are that the VP of Sales or HR won’t be.