We now have access to an online tool called the Social Selling Index which is designed to give a snapshot of where you are in using LinkedIn as part of your sales – your social sales – activities. The details are displayed on your own page with references to how you rank in comparison to others within the same industry and your perceived peer group.
It is also couched with a number of references to LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator account – this is one of the premium account levels and the stream which is designed to help the sales professional to prospect and develop more business using social channels, and LinkedIn in particular.
What is the Social Selling Index?
The Social Selling Index (SSI) was a metric that LinkedIn introduced for companies at the start of 2014 and then for individuals towards the end of last year, and was available just to those with the upgraded Sales Navigator account. As of this month, this has now been made available to all of LinkedIn’s members.
Your SSI is represented as a score out of 100 with 4 different key areas each marked out of a maximum of 25 – these areas represent and try to measure the four pillars of Social Selling according to LinkedIn (ones that I broadly agree with) which are:
1. Establish a Professional Brand
2. Find the Right people
3. Engage with Insights
4. Build strong relationships
In my own case, this is the resultant page:
If you are interested to checking out your own, then you can do so at www.linkedin .com/sales/ssi/
What’s it all about
Well, we all love a good statistic on something and we all love graphics, so put them together and you have something which will pull in the crowds – just look at the rise and popularity of the infographic if you doubt that. So, here we have just that – in all honesty, a nicely conceived tool which does have certain value behind it in terms of evaluating how well you are using LinkedIn from a sales perspective.
However, if we look a little closer (with my cynical hat on) then it’s also a relatively transparent marketing ploy designed to encourage use of Sales Navigator and tapping into a bit of gamification in the process. Do you have to upgrade? Absolutely not! The Sales Navigator tool could well be a useful tool for your sales team – I also run training on “Sales Navigator” and it most certainly does add value particularly if you are prospecting within larger companies – but I would suggest that the Social Selling Index is not the tool that should be driving your decision making processes as to whether you upgrade or not.
There is a massive amount that you can do either with the free or the Business Plus account from a sales perspective, and so what we need to turn our attention to is how we can use this broad brush stroke SSI figure to help us improve our sales performance, whichever LinkedIn account we’re already using.
How to make it work for you
While this will not be an exhaustive list by any means – that will need to be a separate post – here are some ways in which you can help to leverage the 4 areas that are highlighted by the tool, improving your SSI and hopefully developing new opportunities and clients into the process.
- Make your profile customer focused: your profile needs to work as a sales & marketing tool for you, so it needs to deliver the information that your potential clients are going to be interested in reading and use language which appeals to them. Adding in rich media by integrating images, documents and videos helps take it beyond using a simple text driven profile and really brings it to life;
- Get to “All Star” Profile Strength: how complete your profile is will effect your visibility in the search function on LinkedIn but the ‘Profile Strength’ indicator is also a good indication of whether the different areas of content that you should be displaying are in place. It can’t tell you whether it’s the right content of course, but hopefully you have that covered yourself!;
- Try to develop a strong personal image / brand: branding yourself isn’t the easiest thing to do but if you can create a strong and positive perception on your profile of both you and the company, it puts you in a hugely strong position. People feel much more comfortable and are much more likely to engage with someone when they have confidence in them and what they say. Start creating that confidence from your Personal Profile;
- Get recommended: while not a big fan of the endorsement system (too much gaming), I am of recommendations where people have taken the time to express their experience of working with you. People place great value in other people’s opinions!
- Publish content of quality: the other side of your brand is what you say and how you act. On a site like LinkedIn, that becomes what you Publish and what you Comment, I guess. Publish rubbish or purely self-serving pieces and people turn off – give them something valuable and hopefully they will remember you and value you for that;
- Share useful and relevant content: of course it doesn’t all have to be things that you have written. Just as much value can be gleaned from being the “Expert filter”, someone who only passes on the items of value based on their knowledge and expertise. Pass on quality and again, that’s what you will be remembered for.
- LinkedIn’s advanced search: use the advanced search to find people in the roles or areas that you wish to talk to and wish to engage with. The ability to tap into a database of some 380 million professional people using multiple search criteria to identify the right sort of people is one of the key differentiators of LinkedIn;
- In company search: when approaching a company, you have the chance to hone in on the correct people within a company and identify the ones that you would like to engage with, whether it is then to approach via LinkedIn or offline;
- Tap into your connections: the ability to look at the connection of your connections means that there is the possibility to either leverage introductions or request very targeted referrals to tap into your best advocates;
- Research possibilities: listening is such a key tool that is often overlooked so, as you are researching opportunities, do look for the sales triggers and pay attention to what people are talking about. It won’t improve your SSI but will improve your chances of success;
- Research your prospects: there is lots of information that you can pull out from a prospect’s profile – look for commonalities you share, shared connections, similar interests or backgrounds, trends in Groups they belong to. There’s lots of information you can pull from these that will prove invaluable;
- Use the additional tools: there are other areas where suggestions are made as to how you might expand your network. One, I would suggest, “Who’s viewed your profile” is key – if you have created a profile which attracts the right sort of people then those who are viewing you, more often than not, well worth contacting and engaging with further.
- Post updates and content: if you are the person that people turn to when they want to know something about your area of specialism then you become a trusted source of information. To help achieve (and then enhance that) you should be looking to post and share relevant and useful content where possible;
- Share updates and comment: likewise, passing on the insights of others or adding to the conversation they are creating by commenting on them is just as powerful and will of course trigger a notification back to the originator as well as being shared with your connections, creating further engagement;
- Keep informed and use that information: it could be news and information that you find yourself by following companies and reading articles, or it could be news that is supplied via apps such a LinkedIn Connected or Newsle. In each case, consider using that to congratulate or talk to those involved to develop the interaction that you have with them;
- Use Groups to engage: LinkedIn Groups are a type of self-defining market segmentation bringing together interested parties (prospects and suppliers). In addition, the closed Groups in particular deliver a safer and more manageable environment in which to talk to prospects in a less sales driven environment;
- Share content in Groups: after participating in other people’s discussions – introducing yourself in the Group if you will – then you also have the opportunity to start to share content yourself and raise awareness of topics that should be both of interest and of benefit to you as well as other members of the Group;
- Use content when messaging: we have the ability to share updates directly to connection’s inbox as well as Inmail people (if you have a premium account) or attach files to a message, thus allowing us to target our content with a narrower and narrower focus. Do be cautious though – over zealous sharing can be perceived as spam and relationships can be ruined quickly and permanently by that.
- Connect with your real life network: sounds obvious, but as a first step to getting a system like LinkedIn to help you is to gather around you your biggest advocates … the network which you have in the real world. Think about people you have worked with, studied with, clients, suppliers and people you have been in email contact with – then, as appropriate, invite them to connect;
- Connect internally to your company: it perhaps seems bizarre to connect to the person sitting in the same office, but you should. Like you, they have a network of contacts and you may find that there is someone in your company who can introduce you to a connection in a target company – being connected with help to highlight and identify that;
- Gain the trust of decision makers: once you have connected to someone on LinkedIn, you are at the start of the process not at the end of it. You are going to need to develop the relationship with any decision makers you wish to work with and show them that you are the supplier / expert that they were looking to engage with;
- Focus on key stakeholders: at the risk of sounding too single minded, if you are going to spend time engaging then wherever possible make sure that it is with people who are making the decision or can influence that decision. Not that others aren’t important but, with finite time and resources, try to focus your attention wisely;
- Keep visible to nurture relationships: at the end of the day, it’s also important to maintain your visibility and ensure that through sharing content and interacting sensibly, you stay front of mind and visible for the right reasons.
I hope that some of the points above will help you in developing your own SSI score – not necessarily to compete in a “mine’s bigger than yours” type of way – but because, in doing so, you should also be gaining extra valuable visibility, and you will be putting some essential groundwork in place to help to position you effectively and build up your social selling muscles.
Much more to come on that shortly in the “Social Selling on LinkedIn” mini series. Enjoy!