LinkedIn is an asset for your sales force. It’s also a potential nightmare.
Industrious sales reps are finding success in LeadGen prospecting through LinkedIn. The activity updates available in LinkedIn give competitors key insights into new accounts entered and timing of a deal evaluation. Without realizing it, reps are also telegraphing to competitive reps the precise accounts and contacts where they are gaining traction. Reps that monitor their competitor’s LinkedIn activity have what is essentially a weekly copy of their counterpart’s call plan. its not so much the contact information, as much as the timing that is so valuable. If any of your reps feel like their competitor is spying on them --- well, maybe they are --- through LinkedIn.
The problem is that many reps have no clue that they are leaving their entire contact list open for inspection to anyone who is one of their connections, and that the connections can see their latest additions. As reps prospect through connections they grow their networks in quantities beyond their intimate personal network. It’s hard to monitor authenticity of connections because many people use their personal email for contact within LinkedIn because they consider it a personal networking tool.
Don’t over-react and outlaw your reps from using LinkedIn. This article will walk through the opportunity to have your reps on LinkedIn, and how to protect your activities.
Does LinkedIn have a role for B2b Sales Forces?
Yes, LinkedIn is a tremendous prospecting tool. A survey titled B2B Sales Pros Turn to LinkedIn finds that LinkedIn has become “the most effective social network for prospecting by a wide margin”. A growing number of top reps in the field today are leveraging LinkedIn to prospect. Your sales force can have a competitive advantage by adopting LinkedIn accounts at the individual sales rep level.
Marketing asleep at the Wheel --- While Sales Reps Figure it out
Marketing departments primarily use LinkedIn for corporate communications. Few marketing teams have a social media strategy for LeadGen. While marketing is largely asleep at the wheel on how to leverage social media for Lead Generation, sale reps are figuring it out.
Two Options for Protecting Your Sales Rep’s LinkedIn Connections
There are two options to protect your rep’s LinkedIn accounts. The best option for your team is largely influenced by the incestuous nature of your industry and the vigilance of your sales reps.
Option 1: Effective Gatekeeping
Reps with their own LinkedIn accounts believe they can prevent their competition from viewing their contacts if they simply “Guard the Gate” of who they accept to add to their network of connections. However, many verticals are fairly incestuous and it’s not uncommon to have competitors in your past connections. Plus competitive reps can be very creative about finding avenues to become one of your connections. Finally, connections to other sales contacts serve as a life blood to future career options. Your reps open themselves up to plenty of opportunities to be compromised by a competitor.
Reps must review their contacts and validate each to ensure they are real and not a competitor. This requires due diligence of checking a connection to verify accuracy. New connection requests are easy to validate. The most difficult part of this option is validating a large number of connections. This may require a temporary adoption of Option 2 below until the large quantity of connections can be reviewed.
Advantage: Keeps the natural social network in place to thrive.
Disadvantage: This approach can be easily compromised with a large unwieldy network.
Option 2: Lock-down Your Contacts
This is essentially the nuclear option that closes your network. With a closed network your connections can see your entire profile, but cannot see your full list of connections. The one exception is that your connections can see connections that you share together.
Here are the steps to configure a LinkedIn account to lock-down your connections:
Login to their LinkedIn account
Select ‘settings’ which is located under your name at the very the top menu on the right side
Under Privacy Controls, select the text link titled ‘Select who can see your connections’
Toggle the drop down from ‘Your Connections’ to ‘Only You’
In addition, ‘Activity Broadcasts’ provide auto-updates from your account. Take time reviewing the privacy controls and consider your options.
Advantage: Reliable method of locking down contacts
Disadvantage: Eliminates networking transparency when requesting new connections
Sales Leaders Must Provide Guidelines for Success
Sales leaders must provide their sales teams with LeadGen guidelines for success to leverage social media. Main take-aways:
Develop LinkedIn guidelines for your sales team.
- Prospecting best practices from your top reps using LinkedIn
- Have your reps adopt one of two options to protect their connections.
Comments and questions about leveraging LinkedIn are welcome. In addition, don't forget to register to attend and/or receive a post-webinar playback of the webinar on sales methodology.