I interviewed a B2B lead generation candidate yesterday who told me that some of his superiors look down upon those who use LinkedIn in their office and blatantly discourage logging on to the site. Instead of calling it LinkedIn, it is referred to as “LinkedOut.” Their rationale was that LinkedIn is just another waste-of-space social media site that gives millennials the opportunity to chat with buddies. This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard management teams poo-pooing on the world’s most advanced network for professionals — I’ve heard some companies blocking employees from accessing the LinkedIn website, comparing it to that of Facebook.
Whoa. My message for sales managers who aren’t encouraging the usage of LinkedIn: “Get in touch with reality, ol’ timer!” If people want to chat with buddies, they are likely using email, texting and Facebook — not LinkedIn.
***Now, if people are spending TOO much time on LinkedIn, and doing TOO much research before they get on a call — I get it — that’s an issue. Managers should be stepping in and coaching on research best practices. I often tell our expansion stage portfolio company’s sales teams that outbound prospectors should do no more than 3 minutes of research before making a first call. What I’m trying to say is that to completely discourage using LinkedIn is preposterous.
I’ve got a hunch as to why some managers are anti-LI. They are scared — scared that some recruiter/hiring manager is going to sweep in and woo their most valuable employees away from them. And yes, this is absolutely happening. Lets get serious — LinkedIn is a headhunters playground. But if you are that concerned with this as a manager, you are probably doing something wrong. You should be building an environment in which your top performers are rewarded for their successes and feel empowered. If you are doing that — why would you be scared they are sniffing around for a new job?
With LinkedIn at a B2B sales person’s fingertips, the prospecting world is his/her oyster. With a few relevant keywords and the click of a mouse, you can determine who might be the hottest prospect within an organization. Simply by perusing the persons’ profile you can learn about their areas of expertise, career path, education, and then some… Pre-call planning? LinkedIn can often times be your one-stop shop. On a sales call, building rapport and finding a common ground is so important. LinkedIn is a tool to determine if there is any sort of commonality — Do you know someone in common? Did you go to the same school? Did you live in the same city at one point?
Okay, so sure there are certainly some professionals who are a bit late to the game — they haven’t created a LinkedIn account because it’s not as pertinent to their specific career. Say your sales team’s target vertical is Oral Surgeons’ offices for instance. Those professionals are likely not super-active on LinkedIn because their day to day job is not really computer-based. If a surgeon is your target profile, you may want to use another resource (although, I’d be willing to put money on the fact that in due time even this type of professional will be soon creating an account to stay connected).
When I have a call with a sales candidate, or someone professionally with whom I am speaking one-on-one for the first time, I assume they have done their background research on me. Because to be honest, 99% of the time, I’ll throw anyone I meet professionally into a LinkedIn search. In fact, if I interview a sales candidate and they haven‘t looked at my Linkedin profile prior to a phone screen/interview (and now LinkedIn allows you to see who’s looking — I love this), I question their ability to prepare for important calls. I don’t find it creepy when someone with whom I am conversing for the first time says, “I noticed that you went to Colgate, my buddy went to Colgate too!” I think to myself — this person has their sh-t together. I like ’em.
Our culture is changing. Information that can facilitate a sales process is readily available online. People YOU want to talk to are putting it out there, expecting you to check it out — USE IT to your advantage, and encourage your team to do the same.
And if you ever encounter a sales professional who is anti-LinkedIn, send them this post and my email if you’d like!