6 Tips To Capitalize on LinkedIn for Outbound

Many outbound teams are turning to LinkedIn to connect with potential customers because the platform makes it easy for a prospect to learn about you and your company, putting you a step ahead when it comes time to actually connecting over the phone. Plus, it’s always nice to put a face (and some background) to a name, which the LinkedIn profile provides for. If you’re an outbound sales rep, these 6 tips will improve your LinkedIn prospecting game and help you connect with other industry experts.

linkedAsk to Connect. When you use LinkedIn to prospect, your response rate will be better if you just ask to connect rather than pitch your services. Lead with a personal message instead of diving right into your cold email script. Sharing your profile (and maybe some information on where you met or why you should be talking to each other) instead of pitching promotional content will come across more genuine. Plus, doing so will increase your credibility and improve your brand image. Win-win. A great place to start is by referencing an industry article or group to which you both belong.

Optimize Your Search. Search for companies in the “People” field to get a list of those who currently work at a prospective company. You can narrow results by filtering down to a particular location, job description, sector, or company size. LinkedIn has an extensive collection of data if you know how to find and use it to connect with the right people.

Search for Work History. Looking at where people worked before previously helps to identify prospective companies you didn’t know existed. These contact’s previous employers are likely in related sectors you may want to consider targeting.

Follow Your Competitors. Use LinkedIn to see who your competitors are networking with. By analyzing competitor profiles, you can see who your company should be connecting with and what other potential leads are out there. You can also gain insight into how your competitors promote themselves to improve on your own promotional initiatives.

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse. If you’re struggling to stay up to date with news in your industry, check out LinkedIn Pulse. This app provides personalized news based on your professional interests.

Get Help From Experts. Instead of spending time scraping LinkedIn for potential leads, use pipeline automation software to confirm the identity, title and location of every inbound lead, freeing up time for your Sales Development Reps.

These are just some of the social selling tips that are helping outbound sales teams and SDRs use Linkedin as a vehicle for prospecting. To read more about social selling, check out stuff by Jack Kosakowski, Gabe Villamizar, Jill Rowley and Koka Sexton.

More for SDRs: 6 Ways to Improve SDR Workflow

5 Steps To Defining Opportunity Stages in Salesforce

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 3.02.21 PMSalesforce is a powerful tool with an incredible number of customization options. But where to start?

Customize your Salesforce Opportunity Stages first to set yourself up for success. Your sales team will use Opportunity Stages on a daily basis for tracking and for reporting and the Salesforce default Opportunity Stages are unlikely to correspond to the stages of your unique selling process.

When you clearly define each opportunity stage, sales reps can prioritize their workflow and sales managers will have better visibility of their pipeline.

5 Steps to Define Opportunity Stages

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1. Start with the Salesforce Defaults
. There’s nothing worse than starting a Salesforce admin meeting with a blank slate. Prepare yourself by setting up the Default Opportunity Stages built into Salesforce and work with your team to define and adjust them based on your unique selling process.
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2. Include the right stakeholders. You’ll require knowledge and buy-in from several groups at your company to make changes. Sales leaders, reps, and managers all have specific needs that need to be met before they consider an opportunity to have advanced to the next stage. Consult with key players before you define opportunity stages to align everyone’s needs and reach consensus. If you’re having trouble getting the whole team on board, the next best option is to agree to test your stages for 2 weeks and reconvene to re-evaluate after testing.
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3.  Include a structured Stage Description. It’s important that your Opportunity Stages are descriptive and detailed enough to eliminate ambiguity around where a given opportunity should land. For each Opportunity Stage, list:

  • What is the buyer’s goal at this stage?
    Ex: Learn, build a list of possible vendors, compare vendors, get through contract revisions, consult with their team.
  • What needs to happen for the opportunity to convert to the next stage
    Ex: Request a demo, on-site meeting, request a proposal, attend a meeting, sign an LOI, issue an RFP.
  • What percentage of deals at this stage ultimately close?
    This will be your Close %.

4. Choose Buyer-Friendly Names for Your Stages.  So that you can speak openly with your customers about where you’re at in the buying cycle, choose buyer-friendly Opportunity Stage names. For example, use ‘Terms’ vs. ‘Negotiation’, ‘Evaluating Fit’ vs. ‘Selling’. Don’t get too crazy. If you do, chances are you’ll forget the name of the stage, which won’t help in the sales process.
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5. Try your stages on for fit. Before you solidify your opportunity stages, consider where your existing deals and opportunities fit in. If your existing opportunities clearly fall into the new stages, you’re on track. If it’s hard to determine where an opportunity fits or it could fit into two different stages, you’ll need to clarify the descriptions.
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At the end of the day, defining opportunity stages in Salesforce makes it faster and easier for your sales reps and management to understand each opportunity and sets you up to scale your sales system. Following these tips ensures your reps will prioritize their tasks, communicate to management, and hit their quota.

4 Ways to Ensure Your Sales Pipeline Never Dries Up

IMG_0306It’s the makings of your worst nightmare: deals that were once on the table disappear, new leads aren’t coming in as fast as they once did… your sales pipeline is starting to dry up.

Anyone who’s been in this situation knows that there are two routes to take. The first is to panic (which we don’t suggest); the second, stay calm and work towards a solution.

In any business, some months are quiet and others are tough to keep up with—much like the ebb and flow of a tide.

what not to do

It’s easy to panic about your dropping numbers, but don’t frantically scramble to fill your sales funnel.

Turning to desperate tactics will likely hurt your business in the long-term. Following these simple rules will help you focus on being proactive rather than reactive:

  • Never buy an email list and spam the contacts. Your business will develop a reputation of being spammy, not good to work with, and you may be blacklisted.
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  • Don’t discount your services; that includes listing “limited time” deals on your website. This strategy can attract clients that aren’t a good fit for your business and can potentially turn off good prospects that are.
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  • Never settle for clients who don’t fit your Ideal Customer Profile. Though these types of clients can boost your numbers quickly, a bad fit may end up being more trouble than they’re worth, costing you time and money. A prospect that’s a good match with your service understands the value and is less likely to contribute to churn.

How To Safeguard Your Sales

Ok, now you know what to avoid, let’s talk how to make sure your sales pipeline is always full:

  1. Recycle – The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70%, whereas the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5–20%. This means that recycling your list once a quarter can be very fruitful. Just make sure you remove contacts from companies you’ve qualified / disqualified, and nix anyone that unsubscribed or sent a ‘negative’ reply.
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  2. Revisit – Take time to look over your company lists once a quarter and expand your list of contacts at those same companies. This can help you reach new hires or connect with those in new roles. New contacts can lead to renewals, upsells and cross-sales.
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  3. Change it up – You might be set in your ways with one comfortable lead source, but try different list sources to keep things fresh. Different sources have different contacts, so you can’t rely on just one medium. Find people on social media that are looking for answers to their questions right now. Sites like Quora, Clarity, Twitter and LinkedIn can also be great for lead gen, but continually require time and energy to yield results.
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  4. Widen your potential network – Try casting a wider net with broad titles (vs. getting super specific with one contact). Use the cold calling 2.0 referral network and reach out to ‘referral targets’ (CXO’s and VP’s), not just the decision makers you want to meet with.

If you understand that leads can dry up and businesses have bad months, then you can be proactive in your sales strategy and avoid potential nightmarish situations. Instead of panicking, use the above tactics as a part of a larger strategy to ensure that your sales funnel runneth over for many quarters to come.