How “Social Selling” Is Reinventing Cold Calling

At LinkedIn, the sales staff has become well-versed in the use of social media tools to open doors for new sales, says Ralf VonSosen, the company’s head of marketing for sales solutions.

Social media has opened up entirely new ways of communicating with colleagues and strangers as well as with family and friends. Ralf VonSosen, the head of marketing for sales solutions for the online professional networking company LinkedIn, thinks a lot about using social media, particularly for communicating with sales targets. VonSosen calls this "social selling" — utilizing the relationships, connections and insights available in social channels to facilitate a better experience in both buying and selling. "It's really utilizing all this fantastic data that's out there that helps us gain visibility to the connections and relationships we have," says VonSosen. "We can take that data and combine it with the branding and information that we as professionals are sharing, and create a more meaningful experience and conversation." Done right, social selling "moves our contact from a traditional cold call to either a warm introduction or at least a warm conversation," he says. In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review's Robert Berkman, VonSosen talked about free ways to build a personal online brand and about how LinkedIn's Sales Navigator product is being used by both large and small companies.

Let's say there's a company that wants to do more social selling. What are some general strategies you recommend in thinking more strategically?

First, looking at LinkedIn as a tool, I would start with defining your personal and professional brand. You as a professional establish your brand on LinkedIn and think about your LinkedIn page as your personal micro site. You change the mindset of "I have this LinkedIn page for recruiters to look at" to "I have this page for prospects and customers to look at." It's putting that hat on and saying, "how do I best come across here when customers and prospects are looking at the profile?" You can think about what you want to showcase and how you can show activity and expertise there. You can use a site like SlideShare to upload PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF Portfolios, to show some of your talent. You can then think about sending updates to the people that you're trying to target.

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4 Comments On: How “Social Selling” Is Reinventing Cold Calling

  • STUART ARMSTRONG | October 19, 2013

    Hello. There is still a requirement to “reach out” via targeted, qualified cold calling to new prospects who meet your ICP- ideal customer profile. These are potential customers, accurately segmented who could benefit from your solutions, but have not entered into the acute problem identification cycle or perhaps have other priorities or don’t even realize they have a problem.

    They must be personally identified, contacted and qualified asap. B2B cold calling still plays a big role. Sales reps must have very accurate databases of these companies and the individuals who can benefit. In many commoditized B2B sectors it takes 500 -1000+ “prospect companies” to net out enough potential sales in this new low demand economy where “no decision frugalomics prevails”. This can mean 1000-5000 people who must be tracked for 3 to 18 months. LinkedIN is a great tool to organize this program. (+ many others such as InsideView, Jigsaw, Netprospex, Hootsuite etc, etc.)

    Detailed sector research, thought leadership insight contribution via industry blogs, events etc. plus marketing automation tracking of “on-line behaviours” combined with a pre-built database of prospects who are being “cold called” plus referrals from third party peers, analysts etc. provides a “triangulation” leadgen process.

    IF you are convinced of the merits of your solution, then real sales people provide with a 90% accurate database of suspects will feel compelled to cold call, after employing tools such as LinkedIN.

    Thats why LinkedIN themselves are hiring sales reps to cold call SMB businesses. see job description below;

    “Responsibilities:
    Cold calling prospects regarding our Marketing Solutions products
    Qualify and develop sales leads and respond to product inquiries”..

    http://www.linkedin.com/jobs2/view/6205760?trk=vsrp_jobs_res_name&trkInfo=VSRPsearchId%3A32447851382219814017%2CVSRPtargetId%3A6205760%2CVSRPcmpt%3Aprimary

    (this is not your Dad;s Willy Loman cold calling I may add).

    regards,
    Stuart Armstrong
    Canada

  • Randy Baith | November 10, 2013

    I think the above article is correct, but more importantly is the information gathering impact this can have on business.
    Building relationships through social networking opens up opportunities that have never been seen before on a global scale with little expense.
    We are now able to connect with people we otherwise would have never known existed. This is important on many levels of marketing including getting to know other cultures and trends.
    Information technology is extremely important in the marketplace today. When we are able to build relationships it makes the technology that much more useful.
    R.Bath at http://basictechinformationservices.com

  • Corey Weiner | November 19, 2013

    The gentleman above, Stuart Anderson, makes a superb point:

    LinkedIn is in the information selling business. They thus know that, for the most part, individuals in a position to purchase their enterprise services are going to have to be outbound contacts.

    Meaning “cold call is dead” sounds revolutionary.

    Reality is, and I mentioned this in a blog on http://forbes.com a few months ago where LinkedIn’s co-founder was talking about outbound direct marketing going obsolete with a Harvard Business School Fellow, LinkedIn hires people to proactively get on the phone or a computer and direct market, ironically enough.

    It just sounds impressive to make claims such as “cold-calling and traditional lead prospecting have ended.”

    Reality is the same as that article: if that is the case, LinkedIn would not employ sales reps engaged in outbound marketing to corporations with social marketing budgets.

    That proposition is flawed.

    That is like me, as a marketing copywriter, declaring outbound direct marketing is a thing of the past. Then deploying my mailers and letters to attract new content editing and troubleshooting business opportunities.

    Neuroscientific research dictates humans resist change.

    To influence them, one must first make a case for whatever they are doing at present being flawed.

    Then offer a better alternative.

    And that’s all web and social media marketers do.

    Fortunately, most claims are hot air; which is how I manage to stay in business – unwinding poorly thought-out content marketing and correcting it without taking marketing directors’ money into a never-ending black hole of false claims.

    MIT Sloan publishes exceptional content yet again. Their newsletters are even more practical and educational.

    Corey Weiner Next Generation Marketing Project Management http://b2bmarketingmaterials.com

  • Randy Baith | November 22, 2013

    Now we have a conversation,
    Mr. Weiner is right on the money so to speak. He makes a valid point with Linkedin hiring people to do cold calling. Communication is a two way street and that will never change. Cold calling will never be outdated, just more targeted. Making contact is a must for any business.

    Marketing has become an exact science and technology only increases the effectiveness.

    Mr. Weiner also mentions neuroscience and how people are resistant to change. Although more of a theory than a hypothesis, I believe that to be correct. As far as technology in marketing is concerned, psychographics is just as important as demographics.

    I do not believe that they are into the information selling business as much as advertising, unless you are talking about selling advertising information. Any further conversation on that subject delves into the realm of privileged information and would be pure speculation on my part.

    Linkedin is a social marketing tool for just about everyone to connect with people of like interest. This data can can be used by Linkedin to target their advertising and thus sell the advertising to marketers. Linkedin can advertise to targeted members, whereas any sale of information would be limited by privacy laws.

    A company would do well to spend their advertising money on ad space rather than information from data collection.
    Any thoughts?
    R. Baith at http://www.basictechinformationservices.com

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