LinkedIn report: Sales tech ‘is changing the game for sellers’ (and buyers)
Buyers are now pre-qualifying sellers, as sales tech — including LinkedIn and other social networks — revises how the B2B game is played.
Ironically — according to a new LinkedIn-sponsored report — sales tech now allows B2B buyers to turn the tables on B2B sellers.
That’s because B2B buyers now frequently pre-qualify sellers, when it used to be primarily the other way around.
The company’s second annual “State of Sales 2017” report is out this week, focusing on “sales technology, adoption and success.” In summary, it finds:
Sales technology is changing the game for sellers. It is making them smarter about their prospects and customers, enabling them to surface the hard to find information that the offline world doesn’t offer. It’s also making them more efficient and productive, while helping them transform their position with buyers, and evolve their role from vendors to advisors.
That role evolution, the report finds, is being driven by the buyer’s most important consideration: trust.
“Trust is paramount,” VP of Marketing at LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions Justin Shriber told me. To establish buyers’ trust in the seller, he said, they “are focused on pre-qualifying.”
In performing this pre-qualification, the buyer is looking to see that the seller understands the business, has done the homework, and can offer insights about what is relevant to the buyer’s needs. This makes one of the report’s three main sales tech categories — professional social networks — essential to the process.
There is a greater likelihood the buyer will interact with a salesperson, the report finds, if the salesperson has a personalized profile on a social network. The report doesn’t specify the networks, but Shriber said they are assumed to be full-featured networks used for professional purposes, like LinkedIn or Facebook.
Of course, one would expect LinkedIn, as the leading professional social network, to find that social networks have become essential in the buyer-seller dance. But it has become very common for people to review the LinkedIn or Facebook profiles of others they might do business with.
When I asked Shriber why a business website — which often contains profile pages of key employees — wouldn’t similarly supply a profile that can generate trust, he replied that sites tend to be “generic,” while social profiles are more current profiles of individuals. But, he added, “it’s less about communication [via social channels], and more about info on the individual [so] I can trust you.”
The report finds that 69 percent of millennial buyers are more likely to speak with a sales pro who has a social media presence, as compared to their likelihood of talking with those who do not.
But that emphasis on a social presence falls off by age. Among Gen Xers, it’s 58 percent; for Baby Boomers, 33 percent.
Those three trends — the importance of trust and of social profiles, plus the increasing importance of millennials — are key takeways from this year’s report. In fact, Shriber pointed to the rising influence of millennials as a key reason why social networks are growing in importance for buyer/seller relationships, since millennials are so accustomed to living in those environments.
In addition to professional social platforms, the two other main sales tech categories in the report are customer relationship management (CRM) systems and communication/collaboration tools. The report did not specify every type of sales tool that falls into the the latter category, but it did note that it included ToutApp, Trello, Box, Google Docs, Asana, Slack and Dropbox, among others.
Overall, 91 percent of the report’s respondents say they use some kind of sales tech. The biggest users are sales pros who generate leads, as 60 percent of that group employ collaboration tools.
In last year’s report, 36 percent of sales pros predicted that their companies would increase their sales tech budget in the next 12 months. In this year’s, that figure has jumped to 55 percent.
For top salespeople who regularly exceed their target revenue by more than 25 percent, nearly three-quarters expect their companies will spend more on sales tech.
This year’s report was conducted for LinkedIn by survey consultants CensusWide. It conducted two online surveys this past spring of US businesspeople in large and small companies. One was of 1,086 professionals who work primarily in sales, and the other was of 1,015 individuals who make decisions about purchases.