The world of B2B sales and marketing has undergone a seismic shift in recent years. The buyer journey has evolved, as lead generation models such as direct marketing and events show diminishing returns. Forrester Research found that 74% of business buyers “conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.”
It has been six years since I first designed and launched a LinkedIn automation platform. The feedback I have gained in this time is that many smart salespeople have reacted to this shift by leveraging lead generation opportunities offered by LinkedIn to fill the sales funnel. Understanding this trend and some best practices for using LinkedIn automation tools can help salespeople generate leads.
The Demise Of B2B Lead Generation
Gartner noted in its report “5 Ways the Future of B2B Buying Will Rewrite the Rules of Effective Selling” that there is a “steady evolution of customer preferences’ shift from in-person sales interactions toward digital channels” and that there is now “near equal usage of a supplier’s websites versus sales reps to complete the most common buying jobs.”
An increasing proportion of the decision-making process therefore now takes place before a prospective buyer engages with a salesperson or without a salesperson. What this means in practice is that the old-style campaign-based approach of email marketing campaigns, driving prospects to a landing page and phoning those people who don’t respond may simply be too expensive, resource intensive and slow. Marketers are turning to automation technology to interact with buyers across the customer lifecycle.
LinkedIn: Where Business Happens
What has replaced traditional sales prospecting is a nimbler approach with a focus on growth and growth metrics. It’s progressive, but some things never change. Take the sales funnel: You still need a massive number of qualified contacts at the top of the funnel to convert the sales needed to achieve targets. Over time, these contacts need nurturing so that they will be aware of you during the sales cycle.
1. They save time and effort by automating common, time-consuming tasks.
2. You can prospect at a scale that is difficult to achieve given the same budget or resources.
3. Personalization features ensure you can have a natural conversation.
4. They can be integrated with a CRM for complete control of the sales prospecting cycle.
LinkedIn automation users often exceed sales targets because they use LinkedIn in a highly focused way. By embracing new technologies and connecting a CRM, they are able to fill the funnel with quality prospects in a fraction of the time previously required. Automating the time-consuming LinkedIn activities means they have more time to spend on nurturing.
Automation used wisely can work to create consistent, highly qualified leads in a relatively short period of time. And that’s why salespeople and marketing teams are becoming advocates for this technology.
When using LinkedIn automation tools, there are three things you must do:
First, only use LinkedIn tools to safely automate what one person could do manually. That means staying within the limits set by LinkedIn. For example, if you continually send more than 100 connection messages per week, you risk getting banned. Many LinkedIn automation platforms have default settings that prevent you from exceeding this limit.
Second, spend time up front on planning what you are going to do. It is easy to get frustrated when you don’t see instant results. However, there are many playbooks around that can help to establish a robust workflow, depending on whether you are looking for leads, want to establish brand awareness or are looking to grow the number of connections that you have.
Finally, with the time saved by automating common tasks, focus on how you will actually engage with people. Use your authentic voice in conversations and avoid overly templated messages, which are likely to instantly alienate your audience.
In my view, LinkedIn is the best B2B social network in the world. That’s why it should be the starting point for lead generation. Many people are really just looking for the ability to generate leads with minimum effort. By following these best practices and using LinkedIn automation platforms in a targeted way, smart salespeople can be on their way to generating more leads.