[EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview took place on March 3, 2019. Some of the pricing details and other comments about LinkedIn features might have changed since this interview took place.]
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EPISODE 154: LinkedIn Whisperer Brynne Tillman Shares the Three Things You Must Be Doing to Optimize LinkedIn for Sales
BRYNNE’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “We are ignoring our new connections all the time. Put together a great welcome message that has an insight, a piece of content – not a sales pitch, don’t talk about you or your business. Give them some really great value that leads back to your solution but isn’t leading with your solution.”
This is a special episode with Brynne Tillman, the CEO at Social Sales Link.
She’s known as the LinkedIn Whisperer and is of the top LinkedIn for Sales experts on the planet.
We’re going to be talking about optimizing LinkedIn for Sales.
Find Brynne on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: You’re really well known, you’ve thought through so many things about LinkedIn. We’re going to cover a couple different things so let’s get started, let’s talk about the profile. Let’s talk about one thing that you like to help people understand and apply which is converting the profile from your resume to a resource. What does that mean?
Brynne Tillman: When you’re in business development, your resume is not nearly as interesting to your buyers as content and insights. When you convert your profile from that resume to a resource, you’re really attracting and engaging and teaching your ideal buyers. They get curious, they start thinking about things differently, they start seeing you as the thought leader and subject matter expert and it leads them closer and closer to your solution.
Fred Diamond: What does that mean, what should people be thinking about? What are some things people should be doing to make best advantage of LinkedIn?
Brynne Tillman: That’s a great question. Remember, this really is if you’re in sales. If you are in a career transition or a recruiter, all of that can be very different but if you’re in business development, this is your landing page. The ultimate goal is to get more phone calls with targeted buyers, so that becomes the job of the profile. I often talk to folks when they’re thinking about switching their profile to a resource from the perspective of, “Imagine yourself on stage. People paid $150 dollars a ticket to come learn from you. What would you teach them if those were your buyers in the audience? You can’t pitch to them, you’re not going to give them a list of your specialties when you’re up there. What are you going to be helping them with? Focus on who you help, how you help them and why they should care. Dive into what really matters to them and then provide real tangible insights that they can use even if they don’t hire you.”
Fred Diamond: We talk about this a lot on the Sales Game Changers podcast, the whole notion that you need to really think about your customer. One of the huge things that keeps coming through in the Sales Game Changers podcast when we talk to sales leaders is that they’re constantly thinking about the value that they’re bringing customers. It’s always been about bringing value, but even more so in the last couple years because the customer can get information on the internet and they can get information from social media. They don’t need to speak to you, Mr. and Mrs. Sales Professional. We constantly tell people, “Think about the value you’re bringing to your customer to help them achieve their goals.” Can you translate that to LinkedIn?
Brynne Tillman: Absolutely. You made a really good point which is they can get a lot of information without us. Back in the day, before there was email in sales they had to call us to get that information so if they are researching, who are they learning from? Is it you or is it your competitor? We also know LinkedIn did a study in that 74% of buyers do research on LinkedIn before they make a buying decision. Where are they getting the information? Who are they getting it from? Is it leading to your solution or someone else’s? We need to really take a look at what is the content that your buyers are looking for and using to help make their decisions. What thought leaders are they going to to help to mold that? In fact, the stat is 67% of the buying decision – it’s a serious decision stat – is made before the sales rep even knows they’re in the market.
A couple of things: one, we need to be the ones influencing that 67% for a few reasons. One, we want them to think of us as the experts in the area, that they’re impressed by the content that they’re learning from us. The other piece is when they do reach out to make a phone call, we want to make sure that we’re the first vendor that they’re calling. How does that relate to LinkedIn? One, they’re looking at our profiles. Is there a profile pitching our services or actually providing insights and helping to move that buyer closer and closer to us as an option? And the content that we’re sharing, it’s so vital that we’re sharing insights that are really valuable, that have an impact, that get our buyers thinking a little bit differently, that plant some seeds so that they’re understanding how to buy.
The ultimate goal is for them to raise their hand and say, “I have learned so much from this person and this company that they are the people that we want to go to to help us solve whatever issue we have.
Fred Diamond: I have an interesting point here. A lot of times through the Sales Game Changers podcast, the sales leaders that we interview say that you need to be a better listener as compared to someone who just goes into a sales meeting and wants to talk about them and their features. One of the ways that most of these people have become successful is by becoming expert listeners, which means you need to ask questions, you need to prepare. Can you have the same corollary with your LinkedIn profile where it really is focused on not you or your company or your product, but can you apply it so that it really is focused on the customer you’re trying to serve?
Brynne Tillman: The way that we position profiles is really a resource. Almost look at the summary like a blog post where you’re providing real value. You talk about the questions that you ask and one of the things that we’ve learned with social is we can learn so much about our prospects before our meeting that we should go in so prepared knowing much more than they’d expect us to know, not sitting back and asking, “What keeps you up at night?” Talking to them about, “I noticed at a press release that your company put out about 3 weeks ago around X. How is that affecting you?” Then they’re like, “They really did their homework, they really looked this up, they really learned more.”
There’s a little secret hack that I do if I’m really looking at a prospect, a big company I’m trying to get into. I’ll do a search for people that were in similar roles to the person that I’m meeting with at that company. You can search past roles at past companies, so I can connect with folks. Maybe I’m looking to speak with the VP of Sales at ABC Company, I can search who used to be at ABC Company as the VP of Sales and reach out to them and I can get a ton of insights from former employees. That’s a little hack on how you can use LinkedIn.
Fred Diamond: Obviously you’ve probably looked at tens of thousands of profiles. You help companies around the country optimize their LinkedIn, not just their profiles but their usage, if you will. Is there anything that you see that sales professionals are doing on LinkedIn on their profiles? Obviously it’s probably, “Me, me, me” but is there anything else that you see that they’re egregiously doing incorrectly that’s harming them?
Brynne Tillman: That’s a great question. One of the things that we’ll see, the aggressive sales people that will list President’s Club, Top Negotiator. No prospect wants to work with a really great negotiator so although those are the attributes that they may want when they’re looking for a job, it’s certainly not what a client is going to be attracted to. You really have to get into the shoes or the eyes of your audience and say, “Is this something that’s going to lead them to me or lead them away from me?”
Fred Diamond: Before we move onto the next category, is there anything else that you want to talk about? About the best way to optimize your profile.
Brynne Tillman: You can add some key words to be found for sure, make sure you know the key words that your prospects are using when they’re searching. The other thing that I think is really important is LinkedIn has a recent update to experience where they thread positions together. If you’ve had three or four positions in one company, they come down into one list and I’ve hacked that a little bit. Instead of adding an actual title, you can actually add your deliverables which will really highlight the solutions that you provide so when they skim down, they know exactly how and what they can buy from you.
Fred Diamond: How about projects that you’ve worked on or certain teams or those kinds of teams as well?
Brynne Tillman: If you have some projects, there is a project section in LinkedIn that’s buried that no one ever gets to, unfortunately and you can’t move that up but you can add rich media to each of your positions. If you have case studies or projects you can actually create PDF’s or mini-videos about them and adding them in that section gets a lot more visibility than the actual project section.
Fred Diamond: I have a quick question. We’re going to be talking about how to leverage your existing connections to gain access to targeted buyers. Can we talk about your status for a second? When people use LinkedIn, of course they can update their status and video is a big thing right now. Can you give some advice to the Sales Game Changers listening here about things they should or shouldn’t do on your status?
Brynne Tillman: Are you talking about nurturing with content?
Fred Diamond: In your daily status where you can post a picture or a link to an article or an event or something like that. Give us some ideas on what sales professionals should or shouldn’t be doing.
Brynne Tillman: Ultimately when you’re posting content to your news feed, you’re nurturing your existing connections. As you connect with a ton of people, some of them will convert to conversations, some of them don’t but you want to stay in front of them with really valuable content. A lot of people think of content and blog as the same thing, but there’s so many other ways to have content which I think is your question. There’s Native Video which LinkedIn is loving right now and that’s video that’s anywhere from 6 seconds to 10 minutes that you literally upload – not a link – into LinkedIn and that’s enormous play. 10 minutes is way too long most of the cases, but anywhere from 60 seconds to 3 minutes, even 3 minutes can get long but if it’s real value it can be some of the best content that you put out there.
Fred Diamond: You can produce the video and then upload it?
Brynne Tillman: It’s not live yet although I understand that’s coming. It’s definitely uploaded.
Fred Diamond: A video file.
Brynne Tillman: Right, so MP4, you can upload that. One thing I highly recommend with your videos is get captions put in them. There are a couple of things, you can upload a video to YouTube and get the transcription and then you can use anything like iMovie or any inexpensive video editing tool. Once you do that on YouTube, you don’t want to take the link from YouTube and share that. You want to now upload the video to LinkedIn as well. The other free website is called otter.ia, O-T-T-E-R dot A-I. You can upload a video and it will transcribe it for you, it’s really fast and easy to do. You want those captions because most people are looking at LinkedIn at work, they often don’t have audio on so they will stop and read. You want to make sure that you’ve got that.
Fred Diamond: Obviously you’re an expert, we have you on the show here, very excited about that. You’ve won numerous awards for your LinkedIn consulting and thought leadership. How often do you upload something to LinkedIn on your news feed?
Brynne Tillman: I want to be on my news feed – and this is me – 3 to 5 times a day. That sounds like a lot, it doesn’t mean I’m sharing original content 3 to 5 times a day. #1 I’m recycling content, #2 I search hash tags. For me, #SocialSelling, #LinkedIn, #LinkedInForSales, so I have certain hash tags that will pull up content from other people talking about topics they care about. I can engage on their topics, on their content and start to leverage other people’s content to be seen as a thought leader in that world. I curate content, I use feedly.com, if you’re familiar it’s a dash board where I take content from lots of places, I share podcasts, I share interviews. It’s not all original content, but I am leveraging other people’s content often.
Fred Diamond: Today’s Sales Game Changers podcast it’s a special episode, we’re talking to Brynne Tillman, she’s the LinkedIn Whisperer. Brynne, let’s move to a different topic now inside of LinkedIn, of course. Talk about the notion of leveraging your existing connections to gain access to targeted buyers. What are some of the best practices that the Sales Game Changers should be doing to make that happen?
Brynne Tillman: This is why I really love LinkedIn, this is the differentiator above and beyond any other social platform out there. LinkedIn allows us to filter and search our connections’ connections to identify who in our network knows our targeted buyers. We can leverage those relationships to get warm introductions, and there are a few ways to do this. Before you search, if you’re using the free LinkedIn you’ve got to create a bullion search string which is a series of titles that you want to go after using modifiers like “or”, “and” and “not” to create a search string of ultimately your decision-makers, influencers, stake holders.
Once you do that, we now can go into LinkedIn and actually even before you search people you don’t know, stick them in with all the right filters location and then choose “first degree” in your search which is going to show you everyone that you’re already connected to that you’ve been ignoring that you shouldn’t be. Then you can engage by sending out content that might be relevant to them. After you’re done with that, switch it from firs degree filter to second degree which is now allowing us to search all of our connections and it will show us hundreds if not thousands of people that we are only one person away from. It will show us who our shared connections are, so now we have the ability to reach out to our network and ask for introductions. “How well do you know this person? Would you be open to connecting me to them? Would you be open to me mentioning that we had this conversation?”
That’s when the magic starts. Now, you can also search individuals. I can go and do that same search in a person’s connection so if it’s a client or networking partner I can make a list of the people they know that I want to meet, run the names by them and ultimately convert that conversation into meaningful introductions.
Fred Diamond: What do you see, are people willing to? What’s a common thing that you see today where, let’s say, I go up to someone who I’m connected to and I search on VP’s of Sales. I interview VP’s of Sales for the podcast typically in the DC mid-Atlantic but also across the country. Let’s say that you have someone who’s a VP of Sales in DC that I was not aware of. What should I do to get you to be inspired to make an introduction?
Brynne Tillman: You have to look at the relationship. In some cases, I’ll text the person or email them or go on Facebook, it just depends on how I would normally communicate with them. You can also send a note on LinkedIn, “Fred, I noticed you’re connected to Jane at ABC Company, I’m not sure how well you know her but I’m trying to get in front of her. Do you have 10 minutes for a quick chat?” If it’s a real high level person you want to get in front of. It could be simply, “Would you be open to make an introduction? I can even offer you a little paragraph that you can just copy and paste and put us both in a message.” You really want to look at your relationship with the person you’re asking and approach it the way you would in the real world.
Fred Diamond: Is that something that we should be thinking about? I know you and I have talked about this before. Obviously LinkedIn is just an unbelievable platform, it’s obviously beyond amazing the ability to connect with almost anybody on the planet. Do you view it beyond the technology? The point being if I sell to my customer, it’s basically accelerating the process but I still need to have the relationship and I still need to provide value to them. How quickly should I go from LinkedIn to a phone call or to trying to get into the person’s office, or is that the goal?
Brynne Tillman: The goal is the phone call but if we pitch too soon, we don’t get the phone call. We have to have some patience and it’s about consistently providing insights. Social selling is not linear. What we want to happen is I connect with them, I send them some insights, I ask them for a call, they schedule a call, we run discovery, I send them a proposal, we close business. All of us are like, “Yes, that’s what we want” but the reality is not that. The reality is we connect with them on LinkedIn, we send them a blog post, they don’t respond. Then they see something that we post on LinkedIn and they click through to our website and maybe they download something and go into our drip campaign. Then all of a sudden I see they opened an email and they looked at my profile and now I’m really excited so I send them a personal note and they ignore me again.
It can go on for months and they just ignore me until my solution becomes a priority in their business, and then I get the call. There is some patience. If you get an introduction to someone, you can certainly ask for a call. “Fred thought we should chat, I’d love to jump on a call, explore ways we might be able to work together.” It came from a warm introduction and that’s fine, but if you’re just connecting with someone and you pitch to get a phone call right away, you just totally black-listed yourself.
Fred Diamond: Related to that, I see a big trend where companies are using some type of automation via In-Mail to send requests right away for the sale, and it’s usually a junior sales professional behind it, if you will. Maybe their company has implemented where all of a sudden you get this In-Mail, “Hey, I was looking at your website and I really think you could use my SEO process” or some type of data analysis type of thing. Does that work or is that really just a total waste of time? Or if you get one out of a million, is it worth it?
Brynne Tillman: I don’t really want to answer if it works or not, I just think its icky. For some people it may work. A couple of things: #1 automation breaks LinkedIn’s agreement. Fake profiles break LinkedIn’s agreement so right away, it’s wrong because you have a privilege of being able to use LinkedIn. Even if you pay, you don’t have the right, it’s their business. That’s first off, second to that is in my opinion, sales is still a relationship and if you’ve got automation that’s running your connection requests and your messages and you think that’s building a relationship with someone or worse yet, they think they’re having a conversation with you and you’re not, that is so inauthentic that to me, it breaks all the sales rules, not even just social selling rules. We’re not selling trinkets on Amazon. If you want to use automation to sell a thing and you never have to meet your client, that’s fine but if this is ultimately a relationship sale, don’t start that relationship under falsehood.
Fred Diamond: Brynne, I’ve got one quick question for you. This could probably be a long question but I’m going to ask one quick question before we take a short break and listen to one of our sponsors. You mentioned that LinkedIn is a platform, there is a free version and of course you could pay for LinkedIn as well. Could you explain for the Sales Game Changers listening to the podcast today why should they invest and should they invest in Premium Membership?
Brynne Tillman: Premium or Sales Navigator are really the way to look at it.
Fred Diamond: Should they invest in Sales Navigator, should they invest in Premium or just keep going with the free version?
Brynne Tillman: I happen to be a huge Sales Navigator fan. Premium has a few features that are nice, like you can see who looked at your profile for the last 90 days and you can do more searches than you can without paying anything, but Sales Navigator is so incredible. The ability and the features, the way you can organize your connections and leverage your team members to find out who they know to get you connected, I can go on and on. If you are prepared to truly use Sales Navigator the right way, I think it is the most valuable tool a salesperson can have in their stack.
Fred Diamond: What does it typically go for per month?
Brynne Tillman: There are two versions for individuals, there’s $79 dollars a month for Sales Navigator and $129 a month that has Point Drive which is my favorite tool right now. You can create personal landing pages with content that when people visit to look at your content, you are notified what they downloaded, how long they were there, the stats are amazing and I have closed a lot of business simply because I know what my prospect is interested in based on what they’re looking at.
It’s an amazing tool, but don’t jump in without a plan. It’s like joining a gym and not knowing how to use the equipment. Make sure that you have a plan in place, you’ve got your templates in place, you know exactly what you’re doing and that you don’t fall under random acts of social.
Fred Diamond: We’re talking today on the Sales Game Changers podcast, it’s a special episode, we’re talking to Brynne Tillman, she’s the LinkedIn Whisperer. She is one of the true LinkedIn experts for sales professionals. Where can people find you, do you have a website? Of course on LinkedIn.
Brynne Tillman: I do, but start with LinkedIn [Laughs] I am still the only Brynne Tillman on LinkedIn which is great. My website is socialsaleslink.com, I’m on Twitter as Brynne Tillman.
Fred Diamond: Brynne, let’s bring it home, this has been a great conversation on ways Sales Game Changers can be optimizing LinkedIn for sales. Give us your final thoughts on nurturing your connections. Again, this is another topic within LinkedIn we could probably talk for 4 or 5 hours, but to summarize in a couple minutes as we wind down today’s podcast. Nurturing your connections with valuable insights and content that moves them closer to your solution, talk about that and some of the best practices that the Sales Game Changers should be following.
Brynne Tillman: As you’re creating valuable content, we talked about video, there are so many other ways to create content, get it into the inbox. Not just on the news feed, identify maybe 10 or 15 people every week that when you have a new piece of content, let them know. “I created this content, it’s specifically for VP of sales, I thought that it might be helpful for you if that’s your target market, I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, if you have any questions, I’m always happy to chat.” Leave it open for a conversation but don’t push the conversation. If you can do that on a consistent basis and stay in front of your network, your targeted market with content that moves them closer to your solution, when it’s ready for them to make a decision you’re the one they’ll call.
Fred Diamond: I’ve got a quick question as it relates to that, you may or may not know the answer to this but if you use LinkedIn to communicate to somebody, let’s say somebody does connect, one of your prospects. They accept your invitation, you send a nice note, “I saw the article that you were published in” or something like that, should you continue the conversation on LinkedIn? When should you reach out? For example, when you send emails it’s either best first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day. What are some ideas on using LinkedIn to communicate? Does it really matter?
Brynne Tillman: I teach LinkedIn so I tend to stick with LinkedIn and what I like in Sales Navigator is I can tag them in categories so I know what I’ve sent them. I can look and tag them under “sent April 7th, 2017 blog post” and I’m like, “I already sent that to them, what would be the next thing?” Or however I’d want to do that. I can take notes and I can tag them so I know exactly what would be next. I tend to do everything there, but that’s not necessarily the only right answer, I think emails are great. You’ve got to get them to opt in if you’re going to put them into mass email, don’t just add their email from LinkedIn, it’s just wrong.
You can offer them content – and I do it all the time in my Point Drive, in my landing page there’s one or two things where they would opt in, so now they’re choosing to get added to my email list. Individual emails, if they have their professional email listed as their primary email, I think that’s fine if you want to try it that way and reach out. Most people have their personal email listed, though.
Fred Diamond: Like the Gmail account or something like that. I’ve got one final question before we wind down here, let’s say you link in to somebody, you send them a request to connect, they seem to be a good prospect for you, someone recommended you should link in to them and let’s say they never accept. What’s the process? I think you can withdraw the invitation, what is the process, what are your recommendations? Do you withdraw every week and keep going after them or how much time do you usually give?
Brynne Tillman: I’m actually 4 to 6 weeks and then I go back and start to withdraw some invitations. If someone really did recommend that I reach out, I would send an InMail which is different than a connection request, it’s a paid message that would go to them that says, “Sorry we haven’t been able to connect but Fred said that it would make sense.” I would go that route, but I would not give up just because they didn’t accept your connect request. Often they’re just not active on LinkedIn.
Fred Diamond: That’s interesting, we’re both very active. Are most people very active? People that the Sales Game Changers who are selling to VP’s of IT or CFO’s, are they also as active as we might be or is it mostly a sales tool?
Brynne Tillman: Maybe not as active, but a lot of them are there. The two areas that are slow to adopt seems to be K-12 educators, they’re just not on LinkedIn because they don’t get hired that way and medical doctors. Chiropractors are there and dentists are there, the ones that have to go hunting for business, but your typical surgeon or family doctor just isn’t on LinkedIn. If you’re selling to anyone else, they’re there. They might not be very active, but they’ve got accounts and here’s the thing, if anyone outside of those professions has looked for a job in the last 5 years, they got on LinkedIn.
Fred Diamond: They should be. Again, we talked today with Brynne Tillman, she’s the CEO of Social Sales Link and of course she goes by the LinkedIn Whisperer. Brynne, you’ve given us so much great content today. Why don’t you give us one final thought to help the Sales Game Changers listening to today’s podcast take their usage of LinkedIn to the next level?
Brynne Tillman: One thing is we are ignoring our new connections all the time. If I were to say change one thing now, put together a great welcome message that has an insight, a piece of content – not a sales pitch, don’t talk about you or your business. Give them some really great value that leads back to your solution but isn’t leading with your solution.