EPISODE 580: Understanding LinkedIn’s Deep Sales Platform for 2023 B2B Sales Success with Kalsang Tanzin

The Sales Game Changers Podcast was recognized by YesWare as the top sales podcast for 2022. Read the announcement here.

Subscribe to the Podcast now on Apple Podcasts!

Become a partner of the elite Institute for Excellence in Sales (IES) and take your sales team to the next level!

Purchase Fred Diamond’s new best-sellers Love, Hope, Lyme: What Family Members, Partners, and Friends Who Love a Chronic Lyme Survivor Need to Know and Insights for Sales Game Changers now!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast featured an interview with Kalsang Tanzin, Director of Enterprise Relationship Management for LinkedIn North America.]

Find Kalsang on LinkedIn.

KALSANG’S’ TIP: “Upload your book of business into Sales Navigator if you have it, and then see what is the warmest way you can enter your prospect or your customer. Look for previous customers, look for people who might have worked with your coworkers and ask for an intro. Look to see if you were in a fraternity. That’s the first they could find, the hidden allies within your prospects and your customer base.”


Fred Diamond: Today, we’ve got a really exciting show for a couple of different reasons. Most people know that we get a lot of the traction with the Sales Game Changers podcast when we post it on LinkedIn. I always do a post on LinkedIn the day the show goes live, and we get anywhere from 3 to, in some cases, close to 30,000 impressions. We’re talking to Kalsang Tanzin. Tell us a little bit about what you do, because you have a great job at LinkedIn and we’re going to get deep into the concept of what you’re calling deep sales. It’s so critical right now. As many people are going to start listening to this show in 2023, the world has changed, the selling landscape has changed, and we’ll talk about that. Give us a brief introduction about yourself and what you do specifically at LinkedIn.

Kalsang Tanzin: Perfect. Fred, I’m so excited to be here with you. Thank you for having me. I go by Kalsang Tanzin, you can call me Kal for the rest of the interview. I have the distinct privilege of leading the enterprise segment for existing customer base for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, North America. Our major platforms tend to be Sales Navigator and LinkedIn Sales insights.

What does that actually mean on a day-to-day basis? My team and I work with go to market leaders, whether it’s CROs, head of OPs, enablement, marketing OPs, to help them execute the growth strategy that they’ve built out for their sales organization. We fundamentally do that in ensuring to help them make sure we connect our platforms to a problem that they have, and execute and roll that out as well.

Fred Diamond: We’re going to get really deep into that, but first, I want to talk about one thing. One of the main missions of the Institute for Excellence in Sales is our Women in Sales program. Of course, we’re just rolling out our premier Women in Sales employer program. You were the co-founder of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council in LinkedIn, Canada. The mission there was to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Talk a little bit about that before we get deep into the sales. Again, it’s such a huge mission for the Institute. I’m curious, you also mentioned too, that you were the President one time of Women at LinkedIn, and there were over 20 chapters of that ERG. Give us a little bit of a peek into why you were so involved with that. What does DE&I and DEIB mean at LinkedIn? Then we’re going to get deep into the deep sales concepts.

Kalsang Tanzin: Let me start on the really high macro level. Our vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce and has been LinkedIn’s driving true north for us. We know what we’re doing and the sales organizations, we fund that vision. When we think about the term, that vision, the real emphasis is on every member of the global workforce.

We know that skills and talent are equally distributed, however, opportunities are not. That’s really on a macro level on the driving force behind it as an organization. We’ve qualified that. Diversity, inclusion and belongings are a qualified value tenant of ours, a part of our culture, a part of our value that guides how we think through every decision from how we evolve the platform, how we hire, how we choose to develop our people, how we engage with our customers. It’s really part of the central to the DIBs platform.

When we think about the DIBs, there is one of the core pillars of how we actually realize that, it’s through our Employee Resource programs. Women at LinkedIn at that time was the largest employee resource group. There are so many several reasons behind it. Sales is one of the largest functions in the world.

Back in the day, I can’t remember what the stats is now, but it also happened to be one of the least gender equal functions. I would imagine it would persist. I was just reading a stat on my LinkedIn profile, how women in sales recently was seeing a drop off after the pandemic. We’re also seeing a drop off in satisfaction rate.

If we’re not intentional about it, we know that at this point we should really feel and know that diverse teams are the right thing to do by our business and our customers. If we’re not intentional about creating the environment and the conditions for the diversity to thrive, and feel welcome and included, we’re going to continue to see challenges in closing the gap there.

Part of the reasons was I’m passionate about it, but a lot of it is my own upbringing. A lot of it is the macro, how the company and our vision of the organization and I believe in this space we have to be intentional and can’t take any progress for granted.

Fred Diamond: Again, that fits into the mission of the Institute for Excellence in Sales, which is the sponsor of the Sales Game Changers podcast. It’s to attract, retain, motivate and elevate top tier sales talent, particularly with women in sales and minority in sales as well. I’m really excited to hear that we’re aligned with LinkedIn.

68% of sales organizations, Kal, reporting that they’re missing sales targets. Of course, we’re the Institute for Excellence in Sales. We’re all about the nobility of the sales profession, but salespeople are struggling right now in a lot of places, and for a whole bunch of different reasons that our listeners are probably familiar with or they might not be. What are we seeing in the selling landscape today? Then I want to get deep into what y’all are calling deep sales.

Kalsang Tanzin: Like your organization with the Institute of Excellence and Sales, our business and our sales solutions is in service of the sales organization and salespeople as well. We have another synergy, our investment in DIBs and equity as well when we think about sales.

As students of sales, we’ve been observing and documenting how sales has evolved. Transparently, the way traditional sales methods are failing our sellers, are failing our organizations, they’re failing our customers as well. What we’ve noticed is how B2B buyers and our customers want to buy and purchase the investment is just not how B2B sellers are selling right now. That gap has frankly widened since the pandemic.

One of the stats you talked about was 68% of sales orgs are indicating and projecting that they’re going to miss their number. On the sales rep level, we’ve heard 50% of sellers are saying it is harder to hit that number now than pre-pandemic. At least 80% of sellers have seen their deals derailed because of change in the buying committee that they were just not aware of.

We’re seeing the pain and the struggle of sellers and sales organizations on multiple angles. These are three metrics that help us bring that to life. Hopefully, your listeners feel seen and heard because at least they know what they’re experiencing is not just unique to them, it’s consistent to what we see within the organization.

One thing to think about, we talk a little bit about how sales is evolving, I think it’s really important to talk about the other dynamics of how B2B buying is evolving and why we haven’t been able to keep up our sales techniques. What doesn’t get said often is B2B buying has always been a high-stake decision-making process. It’s often portrayed as this ROI business case, but it’s actually a pretty emotional decision.

Fred, anytime a customer makes an investment on behalf of their company, they’re really putting their name on it in front of their own people, their bosses, their colleagues. There’s a lot of stake that’s reputational cost and benefit based on how those decisions roll out. In this environment when the stakes feel higher, people are going to de-risk that decision by bringing in more people into the buying committee.

We’ve always known for the past few years the buying committee is growing, and actually that trend is going to continue because it’s a high-risk decision, it’s emotional. When we are making high risk decisions, it’s natural for us to go to our people and get counsel. The buying committee is going to increase. We see that happening, deals continue to get slower to close, and we forget that B2B buyers are also B2C consumers, so they’re used to really personalized cost buying processes.

When a person goes to buy a car, they often have researched it, they know the model, they know what they’re looking for, even before they go into the dealership and that’s what they’re looking. Part of it, we’ve noticed that that a seller gets only 5% of customers full purchasing time. Truthfully, not only is it harder to get that time, the more people you need to connect with, and it’s even lesser, so every minute counts. We’re seeing those changes happening on the sales side, we’re also seeing those changes happening on the buyer’s side as well.

Fred Diamond: You’ve made a lot of great points, but one of them I want to focus on is a lot of times, a sales professional doesn’t always think about what’s going on, especially if they’re in the early stage of their career and how critical of a decision it is for them to bring in any type of service, product, technology if you will.

One thing I used to say a lot when I was a marketing consultant was that you don’t want to be the guy at your company who spent $50 million on the ERP system that never worked. All of these decisions, people don’t realize what’s going on inside. The other thing too, Kal is that one thing that we’ve really gotten clear on over the last two years is it’s not just about you and your customer. Because of the effects of the pandemic and the supply chains. It’s about your customers’ customer, your customers’ customers’ customer. Deep sales, talk about that. It sounds like something that’s really provocative, but explain to us what deep sales really means.

Kalsang Tanzin: Before I get there, it’s important to realize one thing. We’ve created a pretty realistic picture of what sales is and what’s happening in B2B buying as well. I think there’s also a flip side to it that can be encouraging and it leans into and informs our deep sales philosophy.

One thing is that it’s worth remembering, there are sellers who are thriving in this market and in this condition. As every sales leader, we wanted to know what they’re doing differently. We surveyed top performing sellers in many organizations, and these are sellers who have a track record of hitting 150% of their number, even in this environment.

We’ve learned three things about them. First, much to most people’s surprise, including mine, top performing sellers spend 10% less time selling than their peers. What are they actually doing with that extra time? First, they understand what the true whitespace is, the current whitespace. Emphasis on current because you know this environment is changing, it’s dynamic. They’re not relying on a data set that’s once a year, and tends to be based on old stale data.

Second, they’re engaging with customers when they’re ready to be engaged with versus sending information and invites to events that might feel actually a little out of sight, not on brand. Then third, they find hidden allies within the customer base. They know, “Oh, I know, this customer used to buy from us previously,” And they’ve gone there. They look for connections. “Do I know anybody in my organization that went to school with them, worked with this individual?” So, they’re actually entering those relationships with credibility. The headline here is that top performing sellers have really reversed the script. Most of us think a relationship is the output of a sale, but top performing sellers realize the relationship is an input of sales.

First, that’s worth knowing because when we talk about the future and the current landscape, it can feel really disheartening. Like you and me, we’re students of this profession and feel like it’s a really noble profession and we want to invite people in to join us in this journey.

Fred Diamond: I have a relationship with somebody. It’s been like five or six years. It’s always been not standoffish but it’s always been kind of formal, if you will. This particular leader has been a customer of the Institute for Excellence in Sales. We call our customers partners. We just found out this week that we were in the same fraternity.

The relationship isn’t like fake silly type things. People are really striving right now, Kal for real, honest relationship. As a matter of fact, you’re one of the sales leaders at your company. Alyssa Merwin, we interviewed her on the Sales Game Changers podcast. She was the last interview that we did before the pandemic. I physically was in the room with her and she talked about vulnerability.

She was the first person that I had ever interviewed in over 200 interviews at the time who talked about the concept of being vulnerable with her salespeople, people who worked in her organization. This was before the pandemic. Now, we always talk about authenticity and transparency. But this particular gentleman and I, we admitted we were in the same fraternity. We also had a couple other things that were personal, and in a short amount of time, the relationship totally escalated.

Genuine connection is important. One of the great things about Sales Navigator and LinkedIn is you could see those things. This isn’t an advertisement for LinkedIn, although it is, but spending a little bit of time you can find some critical things. For example, in your profile, DE&I is all over. What we called DEIB before. That’s something that’s critical to the Institute right now. All of a sudden, there’s a connection, and you got to use that if you’re in sales.

Kalsang Tanzin: That is such a great example. First of all, for your partner, your customer, the fact that you went even to look for something that is a common connection, you’re recognizing and honoring and respecting that experience. I think sometimes we don’t look at our customers as busy human professionals. What do busy human professionals in their heart want? You want to solve a problem, you want to be humanized, you want to be personalized.

I 100% believe in that. Relationships isn’t just like a fun, send one line about being congratulated on promotion. Knowing that you’re important, so important that I’m going to keep up with what’s important to you, and I’m going to be able to articulate it. Your comment on Alyssa, the beauty of Alyssa leading with vulnerability is that it has given permission to many of us to do the same. I think that’s true with our own customers as well.

Fred Diamond: What are some of the best practices that y’all have seen for sales? I like one thing that you say as well is that sales organizations are leading their organizations who train. As a matter of fact, one of the first observations that we had back in the beginning of the pandemic was that it was going to be the sales organization that was going to lead their companies through whatever we have gone through over the last two some odd years. Give us some of the best practices.

Kalsang Tanzin: That’s where I think deep sales comes in. Deep sales is a new approach, is an approach of selling that truthfully has to be built on a foundation of data. We talked about this idea, we want reps to have current white space. Often, the reason they don’t have it is because they’re relying on a once annual planning cycle built on a data set that often is outdated.

It’s not just the data, it’s actually translating that data into insights that help sellers not only identify who they need to reach out to, and what they should say, but actually how they should reach out to, when they should reach out to them and truly why. The data and the insights help sellers understand the how, the why, and the when of sales, which is different.

Fundamentally, it is actually helping the best sales organizations and how they navigate this is already taking what the top performing sellers are doing, and scaling that behavior across entire org. Think through it. We know what top sellers are doing, we just talked about the three things, but what if it wasn’t just your top sellers doing it? What if it was you were able to move your middle portion?

Once you’re able to do that, what is the output? What is the productivity of your entire organization going to be like? Deep sales is an approach of selling based on data and insights that really help reps understand and it translates the behavior of top selling reps across the organization.

Fred Diamond:  Almost all of the top sales organizations have a couple of stars. The key is if you can grow the middle by one, two, sometimes as small as 3%, there could be dramatic changes and sales leaders tell us that. It’s almost like a sports analogy, when you see someone in the middle move up by using the data, by working on this profession.

We’re talking here about sales professionals. I got a couple of questions here. There’s studies that have come out that said that sales as a profession is decreasing because of some of the things that you just said. That customers don’t necessarily need to engage with a sales professional anymore because they can get their information on the internet or through social media, whatever it might be. The buyers have a lot of access to what they need. What are some of your thoughts on the future of the sales profession, specifically B2B?

Kalsang Tanzin: We’ve heard this before. “Sales is a dying function.” Before it was the rise of automation, now it’s AI. I’m in the belief that sales is one of the most noble functions. We fund our organizations that fund the economy, and it’s often not given its due credit. I believe in this environment we will see a difference between fellas who truly are becoming an extension of their own customers, are able to communicate as a business professional, and able to really tie and be obsessed with the problem they solve for the customer.

I think we will continue to see that. I do think we will see conventional sales techniques, which is a little bit of like, spray the pray. Like there’s a lot of quantity focus that will continue to be challenged as it is continuing to be challenged right now. The stat that we saw is during the pandemic, we saw an uptick in outreach, like sales emails by 70%. That’s natural. We didn’t know where our buyers and we didn’t know where customers were.

However, we also saw pushback from our customers. We’re seeing a 30% drop in response rate. I think we will continue seeing a demand and need for really customer obsessed, having business acumen, researching the customers, finding those allies, those type of B2B sales that really spray and pray. Cold shallow selling techniques will continue to be challenged.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about a couple of LinkedIn things since we have an expert here on LinkedIn and it’s one of the main ways we present the Sales Game Changers podcast. One of the things that people do let’s just be blunt, is what we call a click-and-pitch. Somebody finds us on LinkedIn, and they send us a note, “Hey, we think you could really use our service. I’m honored to meet you.”

Okay, it seems legit, so you accept the connection, then right away, they go into the pitch with no relationship, no real research done on my particular needs that we’ve been talking about for the last 20 some odd minutes. Does that ever work? Because I get three or four click-and-pitches every single day. Has it worked once? Is that why it continues to happen? Give us your insights, Kal.

Kalsang Tanzin: You’re basically bringing deep sales to life for us. This is what we would call shallow selling techniques and it shows up on LinkedIn. Think about when you go on vacation and when you come back, what your inbox is looking like. I constantly get reached out with pitches and products that they don’t know me, they don’t know my team, they don’t know what I’m focused on. Really good example of what deep sales techniques look like and shallow selling techniques looks like.

I agree with you that these shallow selling techniques have continued to see a decline and will continue to be less productive for the buying landscape right now. I feel as somebody who is protective of the sales function, I understand that for many of the sellers, the fact like we said, 50% don’t know whether they’re going to hit that number. I understand the struggle and believe that there’s a better way to do it.

Fred Diamond: Since we have an expert on LinkedIn here, why don’t you give us a couple of LinkedIn tips? Specific LinkedIn tips that people might not be doing properly or maybe your three go-to LinkedIn things that you recommend for the B2B sales professionals listening to today’s show.

Kalsang Tanzin: First and foremost, I think with LinkedIn, just remember your buyers are on LinkedIn. Of course, we know our future employers are on LinkedIn. For somebody who’s a hiring leader, I know my future talents are on LinkedIn, but just customer is on LinkedIn. Engage with them.

Think about when you post your updates, how are you adding value to that customer if they’re looking at it? Are you visible on their newsfeed? When they’re posting, are you engaging with them? Does that information help inform your ideas on how you reach out to them on LinkedIn or even off LinkedIn? Just making sure that you remember that your customer is on LinkedIn, make sure you’re adding value in subtle ways and learning more about them through the platform.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great tip. I post frequently on LinkedIn, I have a bunch of engagement, but I always look for my customers or prospects. You know what I see so many times? They’ll post a press release, or they’ll post the link to a webinar with no context and they get 0.0 engagement.

Whenever I see that, you know what I do? I always do a comment. “Wow, this looks great,” or “It’s a great time for you to do this,” or, “I have some questions for your guests.” Not, “Great share,” or, “Good job.” By the way, people say you need to do at least four words or seven words. Can you give us some insights into the algorithm? I’m putting you on the spot here. For our listeners, when they comment on people’s posts, any deep suggestions that you would have them follow?

Kalsang Tanzin: I don’t have a scientific suggestion, but just the guiding principle. LinkedIn members like our customers, B2B buyers are human. How do you recognize their effort and how would you like to have been recognized when you post something up? That’s the same thing. That lens should be a guiding principle. Are you doing it just to check a box? Are you doing it to truly feel like you’ve engaged with and consumed the information they’ve shared?

Fred Diamond: That is a great answer, the way you just said that you keep saying this, too, that our customers are human. Over the last two and a half years, they’ve gotten more human. Everybody has been affected however they’ve been affected over the last two years, either health or financially. I’m going to be doing an interview in a few minutes here on the mental health of sales professionals, and how do we continue to be aware of how we’re doing and how our customers are doing.

I love that you’ve touched on so many of these things. You’ve given us so many great ideas. I just want to acknowledge you. I encourage everybody here, I’m sure they will, to go to your profile. In relatively short career, you’ve done so many amazing things and you’ve obviously executed a whole lot of things that are helping not just your employees and other people who work at LinkedIn, but the customers that you touch.

I’ll give you one last LinkedIn example here. I’ve been on LinkedIn almost from day one. Like 15 some odd years. I’ve given some thought recently about how it’s changed for me personally. Right now, I have maybe 50 people that I pay attention to every single day and that pay attention to me, and they’ve become my friends, they’ve become my support system.

Some, Kal, I have literally gotten in my car to go visit hundreds and thousands of miles away. I had a lunch meeting about a year ago with three of my LinkedIn connections in San Antonio, Texas. Take the LinkedIn connection off LinkedIn into the real world, into the human world so you can further grow those relationships. That’s one of the beauties of LinkedIn. You’ve given us so many great ideas. Give us one final action step, one more specific thing that people should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Kalsang Tanzin: We talked about deep sales as being the approach of selling. We believe in that LinkedIn is building, our sales solutions are building the first deep sales platform. Because we’re based on the data set that you just mentioned and we see multi millions of interactions between buyers and sellers, we do that through Sales Navigator and Sales Insights.

The one tip that I can have that’s easier is upload your book of business into Sales Navigator if you have it, and then see what is the warmest way you can enter your prospect or your customer. Look for previous customers, look for people who might have worked with your coworkers and ask for an intro. Look to see if you were in a fraternity. That’s the first they could find, the hidden allies within your prospects and your customer base.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *