On this episode of The B2B Mix Show, we talk with Kurt Shaver of Vengreso about the company’s report, The State of Digital Selling with LinkedIn 2019.
During our conversation, Kurt shares:
- the distinction between digital selling and social selling
- Vengreso’s findings regarding the correlation between a high SSI and sales success
- how only 27% of sales professionals in the study use LinkedIn’s advanced search capabilities
- that only one-third of the study’s subjects post content
- how only three in five subjects publish media and documents to their profiles
Whether you are a salesperson, an entrepreneur, or a marketer, this episode will shed light on some areas where you can improve your LinkedIn profile and behaviors to maximize your sales effectiveness.
Get your copy of the report by visiting stateofdigitalselling.com.
Get in Contact with Kurt Shaver, Chief Sales Officer — Vengreso.
If you’d like to reach out to Kurt to discuss the report or learn more about Vengreso, you can email him at email@example.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn. When you connect via LinkedIn, be sure to customize your invitation and tell him you heard him on talking with the Jackson sisters on The B2B Mix Show podcast!
About The B2B Mix Show
The B2B Mix Show with Alanna Jackson and Stacy Jackson is brought to you by Jackson Marketing. Need help with your B2B online presence? Let’s talk!
Connect with us on social media:
Transcript — Episode 21
Speaker 1: Welcome to The B2B Mix Show with Alanna and Stacy. Each week, we'll bring you ideas that you can implement in your own marketing strategy. We'll share what we know and advice from industry experts who will join us from time to time here on the show. Are you ready to mix it up? Let's get started?
Stacy Jackson: Hey, everyone. I'm Stacy Jackson.
Alanna Jackson: And I'm Alanna Jackson. We are the cofounders of Jackson Marketing, and in case you couldn't tell by our last names, we are also sisters. We're bringing you episode 21 of The B2B Mix Show. Stacy, what are we digging into today?
Stacy Jackson: Today's topic is based on sales professionals, but it can apply to just about anyone in a professional role who needs to network. In this episode, we are talking about digital selling on LinkedIn, and I'll let you introduce our guest today, Alanna.
Alanna Jackson: All right. We have Kurt Shaver who is one of the cofounders and chief sales officer of Vengreso. Kurt is an expert at getting sales teams to adopt new sales tools and techniques. Through a successful career in technology sales, Kurt learned what it takes to reach B2B decision makers. As a VP of sales for a global software company, Kurt was the executive sponsor of a Salesforce.com rollout, and that's how he learned what it takes to get salespeople to adopt new tools and techniques. That knowledge led him to launch his own Salesforce consulting business in 2008.
Alanna Jackson: When LinkedIn went public in 2011, Kurt recognized that LinkedIn would be the next great sales technology, and that it would require expert training. He pivoted his business, and now has over 10,000 hours of experience training corporate sales teams like CenturyLink, Ericsson, and TelePacific Communications. Kurt is the creator of the Social Selling Bootcamp, and is a member of the National Speakers Association. He frequently speaks at corporate sales meetings and conferences like Dreamforce, Sales 2.0, and LinkedIn Sales Connect. Welcome to The B2B Mix Show, Kurt.
Kurt Shaver: Hey. Thanks so much. Hi, Stacy.
Stacy Jackson: Hi. Well, Kurt, we know firsthand who Vengreso is and what you guys do, but maybe you could share a little bit more about Vengreso with our listeners.
Kurt Shaver: Sure, absolutely. Vengreso is a sales training company, and we specialize in helping B2B sellers learn digital selling techniques. The reason for that is the response rate for things like the telephone and email that we all grew up with has been dropping every year. We really practice an omnichannel prospecting method that relies a lot on social networking, principally LinkedIn, which we'll talk about, but also one of the other vast emerging aspects of that is salespeople using video. We're adding social and we're adding video onto the phone and email outreach.
Alanna Jackson: You guys are really good at what you do. We know firsthand, and we also see everything that you guys are doing out there, and you guys are kicking butt. One of the things that we wanted to talk about today is that Vengreso recently put out a report on the state of digital selling with LinkedIn for 2019. Would you give us just a little bit of background before we kind of go into it about why you feel this study is important?
Kurt Shaver: Sure. I'll tell you a little bit about the background. This study is really based around a service that we do for companies, where we're analyzing their sales teams' digital selling health. It's really a gap analysis. We go in and we ask 10 questions that give us a really good read on how the company stacks up to industry averages. How their salespeople's digital selling skills stack up. We've been acquiring this data for a few years, and we decided it's really something that would value a lot of companies, a lot of sales leaders to really know what that information is. We got the approval from some of the companies that we had performed this service to just use the data anonymously, right? We're just looking at it in aggregate, obviously, and then we've rolled that into this state of digital selling report.
Stacy Jackson: One thing I noticed, Kurt, about the report, is that you guys made a distinction between digital selling and social selling. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference as well as how they fit together?
Kurt Shaver: Sure. Right. A lot of the focus is on social selling, because it does center around LinkedIn, obviously, which is the world's largest social network for business with 660 million people on it. But yeah, you're right. There are other aspects of digital selling that come into play outside of just social networks. One of them I already mentioned, which is the use of video by salespeople themselves. Now, not marketing video, but we're talking about individual sellers themselves that can create, you know, a 60 second video five minutes after getting off of a telephone call and send it in a one on one fashion back to their prospect. That's one big aspect of it.
Kurt Shaver: Another aspect of it that we're seeing a lot of interest in is, you know, there's a whole category of what are often called sales cadence tools. We have, of course, the VanillaSofts, and we have the SalesLofts, and the Outreach Io, and there's a handful of others in that space. When you think about sales cadence ... If people aren't familiar with it, sales cadence is really, "All right. How's a salesperson going to reach this person if it takes, you know, seven to eight touches, because those touches might be a couple of phone calls, a couple of emails, a couple of social touches, et cetera?"
Kurt Shaver: Again, when it gets into those areas where we have expertise, of like social, a lot of times clients will say, "Hey, what should I be saying? How should I approach them? Should I engage one of their posts first, or then should I invite them to join my network?" That type of thing. That's where the idea of digital selling is a little bit bigger than just social.
Alanna Jackson: Do you find a lot of people just refer to it all as social selling? When you start some of your classes, is there-
Kurt Shaver: You two are marketing and branding experts, so you know how this is. I mean, I would say, in terms of... Short answer is yes. You know, I think that in terms of the label that has stuck in people's mind, social selling really is the one that's been around for, gosh I don't know, six or seven years. I think, you know, a lot of that is probably fueled by LinkedIn's content marketing reach and advertising muscle as the 800 pound gorilla in the space. Even though I have heard for the last three years everyone saying, "Oh, the term social selling is dead," it's still [inaudible 00:06:38]. That's kind of what people think about.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, and I got to tell you, I love it when you put some of your videos out. I guess that would be considered the social selling. Like the one where you were skiing. That was one of my favorite ones, because it drew attention to you. I just had to throw that out there.
Kurt Shaver: That one's having some crazy fun with a green screen there, for sure.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah. So let's dig in to some of the key takeaways from the report. Vengreso surveyed, I think it was like 862 B2B sales professionals across all different industries, like professional services, technology, manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services. You took all their LinkedIn habits as part of this digital selling benchmark assessment, and you found four key takeaways. We want to kind of walk through those key takeaways. The first one is the high SSI, or the social selling index scores, and how they're linked to common behaviors, habits, and successful sales results. First, can you kind of walk us through what that is, and why it's important, and the kind of information it provides? Then, kind of dig in to the habits and behaviors that you're typically seeing related to these high scores.
Kurt Shaver: SSI stands for social selling index, and it is a index that LinkedIn provides for every one of it's 660 million members. Anybody listening can go check out their own score between zero and 100. It's sort of like the FICO score is for your credit worthiness. It's your social selling worthiness. There's four categories. This is what's important to understand. There's four categories that make up that score. You can get up to 25 each, four times 25, there's your 100 points.
Kurt Shaver: The first one is called establish your professional brand. That one really centers around your LinkedIn profile itself and treating it like your professional webpage and not just a resume. The second category is called find the right people. Find the right people usually means a selling role. That means you're searching for people and you're viewing their profile. You know, you might be selling marketing automation software, so you're looking for directors of demand generation, or VPs of marketing, or CMOs, or something like that.
Kurt Shaver: The third area is called engage with insights. This is the, I guess, newer skill for salespeople anyway. This is the one that deals with both sharing content, but then actually coming back in and commenting whether it's back to people that are commenting on your own post, or just other posts that you see. They're about topics that you are involved with. That's the engagement content side of it. The last piece of it, so central to any sales role from the last 500 years, is anybody building relationships. This comes back to LinkedIn connections. You know, what types of people are you inviting? Are you getting the right kinds of customers, and prospects, referral partners, folks like that?
Kurt Shaver: We look at that SSI score as a really key part in all the training that we do for companies, but it's also a key part of this digital selling report. It's no surprise, there's a very high correlation between sellers that have SSI scores and sellers that are reaching quote, right, being successful, shrinking sales cycles. All of the key performance indicators that sales leaders love to hear about, they all look better when those reps have high SSI scores.
Stacy Jackson: Are some of those areas more important for them to be focusing on? Like seeing a higher engage with insights section versus establishing your personal brand, or anything like that. Are any of those making it a higher SSI score?
Kurt Shaver: I would say in terms of their importance, they're actually perfectly balanced, really. It's kind of like, think of it like a four cylinder engine, where you really need all four pistons firing kind of equally. However, I'll answer your question kind of a slightly different way. No doubt the one that's always weakest for people, if we accept that they're all equally important, the one that is always the weakest for people is number three, which is engaging with insights.
Kurt Shaver: Essentially, that is an inbound marketing type of activity, but you're talking about it being practiced by an individual salesperson. That really requires a mindset shift. You know, I mean, I don't need to tell you two about this, right? I mean, the salespeople, that inbound marketing mindset, got to kind of get used to it and understand that, "Hey, all of this lead generation, all of this subject matter expertise, that I can't put it on the back of just my marketing department." It's really a shared thing now, because salespeople have a platform to share content.
Kurt Shaver: What really works so well, and most marketers just love, right, is when salespeople get it, and they become a very strong distribution channel for the great content that the marketing department is putting out anyways. Right? Yeah. I mean, my joke, if I was talking to you helping on the content side for a marketing department, what I always say to the marketing leader is like, "Hey, how would you like to add 100 people to the marketing department overnight without increasing your payroll?"
Stacy Jackson: Right.
Alanna Jackson: Hey, folks. Let's take a break to hear about today's sponsor.
Alanna Jackson: And we are back.
Stacy Jackson: The next takeaway kind of surprises me a little bit, but maybe it kind of corresponds to another finding you had. Only 27% of survey respondents are using advanced search more than 11 times per month. I do think I remember you guys also found that not everyone's using paid versions of LinkedIn. Do you think that's part of the issue? Maybe they don't have the level of searching they would desire, or are there other things that would keep them from using advanced search?
Kurt Shaver: It's both, yeah. It's all of those things, and then some. I mean, again, I think in a lot of instances, it's crazy, because I've been really focused on LinkedIn since I started it on 2010, and dedicated solely in 2011 on it. A long time in LinkedIn itself. Now, 16 years old. It's not exactly new. I'm continually shocked here, even in 2019, of so many people that don't realize like, "Wait. You're telling me I can go find all the directors of software engineering in Seattle in the financial services industry? I can find all of them in five seconds?" You know. Yeah. You can. Yes you can. It's a big database.
Kurt Shaver: You know, that's one of the things that I think is really different about LinkedIn, when you look at all the other big social networks. You know, your Facebooks, Instagrams, Pinterests, and things like that. To me... The interest in your comment. Let me set this up, and I'll turn the tables and ask you guys a question. I'm interested in your comment on it. I mean, to me, the other platforms are really skewed toward the engage with content side, but they're not really into the Rolodex database side. I mean, I know you can go in, and filter, and sort of find those people, but most of that filtering and finding is sort of more done by the professional marketer. Like, let's say in Facebook, then the average Facebook user.
Kurt Shaver: As opposed to, like LinkedIn is a Rolodex of 660 million people there, and alls you got to do is know the criteria you're going after. Industry, title, location, whatever other criteria. You can go find them. What do you guys think of that idea, in terms of LinkedIn having this extra database element?
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, I agree.
Stacy Jackson: I agree, and we actually interviewed Larry Kim recently, talking to him about Facebook Messenger ads, and Instagram ads, and how marketers can really target and find those things, but yeah. Just thinking about being your average Joe on the street, or somebody trying to sell, you can't find that information about people on Facebook or Instagram like you can on LinkedIn.
Alanna Jackson: LinkedIn is that professional network, so people are going to put where they work, what their job title is. Whereas on Twitter, Facebook, all these others, they don't have to put that information out there, and they may not want-
Stacy Jackson: They may not want people to know what they're doing.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. It's definitely the better place.
Kurt Shaver: Yeah, and LinkedIn is somewhat... I mean, I'll give you a specific example of that point, is LinkedIn is certainly skews, in my mind, toward a B2B seller. I've seen plenty of examples of B2C sellers using it, but it is B2B for sure. I was one time teaching a big class of retail insurance brokers. Retail meaning home, life, auto, right? They sold home, life, and auto. The first question out of the audience was, "Hey, how do I find people that are parents on LinkedIn?" They wanted to sell life insurance. I said, "Yeah, no." That's not one of the database criterias, because it's your business persona that people are... That's what they're representing there.
Alanna Jackson: You can do some advanced search with the free LinkedIn, but do you recommend for salespeople... I think I'm pretty sure I know what your answer is, but that they get the paid version of LinkedIn so that they have access to more-
Stacy Jackson: Or Sales Navigator.
Alanna Jackson: ... of those fields. Yeah, Sales Navigator.
Kurt Shaver: Yes, I do. You know, what I usually tell people is that if the individual spends at least 10% of their time really actively prospecting, and they are responsible for generating an appreciable amount of their own leads in order to put food on the table and pay the electric bill, then I think, yes, it's a very wise investment to get that more high powered search capabilities of Sales Navigator.
Alanna Jackson: Let's go into the third takeaway. That one is that more than one third of respondents never share content with their network on LinkedIn.
Stacy Jackson: I couldn't believe that.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah. It's like mind blowing to never share anything. It's crazy. Do you think that's because some of them are kind of old school and just don't believe in social as part of their sales strategy? Do you think it's other causes like maybe sales and marketing alignment issues?
Kurt Shaver: Again, I think it's an all of the above in that one. Certainly, people aren't used to it if they've been selling for a while. I can say this, because I'm in the older category, right? I mean, generally, if you look at older people that have been selling three decades, they didn't grow up with this mindset of really transparency that social networks bring, where everybody's sharing everything about their life. Again, just in general, there's less, I think, comfort with doing that.
Kurt Shaver: I say in general, I always love telling this story about I was training what happened to be a business insurance company. I was training this big group, there was about 50 people. One of the seniormost members there, the guy had been at that company for 45 years. He had been at the company for 45 years. He was about 69, and he sat through the whole class, and he totally got it, and he just became a giant LinkedIn geek, and he was just eating it up, right? He got Sales Navigator and just everything. It just completely shattered this stereotype.
Kurt Shaver: I said to him afterwards... He was just going to town, he was posting stuff all the time, totally got it. I'm like, "Wow, you really shattered the stereotype, you know, most people have about old dog learning a new trick." I'm like, "What triggered that in your mind?" He said, "When you said LinkedIn was the Rolodex of the 21st century," he said, "I thought to myself, 'Wait a minute. I've been in this business 40 years. Everybody I started with is now CEOs of the company. I'm on the board of, you know, the biggest insurance company of a town. I chaired the United Way two different years. I sit on the board of my university, and I belong to the best country club in town.'" He said, "So, if you're telling me this is a networking game, I'm going to win."
Stacy Jackson: One thing that strikes me about the inbound part that you mentioned earlier. Maybe that's part of the mindset shift that needs to happen. They don't realize the sharing of content is what really could help them connect with people.
Kurt Shaver: Yeah. It's a light bulb moment, you know? They haven't done it before, and there's a little reluctance. I think the other thing is a lot of people are worried... Again, if they haven't don't any social... Let's say maybe they're older, and they haven't really don't any social networks, and their company says, "Hey, we're going to start doing this thing on LinkedIn." They don't have a lot of experience with just social networks in general, as opposed to, oh, maybe they've done Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest, or something, and now they're just transferring it over. It's a little easier to make that.
Kurt Shaver: The other factor of it, other than just, "I don't want to be that transparent with my life," is a lot of people are worried about looking stupid, or doing something wrong, or posting something that they can't pull back, or breaking the internet. There's that anxiety that some people have. You've just got to kind of slowly get them through it. They post a couple of things, and then they see some people on their network like it. Then, of course, you know, we know how that works, right? Then, the dopamine starts releasing and they're like, "Oh my god. This is awesome."
Stacy Jackson: I think some people actually appreciate when they see that human side where you're not totally perfect. Alanna did a video and put some blooper outtakes where she kept goofing up, and that really got good response.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, a couple of people were like, "Oh, so you don't have to do it perfectly. I think I might make a video now." Do you think that where some of the respondents aren't sharing content, do you think that companies where they have that employee advocacy programs, they have a much better situation happening then companies that don't?
Kurt Shaver: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, employee advocacy is a type of software basically used for companies so they can really formalize, institutionalize the process of content sharing across the salespeople, or all the employee base, which is why it's called employee advocacy. You're exactly right, because if you have a tool like that, what happens is marketing goes out and finds the content, whether it's their own content, or it could be their own content, or it could be things that they source from third parties, like industry new sources. Then, they write a little opinion on it, and then they serve it up to the salespeople or the employees on a silver platter.
Kurt Shaver: Really, it's been vetted by the company's marketing department, so people really don't have to think if they don't want, and they know it's sort of safe so they're not going to look stupid or do something wrong. There's that comfort factor. I say it's basically like social sharing with training wheels. That's what it's like. You know, it's like, "Okay, let's put the training wheels on. Let's get you used to be being on a bike." Then, they get a little bit more comfortable. It's easier for them to start.
Stacy Jackson: Fourth finding we noticed in the report, nearly three in five respondents said they do not publish any media, like documents, videos, presentations on their LinkedIn profile? I guess that's surprising, but when you consider people aren't sharing content just in their updates either, maybe it's not. What did you guys find with that?
Kurt Shaver: Yeah, you're right. I mean, and those two are very closely related, because again, it's really about the individual salesperson, you want to position yourself as a subject matter expert. You know, that's always been important in sales. You want to position yourself as somebody that has experience and credibility in helping your particular ideal customer type, right, with the solutions they're looking for. One way to do that is sharing content, which we talked about earlier, but the content that's always there is what's on your profile.
Kurt Shaver: About 10 years ago, LinkedIn started adding the ability to add things like documents, and videos, and presentations, and images, and all those types of things, so that profile page, which is a webpage... Actually, it looks more like a webpage, and not flat text kind of resume. Again, that's another one of those big mindset things people get. Well, sellers in particular need to have a mindset shift over the LinkedIn profile is not your resume unless you're looking for a job. If you're looking for prospects, right, it needs to be an attractive, more like a webpage, thinking about it, and have the elements of various types of media.
Kurt Shaver: Again, you guys were just talking about video there. You know, we've worked with companies that have 1,000 salespeople and they go out, and they spend, you know, $50,000 a piece making these beautiful YouTube videos, and they got them all trapped on the YouTube site. Well, when we go do a wholesale profile makeover for these people, we're picking the ideal ones, and putting them on reps' profiles. Now, instead of it being on one website, right, you might have that great piece of video, maybe it's the president talking about something, maybe it's a case study, but now it's on 1,000 other pages. It just maximize the investment that's already been made, but you're maximizing the return from that investment.
Stacy Jackson: Kurt, are there any other closing thoughts or tips you'd like to share from the digital sales report?
Kurt Shaver: Well, I would definitely want to point people... If they want to find out more, just go download it. They can just go to StateofDigitalSelling.com, and you can probably put that in the show notes. You know, that's the easiest way that the people can come in and see it. We do break down 10 survey questions, and then the report includes 10 actions that are all related to each one of those, on what a sales leader can do with their own group to help them both identify how their team stacks up, as well as what they could do if they notice a gap there that they want to close.
Stacy Jackson: Great. If you're game, we like to close our conversations with some kind of fun question. If you weren't the chief sales officer at Vengreso, what would your dream job be?
Kurt Shaver: I would be a tour guide in wine country.
Stacy Jackson: Oh, that'd be fun.
Kurt Shaver: Yeah.
Stacy Jackson: As long as you get free drinks.
Kurt Shaver: Hey, even if nobody shows up that day, it's going to be fun, right?
Stacy Jackson: Yeah, right.
Alanna Jackson: Exactly, exactly. Okay, well thank you so much for digging in to this report with us, Kurt. Now, it's up to all of you listening to take what we've talked about, and get your LinkedIn profiles and activities on track if you want to see results. Kurt, if people want to get in touch with you, how should they reach out to you?
Kurt Shaver: Sure. They can reach me on my email, Kurt, K-U-R-T, @Vengreso.com, or just look me up on LinkedIn. Send me an invite and tell me you heard me on the podcast with the Jackson sisters.
Stacy Jackson: Yeah. We'll be including links to Kurt's contact info and his email in the show notes, so if you missed it, don't worry. Kurt, thank you so much for joining us today.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, thank you.
Kurt Shaver: Yeah, absolutely. Enjoyed it, Stacy and Alanna. Thanks.
Alanna Jackson: Okay, people. That's a wrap. If you want to get in touch with me or Stacy, you can hit us up on social. On Twitter, you can find Stacy at Stacy_Jax. That's S-T-A-C-Y underscore J-A-X. You can find me at Alanna_Jax. That's A-L-A-N-N-A underscore J-A-X. Hey, maybe you're not a Twitter fan. Look us up on LinkedIn. Stacy Jackson or Alanna Jackson. We will respond to you with any questions you might have if you reach out to us. Finally, don't forget you can also leave us a voicemail on the Anchor Mobile app.
Stacy Jackson: All right, people. Thanks for joining us. Have a great week.
Alanna Jackson: Bye.
Speaker 1: The B2B Mix Show is hosted by Stacy Jackson and Alanna Jackson of, you guessed it, Jackson Marketing. If you need help with your B2B inbound marketing efforts, visit us at JacksonMarketingServices.com.
Alanna Jackson: Yay.