LinkedIn: Biased Research Doesn’t Help You Sell

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
  – Mark Twain (and others)

Sometimes you see a statistic reported by a firm and you just want to scream BS. When I read LinkedIn’s claims about revenue and pipeline lift, I did just that (OK, I didn’t scream it, but I muttered it under my breath).

Here is the claim published in their Sales Solutions Blog back in April, “While social selling by itself is positively associated with sales performance (both pipeline size and revenue growth), the study found that Sales Navigator users achieve 7x more pipeline growth and 11x more revenue growth than if they used LinkedIn.com only.”

LI SN PipeLine and Revenue Growth
LinkedIn claims a huge lift from Sales Navigator, but it is based upon an implied pipeline lift of only 1% from their freemium offering.

Unpacking the numbers, LinkedIn usage provides only a 0.99% pipeline growth but Sales Navigator provides a 6.8% growth rate. Respective revenue growth numbers are 1.7% vs. 20.4%.

I see two problems with these numbers. First, the LinkedIn standalone service provides more lift than indicated in the study. Why would sales reps be spending so many hours using the service if it provided so little benefit? Certainly other products would increase their productivity by more than one or two percent. If so, reps would be investing time using those tools for research, not LinkedIn.

Second, there is likely to be a significant selection bias. Companies that have had success with solution selling processes around LinkedIn are more likely to adopt Sales Navigator. These firms were likely to license Sales Navigator and their sales reps were more likely to incorporate Sales Navigator into their Solution Selling processes. Furthermore, rapidly growing companies are more likely to invest in new processes and techniques than older, slower growing firms.

So if you are going to blog on a study, particularly one you commissioned, make sure it has face validity.

By the way, Mark Twain did not originate the “lies, damn lies, and statistics” phrase (nor did he claim to), but it perfectly encapsulated this research.

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