LinkedIn: DEI Programs Boost Sales

LinkedIn commissioned Forrester Consulting to analyze whether firms with strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs have higher sales performance.  The result was a “resounding yes.”

“As the US population diversifies, so must your sales teams,” concluded Vanessa Fabrizio, Market Impact Consultant at Forrester.  “You need a diverse sales team to be customer-obsessed in 2021 and beyond.  Respondents understand the importance of diversity, as 60% stated that diversity within their sales team has contributed to their teams’ success.”

While DEI received much attention in 2020, sales leaders view it as an ongoing initiative, with 82% stating racial or ethnic diversity will be equally or more important in two years.  Additionally, 72% believe that DEI will be equally or more important across the business organization in two years.

Last September, Forrester Consulting surveyed 500 B2B sales leaders about their firms’ performance metrics and DEI practices (e.g., diversity in personnel, commitment to DEI training, and career advancement programs for underrepresented groups).  Those with strong DEI programs outperformed lagging programs across a series of metrics:

  • Sales Forecasts: Firms with strong programs expected 2021 revenue growth of 9% vs. 6% at lagging firms.
  • Conversion Rates: Organizations with strong DEI practices had a 54% lead-to-opportunity conversion rate vs. 26% at laggards.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Firms with strong programs saw a 24% increase in customer satisfaction scores vs. 17% at firms with weak programs.

“As buyers continue to demand a more personalized experience, successful companies will understand the increasing benefit of diversifying their teams to reflect the changing demographics of their target consumer,” said author and sales expert Jeff Davis.

Source: Forrester Consulting (LinkedIn commissioned research), “Diversity Drives Sales Success: The Link Between Successful Sales Teams and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

“In 2022, sales leaders will monitor and track the diversity of their organization like any other metric or KPI,” separately predicted Outreach Global Innovation Evangelist Mary Shea.  “With more weight and visibility on this business priority, sales leaders will embrace new and more creative channels to source talent, and they will create internal programs to nurture and foster their existing talent.”


Coincidentally, I am publishing this article on Martin Luther King Day at a time when voting rights are being restricted in many states. MLK stood for DEI, voting rights, freedom, economic opportunity, and economic justice. He was instrumental in pushing LBJ and Congress to pass the original Voting Rights Act which is now opposed by the Republican Party. It is time for Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act and at least pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Senator Raphael Warnock, who preached from MLK’s pulpit at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, stated

“I have to tell you that the most important thing that we can do this Congress is to get voting rights done. Voting rights are a preservative of all other rights. They lay the ground for all of the other debates. And so to my Democratic colleagues, I say: while it is deeply unfortunate, it is more than apparent that it has been left to us to handle alone the task of safeguarding our democracy.

Sadly, many of our Republican friends have already cast their vote with voter suppression. And so the judgment of history is upon us. Future generations will ask, when the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out? Did we rise to the moment or did we hide behind procedural rules?

“I believe that we Democrats can figure out how to get this done, even if that requires a change in the rules, which we established just last week that we can do when the issue is important enough.”

Senator Rappael Warnock (December 14, 2021)

Democracy is not a given. Freedom expands or contracts based upon our willingness to accept others and afford them the same rights (and responsibilities) as others. It must be renewed each generation through teaching, activism, and voting.

LinkedIn Q4 Sales Navigator Release (Part II)

LinkedIn also addressed the lack of sharing of Sales Navigator Account Maps in its Q4 release.  The value of maps is much greater if they can be shared across the sales and customer success teams.  Sales reps will skip activities that do not have a clear return on investment (i.e., they expedite the sales process, increase the odds of a win, reduce bureaucratic steps, etc.)  Sharing account maps across the team dramatically increases their value and encourages reps to invest the necessary time mapping out the account.  Sharing also assists with account handoffs between SDRs to Account Reps and later to Customer Success teams.

“Selling is a team sport, and we know that team members need to be in the loop and connected on key accounts, especially as changes to the buying committee may be greater and more frequent right now,” wrote Senior Director of Product for LinkedIn Sales Solutions Mitali Pattnaik.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Account Maps

Account Maps are available to Team and Enterprise licensors.  However, Account Maps may only be shared with co-workers on the same Sales Navigator contract; thus, partners or co-workers with separate Sales Navigator agreements still lack map sharing. 

When others update a shared Account Map, everybody is notified of the update.

Those with CRM sync turned on (Advanced + CRM in January) will enjoy additional CRM features.  Users will be able to create new leads or contacts “in more places within Sales Navigator to better match up with their workflows” and display additional context.  New features include

  • New CRM Cards within Sales Navigator Lead Pages
  • New CRM Badges that notify reps when an account or lead is matched against the CRM
  • Clicking on the CRM Badge provides additional context on Sales Navigator Leads and Accounts from the matched CRM record. For Sales Navigator Leads not found in CRM, a user can create a CRM Contact or Lead.
  • CRM Badges are now displayed in the InMail and Messaging Flow.

LinkedIn will be rolling out Q4 enhancements to customers in the coming weeks, as with other quarterly releases.

LinkedIn also announced updates to LinkedIn Sales Intelligence (LSI), its data service for Sales Operations.  LSI leverages the power of LinkedIn data to “help sales target the right companies and accelerate revenue.”  Launched earlier this year, LSI supports report building, account recommendations, and Account data enrichment.

Sales Operations now has access to industry codes aligned with the NAICS industry taxonomy used in the US, Canada, and Mexico.  Other enhancements include a new welcome flow and access to saved reports on the home page.

LinkedIn Sales Intelligence Report Builder

To assist with report building, a set of LSI Tool-Tips assist with defining Sources, Personas, Market Insights, and Exports.

LinkedIn Q4 Sales Navigator Release

The new Sales Navigator home page.

LinkedIn began rolling out its Q4 Sales Navigator release last month.  New functionality includes a reimagined home page, Priority Accounts, and Account Map sharing.  According to LinkedIn, the revised home page helps address the “moving target” that is buying team discovery during The Great Reshuffle.

“We’re in the middle of The Great Reshuffle, and 80% of salespeople have delayed or lost a deal because of a job change within an account. Selling right now is a moving target. This means, maybe more than ever, that quality data is non-negotiable, real-time alerts are critical, and knowing your buyers and what’s important to them is essential.”

Mitali Pattnaik, Senior Director of Product for LinkedIn Sales Solutions

Not only are buying committees becoming larger, but the movement of professionals increases the likelihood that key members of the demand unit depart during the sales cycle.  Reps that are blind to such changes are likely to have lost or delayed deals.

Furthermore, buyers have been inundated with messages, making it more challenging to rise above the din.  According to LinkedIn Associate Product Marketing Manager Angel Gonzalez, reps need to personalize their outreach as there is a 30% decline in buyer response rates compared to pre-COVID.

“Our new Sales Navigator home page showcases customized insights for key accounts that you need to focus on right now,” posted LinkedIn Senior Director for Product Mitali Pattnaik.   “Alongside a new look and feel for the home page, the refreshed Alerts Feed helps you filter to the most relevant, timely, and accurate updates, pinpointing alerts that need immediate action. And, for those updates you want to keep an eye on, a newly created ‘Bookmarked Alerts’ tab allows you to save alerts so you can revisit at any time.”

The new home page was redesigned to present “what’s most important to each individual seller at that moment,” including intelligence on priority accounts, direct access to Account Maps, and better alert filters.

Other new features include upgraded typeahead searching and alert bookmarking.

A few features have been downgraded in scope or removed, including Sales Navigator Coach and Recommended Leads and Accounts.

The new home page is available to all users.

Reps can flag priority accounts with recent engagement and growth metrics on the home page.

Priority Accounts allows sellers with large books of business such as territory or industry reps to flag their key accounts, helping ensure critical accounts receive greater attention.  Users simply “star” accounts in their saved account list for priority display.  Account activity is then displayed in a new home page section labeled Priority Accounts that summarizes headcount growth, employee count, open opportunities, and Buyer Intent.  Users can also click directly to Account Maps.


Continue to Part II which discusses Sales Navigator Account Map sharing and LinkedIn Sales Intelligence enhancements.

Sales Rep Turnover

Leveraging its Economic Graph, LinkedIn noted that sales rep turnover is up 39% over the past three months (overall global turnover is up 28%).  Sales is the second most in-demand position globally.

“Companies need to recognize that the power dynamic has changed — workers are going to demand more from them on multiple fronts,” said LinkedIn Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough.  “Candidates are being much more selective about where they work, and workers are more vocal about what they want.”

Replacing sales reps is an expensive proposition, according to a 2015-2016 DePaul University study.  When factoring in the opportunity cost of an open sales seat and the hiring and training expenses, replacing a sales rep costs $115,000.

Further complicating matters, buying team turnover spiked over the past year, up 31% in Q3.  Thus, demand units are more difficult to navigate, and deals are more likely to be delayed due to key decision-maker departures.  According to LinkedIn State of Sales 2021, 80% of sales reps said a deal was delayed or derailed due to buyer role changes over the past year.

Unfortunately, employee burnout rose 9% between April and July, just as employees were readying to return to the office, but Delta delayed such plans.  Over the same period, employee happiness dropped three points.

“This simultaneous dip in employee happiness and spike in burnout is a warning signal: very few people want to return to pre-pandemic work life, said LinkedIn Head of People Science Strategic Development Amy Lavoie.  “Part of the issue here is that the communications around organizations’ return-to-office plans can carry a dangerous subtext.  It may look to employees that, while their leaders had prioritized their well-being and safety in the pandemic’s first stretch, they’re now focusing on business and advancing their own agenda at all costs, leaving employees’ concerns in the wake.”

“Employee well-being is not a fad; it is a fundamental human need,” continued Lavoie.  “It’s not going to take care of itself as businesses start asking employees to return to the office. Employees are looking to their organizations to value their needs as full human beings and trust them to make decisions about how, when, and where they work. Until that happens, we will continue to see this deadlock between employees and organizations on happiness and burnout.” Employee priorities are shifting, with a greater emphasis on flexible work arrangements, inclusive workplaces, and work-life balance than just a few months ago. As a result, work-life balance is ranked as the top priority among job seekers.

Glint (LinkedIn) Employee Well Being Report (Sept 2021)

Flexibility is key.  Three out of five employees feel they are equally productive working from home and that their overall well-being is equal to or better than working in an office.

A Fortune Analytics survey of over 10,000 knowledge workers found that 76% of knowledge workers want flexibility in where they work, and 93% want flexibility in when they work.  Additionally, 57% of knowledge workers are “open to looking for a new job in 2022.”  However, among knowledge workers who are dissatisfied with the level of flexibility, the open to looking rate rises to 71%.

“Just last year, joblessness in the US was at its highest level since the Great Depression,” wrote Fortune Editorial Director Lance Lambert.  “Scrambling to hold onto their jobs, workers started taking on extra responsibilities—something many of them hold onto today even though the economy has shifted into one of its strongest periods in recent memory. That explains why 19% of workers say their work-related stress is ‘poor,’ and another 33% say it’s ‘fair.’”

Fortune Analytics also found that workers with inflexible work schedules are 6.6 times more likely to report work-related stress.

LinkedIn Senior Content Manager Paul Petrone suggested three areas of investment to retain sales talent:

  1. “Career conversations and career development for your employees.
  2. Providing work-life balance, which should ideally include flex work.
  3. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Workers find it difficult to maintain a work/life balance, with 35% of workers telling GlassDoor that balance isn’t possible in their current role.

“Very few people both see a path forward and feel support for an internal career move,” observed LinkedIn People Science Senior Researcher Eric Knudsen.  “Luckily, there’s a clear solution.  While it’s natural for managers to worry about losing a team member, employees want learning and growth opportunities.  So, whenever someone starts looking for their next opportunity, a lack of manager support could inspire an external move.”

Knudsen recommends that managers frame internal mobility as an opportunity and not a loss as they place an advocate and partner in another part of the organization.  Furthermore, the organization retains talent, and cross-team collaboration is likely to rise. 

“Work-life policies which are rigid or offer little flexibility are proving problematic for UK employees,” said Glassdoor Economist Lauren Thomas.  “Our research has indicated that workers want autonomy over how they juggle their home and work lives and need employers to offer a range of options to support this. There also needs to be trust between the two parties — avoid micromanaging teams who are working from home.”

What’s more, Glint (a LinkedIn subsidiary) found that only one in five employees feel they can meet their career goals in their current organization, increasing the likelihood of departures.


I also recently wrote about The Great Reshuffle.

The Great Reshuffle

According to LinkedIn, “The Great Reshuffle” has increased turnover amongst buyers and sellers, leading to greater deal risk.  Over the past three months, executive departures (Director and above) have increased by 31% globally.  Among sales reps, the rate is up 39%.  Thus, the likelihood of a deal being delayed due to a key member of the demand unit or sales team leaving has grown sharply.

Before the pandemic, the standard decay rate of contact records was between 25 and 30%.  If the rate has jumped by one-third, then the likelihood of a specific member of the buying committee departing over a three-month sales cycle is approaching ten percent.  Thus, a demand unit with six members will likely have one departure every three months, increasing the need for executive change alerts, multithreading of deals, and a deeper understanding of the demand unit.

If the deal is more complex, the odds of delays and stalled deals due to executive changes increase rapidly.  A six-month deal cycle with a dozen members of the demand unit (financial, technical, and functional decision-makers, purchasers, influencers, lawyers, compliance, etc.) could lose two or three members.  And that doesn’t even factor in the risk of churn on the vendor side.  What’s worse, single-threaded sales reps have close to a 20% risk that their champion leaves the company or assumes a different role over the deal lifecycle.

The renewal math becomes scary as well.  If the customer success team regularly interfaces with four individuals on the customer side, one or two of them may depart over the year, increasing churn risk.  Furthermore, a higher churn rate among customers necessitates greater administrative and training tasks.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that 80% of sales reps have had a deal delayed or lost due to departures.

LinkedIn Senior Director of Global Sales James Burnette argued that multithreading is key to managing deal risk.  “Multithreading – i.e., forming relationships with multiple people on the buying committee at an account – is always a best practice.”  Burnette noted that sellers with at least four connections at an account are “16% more likely to close a deal with that company, compared to sellers who have less than four connections.”

“The most beneficial thing you can do right now is to learn how to master multithreading,” JB Sales Training Director Morgan Ingram said. “Gathering champions, influencers, and talking directly to the decision-makers is the key to success when it comes to closing deals faster in a difficult environment.”

Conversely, departures can foster relationships at new accounts, so knowing that a key demand unit member has departed is important for both risk mitigation at current opportunities and accounts and building relationships at new organizations.  LinkedIn can both flag executive departures and maintain an open line of communications with a champion after he or she has settled into a new position.

“Resources are scant with so many people exiting key roles, so there are opportunities where they might not have been opportunities in the past,” Assist You CEO Robert Knop said. “Look through your connections – there are uncovered sales there.”

Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst at Forrester, predicts that the Great Resignation will also impact marketing teams, with CMOs assembling more virtual teams consisting of freelance talent, fractional executives, and agency partners.

“We’re seeing clients in places like the Midwest having trouble keeping the talent they’ve built because their team members can get 25% more by working remotely for a New York agency. The distance and untethering from our geographies give people a lot more options, and they will minimize their pain and maximize their gain.  So, there will be some stress on those internal competencies.”

Job turnover is likely to continue in the near term. The labor market remains out of balance with 100 open jobs for every 75 unemployed professionals, driving the quit rate to 4.4 million in September, a record high.

“You’re essentially seeing demand continuing to increase without an offsetting increase in talent,” Ryan Sutton, a district director at staffing company Robert Half International. “Until some new talent comes in, until we get employees who are on the sidelines back into the market, it’s very likely this is going to continue.”

Linked Sales Navigator Repackaged SKUs

LinkedIn will be repackaging its Sales Navigator SKUs in late January.  The service has already begun notifying customers of the change.  Unlike product releases which they roll out over multiple weeks, the new packaging will be implemented across all customers simultaneously.

Sales Navigator retains its original SKUs from its early days, so repackaging was in order.  Before making any changes, LinkedIn interviewed or surveyed over 2,000 customers, discussed customer requirements with sales reps, and analyzed product usage.

LinkedIn Head of Product and Solutions Marketing Nicole Desjardins discussed a number of her team’s learnings with GZ Consulting:

  • Users want to increase their productivity with an integrated sales stack that avoids data silos and app switching.  “Our customers believe that in order to effectively meet this need, it is critical to seamlessly integrate sales workflows both within and beyond Sales Navigator (e.g., sales stack, CRM).”
  • CRM integrations are a priority for customers.  To prioritize customer value delivery, the future Sales Navigator lineup has CRM integrations as the only top differentiator.  This will “massively clarify” lineup positioning and deliver more value to customers.

    Currently, Sales Navigator only offers full integrations and data synchronization with Salesforce and MS Dynamics 365.
  • Customers are looking to increasingly leverage the data stored in their CRM and expect applications to bisynchronously share data.
  • Buyer intent is “hot in the market” as customers are looking to leverage intelligent signals in a real-time manner.  Sales reps want to “know when to act.”

The new Sales Navigator SKUs are based on a pair of packaging design principles: Customers can use all of the features in the licensed package, and it should be clear which package best meets the needs of each customer.

According to Desjardins, the new packaging enables positioning that is “clear and easy to understand” and aligns to value. In addition, the new packaging will help customers and sales reps  “easily identify the offering that best suits their needs.”

“What I’ve been preaching is that SN is not just one product – it’s an integrated approach to the daily sales process.”

LinkedIn Customer

The legacy SKUs followed a Good / Better / Best packaging structure, but the new SKUs support a Good / Best / Best with CRM packaging with the top tier similar to the mid-tier but containing all of the CRM connector and data sharing functionality. The new packages consist of a “foundational use case, the best of Sales Navigator for non-CRM integrated customers, and the best of Sales Navigator for CRM.”

“Customers will be able to use all of the features they have purchased: CRM features will be the only differentiators for the top tier.  Additionally, we have planned investments to further expand and deepen our CRM capabilities.”

The Core offering is designed for quota-carrying sales reps and supports targeting, lead and account tracking, and communications.  Features include

  • 50 InMails per month (this allotment is the same across all three SKUs).
  • Advanced Search
  • Account and Lead (contact) List Building
  • Guided in-product best practices
  • Account Map, a tool for mapping out the buying committee
  • Up to 10,000 Saved Leads and Accounts

The Core edition is designed for quota-carrying individuals with limited tech stacks.  Core helps sales reps “target the right buyers, understand who they are, and reach out in an informed way,” said Desjardins.

The Advanced tier supports sales teams with administrative and reporting functions, including usage reports.  Product differentiators include

  • CSV Account uploads for tracking key customers and prospects
  • Smart Links (customer-specific landing pages with attachments and multi-media links).  Smart Links may be shared by email, InMail, chat, etc.  Smart Links Analytics tracks who has viewed and downloaded which content. Sales Navigator also tracks Smart Link forwards, providing deeper insights into the Buying Team.  Sales reps are alerted when content has been viewed or forwarded.
  • Team collaboration tools such as shared lists, shared searches, TeamLink (leveraging co-workers’ networks), and collaboration alerts based upon shared features.
  • Buyer engagement alerts and buyer intent.  “Buyer interest is a predictive score based on LinkedIn data from employees at this company,” states the firm.  “This score is an indication of an account’s interest in buying from your company.  It considers key factors like employee interaction, InMail acceptance, ads engagement, company page engagement, and more.”
  • SNAP integrations such as embedded profiles, BI integrations, and a CRM widget.  SNAP integrations are available for CRMs (Salesforce, MSD 365, HubSpot, SAP, Oracle, SugarCRM, and Pega), SEPs (Outreach, Salesloft, Groove, XANT/InsideSales, YesWare, MixMax), and ABX Platforms (Demandbase).

    SNAP integrations do not share data, but they support profile viewing and limited Sales Navigator functionality.  For example, the HubSpot connector provides sales reps with profile viewing, InMails, Icebreakers, Introduction Requests, Related Leads for companies and contacts, and Connections.

The Advanced edition helps teams “forge deeper relationships through real-time sales intelligence and seamless collaboration,” said Desjardins.  “Advanced is the best Sales Navigator for businesses if you’re not integrating with CRM.”

The Advanced Plus edition adds full CRM functionality, including

  • Auto-saving Sales Navigator Leads and Accounts from CRM
  • CRM information in Lists such as Opportunities and past customers who have moved to new companies
  • CRM-powered Lead Recommendations
  • The ability to include or exclude matched CRM leads in Sales Navigator searches
  • CRM Activity writeback (e.g., InMail, Notes, Messages, Smart Links)
  • Create CRM Leads and Contacts directly from Sales Navigator.  These are limited information records (e.g., Company Name, Contact First and Last Names, and Title) as LinkedIn does not share member data.  Contact and Lead Creation also upload fields entered by reps such as email, phone number, and opportunity role.
  • The Data Validation flag warns users when a contact is no longer at a company listed in the CRM.  If the company differs between LinkedIn and the CRM, a “Not at Company Flag” is written to the CRM.  The flag is displayed to the rep and available as a trigger for contact clean-ups and removal from marketing campaigns.

With the Advanced Plus edition, users will be able to “surface actionable intelligence on your books of business, improve productivity by automating key processes, and leverage data to update stale information and make better decisions,” said Desjardins.

At renewal, customers will be offered one of five customer service packages that are “set by the size and scope of your program.”

“We know that onboarding is a critical stage for customer success, so we’re investing in hands-on, human-led onboarding for new customers and existing customers when they grow by a significant amount to accelerate their time-to-value,” stated a LinkedIn FAQ on the new service plans.  “Our customers have different needs and expectations for training, so we’ve invested in world-class resources: on-demand training for all customers at every stage of the customer journey in seven languages. Training is created and led by specialists who are experts in best practices and our product.”

Programs with a minimum of 50 licenses will have a Customer Success Manager that supports periodic Program Health Checks, a tailored Customer Success Plan, Strategic Value Reviews, and ongoing Success Coaching.

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021 (Part II)

Continuing from yesterday’s discussion of LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2021

LinkedIn State of Sales 2021 Trends

Sales managers are looking to diversify their hiring across two dimensions: geographic and cultural.  With work from home proving itself over the past year, managers are now confident that they can hire the best talent, regardless of location.

Likewise, sales professionals believe that their firms have succeeded in their efforts in opening up sales teams by gender, race, etc.  35% of sales professionals believe their sales organizations have “exceeded goals around diversity hiring initiatives,” while another 45% say their sales organization has “met” their diversity hiring goal.

On the buying side, 83% of purchasers said that all things being equal, they would give a preference to more diverse teams.

LinkedIn argues that Sales Intelligence is a crucial tool for building trust in the absence of face-to-face meetings.  LinkedIn broadly uses the term to include Conversational Intelligence tools such as Gong and Chorus, which help understand the prospect’s state of mind, and sales intelligence solutions such as Sales Navigator.

“With in-person meetings limited, sales technology provides a key pathway to gaining insight and understanding into potential customers. It’s no surprise, then, that our survey indicates that both usage of and investment in sales technology are increasing,” stated LinkedIn.

73% of respondents employ a sales intelligence solution weekly, and 23% use one daily.  54% said SalesTech helps reps build stronger relationships, and an equal percent said it helps them close more deals.  The top three categories for closing deals were CRM (70%), sales intelligence (69%), and sales enablement (69%).

Both usage and investment in SalesTech will increase in 2021, with CRM (49%), Sales Intelligence (43%), and Sales Planning (42%) seeing increased usage.  On the investment side, the top categories are CRM (41%), sales intelligence (40%), and sales engagement (40%).  Nearly seven in ten sales professionals anticipate greater SalesTech investment this year.

Data continues to be seen as critical, with 47% of sales organizations using it for account targeting, 44% for industry targeting, 43% for performance assessment, 41% for geographic targeting, and 39% for defining the buying committee.

While LinkedIn did not delve further into buying committee discovery, this is a nascent development area with multiple approaches, including conversational intelligence (meetings, emails) and machine learning.

Understanding the demand unit is critical for sales teams.  85% of reps reported that at least one opportunity was lost or delayed due to the departure of a client stakeholder.

Sales Navigator usage continues to be robust, with a 400% increase in self-bought Sales Navigator licenses over the past two years, “a surge that indicates sales professionals are investing in their own growth and have a willingness to use sales tech even if not prescribed by their company.”

59% of the Forbes Global 500 companies and 64% of the Forbes fastest-growing companies have Sales Navigator users.

Finally, message quality trumps quantity.  Simply sending high volumes of email or sharing many content pieces does not move the revenue needle.  The key is quality outreach that generates engagement and message acceptance.  “This is a strong indication that salespersons ought to be mindful of the value to the customer before sharing content or sending an InMail.”

InMails should be “short, personalized, and conversational.”  Messages with fewer than 400 characters are the most effective, with a sharp drop-off in response rates for long-in-the-tooth messages.

LinkedIn surveyed 400 sales and 400 US and Canadian purchasing professionals in January 2021.  Separate surveys were conducted for other geographies but have yet to be published. [Original Report]

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021

In its recently published State of Sales 2021 survey,  LinkedIn stated that “Virtual selling is good for sellers and even better for buyers.”  50% of buyers say that “working remotely has made the purchasing process easier.”  Buyers have benefited from the greater acceptance of sales intelligence and sales enablement services.

Furthermore, 70% of buyers want to retain remote work at least half of the time.  48% of buyers do not expect to be meeting face-to-face until H2 201, and 17% anticipate waiting until 2022.

“The bottom line is this situation requiring virtual selling skills won’t be changing anytime soon,” commented LinkedIn.

59% of buyers do not anticipate attending live events until H2 2021.  While 90% of the surveyed buyers have previously attended events, 48% of sales reps have now closed deals above a half-million dollars without meeting the buyer in person.

“Sellers will go back to face-to-face meetings but not remotely close to pre-pandemic levels. Digital transformation was coming no matter what.  COVID-19 just accelerated everything. In other words, digital transformation is here to stay.”

Gartner VP-Analyst Craig Rosenberg

Sales Managers recognize the acceleration of change and digitization, with 86% agreeing that “the ability to cope with change is more important than it was five years ago,” up 16% over the past year.

“Generally speaking, sales is slow to adapt,” opined Gartner VP-Analyst Craig Rosenberg.  “If the way sellers are doing things works, then they will keep doing it.  This drastic event is driving change.  Also, when the buyer changes, sales is forced to change. We often think of ‘sales’ as having to move virtual as the driver, but actually our buyers moved virtual.  Ultimately, sales is going to gravitate to the buyer’s preference.  In other words, it is much easier to adapt to change when you have to.”

The top three sources of change cited by sales managers are measuring sales processes and outcomes in different ways (51%), adding new technologies (50%), and instituting new hiring policies (50%).

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021

Remote sales job postings increased five-fold in Q3 2020 year-over-year, with remote positions growing 8.8X in Canada and 4.5X in the United States.  The transition hasn’t been easy.  67% of sales managers said that managing remote teams is more challenging than expected, and 65% of sales reps found it more difficult than anticipated.

Sales Operations and Customer Success roles proliferated between 2018 and 2020.  LinkedIn captured a 38% increase in Sales Operations roles over this period, 4.8X the growth of sales titles.

Customer Success positions trebled between 2018 and 2020.


Continue to Part II, which discusses diversity effort in sales, SalesTech, and Sales Navigator.

Outreach, Cognism, Drift, Alyce, and Sendoso Make LinkedIn’s Top Startups List

Five vendors covered in my newsletters and blog made LinkedIn’s Top 50 US or Top 10 UK startups list, an indicator to the economic vibrancy of SalesTech and MarTech solutions, particularly during the pandemic.

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach placed #6 in the US, its second year making the list.

“We work hard to be a great place to work and to create an environment where [the] top talent of any background feels welcome and can thrive,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “We’re always looking for passionate, tenacious employees who think differently and live and breathe our core value of having each other’s backs. I’m thrilled that we continue to attract the best of the best, and LinkedIn named us one of the top startups in the US.”

Outreach focused on “emerging and resilient startups that are navigating the ever-evolving nature of work in the wake of COVID-19.” The firm also focused on delivering sales management tools during the pandemic, helping “leaders closely monitor their team’s success and keep employees motivated and productive.”

Cognism that was named a top 10 UK Startup to Watch, placing at Number 9.  The firm which, was founded in 2015, has performed well during the pandemic and recently acquired German signature-block messaging firm Mailtastic.  They have already opened a UK Mailtastic office and closed their first UK deals.

According to CEO James Isilay, “We have just made a key hire in the US and will be expanding the offering there from October.”

Following a staff survey, Cognism will be moving to a smaller office presence and emphasize WFH options.

“Despite a challenging year with the pandemic, Cognism has continued its strong growth recently passing the key $10 million ARR mark,” wrote CEO James Isilay. “We see growth accelerating next year as we bring our go-to-market intelligence and engagement platform to new markets across Europe.”

Two tactile marketing companies, Alyce (35) and Sendoso (46), made the list.  Both firms positioned direct mail e-gifting as a method to connect with customers and prospects during the pandemic.

“While many companies and entire industries were dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the need to create personal bonds as the world moved almost fully digital in the age of no major trade shows, events, and public networking became ever more paramount,” wrote Alyce. “Alyce actually thrived as a company, and swiftly pivoted to deliver digital gifts for their enterprise customers looking to create personal experience moments for their audience.  Despite the market shifts, Alyce has experienced a milestone year of growth, with a vast percentage of its Annual Recurring Revenue (AAR) coming from its enterprise customer base and new use-case expansion, more than 5x-ing over last year.”

Conversational Marketing firm Drift, which recently broadened its vision to Revenue Acceleration, landed at #21 on the list.  Drift offers chatbots, email, video, and a new Prospector service for intent monitoring.

Firms were based upon four criteria: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from LinkedIn’s Top Companies list.  Startups must be no more than seven years old and have at least 50 employees.

Sales Navigator Q3 2020: Listening to the Buyer

LinkedIn is rolling out its third-quarter Sales Navigator release.  The enhancements focus on “features that help you put your buyers first through intelligent action, simplified day-to-day activities, and consistent insight into keeping relationships warm.”  The release theme is “listening to the buyer.”

LinkedIn is dipping its toes into intent data with Buyer Interest Alerts that signal when employees or corporate leaders from a saved account have visited the company’s LinkedIn Page or company website.  Buyer Interest Alerts are available in conjunction with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions and delivered through the Sales Navigator Enterprise edition.  

Marketers install a snippet of code to their website that drive the notifications.  They can then track conversion rates, retarget visitors, and analyze visitor demographics.  The code also powers Buyer Interest Alerts within Sales Navigator.

“With Buyer Interest Alerts, you have buying intent insights that help you to decide when to engage, allowing you to provide a timelier and more customized buyer experience,” blogged Lindsey Edwards, the Senior Director of Product Management at LinkedIn Sales Solutions.  “As we strengthen our buyer intent models with the rich buyer insight that the LinkedIn network contains, we’ll continue to enhance our Interest Alerts to include more signals that will allow you to target the right buyer at the right time.”

Buyer Interest Alerts are anonymous.  LinkedIn notifies the user if there is a visitor from the company but does not disclose details beyond account name, seniority level (i.e. Leadership or Employee), and geography.  Users can then search for Linkedin Members that match these criteria.  Anonymity ensures GDPR compliance.

While many vendors are now offering visitor intelligence, Sales Navigator is the only service that combines LinkedIn company profile views with visitor intelligence.

Account-Level Buyer Interest is not yet supported but is on the product roadmap.

LinkedIn, which has often suffered from spam alerts that overwhelm users, is employing predictive AI to surface the critical notifications for “building and maintaining the relationship with your buyer.”  Users may filter alerts by Lead, Account, shared activity, and alert type with the “most urgent and timely” alerts displayed at the top of the list.

Sales Navigator is also improving its synchronization with Salesforce and MS Dynamics.  Users can now bring their book of business into Sales Navigator through the automated syncing of Leads, Contacts, Accounts, and Opportunities.  The syncing improves the delivery of people and company alerts and insights within Navigator.  CRM synchronization is available as a feature of the Team and Enterprise Editions.

To improve relationships, LinkedIn is now reporting on LinkedIn outreach activity across all Sales Navigator editions.  Lead Lists (followed members) now track LinkedIn engagement with additional columns for actions by the Sales Navigator user and subsequent responses:

  • InMail and Messages sent, responses received, and attachments clicked
  • Connection requests sent from Sales Navigator and LinkedIn and accepted requests
  • Smart Links sent and opened

Lead and Account List sizes were increased from 250 to 1,000, expanding the scope of contacts and companies tracked.  Users may also take bulk actions on up to 25 Lead or Account records at a time, making it easier to remove them from lists or move them from one list to another.

Sales Navigator is well-positioned to assist sales reps during the pandemic as its messaging tools are not location or time-specific.  Sales professionals can reach out with InMails and Connection Requests, and prospective buyers can respond asynchronously.  SDRs and AEs don’t need to obtain (or guess at emails) or place direct dials that go unanswered at empty offices.  Furthermore, Smart Links, launched earlier this year, provides a tool for sharing documents and multi-media with view tracking.

“In what continues to be a unique and challenging moment in history, buyers and sellers, alike, are adjusting to a new normal.  Just like you, they’re juggling the pressures of succeeding in their day-jobs, while also managing their personal lives — homeschooling, daycare, elder care, multiple people working from home, and/or reduced income.  The hurdles might look different from buyer to buyer, but one thing is consistent — they need to feel confident that you understand their challenges and goals.  In the end, you aren’t necessarily selling a product or service, you’re selling a trusted relationship, and the person at the center of that relationship is the buyer.”

Lindsey Edwards, Senior Director of Product Management at LinkedIn Sales Solutions

By the end of the year, the Deals functionality will be integrated directly into the Sales Navigator workflow.  This enhancement will improve relationship status and pipeline visibility.