Feb 26, 2020

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Leveraging the Power of LinkedIn with Frank Hattann

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Frank Hattann, until recently Director of Inside Sales with Microsoft, talks to the Digital Marketing Institute about how professionals can leverage the power of LinkedIn for business, networking and social selling purposes.  

In this video interview, Frank looks at the value of LinkedIn as the natural digital home for driving B2B and high-value sales, through the use of innovative tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This makes LinkedIn stand out as a business and professional network, compared to other platforms which are largely used for social and personal purposes.

He provides practical guidance on how to maximize sales results through LinkedIn, with effective habits and engagement when using the platform, and gives great advice on how to optimize your own profile for professional advancement. 

Frank previously worked as a Director with LinkedIn, and is also a member of the Digital Marketing Institute's Global Industry Advisory Council.

(First published October 2018)



Interviewer: I'm joined today by Frank Hattann, Director of Inside Sales at Microsoft, and we're going to talk about some LinkedIn activity. So welcome, Frank, and...


Frank: Thanks for having me.


Interviewer: Let's start with LinkedIn because I know you're working with Microsoft now but you did have a fairly significant stint at LinkedIn. And we're really talking about social selling. Can we talk a little bit about, I suppose, LinkedIn's importance in the social selling landscape?


Frank: Yeah. So look, it's a topic that's clearly close to my heart, I've been there for a long time. And when we launched our social selling solution, the Sales Navigator solution as it's known, I was there from the very beginning, so I was really lucky to be part of that team launching it. And I was an interesting time because social selling wasn't really even a known terminology, that's in early 2012. But it started kind of to pop up, and I think a lot of it was more around social listening at the time. And with the power of LinkedIn, the data, and everything that was behind it, we saw an opportunity to empower salespeople to have far better conversation.


And we didn't really own the terminology around social selling but I think we really kind of influenced what social selling really meant and how it's done. And at the beginning, we needed to learn it ourselves. Like, we started off basically having to educate ourselves what that could mean.


Interviewer: So the tone on LinkedIn as a social medium is very different than Facebook or Twitter, indeed, and so it naturally fits into the business world. And how effective is LinkedIn for driving B2B sales?


Frank: So the way I would look at it is B2B and high-value sales, that's the natural home is LinkedIn for that. Social selling is done on...most social media platforms have an ability to help social sellers, but you kind of have to think about where is your buyer? And where is your content potentially really engaging for that buyer, so where would you get their attention? And in a B2B environment that is LinkedIn. So when you look at your C-suite, how likely would they be engaging with you on Facebook, if they are on Facebook? And a lot of people are, they're probably not really reacting into a B2B conversation there. On LinkedIn, that's what they're there for.


Interviewer: That's exactly what they're there for. The other thing is, generally, your connections on Facebook and other channels are friendly connections, whereas your connections on LinkedIn are very much your coworkers and different things. So people who influence your prospects are connected quite readily to them more than likely on LinkedIn. Have you ever or do you use the notion of organizational charts where you can map out the different influencers using your LinkedIn networks, for example?


Frank: So Sales Navigator plays a part in that, actually, that is a functionality. While it may not be a map per se, but it actually gives you not only the access to them, but it influences you who you think of as the potential right person to sell to. Because it depends, as well, in who you're usually selling to. But the one thing that's important to think of, the decision-maker approval, and there's loads of different statistics out there, but the most relevant, obviously, is at least seven decision-makers are today involved in a decision-making process. So how do you do that without having such a map and without having access to a company, and that's where LinkedIn, again, plays a big part.


Interviewer: Let's talk a little bit about Sales Navigator. Even the fact that it's called Sales Navigator just automatically shows you the power of LinkedIn within this realm. I suppose, how do you use Sales Navigator in your day-to-day? What do you see as the ultimate benefits of it?


Frank: Yeah, the idea is really to not use it for eight hours just investigating things because a salesperson has to engage with its target audience. The idea is you come in the morning, for example... And that's how we would have ideally structured it. You come in in the morning, you spend 20 minutes, half an hour in Sales Navigator, checking on your topmost important prospects, has something happened there. For example, is that new person who joined the company that you're trying to sell to? And find out about that person. Is it maybe a person that has bought from you before? That is a great moment maybe to engage, or can you find anything else about them that is worth engaging about?


Other things would be, if there's a person in that company that posted an interesting article, Sales Navigator would prompt you to those things. So kind of spending a bit of time in the morning, finding out about your accounts, and then starting engaging from there. And it becomes quickly a habit, and that's the important part. You have to form a habit around it, just rolling it out to somebody and saying, "Here's the Sales Navigator. Good luck." It's usually not the best tactic, give them a bit of training, and then encourage those habits.


Interviewer: Things like the social selling index, this is a measure of your proficiency, I suppose, on Sales Navigator. Can you talk to us a little bit, of course, about how you see SSI, you know, motivating sales teams?


Frank: Salespeople are naturally competitive, and it's kind of a gamification thought process that was behind it, and it took off dramatically beyond that even. But when you think about salespeople coming in the morning, doing what you tell them to do, but they don't know if they do it well, how does it work out, and some people will be better than others. So where is your measurement? So, therefore, an index made a lot of sense. And then using that index to gamify that system became a natural kind of second step. And it is highly effective because, again, salespeople, to a large extent, like to measure themselves and like to be on top. So give them an index where they can measure themselves and hopefully where they are striving to be on top as well.


Interviewer: So when they're, you know, getting top scores in their SSI, it kind of validates them as, "I'm doing really good at my job and my commission shows this."


Frank: And there is a correlation. So we've done several studies with external sources and internal sources where there is a clear correlation between high SSI scores and high achievement.


Interviewer: There we go. I mean, I think one of the fantastic features of an SSI is that it's not given by your manager, so it's not like there's favoritism involved, the best salesperson or something. It's done independently of everyone, so it's kind of it is believable, isn't it?


Frank: And you have access to it, I mean, everybody. So you can go on there, you don't even need access to Sales Navigator, everybody can go online and check out their SSI score. And I highly recommend that because it's your general engagement socially, but for salespeople, obviously, it becomes an important tool again because it correlates to your success.


Interviewer: And it's a key KPI in showing you, I suppose, how effective you are as you adopt these new techniques because, still, social selling, that world isn't as adopted in many organizations as it could be, highly successful ones do it. But, you know, to kind of get the early adoption of the techniques and having a high SSI score is quite motivational.


Frank: And when you say KPI, there are several large companies, very large technology companies, and I won't name them now, because I don't know if they want me to name them. But there's large technology companies that use SSI as a KPI. They actually not only train people on it, but they actually measure them, they compare them. And it is an important KPI and how they see success in their sales organization.


Interviewer: I think that's the core of LinkedIn is that, like, it has created a metric that is the one metric to kind of, you know, to beat them all in terms of your sales success beyond your commission.


Frank: Beating them all, not quite sure yet. So the revenue number you have to achieve is probably still above that.


Interviewer: Probably is.


Frank: But SSI won't be far behind because it is a leading indicator because this is, I think, where most sales organizations now, from an operational perspective, kind of tend to talk about, what are our leading versus our lagging indicators? And I think it becomes a core leading indicator.


Interviewer: How difficult is it to use Sales Navigator for, say, someone who hasn't seen it before or has been just cold calling all their life? Is it a natural kind of continuation of a salesperson's development or how do you see it kind of integrating into people who haven't used it before?


Frank: So, to one extent, there is a generational thing involved because you do have a generation now that is socially completely native. So clearly a lot easier for them to kind of just take a social tool and really engage with it. But we've seen it really kind of it comes down to open-mindedness because you don't have only a young generation on LinkedIn. But you do have the young generation on LinkedIn as much engaged as an older generation. But some sellers, say, that had many, many, many years of cold calling experience may take a little longer.


But to me, it always comes down to almost with everything you do in a sales environment. You need the one person that's really successful with it, and you show that person off to everybody else. Usually, again, salespeople being competitive, the rest of them wants to be as successful, and if you can correlate it to using Sales Navigator correctly, the rest of the team will surely follow.


Interviewer: And SSI helps.


Frank: Definitely.


Interviewer: There's other things on LinkedIn that are also quite useful, like there's the groups and there's, you know, kind of different kind of gatherings and groupings and clusters of like-minded professionals. And how important is engaging within the group activity as a contributor?


Frank: So, groups is one thing where you either spend a time and really engage actively, or they're not really adding value to you. And because there's a lot of people... To some extent, there's groups which I just follow as well, and I wasn't in any way engaged so I'm not adding value, they don't really, therefore, add value to me. But in the groups, you are engaging, and where you are adding value, taking active part in conversations, or you're sharing actively content, actually, people will come back to you. And it should be groups that you have a personal interest in, and then there will be like-minded people on that as well, and that makes it much easier starting your conversations.


And in the end, it's all about your network. Because one thing you said earlier is on LinkedIn, people basically connect with people in their company. Actually, people connect within their company, but more than likely as well with like-minded people. And you wanna expand your network in that space. And as a salesperson, more importantly, you always wanna be connecting with your customers. And then think about your customers being connected with like-minded people, they may be in specific groups as well and you being active there gets you access now to those like-minded people.


Interviewer: Let's talk a little bit about adding value. So your sales team go into a group where they connect with someone, they're not just doing the hard sell, they're not just selling from the get-go. It's a different type of engagement, isn't it? Will you talk a little bit about that, if that's okay?


Frank: So in groups, the hard sell is the one thing that probably turns most people off. And in most groups, actually, it's a group policy not to. So you will find a lot of groups would actually exclude you from them if you started going in there and doing the hard sell. And I think that's a good thing because that's never been the purpose of a group on LinkedIn. So the key is really engage with something that's relevant to the group. And if that correlates to something you're actually selling, that's okay. But that sales process then, you take out of that group, that's not what the group is for.


So I mean, I've seen one group, for example, which was really engaging because there was a challenge posted, and it was a management leadership group. And it was like you have your top sales employee and you catch them in something that is actually gross misconduct, what would you do? Keep in mind, it's your top seller. And it's interesting, you have up to 1,000 different responses, and there are people who would say, "I'd keep them as my top seller." And the next person says, "No, I have a high criterion on, say, integrity, I take them out straight away." And that gets conversations going.


Now that was a very effective group because those type of thought processes and actually engagement on like-minded people, that's what gets a group going. And then you have an engagement with a person where you say...where you're talking about maybe that topic even, but the next topic was hiring, and then suddenly that person say, "Oh, you work in LinkedIn, can I actually talk to you about hiring?" We took the conversation of it, now I was, at the time, not in our talent solutions team, I connected them with somebody, that worked out great. We got a lead through that by purely engaging on that group, very simple.


Interviewer: LinkedIn, in this present day, is the cornerstone of a lot of social selling as a social medium of choice. Do you see that position kind of, you know, being steadfast or...as well, well, I suppose, anything can happen, but for the foreseeable future, do you feel that LinkedIn is the go-to zone?


Frank: Yeah, definitely because, I mean, it's very difficult for an incumbent now, even though we have seen social engagement tools popping up very quickly, talk about Snapchat and so on. But from a content perspective and everything, what LinkedIn provides as a platform because there's so much more to it than just Sales Navigator. And I think the ability to use LinkedIn very well and to have a network becomes more and more core for a salesperson. I truly believe that a salesperson will be hired in their ability, in the future, to bring a network with them and actually create a bigger network and network correctly. And a lot of the social selling tools out there may not enable it the same way as LinkedIn does currently.


Interviewer: That's an excellent point. In fact, let's just bring that down to the individual and the individual profile. We all have, in digital marketing, our LinkedIn profile, some people see it as a CV. Some people just see it as something they need to have, but don't necessarily know how to use it. In terms of optimizing your profile to be, say, picked up in a talent acquisition sense, or indeed, expand your network, what would your top tips be to optimize your profile to make you a better seller or indeed a better job candidate?


Frank: So the first thing I'd say to that, if you treat your LinkedIn profile as a CV, you're missing out. Now, it can be that, but enhancing your profile to actually really introduce yourself as the professional that you are and you wanna be seen as will still have a CV part in it. Because talent acquisition type people will still find you and look for that as well, but it is so much more. Think about any business conversation you're going into where you never met the person you're talking to, what do you usually do? And in fairness, I always say it, a lot of people may not go straight away to LinkedIn. I mean, CS people probably do, but a lot of other people may just go to Google.


But if you type your own name into Google, and if you're not in the news every other day, more than likely your LinkedIn profile will be the first thing that pops up. So this is the first impression that people have of you now. If that just looks like a CV, what are you telling people? So I would always say, take your LinkedIn profile as an introduction, really kind of look at it as, is this introducing myself the way I would wanna introduce myself if I was standing in a room with a person I never met? And it takes a bit of work, it takes a bit of time, write your summary.


I would recommend as well under your name, write a proper headline. Mine says, for example, "Not your average business leader." It's memorable, and I could just write director of sales, but there's a million of us out there directors of sales, but there's not a million people who say they're not the average business leader. Now people can challenge me on that, but that gets a conversation going and it's memorable. So summary, headline, and a good picture is kind of the basics you need to have.


Interviewer: So before we finish up, let's talk about the memorability of, you know, introductions of profiles and the type of content and the type of executions that happens. Where do you see the likes of, say, video fitting into, you know, the memorability of intros of B2B selling?


Frank: So video is now enabled on the LinkedIn platform as well. And I think that that's an important part because memorability, obviously, if you spoke to somebody, or at least if you heard somebody speak, which video actually does for you, you're more likely to remember them. And it's easier as well when you think about it. Writing my summary wasn't an easy thing, and I've done it over years and I still kind of constantly adjusting it and everything. In video, I can be myself. And actually in video, more than likely in two minutes, you get a lot more across than in a paragraph you would write.


So, therefore, short and precise videos are far more engaging, and that's a fact. And on LinkedIn, having that ability to have that there now, obviously, drives engagement, and, for a seller, therefore, becomes really important to use that medium as well.


Interviewer: Excellent. Now it's definitely the most engaging content form that we have available to us now. So in summary, I'd like to thank Frank for coming in today and talking to us about LinkedIn, his experiences with LinkedIn in the B2B world for sales perspective, equally in the recruitment world in terms of finding candidates and being memorable in that regard. Before we finish, Frank, what would your top tips for a LinkedIn seller be in terms of Sales Navigator and making connections?


Frank: So first, to really kind of get your profile going, make that profile memorable by having a good summary, headline, and content that's engaging. If you can do video, do video because you will get that engagement out of it. And then Sales Navigator, make it a habit, use it every day, make it a habit. But discipline yourself because social media, again, can...you can easily spend hours and find it highly valuable, but you find yourself suddenly it's after lunchtime, and you haven't even spoken to anybody yet. So get that discipline in there, to do it on a daily basis, spend a specific amount of time, and you will get value from it.


Interviewer: Thanks for the pearls of wisdom today, Frank, on LinkedIn, a very powerful tool, excited to use it. And thank you today for joining us. I hope it's been insightful for you, too.

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