Expanding your network is important, but reaching the right people in as few steps as possible is a skill that takes time to hone.
“Anyone can call themselves a ‘director’ in their LinkedIn profile—they’re free to post their own description of their position,” laments social selling expert Rick Buijserd. “That’s the biggest challenge when looking for people in key positions. You have to be patient and do proper research.”
As New Business Sales Manager at software solutions company Ctac, Rick’s own profile is impressive. Working with Rick as his Relationship Manager at LinkedIn, I’ve seen how successfully he’s built his network in the past six months alone. With an SSI score of 93, he’s certainly earned the right to brag. But that’s not Rick’s style. When I sat down to talk to him about him about his success, he was suitably humble—with just the smallest acknowledgement that some of his colleagues could learn a trick or two from him.
Julia: You’ve been at Ctac since September and you’re already generating leads that have paid off. Any in particular success stories you can tell us about?
Rick: Well, I can’t name clients, and these are long-term projects that we’re dealing with so there’s still a lot of work to do. I will say that I’ve had dozens of meetings and calls with top companies, and I know a lot of good things are going to come from that. There was one in particular that I told a colleague about, and he was really surprised—he’d been trying to get in there for years and couldn’t manage. I told him I managed it. (Laughs)
One phone call? That’s impressive.
It’s not always one. That’s the goal. If I can’t manage it in one, I can usually do it in two or three. It used to take 10 or 15 so I’m happy with that! It saves a lot of time.
I can imagine. So what’s changed?
Social selling has really changed the way I work. Third-degree connections on LinkedIn are particularly useful to me and to most salespeople I imagine, because we all have a certain base point that we can leverage to get a foot in the door.
For example, I have the advantage of having done a lot in the accounting world. Accounting is sort of a middleman that companies will always come into contact with at some point. Through that, I’ve ended up with contacts at a lot of companies that could benefit from my proposition, and around that one contact I can build an entire team of influential leads.
So I hardly ever have to cold-call anymore. Because it’s no longer “cold.” I can look at a person’s profile and find out about their interests, business and personal, and then I have a topic to talk about. And before I even call, I’ve established a line of communication, messages back and forth. That’s what I really love about my job—I get to know so many new people. It’s great.
I find that with my job as well. When did you first start using social selling as an integral part of your sales pipeline?
Well, my last job was where I first got the opportunity to use Sales Navigator, but only for a short period—really just a few months. Before that, my approach was a bit more old-fashioned. But when I started to get into social selling, I found that Sales Navigator was a tool I just can’t go without. I use it daily—it’s the first thing I start with in the morning. I think if someone has it and doesn’t use it, they don’t understand their business.
Social selling is at the heart of my approach now, and I can’t imagine why anyone in my field wouldn’t use it. In fact, I even had the opportunity to give a TED Talk about it recently at Ctac’s sales kick-off. 300 colleagues were in attendance, and I hope that it was useful to them.
It sounds like you’ve managed to master the approach really quickly and are already sharing your knowledge! Is there any advice you could give to someone just starting out in sales? Anything you wish you’d known?
Sure. The best advice I can give is that building a personal brand is so important. I want to be a trusted advisor for my prospects and for my clients. When they look at my profile, I want them to find things I’ve written. That way, they know that I’m trustworthy source. So once a week, at the beginning of the week, I’ll write a post.
It all sounds very basic and standard, but it works. Learn from the people around you, and don’t be afraid to fail. That’s just part of the deal.
This interview is published at LinkedIn.com by Julia Dorigo. This interview is part of a reference program of LinkedIn in which I (Rick Buijserd) participate. This program is set up by LinkedIn for the dedicated and special selected Social Selling Experts around the Globe.