How to use LinkedIn for Business Development. Guest: Richard van der Blom
Are your competitors increasing their market share by getting to opportunities first? The world has changed, and traditional selling methods alone aren’t as effective on their own. Join this episode’s guest Richard van der Blom as we discuss social selling on LinkedIn for business growth.
Host Michelle J Raymond asks –
- What is your definition of social selling and why does it matter today?
- Is social selling just the role of the sales and marketing team?
- What is the importance of having C-Suite Executives involved?
- What actions are most important on LinkedIn for Social Selling?
- Favourite LinkedIn features to support social selling.
Known for his company research into the LinkedIn Algorithm – Richard is a LinkedIn Trainer and Social Selling Expert whose vision is “Sales and Marketing are on steroids! Embrace the hybrid world or fall behind.”
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Michelle J Raymond: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Good for Business Show. I am your host, Michelle J Raymond, and I say it every single week and I’m gonna say it again. I am super excited this week because I get to talk to not only an expert, but someone, I also call my friend and highly respect, Richard van der Blom, welcome to the show.
Richard van der Blom: Wow. That’s a great intro. Thank you, Michelle, for having me. Likewise.
Michelle J Raymond: Richard, the thing that you and I both love is social selling on LinkedIn, and we’re gonna do a bit of a deep dive into this and show people that they can actually make money from this if they go around the right way.
And so we’re gonna step people through some,
Richard van der Blom: make money with LinkedIn, Michelle. Ooh, that’s something.
Michelle J Raymond: I said the sales word, and I said, make money on LinkedIn.
I’m here to make money and I’m here to show other people how they can too. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions. I think there’s a lot of apprehension and so before we dive into that, just say someone’s been living under a rock [00:01:00] and they haven’t met you before, can you give us a quick intro about who you are, what you do and who do you help?
Richard van der Blom: Yeah, I can do that, so my name is Richard van der Blom, I’m Dutch with all my bluntness. I’m living in Spain. Did an education in sales and marketing started my own business in 2009. Just Connecting. Have been focusing on providing LinkedIn training and consultancy ever since well, basically 2009 and the way how I make money is by providing training and consultancy to companies around the globe that want to leverage the power of LinkedIn for sales and marketing success. Actually how to grow business, how to make money, let’s say it like this.
Michelle J Raymond: Look, I’m all for both of those things. I think maybe in that order, I think if you do it the right way around, the making money part handles itself. In my personal experience, I’ve been selling for around 20 years. I accidentally fell into selling on LinkedIn. It was one of those things. I turned up at a job and they [00:02:00] didn’t have what we sold on a website and they didn’t have a catalogue and I was like, how do I reach people at scale when I don’t have time, I’ve gotta go out and do customer visits and all the old school selling.
It started by accident around eight years ago and then I realised as a salesperson that I could reach anyone pretty much anywhere without too many obstacles and a few sales here and there, and I was like, yes, this is the dream. So eight years later here I am, teaching other people.
So social selling to me, Richard is not a term that I came across when I was out in the outside world, anywhere off LinkedIn. So I’d love to know what’s your definition that you teach people about what social selling is?
Richard van der Blom: I might have a very different definition than a lot of our peers, because like you said it’s a term that came up, I think about 6, 7, 8 years ago and there was a lot of misunderstanding about social selling. For me, it’s not selling via social media. A lot of people they think it’s social [00:03:00] media selling. Because frankly, I don’t think that my clients or your clients are on LinkedIn to be sold stuff. No, we are not on LinkedIn to be sold stuff.
So I literally receive like five to seven inmails, every week. People trying to sell me something without relation, just putting the Calendly links and it really annoys me. I really hate it. So it’s not selling via social media. For me, social selling, it’s both online and offline. It’s more like an attitude where you are willing to contribute, to add value to every phase of the buyer journey. So it’s like being a trusted advisor, make sure you guide your client towards the buying process and this might well be that during this process, you are going to tell them hey, you don’t need my stuff because there’s no match. I advise you to go to this or this party.
This for me is the essence of social selling. So it’s both. And of course we need the digital tools. [00:04:00] We need LinkedIn. We need the video call. We did the content, but it’s a combination between those digital tools to engage remotely, but it has definitely something to do with attitude, always willing to contribute no matter what the decision is going to be with your clients.
Because I think if you do this genuinely, if you’re being authentic, In the end, it will bring you much more results than the quick win.
Michelle J Raymond: I would add one other word in there. And I agree with everything that you’ve said, the word that I would throw in there also is nurture those relationships. And that’s how I would describe probably a lot of those actions that you’ve just shared.
First of all, it’s creating the awareness that I exist. It’s then letting people know that I actually care, and you can’t fake it. For all those people that think you can fake automation bad messages at scale and no one will know, Richard and I are here to tell you everybody knows.
And so for me, it’s genuine. I agree with you on [00:05:00] that authentic, nurturing and problem solving. For me, ultimately why I’ve been good at sales is because I see it as problem solving and helping people. The more I do of both of those two things, the sales take care of themselves. So yeah, I think you and I have a lot of crossover in that.
Is there anything else you wanna add?
Richard van der Blom: I was just thinking, what worries me a bit just having a look on what’s happening on LinkedIn I think since the beginning of this year. Like I recently did a research and we have 80,000 people worldwide providing LinkedIn training. Okay. So all industries. There are good ones, there are average ones and there are bad ones, okay let’s face it. And so we have seen a huge increase in people using automation, playing the big numbers game. And there are people they don’t know better, they just were advised, go to automation. If you connect with people, put them on your email list, those kind of steps that we know, it doesn’t work because it’s not genuine, it’s not one to one it’s not nurturing. But [00:06:00] for those, I feel sorry, but I’m trying to help them like, Hey, do you know the impact?
Recently, I like to step up to those who use automation. Yesterday, for example, I received an email of a guy It was automated. It started with “Hi van” it’s like a little word in my family name. So the personalisation went all wrong and he was selling me lead generation via LinkedIn.
And he was like, do you know that you can use LinkedIn for lead? And I was like, OK. Then he said, I’ve had a look at your profile, which he didn’t. And I send them an email back do you walk into the bakery to sell bread? Because this is what you’re doing, you’re walking into a bakery to sell bread. It doesn’t make sense.
And he sent me back. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but when I send 800 emails, I always have three clients. 800 emails, I always have three clients and I went what? So you are willing to literally spam, harass 797 people in your network to get three [00:07:00] non-qualified leads.
They’re not qualified yet. They simply respond like, “Hey, I want to know more” and this is happening on a large scale now. This is what worries me a bit, because I think LinkedIn is a great platform, but there is one risk and I don’t know if they are perfectly aware there.
I’ve spoken, probably like you, to many C level people, business owners. If we discuss LinkedIn, the majority of them is complaining about the increased spam, the increased inmail they’re receiving. Now, let me tell you if they decide for some reason to leave the platform, because they don’t want to be like sitting ducks, we have a huge problem because if the clients go, the efficiency goes.
So those things are a bit worrying and still people call it social selling. It’s not social selling. It’s social spamming.
Michelle J Raymond: Absolutely. I think everybody that’s listening into this would absolutely agree with us that on a [00:08:00] daily basis, often multiple times you receive something that leaves you scratching your head at best and I find when I respond to them and say you wanna think about this a different way because here’s the impact. Then I get another automated response because they’ve become very good at handling those rejections and then just pretending like it’s nothing. And I’m like you, I think the volume is so big that this becomes a bigger problem. And it’s now done under the, oh, look, it’s so much easier for you and it’s so attractive.
I don’t wanna get into the automation conversation today because I think you and I could talk all day about that, but I do want to talk about how we can encourage people to leave that behind, slow things down and really focus on quality. Because if we focus on quality, then we can really, instead of going from three out of 900, those numbers just go up and up, the more focused [00:09:00] we are.
Let’s talk about some of this, , I went to you know, an event yesterday, a live event where we were talking about the digital buyer is now online and that’s the importance of social selling today because the digital buyer is there, so we wanna meet them where they are, but who’s role is social selling, Richard? Is it just the sales team? Is it maybe the sales and marketing team? Who should be doing this?
Richard van der Blom: I have a very strong opinion about this. Everybody who feels him or herself as an ambassador in the company should be involved in social selling. Before this Live, I had a one hour session, one of my clients where there is some stats, which says because you refer to the buyers, the buyers have literally embraced social selling, like social buying. They feel perfectly fine in meeting remotely and consuming content on LinkedIn. Actually they prefer this over a face to face meeting, especially in the first phase of the buying journey. So I fully [00:10:00] agree with you. We need to be there, where our buyers are, which is LinkedIn.
So in the stats shows that the average buyer, almost 80% of them are looking for profiles of people that know about the solutions or services. So we are talking about product management, product development, R&D the people that building the products and services, they need to have a voice on LinkedIn because they resonate with the buyers, especially in technical environments.
Then the second most visited profiles from buyers are from people they already know in the company of their supplier. And it could be the receptionist. It could be the HR, but they feel more confident if they know somebody to reach out and say, “Hey, we have this challenge. Your company might be interesting for us.”
And then we have C level that has visited. Then we have the company page and at the bottom are profiles, unfortunately, of salespeople because buyers in the first phase, they don’t want to visit sales profiles [00:11:00] because probably they know they’re going to be targeted back as soon as the salesperson sees that his profile has been visited. So with this stats, If you want to implement social selling in say, the bigger companies, you need to get everybody involved.
The more relevant, insightful content we put out, the more authentic our people act on LinkedIn, the more touching points we will realise with our clients and the first touching point is very rarely between sales and buyer, it’s some other people within the company that have the connections already with a potential client. It should be sales driven program because it should be the ownership of sales combined with marketing alignment. But I think they should really leverage the network and the compete is everybody involved in the company.
Michelle J Raymond: Yeah and I don’t want to just keep agreeing with you, but I do agree with you on this as well, because I think it’s not just any one person’s role. If it’s only the CEO or if it’s only one account [00:12:00] manager, or if it’s only one person in the marketing department, you can’t have the stamina to keep going on a level that actually gets results.
And I’m with you that when I’m building employee advocacy with companies, we are looking for anyone that puts their hand up to start up with, and it could be you find an employee that’s got a great TikTok channel, they might have an Instagram channel, a built up Twitter account. Look in other places to see where these people are already active and play to their strengths, rather than just saying it’s you or it’s you.
In your experience, Richard, to this point, have you, in the companies that you’ve worked with ever had an example of where KPIs are company wide or a much, broader view rather than just this tiny sales team or maybe it’s the marketing team? I’m yet to come across a company that’s actually got new modern KPIs that reflect social selling. How about [00:13:00] you?
Richard van der Blom: There might be some initiatives, but I think it’s one bridge too far to call them already KPIs. The majority of companies we work with, obviously they do have KPIs with regards to what sales should they do on LinkedIn in terms of generate ‘X Leads’, generate ‘X inbound conversations’, referrals, blah, blah, blah.
I have worked with companies that have KPIs on input from people. For example, I’m working now with a company that makes agreements on what they expect from product developers in regards to content on LinkedIn. So they should write, for example, one article every month. They should create one post every week on LinkedIn in order to, again, get more touching points. So I see some initiatives, I haven’t seen really strong KPIs outside sales, maybe marketing. There is another thing that I was thinking while you were saying this about the KPI’s. And again, it depends a bit on the industry you’re in or the or the [00:14:00] solutions, whether it’s product or service you wanna sell.
But especially in the more complex sales cycles, more complex technical products. I see the rise of the multidisciplinary sales hubs. So a sales hub is no longer just one single salesperson because, to be honest, I worked in sales for three different companies, which also meant three different industries. I was not an expert in the industry, I was an expert in getting into contact with a person and trying to convince them to buy our stuff because for example, if you move from the staffing industry to automotive from the automotive to food, you can never be like an industry expert.
So in this multidisciplinary sales teams, I always advise my clients, we need to have one person for marketing involved because we need to have short connections to create content. We need sales involved. We need to also have a product developer or product manager involved because as soon as we get into contact via LinkedIn or via whatever channel you choose, we [00:15:00] need to have also someone with the technical knowledge in this sales hub.
And if from that point of view, in creating multidisciplinary sales hubs, it would make sense to create multidisciplinary hub KPIs instead of individual KPIs. So that’s what I’m talking now with my clients. So instead of making this salesperson responsible for getting his results, knowing he is depending on, his product manager, marketing, why not create a multidisciplinary sales hub and give them a team KPI.
Michelle J Raymond: I think a team KPI is great. I think then you’ve got buy in. If I look back to, when I worked as an account manager, my KPIs were customer visits and obviously sales revenue, and gross margin. Now for all the business that I generated on LinkedIn, there was no recognition, no reward, no acknowledgement.
Of course those numbers then translated into the other sales numbers and I was very successful but ultimately there was no recognition. There was no “oh actually, Michelle, you [00:16:00] put out 10 pieces of content that generated this much, but you didn’t meet your customer visit target.” I practically reached every single customer at the same time, and I found that everywhere in all the companies that I’ve worked with.
So another question for you and it kind of ties in and we’ll get to the actual, what are the actions we can take and how does LinkedIn helped us? But I wanna have a chat just for a quick minute on the importance of getting that C-suite and the Exec team involved and leading by example. Now I think if you don’t have it leading from the top, the resources don’t filter down, the KPIs don’t align the teams aren’t on board. I don’t think that it works for much longer than a few months at best. I’m curious, do you have the same experience?
Richard van der Blom: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I’ve worked with companies where maybe the initiator was like this chief commercial officer, like he was a virtual selling advocate and then you can see that there is commitment, [00:17:00] there is urgence, there are resources just like budget to train. Or it’s an initiative that comes from literally the work floor and we need to go up and you meet so many obstacles and you need to convince so many people that, all the enthusiasm, all the good energy it’s gone within a few months.
So one of the first things I do when onboarding new clients is having a boardroom session. I want first of all that they all understand what is social selling because frankly, and I know it’s not with all companies, but still in a lot of companies, the Board it’s a different generation. Okay. It’s like 50, 55 plus.
And if they hear the term social selling, those are the ones that think, okay, we’re going to sell our valuable stuff via Facebook. No, that’s not what social selling is about. So first of all, they need to understand what are we talking about? It’s Change Management what we are doing, Michelle. [00:18:00] It’s changing the attitude, behaviour and usage of channels like LinkedIn in order to land more customers, that’s what we are doing. And it’s not because we want it. It’s because the market, the buyers are requesting this change because otherwise in one, two years, we will have a major problem. That’s the message I get across to C-Level boardrooms.
If they get it, you see that everything becomes more easy. There’s budget allocated, there are training sessions. If you don’t have the buy-in of C-Level, in my opinion, it’s doomed for failure.
Michelle J Raymond: If you are listening into this, looking for ways to just get the team to do it, so you can sidestep that responsibility as a C-Level leader, I’m gonna just concur again with what Richard said that I’ve seen it too many times. There is one, maybe two enthusiastic people in the business that are driving a program, have all these dreams, hopes, plans. They write out strategies. They do all the hard work they’re enthusiastic and then give them two [00:19:00] months and it feels like they’re trying to drag everybody with them.
The CEO’s not doing it. So why should I do it? It creates, ‘monkey see monkey do’ you know? So from that perspective, if you’re not gonna lead by example, It’s just gonna fall over. It’s either the wrong time or you need to put other resources and really understand the benefits. Cause I think if you understand the benefits of social selling to your business, you would be throwing everything at it right now. Because again, the B2B buyer is here. This is literally revenue generating that we are talking about, which is the lifeblood of any business that’s going on.
So people have been listening, we get the importance of social selling. We understand what it is. What are the actions that you think are most important on LinkedIn for social selling purposes?
Richard van der Blom: All our programs start with branding. Um, So our programs start with creating your profile customer centric, [00:20:00] which if we schedule this session, a lot of sales people, especially those who have been on LinkedIn, like for lifetime know, I know I’ve been on LinkedIn for 10 years. My profile, I know how LinkedIn works, but I’m not talking about where you need to put your picture, I’m talking about what happens in the head of a potential client, if he visits your profile, is it like your Curriculum Vita or does he is like really impressed with the amount of valuable insights your profile instantly provides him?
In the latter, we see that you get five times more connection requests accepted. We can see that you get three times more inbound requests. So I’m talking about branding your profile so it’s customer centric and addressing the challenges of your clients. That’s the first step.
Second. It’s definitely also about content. I always say you can have a very good customer centric profile. You can be this awesome networker sending invites to people. If you never publish content, you can [00:21:00] never become or stay top of mind in your network. It’s impossible because I have about 20,000 connections, about 50,000 followers. And I think that nobody of them is going to type in my name on LinkedIn and say, Hey, I’m going to examine Richard’s profile because I haven’t been there.
No, people think about me, click on my profile because they see me in their Feed. So that’s something this message we really should get across. And I know it’s still the numbers know about 3% of all the LinkedIn people create content and only less than 1% creates content on a weekly base. So people look at that from two perspectives.
One person says, Hey, if only 1% is creating content on a weekly base, then why should I? And I say no. If 99% is not doing it and you were doing it, you like going to pass your competitor, you’re going to be more visible to your competitor. So this is a huge opportunity for you to [00:22:00] grasp. So content definitely.
It’s about producing content. It’s about reusing company content made by marketing. It’s also about engage in other person’s Posts. Comment strategy. A comment can be like really a powerful tool for you as a salesperson. If you identify relevant discussions, simply by adding your insight, simply by adding value, based on your experience, you can drag a lot of people to your profile. You can get a lot of additional eyes on your profile as well. So branding, content, third step Networking. You call nurturing which are existing clients, make sure you don’t miss any buying signals. Make sure you have a good relationship with them. Help them get more reach for their business as well. And of course, with your potential clients, reach out to them, try to connect, try to be personal, try to get into this really cool conversation and try [00:23:00] to find the moment where like the best moment to convert to a one-on-one meeting outside LinkedIn.
So as a summary branding, content about creating, reusing, comment, networking existing clients. Don’t forget any buying signals, help them to get more eyes for their product and services, and then identifying prospects, reach out and try to find the best moment to convert into a one-on-one discussion. I think that’s the whole phase of social selling on LinkedIn.
Michelle J Raymond: Mic drop right there. We don’t really need to add anything more to that. What I call it when you say, people go and get their profiles, really given the once over and they look amazing and then it’s like having a Lamborghini parked in the garage. If you don’t go out and create content, take it for a drive, then people aren’t gonna just accidentally stumble on it.
You may show up in a search here or there, maybe? [00:24:00] But if someone else is out there creating content and there’s a trail of breadcrumbs that leads me to your thought leadership, your originality, it shows that I can trust you. I always find if someone’s not active, I’m still doing a little bit of this, even though I know that it’s such a small percentage of people that are creating content. For people out there, that is the absolute opportunity of LinkedIn, if you start now. And it can be scary, it can make you anxious. It can be all of those things where we think other people are gonna judge us professionally. But think about it, you’re in that 1%, 3% maybe and the rest of the people are too scared to do it.
So they are going to let you run crazy, unimpeded. No one’s in your way. No obstacles. Whoever gets their first wins, it’s really that simple. I want to know cause I’ve got a couple of favourite LinkedIn features for social selling. I wanna know, what is your [00:25:00] favourite features?
Richard van der Blom: Feature or social selling?
I don’t know I’m a heavy user and also strong believer in Sales Navigator. Especially the advanced plus that is used by big companies for a few reasons. I don’t do a lot of InMails because of the decline in InMail acceptance. A lot of people when they see InMail, they already go ah, no, I’m not going open that.
I still believe in connection requests, personalised and then follow up, but I do use Sales Navigator to identify my potential clients. I’m a huge fan of Smart Links because you can really track if people open it, if they forward it. So you can get your eyes on the decision making unit.
Michelle J Raymond: If somebody doesn’t have Sales Navigator, what would you recommend they focus on?
Richard van der Blom: I don’t know if it’s a feature, but I think that if you, first of all, if you have a lot of satisfied clients and you have a very good relationship with them, you’re nurturing them. You can turn them very easily nowadays into ambassadors.
And, I’m talking about Sales Navigator for [00:26:00] new clients, but to be honest, I get about 80, maybe 85% of my clients via a network of my existing clients. So I think one of the things that people should also focus on when using social selling is to turn your satisfied clients into ambassadors in order to get more referral leads than before.
That’s also the essence of social selling. I don’t know if that’s, it’s not a feature, it’s more like a strategy, but that’s the one I’m using together with my Sales Navigator.
Michelle J Raymond: Love it. I only started using Sales Navigator a few months back just because I was realising exactly that I couldn’t keep up anymore.
Things had grown too fast. I’d outgrown my systems and I use it to create lists. So I make sure that I’m always aware of who I should be focusing on who I need to nurture, who I need to keep an eye on in the feed to see, do they have something like, as you said, a buying signal. So a buying signal is, something that I read that I [00:27:00] go, actually, they’ve got a problem and my training or my consulting or my coaching solves that problem and then I would reach out to them.
That’s what I’m always on the lookout for in the Feed and I think if people pay attention, there is so much of it. And I think using the search bar for hashtags, yeah. that actually relate back to your niche or your industry is very underrated on LinkedIn.
I don’t think that search bar gets enough praise for how powerful it can be for people that actually put the time and effort into it. And you can level up in Sales Navigator and get a whole bunch more filters, but don’t think that search bar is not your friend to find new business. Because fortune comes to those who actually go and look for it.
I don’t think it’s all gonna land in your lap just because we create content. Some of the work we need to do as social sellers is actually be proactive, and so when you have a balance between those two, I think that’s where the results come.
Richard van der Blom: I’m also a big fan of the bell, by the way. I know a lot of [00:28:00] people think it still, but for me, two ways, I have rang the bell of all my important contact person, both clients and prospects.
So I get like a lot of notifications on a day, but it gives me like, Almost being the first to be able to respond. Second and this is something that’s very interesting also for our listeners. If more and more people ring your bell, you can see an increased engagement and an increased reach on your own post because now as soon as you publish, and let’s say you have 50 bell ringers, they get like 50 notifications.
If they jump on your post in the first hour, you get an exponential reach. So the bell for me is one of the best small features with regards to visibility, but also to be able to see the post I really want not to miss of my clients and prospects.
Michelle J Raymond: So for people that don’t understand what the bell is and may not understand the features. If you go to somebody else’s LinkedIn [00:29:00] profile on the right hand side, just underneath the cover image, you’ll see a tiny little bell that is really hidden away and there’s no fanfare around it, but if you click on that, as Richard said, as soon as that person creates a post, then you’ll get notified.
Now it works both ways. Of course I want people to see Richard and I’s content straight away. So go to our profiles after this and obviously ring our bells so that you get notified. But the flip side, as he said, is if there’s people out there that you wanna do business with, go and ring theirs and be the first person, every single time to support their posts.
If we go back a step and remember if only one to 3% of people are creating it. They’re just as nervous, hoping that someone else out there will actually support their content. And if you are the first person and you show up every time, who stays top of mind? So I think that’s a really powerful tip, both sides as a content creator, and also as a social seller to support your ideal clients out [00:30:00] there and make sure that they get noticed.
Richard van der Blom: One more thing on the bell because you have explained it very well. So you need to be connected with the people, which obviously I hope that you are connected with your clients, but it might be the case that you’re not yet connected with your prospect. You might not want to reach out yet. There is an easy thing to do because the bell is also visible on people you follow.
So if you go to a second or third degree person, it’s a prospect hit the follow button. Yes. He or she will get notified doesn’t matter. And then the bell appears, and then you can literally subscribe to all the posts. This is a huge game changer for me because now I don’t need to be connected yet LinkedIn is notifying me of all this person’s content
Michelle J Raymond: Richard, it’s been amazing. I appreciate how much you’ve just shared with us in such a short period of time. Again, make sure you go to Richard’s profile. Go to my profile. Look for that little bell in the top right hand corner, just underneath the cover image and, [00:31:00] give it a ring. And for everyone else, that’s singing ring my bell in your head, it’s gonna be stuck with you all day. That’s just part of it. So I appreciate everyone that’s joined us. Next week I’m joined by the wonderful Ashley Faus and we are going to be talking about LinkedIn and thought leadership. So you do not wanna miss that one as well, because we’re gonna dive into what is a thought leader?
Is it important? Is it just a name? How do we become one? Again, Richard, thank you so much. It’s been fabulous. You can go and enjoy what little you’ve got left of your holiday vacation.
Richard van der Blom: Two days,
Michelle J Raymond: Two more days. So I thank you again for coming and thank you to everyone that’s joined us today. We appreciate you.
Richard van der Blom: Cool.