How to Build a Repeatable Enterprise Sales Process with LinkedIn

Wade Foster
Wade Foster / Published June 3, 2013

Repeatable Enterprise Sales Process

The key to any successful, sales-driven company is building a repeatable sales process that can acquire customers at a cost less than their lifetime value.

But for a lot of us enterprise sales looks like some magic, voodoo art mixed with the proverbial round of golf followed by steak and scotch. Building a repeatable sales process is a far off pipe dream.

But if you are good at sales (and I mean actually good) it turns out that sales isn't so much of a black art. Last week I chatted with William Lowe, head of business development and marketing at Gluu.org, and asked him exactly how they turn 34% of their LinkedIn contacts into product demos. The result of those demos? Almost all the revenue that funds the 13 person team.

The Challenge of Enterprise Sales

Straight from the Gluu website, "Gluu helps large organizations design, build, and operate the OX open source authentication and authorization (“AA”) platform for organizational single sign-on (SSO) and web access management (WAM)."

Most of their clients are large organizations which require a dedicated sales process. Companies usually aren't finding gluu.org and signing up to a plan without ever talking to anyone.

This leads to a couple of problems:

  1. Where do leads come from?
  2. Who are the right decision makers to target?
  3. How do we get them to listen to us?
  4. Can we convert them into customers?
  5. How can we do this continually to drive revenue?

That's a lot of big questions for a startup to answer.

Discovering a Repeatable Process

The first bit to tackle is figuring out who are targeting. For Will and his team this is CTOs, CIOs, Software Architects and other high level decision makers in large enterprises with multi-millions in revenue each year.

Knowing that there is a limited amount of people in the world that match this description Will intuited that many of them can be reached out to directly using LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Outreach - Attempt One

With a premium LinkedIn account you can send InMail which is essentially an easy way to cold message particular contacts. This model had some but limited success.

People do respond to InMail, but 1) it feels more “sales-y” and 2) if you don’t get the 100% perfect answer you’re looking for, at the end of the day, this person is still not connected to you. This means he/she will not see your posts, will not show up to your network (and his) as a new connection, AND you have to continue reaching out through InMail if you want to further the discussion with said individual.

Another way to connect with potential customers is clearly preferred.

LinkedIn Outreach - Attempt Two

The next option Will turned to is to simply try and connect via LinkedIn with potential decision makers with a custom message.

The key here is to customize the connection message with something relevant to your prospects.

The default message looks something like this:

Default LinkedIn connection message

It's bland, generic and shows as little effort as possible for connecting with someone, especially if that person doesn't know you in real life.

A much better message would be something like:

Hi FIRST_NAME,

I noticed your IAM post on the XYZ blog. I'd be interested in your feedback on my co's open source IAM platform. We have a very comprehensive implementation of OpenID Connect & "Enterprise UMA" for API access management. Perhaps a gotomeeting next week?

Thanks, Will!

This message does a few things right:

  1. Shows interest in them and what they are working on
  2. Introduces yourself as someone working in a similar space
  3. Makes an easy ask (a few minute call)
  4. Lets the recipient say "yes" or "no" and doesn't require any other action on their part.
  5. Introduces a free resource (open-source software) vs. going for the hard sale on their paid products right away.

An additional change Will made was to utilize the Gluu CEO's LinkedIn profile. This maximizes leverage and reach since many people feel a lot more special when a CEO reaches out.

Turns out a connection request with a well-crafted custom message works much better than InMail too. Will managed to convert 34% of his potential leads from cold customers to demos. Which was much better than the single digit percentage points from InMail.

Converting the Sale

Once the LinkedIn connection is made the sale still needs to be closed.

Will quickly takes the new contacts information out of LinkedIn and dumps it into his CRM (SugarCRM in his case).

This lets him manage the rest of the sales process including a demo and the final contract straight from his CRM.

Clearly Will has identified a repeatable sales process. Unfortunately the entire process consumed upwards of 20 hours a week for Will just finding and reaching out to potential customers.

That's a lot of time doing lead generation that's not spent closing deals.

Now it’s time to automate and systematize as much of this process as possible.

Optimizing a Repeatable Sales Process

The most important part of optimizing any process is to break it down into steps. Will found X steps involved:

  1. Finding good leads in LinkedIn
  2. Sending custom connect requests in LinkedIn
  3. Saving converted connection requests to his CRM
  4. Scheduling a follow up demo
  5. Closing the deal

Each of those steps can be automated in some form or fashion.

For steps 1 and 2, Will hired a LinkedIn expert on ODesk that was good at searching LinkedIn for a certain type of leads.

He then armed his ODesk assistant with a sampling of custom connect messages that could be used depending on the type of person.

The ODesk assistant is then able to fulfill steps one and two.

On step 3 Will uses this LinkedIn to SugarCRM Zap to save new LinkedIn connections to SugarCRM.

Step 4 is also easy to automate with an ODesk assistant and YouCanBook.Me. Just list out a variety of times you can meet for the person and let them choose which one.

With steps 1-4 systematized and automated away that leaves Will to focus on the hardest and most personal piece of the sales process which is closing the deal.

After all this is said and done, Will went from 20 hours a week on steps 1-4 down to 5 hours of overseeing which saved 60 hours every month and freed up his time to close more deals.

A Final Note

This may not work exactly for you, but it should be easy to take the applicable bits. And remember to experiment as much as you can. The biggest gains are found when trying something new.

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