A Blend of Patience & Tenacity
What a wild ride we’ve had this past year. We were first invited to LinkedIn‘s ProFinder program at the end of October 2015. November 16th celebrated one year of replying to proposal requests, meeting virtually with prospects, and winning several new clients. However, more importantly, we’ve learned several lessons about sales, follow-up and sticking to our strengths.
Why We Joined ProFinder
When LinkedIn approached us, they had just started the ProFinder pilot program. They were looking for businesses to test the interface and gather feedback. As long-time members of the social network, both Massimo and I actively cultivate our professional connections and we saw the potential as an additional sales channel for our agency. According to Pew Research, 29% of all internet users are on LinkedIn. As a digital marketing agency, our clientele are entrepreneurs and professionals (CEO and Marketers) so ProFinder was a natural fit for us.
Lessons We’ve Learned
ProFinder has been a great vehicle for us to fine-tune our sales efforts. Here are the most notable:
- Alerts – It’s easy for notifications to get buried in your email inbox. Our agency uses Gmail via G Suite (formerly Google Apps) so it was easy to automatically add labels and highlight new proposal requests and notifications. Each request is limited to five responses and our industry is very competitive. Responding quickly is a must.
- Organization – We use a Google docs to keep track of proposal requests, correspondence, and email templates. This makes it easy to collaborate, sift through requests, and refer to any notes, research, and observations we’ve made.
- Follow Up – Having a system to following up on submitted proposals and email correspondence is critical. According to HubSpot, 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up. 80% of sales require 5 follow-ups. We’ve also found that some potential clients need more time than others. Google Calendar lets you set up reminders so you can schedule your follow-ups in advance. We also use Right InBox is another Gmail tool (via a paid subscription), where you can add notes as well as schedule follow-up emails and reminders.
- Scheduling – finding a convenient time to meet (even virtually) is a major hurdle if you don’t have a scheduling tool. Eliminate confusing email threads, especially if you’re trying to coordinate across time zones and multiple meeting participants. We use ScheduleOnce, as we like the tool’s features and simplicity.
- Conferencing – We’ve found that screen sharing can quickly focus a conversation. Using a professional tool like WebEx significantly simplifies the process of organizing conference calls with multiple participants.
- Recommendations – The beauty of LinkedIn’s ProFinder is the integration of recommendations. Having numerous references from clients, partners, and colleagues demonstrate value. Tending to our professional network and adding recommendations isn’t a one-time event. They are an on-going reflection of our personal brand and our agency’s capabilities.
- Value – The ProFinder proposal request is fairly limited. The form requests the type of project and scope, general timing, and meeting preference (virtual or in person). Given this limited information, we share details that we know makes us different from our competitors. Depending upon the project type, we also offer something like a 10-point audit that demonstrates value and a way to interact with us without obligation.
- Marketing Materials – Besides up-to-date LinkedIn profiles with recommendations, we created a two-page capabilities document. It summarizes who we are, how we’re different, what we do, and supporting case studies. Prospects often use this pdf to share with other stakeholders.
- Request for Quotes are time-consuming and have low ROI. – We found that many companies are fond of the RFP process as a way to get to know vendors/potential partners or gather ideas from a variety of sources on how to solve a business problem. As we were growing the agency, we responded to many RFPs as we could, spending a great deal of time on research and customizing documents. Yet prospects often didn’t refer back to the proposal and the detailed information we provided; they really wanted an interactive discussion. So rather than spending time on traditional selling, we chose to spend the time consulting — getting to know the client, their business, and the problem(s) to be solved. As a result, we won more business with clients who know and respect us and appreciate the quality of our work.
So why share our LinkedIn ProFinder story? First, it was a great exercise to think back how our agency has evolved since 2011 as well as chronicle our sales lessons with LinkedIn. Secondly, there’s a contest. We hope to win the $5,000 grand prize as a way to fund a team building and strategic offsite meeting. Our team meets virtually (every Tuesday via Hangouts) but we’ve never been able to gather everyone in one place. With the prize money, Massimo and I can invest in our team; we can pay for the airfare and accommodations so we can all meet face-to-face for the very first time. We’re a tight-knit group, used to working collaboratively using all kinds of technology. Now it’s time for us to come together, celebrating the agency’s first five years and strategically plan for our next five.
Like our story? Then please share using #ProFinderContest.
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