The launch, according to the company, is tied to the the rise of a trend that LinkedIn has termed ‘social selling’.
“The average buying decision involves around five people, with 75 per cent of B2B buyers using social media in their evaluations,” explained Hari Krishnan, MD of LinkedIn Asia-Pacific and Japan. “Because buyers have been using social media for research, there is a need for things to change on the selling side.”
Earlier this year, LinkedIn introduced its Social Selling Index (SSI), which it claims measures the use of its platform by sales people to create a professional brand, find the right people, engage with those people using insights and build strong relationships. Based on this index, the platform reports that top performers are 51 per cent more likely to hit their quota.
But pushing the jargon aside, sales navigator boils down to a tool that will allow sales people to build a good reputation, get to know the people they need to know and target them on a programmatic scale.
In Asia, Sales Navigator has been used by several clients including SAP, Fuji Xerox and PayPal Australia, said Krishnan.
The data the service provides to subscribers seem impressive. According to Krishan, the tool will let sales people generate leads via account recommendations based on criteria the sales person has plugged in, such as territory, rank, roles and so on. Once those contacts are saved, information will be provided such as job changes, notifications and, following the acquisition of Newsle, any mention of those contacts in the news. Users in companies that subscribe will also see a larger pool of potential leads because they will have visibility of not only their own connections but also those of anyone in their company.
The newly launched CRM integration function will allow the module to sit within the dashboard of Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamic (the two CRM systems named during the interview) so the sales person doesn’t need to log in to LinkedIn separately or even open another window.
“The more educated I am about you, the better it allows me to make a more informed approach when I reach out to you,” said Krishnan. “It essentially eliminates the cold call, which no one enjoys and has a spotty success rate.”
This service works because surveys have shown buyers to be more open to approaches from people with knowledge. “Eighty-six per cent of buyers will engage with sales professionals who have provided insight and knowledge into the industry,” said Krishnan.
Presumably, beyond the initial email, LinkedIn hopes to sell in its publishing platform, which it rolled out to 15 million users in February, as a crucial part of reputation building. Since then, LinkedIn reports that traffic to publisher and influencer posts has more than doubled.
The issue of spam
Of course ideal usage of all these tools is optimistically dependent on intelligent and strategic sales people who have no intention of spamming LinkedIn users. If this was universally true however, spam would presumably never exist, nor would the dreaded telemarketing call (which in Hong Kong is often an automated telemarketing call—an entirely new dimension of horror).
“Our priorities have not changed," Krishnan said. "The free member is our most important client and we want them to have a great experience. The reason sales people spam is because they don’t know how to target the right person. It’s the spray-and-pray approach. But if I give you intelligent information, our research is that you will use it.”
LinkedIn promises its members, however, that there will never be anything to stop them from blocking and reporting inappropriate and unwelcome sales advances. “Our starting point is that everyone wants to be successful and not malicious,” Krishnan said.
Financial results: 2Q 2014 up 47 per cent
In its 2Q2014 financial results, released just hours ago, LinkedIn reported quarterly revenue of US$534 million, an increase of 47 per cent over the same quarter last year. Revenue from markets outside the US totalled $216 million, representing 40 per cent of the platform’s income.
The bulk of its revenue (60 per cent) still stems from its Talent Solutions business stream, which now includes recruitment media products, totalling $322 million.
Its Marketing Solutions arm, which represents 20 per cent of its revenue, grew 44 per cent over the second quarter of 2013 to $106 million, and its Premium Subscriptions revenue (under which Sales Navigator falls) also grew 44 per cent to $105 million.
“LinkedIn achieved strong results across the business,” said Steve Sordello, CFO of LinkedIn, in its financial results statement. “The success of Sponsored Updates, scaling jobs, and the launch of the new Sales Navigator underscore the positive impact of recent strategic investments, and we will continue to invest aggressively in our member and customer platforms.”