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Social selling SDR essentials: 8 tips on managing LinkedIn follow-up

Updated: Sep 27

Intro

Get up – hunt for qualified leads – fill up on caffeine – make some frustrating cold calls – follow up on your emails and LinkedIn messages – eat – go to sleep – repeat.

Does this sound familiar? Well, if it does, then you’re probably an SDR. Our condolences. :)

Just kidding, but we feel you. We know you have a lot on your plate. And it rarely gets any easier.

Being an SDR means being a part of an extended sales chain. In anatomical terms, an SDR is the stomach. Yes, the sales cycle is not much different than the human digestive system. A human’s body needs food. This food needs to generate and pass nutrients through a series of other organs to signal to the human brain that it’s full.

SDR’s provide that food. Food in the form of leads that sales executives’ need to survive in the business world.

As the foundational link between leads and customers, SDR’s focus on outreach, prospecting, and lead qualification. They don’t close. They are connectors. They digest prospects and send them on their way down the sales pipeline - if a prospect is a good fit and shows the right signals, reps can lead them towards the next step in the sales cycle.

SDRs are quality control for sales leads.

Having to connect with as many prospects as possible demands that they use all methods at their disposal. Calls, emails, LinkedIn connections, social media messages, you name it. Having a ton of obligations can easily make us lose focus and lose track of our daily tasks. And following up on LinkedIn often seems like the easiest task of all to forget.

But are you doing yourself a favour in the long run by neglecting your LinkedIn follow-ups? What sort of impact might you expect from the effort?


Why should SDRs always follow-up on LinkedIn?

Cold calling and emailing will most probably never die. But we all notice the major shift in how modern B2B companies ramp up communication through LinkedIn. The accent now is being put on taking a more human-like approach, nurturing your way into your prospect’s inbox and consciousness.

Yet the buyer’s journey is still primarily a numbers game from the POV of sales orgs, and SDR’s sit at the top of a funnel where receiving a “no” is just part of the equation. Reps know better than to let simple rejection discourage them.

Putting prospects’ desires and needs first is not unfamiliar territory to anyone that has anything to do with sales. Because prospects expect the crème de la crème, which translates to hyper-personalised, relevant, experiences. They expect their needs to be put first and foremost, and they expect on-demand engagement. In this blog, we’ll look at eight sales follow-up tips that will help you do just that.

But first, let’s start with a simple question. What’s the ultimate purpose behind the whole B2B sales process? Don’t think too hard, it’s a straightforward question that you already know the answer to. It’s winning a new customer.

To do that, we first need to get them on a discovery call. And this is where the difficulties kick in.

Finding our prospects can be fairly easy. There’s lots of tools out there, and you are probably already using Sales Navigator. But initiating communication and getting them on that first call is where we need to roll up our sleeves.

Luckily, there will always be exceptions to the rule. The ‘oh, so rare prospects’ that will agree to a meeting from the first email, call, or even LinkedIn connection request. But, for the majority, we need to nurture with persistence and relevancy: we should never neglect the power of follow-up. Seriously, that’s where the real salesperson skills kick in!

What do the numbers say?

Statistics show that follow-ups can triple the cold email reply rate. If the reply rate of campaigns with 1-3 cold emails in a sequence is 9%, then that of campaigns with 4-7 emails in a sequence is three times higher at a decent 27%.

So, according to the numbers, it’s better to send more follow-ups than fewer.

Supporting metrics showing the number of emails in a sequence and reply rate
Image credit: woodpecker.co

But what about LinkedIn? What do the numbers say there?

We were amazed that we couldn’t find any recent benchmarks when it comes to social selling on LinkedIn. So we needed to dig a bit deeper.

We spoke to a specialised LinkedIn outreach agency, and they were kind enough to share their metrics with us. Sending just one follow-up after the initial invitation message doubled their clients’ response rate in most cases. Sending a four-message follow-up sequence increased the response rate in the majority of campaigns by a whopping 400% (compared to only sending an invitation message).

SDRs, being the initial link in the long chain of sales process, shouldn’t allow themselves the luxury to give up after that first connection request.

The truth is, with every follow-up you send, you create additional opportunities for the prospect to respond. The more attempts you make, the more answers you’ll eventually get.

Of course, this is not a rule with a 100% success rate. But there are a lot of opportunities that you as an SDR need to explore.

What choice do you have?

Now, here’s the choice you have: you can either convince yourself that you’ve done everything you could by sending that connection request, or you can step out of your comfort zone and fire off a sequence of follow-ups.

It’s a well-known fact that SDRs have a lot of messages to send on a lot of battlefronts. The most active among them being email and cold calls and, on rarer occasions - LinkedIn. The problem that presents itself here is that traditional sales channels are largely overused.

If you ask an SDR what they use for cold outreach, you’ll undeniably get the same overwhelming answer: cold calling and cold emailing.

These two channels have been used for decades, but prospects have increasingly found ways to protect themselves from the constant nagging of pushy salespeople. They often do not answer an untold number or mark you as spam as soon as the first email of your sequence lands in their mailbox.

When sending a cold email or doing a cold call, you are pushing into the same crowded channels as everyone else, reducing the chances of your message being noticed.

Furthermore, most SDRs all use the same messaging templates as their other counterparts. These templates invariably have been built on widely read blog posts. That’s why we all constantly receive messages that look suspiciously similar. We often see emails with a generic introduction, some bullet points, and a call to action, (sound familiar?)

Lack of personalisation is definitely a mood killer. So when looking for sales channels, why do we stick to the same old traditional ones?! Why are we so hung up on tradition? Seeing that the same old methods do not bring the sweet desired engagement that we want only says one thing.

We must expand channel adoption.

LinkedIn’s time has already come, and it has entered the sales door in a grand way. Having been underrated and neglected by sales professionals, LinkedIn is the least crowded business pool where you would definitely love to dip your toes into.

Let’s see now how we can successfully manage follow-up on LinkedIn and still be at the top of our quality SDR game!

Businessperson holding the LinkedIn icon

8 tips on managing LinkedIn follow-up

Though as fruitful as home sports equipment in 2020, following up on LinkedIn can be a pretty complex undertaking. That complexity is an understatement if we consider the amount of work that SDRs already handle daily.

But doing follow-up is an activity that must be implemented in an SDR’s daily life. Even more so, it’s a task that should be at the top of your priority list.

Fear not however, whilst complex it doesn’t necessarily have to be as time-consuming as it sounds. We understand the sheer amount of activities that you already have to get through and that’s why we’ve crafted this short list of tips what will help you manage all those follow-ups and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Tip No. 1 - Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone

The sales development role is a stressful one and requires a lot of effort for what can, at times, feel like it’s not bringing that much in return.

It’s easy to get frustrated when we don’t feel efficient. And not so many of us are motivated by rejection. Because let’s be real, the sales department is where the rejection rates are the highest. So even for starters, it’s a job for the most courageous.

Psychologically speaking, our minds are wired to avoid risk at all costs. The more comfortable we are, the more our bodies stop us from changing. But, staying within our comfort zone for long periods of time is crippling to our self-development. We must resist the urge to stay ‘safe and cosy.’

But what if we get rejected? Funny concept rejection is. It mostly stems from our past, and we ALL have a relationship with it. SDRs face rejection often and frequently, in proportion to the amount of spent in the role.

It really is easy to give up after you are initially ignored. But it takes courage and determination to follow up after the first obstacle. We understand it’s not easy and that your ego just suffered a major hit. But as a fundamental mindset, not giving up and honing your purpose on following up will bring you the LinkedIn leads that you so desire.

Tip No. 2 - Don’t take things personally

As SDRs, we’re used to handling rejection on a daily basis. Most phone calls go unanswered, and most answered calls don’t end up the way we want them to. Even though you probably have some great techniques up your sleeve to deal with the cold calling induced anxiety, there are days when it’s simply too much.

Prospect pushback comes in all shapes and sizes. What adds to the complexity is that the appropriate response is often case-specific. However, there’s one general rule that applies to all rejection-handling cases: Don’t take it personally. It’s a challenge to separate yourself from your work, and many seasoned SDRs still struggle with this. It’s part of human nature to react to rejection and blame ourselves. We often end up pondering what we, as individuals, could’ve done differently.

An objection, is really the prospect telling you that you haven’t provided the right information to them yet. Expecting a positive response from that would be like using the wrong bait when you go fishing and still expecting to catch something. You won’t think the fish hates you because you used the wrong bait. So why would a prospect be any different?

And at the end of the day, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be something you missed. We all have bad days, and even the noblest of executives have some. Given the range of problems they face each day, we should do our best to understand them. Sometimes, reacting positively to a negative response can make all the difference in the world.

Tip No. 3 - Personalise

If you want to generate leads, make meaningful connections, and build relationships, you should start thinking about a more developed, personalised LinkedIn approach.

It’s not enough just to mention a person’s name in the invitation message to make it sound personal. Businesspeople are tired of Sales Reps that treat them as just another number. A personally tailored message will speak directly to them.

Sending a long LinkedIn sequence can easily turn into a dull, overwhelming monologue if not handled properly. Showing interest in their business, finding mutual interests, showing interest in their latest achievements, asking them about how they have been, gives a more friendly and human touch to the whole LinkedIn process.

Template messages that are not personalised are not for people. They are for robots. People have feelings that need to be tended to. So, be careful to personalise every follow-up message and make sure you don’t sound robotic.

And you know what the best thing is? Personalisation can go hand in hand with automation. If using the right tool and done right, that is.

Tip No. 4 - Use various conversation starters

Prospecting usually encompasses long message cycles on various platforms. When doing follow up messages, it is of the utmost importance not to bore people with the same conversation starters. We already established why it is super important for SDRs to follow up after the initial message and not give up so easily.

And when it comes to sales, it often seems like it’s all about measuring KPIs and meeting quotas. But that doesn’t mean that you should directly pitch for a meeting in the LinkedIn invitation message. If you do that, you are most likely headed for a LinkedIn disaster.

Let’s say you’ve been ignored after the invitation message. Would you use the same hook the second and the third time around? What are the chances that by repeating the same conversation starter that didn’t trigger a response the first time around, you’ll later make any difference?

It didn’t get you the results you wanted the first time, so why would anyone accept your meeting invitation after the second or the third time? Chances are, you’ll probably sound like a broken record, and your prospect will get annoyed, ignoring the same generic pitch over and over again.

Nowadays, businesspeople are being sold to by the minute. And their guards are understandably up. So why not try to initiate a friendly, relevant, maybe even substantial conversation on LinkedIn? The thing is, LinkedIn, unlike Email or any other business platform, enables you to be more chatty and informal in your communication.

So, at first, you might just try simply asking your prospect how they are. Even a straightforward ‘hello, let’s connect’ can do the trick. If that doesn’t work, try a different approach. Ask their opinion on topics you have in common. Or maybe try to share some insightful articles about their subject matter. Different people require different approaches, and it’s our job to figure out which works best.

A LinkedIn conversation presents the opportunity to build up to a meaningful relationship with your prospect. If you listen to their problems instead of just offering them solutions right away, the desired sales call could present itself naturally.

Tip No. 5 - Don’t use the same messaging on LinkedIn (as you do on email)

LinkedIn and email are two very different arenas.

When you target someone on LinkedIn and start a conversation with them, you see their profile. You can see who you are talking to, what they are sharing, hence their interests and what may resonate with them as a person.

You don’t have that luxury with email. You are writing to a complete stranger (most of the time), and the chances are you have to introduce yourself first.

The tone of speech, then, is inherently different between the two platforms. LinkedIn enables neutral, informal conversations, whereas the tonality of your messages on email should be more on the formal side. Moreover, LinkedIn messages should be shorter in length because of its chat possibilities, while emails tend to require rather longer forms.

So, approaching the same way on LinkedIn and email could miss the mark and be seen as unprofessional or too tightened-up on either side of the screen.

Tip No. 6 - Organise your prospects

The most successful reps often strive to reach hundreds of people per day. So getting mixed up and lost in the follow-up process comes as no surprise. Without the help of a CRM or sales engagement platform, it seems impossible to contact that many people daily whilst also remembering where the conversation last stopped with each of them. We are only human, after all.

But knowing at what stage of the follow-up process you are in with your prospects is crucial for your prospecting. So how can you put all these things in order and not go crazy?

Using a CRM or sales engagement platform will solve for a lot of these problems. But not all tools have the same features, and using one is not always a requirement.

Organising your LinkedIn prospects can also be achieved by creating a simple spreadsheet. The crucial part is determining the relevant variables you need to record. When it comes to following up on LinkedIn, the most critical data entry would be to highlight the prospects’ stage and noting the date when you should initiate the next follow-up.

It is doable, especially bearing in mind all the benefits of following up, but we must admit that organising prospects in a spreadsheet is not everybody’s cup of tea.

We’re so used to being backed up by technology, which leads us to our next tip.

Tip No. 7 - You don’t have to do everything manually

We live in a digital era where nearly everything that we do can be done by automation.

We know that some of us prefer to take control of things manually, but we are also aware of the pace of the world around us, and how much sales reps need all the tech help that they can get.

The B2B world is a crowded one, especially for those of us involved in sales.

Don’t get us wrong. We are not saying that you should strive to automate every inch of your process, but automation tools can definitely take the weight off aspects of your daily workflow. Where LinkedIn engagement is concerned, reps can absolutely benefit from automation tools that save precious time from the long selling cycles.

There is a plethora of tech tools that can remind you of where in the messaging sequence you are at with a certain prospect. And some of them can even notify you when a follow-up is due. That would take a lot of responsibility and worries off your plate. Maybe even some excuses, too.

Even better, some of these tools can help with the other parts of LinkedIn outreach as well. Like sending AI-personalized LinkedIn connection requests. Thinking out loud, by using automation tools, LinkedIn doesn’t have to take a large chunk of your workday. You can just spend time cherishing your social selling results.

Tip No. 8 - Don’t quit

There’s nothing easier in this life than giving up. Once things start to get messy and complicated (and they always do), the easiest thing you can do is to put up a white flag.

But giving up does not solve things. Not in the long run. Sooner or later, you’ll be faced with another challenge. It’s all part of life, and no one is spared of it. SDRs are faced with many challenges, and they have to deal with rejections every day.

And rejection can crush the more soft-hearted. That’s why the sales world is for the more thick-skinned. The ones that don’t fear rejection. The bold ones that don’t stop nor give up. They cut through the rejection and the fog like a knife through butter. They know there’s nothing worse than standing still. Especially when the competition is ruthless.

So, what we are trying to say is that no matter how many follow-ups it will require, it’s wise to shake the rejection off and try again.

When we think about it, it doesn’t only come to motivation. Even if it seems that you have the deepest pool of prospects today, that is rarely the case. There is a limited number of your ideal prospects, and you need to do your best for each of them to hear what you have to say. Sending just one message and forever losing the prospect sounds like a real prospecting waste.

Refusing to quit equals winning in our wild prospecting world.


Staying on top of your SDR game

We hope that as an SDR, you got a little perspective and motivation reading this. Rarely any job is glamorous enough to make us jump out of bed every morning, ready and motivated for another day of doing just the same all over again. Especially on the days when we have so much on our plate. The days when nobody seems to pick up, and the ones when all we get are hang-ups. The days when your inbox is filled with responses that say “no thanks”.

But not every day is like that, and we need to constantly remind ourselves that the SDR role is vital to the success of any growth company. It’s a great place to start a career in sales because it affords the opportunity to fail fast and learn and grow at lightning speed.

Trial and error are all parts of the sales development cycle, and that can be, gently put, excruciating. All the emails, messages, follow-ups, rejections, and ignored efforts can easily make a person lose direction. When your productivity and performance rates are at their lowest, remember that things change in a second, especially in the sales world.

With the help of a few tech tools and good organization, you can, too, stay on top of your prospecting game. What is super important in this whole sales madness is that you don’t forget to follow up. It’s the trickiest part, of maybe, the whole sales sequence.

Conversely, demoting follow up with your prospects will dim your light under the prospecting sun. And what makes an SDR stand out from the crowd is their ability to shine through the cloudless outreach nights and never give up!

LinkedIn is a place full of many great leads, so following up will be worth your every effort at the end.

One more try couldn’t hurt.