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Looking to hire a sales trainer for LinkedIn? Beware. Instead, consider hiring a sales prospecting coach who knows if (and when) to apply LinkedIn.

Put you/your team’s prospecting skills ahead of LinkedIn skill development.

Why Most Reps Fail on LinkedIn
“There is a disconnect between what the social media ninjas say you should be doing and the real world … where thousands of poor souls are trying to start meaningful conversations with prospects.”

These words come from sales coach, Bruce Johnston, who coaches sales reps on using LinkedIn — with a twist.

“The gurus show lots of slides on all the features of a Swiss army knife,” says Johnston. “Look you can do this! And this! And that!”

Whereas Johnston asks, “What do you need to do? Cool, there’s a widget on the knife for that.” Then he trains on how to use that one widget they need.

This is how a sales person approaches LinkedIn.

What Makes a Good Sales Trainer for LinkedIn
When choosing a LinkedIn trainer, be sure to hire a sales expert. In other words, your trainer or coach should teach less about how to use LinkedIn — more about how to increase sales by integrating it into your sales process.

“The key word is ‘integrating’,” says Johnston.

“Not throwing away your current approach in the name of social selling, but taking what LinkedIn has to offer and applying it creatively and effectively to suit your needs.”

The most important characteristic in a trainer is if he/she critically evaluates LinkedIn.

In other words, LinkedIn may or may not compliment your sales process. Your trainer should be able to weigh the pros and cons of LinkedIn — as it relates to what your team needs to get done, how and when.

Any Fool Can Be a LinkedIn Expert
There I said it. Anyone can spend a week or two, learn LinkedIn and call themselves an expert. Anyone. Does that qualify someone to train your sales team — at any cost? Nope.

No matter what stage you’re at with social selling, make sure your LinkedIn trainer asks you questions like:

  • What is your current sales prospecting process?
  • How proficient are your sellers/distributors at earning attention and response from prospects?
  • How are you currently researching, qualifying and approaching prospects online?

An effective LinkedIn sales trainer coaches less on LinkedIn the platform — more on ways to improve your process with it. For example, your coach should help you decide if investing in LinkedIn Navigator or InMail is worth it.

Then they should critically evaluate if LinkedIn fits in and how.

LinkedIn can be used to assist with different sales goals, says Johnston.

“Finding prospects, generating sales leads, or contacting possible clients. Each of these demands different uses of LinkedIn, rendering some aspects of LinkedIn critical and others unnecessary.”

Taking the Risk Out of Training
Training your team on effective use of LinkedIn is a risk. Because if your training — or LinkedIn itself — distracts them from being productive, you’re sunk. If sellers enter into using LinkedIn reluctantly, it will be a time-waster for them.

Yes, you do need to have the digital selling skills needed to thrive. But sales skills are not LinkedIn skills.

Here’s a quick checklist. Social selling training or LinkedIn training should:

  1. focus less on improving LinkedIn familiarity skills
  2. focus more on faster ways to find, qualify, get-in-front-of and close prospects
  3. help sellers develop, refine and habit-ualize a better communications approach
  4. pay for itself and be held accountable over six to eight months time

Bottom line: Don’t hire a LinkedIn trainer. Hire a sales prospecting coach who knows if and when to apply LinkedIn. Focus like crazy on improving how you/your team prospects, less on LinkedIn skill development.

Anyone can learn LinkedIn. But only exceptional communicators can create leads with it.

As Bruce Johnston said to me recently, your team’s success will not come from posting more content, connecting with people who comment and sending those connections endless valuable content.

Success will come if you invest in:

  • a proven communications approach
  • training that creates early success when applying it (no matter how small)
  • an appropriate technique (complimenting their process)
  • a repeatable way to improve results without disrupting their day

Of course, make sure your investment gives sellers the process-focused coaching needed to:

  1. Spark buyers’ curiosity based on a pain, fear or goal.
  2. Provoke buyers to act (become a lead).
  3. Connect the discussion to what you sell.

Be careful! Don’t hire a sales trainer. Hire a sales prospecting coach who knows if (and when) to apply LinkedIn.

Good luck! Let me know your experiences in comments below?