23 min read

LinkedIn | Stop the Sales Noise with Susan Tatum

More salespeople than ever have turned to LinkedIn to network and connect with prospects, and aided by automation, the volume of outreach has gone up exponentially. How do salespeople cut through the noise and make real connections with prospects?



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In this episode, Susan and I discuss key ways salespeople can leverage LinkedIn, and how marketing can help. 

Key takeaways:

  • Marketing focuses on one-to-many communications while sales focuses on one-to-one; the approach to LinkedIn should follow this same principle
  • When it comes to LinkedIn prospecting, you'll produce better results with quality, not quantity, thus having tightly defined target personas are a key start
  • Salespeople need to start conversations focused on the buyer's challenges, not the the company's solution; leverage marketing-produced content speaking to these challenges 
  • People go to LinkedIn to connect with people, not brands; pick the most influential people in your company and focus on crafting their presence with a point-of-view, not auto-posts of blogs, etc.
  • There are three different sales/prospect conversations that follow the stages of trust building; you have to earn the right to talk about yourself (don't start there!)

Did you enjoy this episode? Watch more episodes from our LinkedIn Miniseries!






The following transcript was created by an AI Bot which has yet to learn slang words and decipher Wendy's Texas accent. While it is no substitute for watching/listening to the episode, transcripts are handy for a quick scan. Enjoy!

I don't know about you, but I've been getting more and more and more sales solicitations on LinkedIn. It's pretty annoying. It's not effective. So the question is, what is effective? How do salespeople cut through the noise and make real connections with prospects? And how can marketing help? That's the focus of today's episode. Let's do this.


Welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. Your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.


Hi and welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend, challenge, or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories, and I hope they leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, TREW Marketing. TREW is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical companies.


For more information, visit trewmarketing.com. And now on with our podcast.


Hey, everyone.


I'm here with Susan Tatum. She's the managing partner and pipeline specialist at the Conversion Company. She also hosts her own podcast called Stop the Noise and, fun fact, she is a Georgia bulldog turned California resident who was still a dog. Still a dog. She's a dog. Welcome, Susan.


Thank you, Wendy. It's great to be here.


Well, when you and I first met, we it was in the midst of the college football rankings that we had so much fun talking about football. So I had to get that little bulldog thing in there that next year.


This ah, this area coming back around. Yeah, we'll see. We'll see. Well, today we're going to be talking about how salespeople utilize LinkedIn for prospecting and how marketing can help and maybe how marketing in some cases doesn't help. I don't know. I'll be interested to ask you a few things about that.


All right. So before we dove in, how long have you focused in this area and why LinkedIn?


I have focused on LinkedIn for for eleven years now.


And, you know, that's a really good question, because I come from a marketing background, mostly technology, all all business to business.


And in 1996, which will both date me and let you know how important this was to me, I was I was hired as the head of Global Maqam for a fiber optic company, and I was hired by the vice president of sales.


So and I worked inside the sales department for a year.


They had a VP marketing that he was out on the golf course doing what they used to do, you know, but it was a real awakening for me of how little what we were doing in marketing was really helping the sales team.


And even though I had been more of a legion person than a branding person, it was just a real eye opener. And so ever since then, I have been focused on lead generation and sales and marketing, you know, getting them together on the sales page and how marketing can be more of a factor in revenue generation and and that type of thing.


To actually answer your question, though, we saw, you know, back in the the aughts, I guess we're calling them now, you know, social media was coming along and it was everybody had to have a Facebook page. And it was kind of reminds me of the days when everybody had to have a website, but they didn't know why we have to have this. We're putting it up there.


It's our brochure online. Exactly. Yeah. And I was working with some at the time, manufacturing firms, industrial manufacturing firms that would go to the the head of the company would go to some Chamber of Commerce meeting or something, you know, come back and go, oh, we've got to have a Facebook page and I'm like, No, I know, why would you need to have a Facebook page? But you could tell that the communication was changing. And and I just started watching it to figure out how to use it in and B2B. And I saw LinkedIn start changing from being primarily a job recruiting site into a real business to business network, and got together with some folks that were LinkedIn specialist and had had been focused on creating a process for generating leads.


And I put that with my knowledge of the technology industry.


And we came up with a process to start generating leads for business business companies, which back then and and there was no advertising, there was no easy way to drive people to landing pages to sign up for. Even if we were doing webinars back then, I can't remember.


Oh, yes, I can speak to at least late 90s. I was doing what you were doing webinar like like the audio wouldn't match. The video had weird, you know, but but. But it was. Yeah. OK, all right.


So the advance so well this was but this was really in 2007 ish when with the social media, with LinkedIn, I just started working with them then and we don't really know what we were doing, but we found out at that time it was fairly easy to get people to connect and to get conversations with them. And you could make a custom group and then the prospects would go in the group and then the salespeople could go in there and meet the prospects.


And, you know, the things we were doing then don't work terribly well now. But it we just became we just I became more and more interested in making a contribution in that area. And now the process that we use is channel agnostic. It doesn't have to be on LinkedIn.


It's just that LinkedIn still in a lot of industries is a good way to reach people.


It's more challenging, but it's still a good way to do it. And and to back you up on that, we do an annual research study of how engineers and technical buyers seek and consume information to make purchase decisions. And as part of that, we ask about social channels. And LinkedIn is really the only mainstream social channel that engineers will, you know, will be willing to use, you know, maybe sometimes begrudgingly compared to technical associations and things like that.


But they're definitely still there. So I think you're on to something. If it had to be a platform, LinkedIn is at the top here and it's it's that's interesting.


So there's a school of thought that I ran across that on LinkedIn.


Now, there's two groups of people. One are the people that are in the recruiting part and they're either looking for a job or looking to hire somebody. And the other group is on LinkedIn to sell something. And it was ah, it those are the two, yeah, which is so but they're so what that means is people are not necessarily going to linked into by something like you might on Facebook. Right.


But, you know, that's encouraging to hear what you're saying, that the engineers are going there to get their questions answered perhaps and still see it as being a trusted channel, you know, place for communication.


We did actually, Susan, we asked that question in our I believe it was the 20/20 research. We didn't do it in twenty. And but we said, what are you seeking when you go to this social channel? And one of the things was industry trends. And so, of course, it was it was a networking job seeking, but industry trends. So it wasn't, you know, to go speck apart or something. Exactly. Exactly.


You know, which comes back around to why are we seeing so much product oriented stuff posted there when that's not what people are looking for? And the industry trends thing? I think I mean, that that is important to to one of the points that I would make about how marketing can better help sales, but maybe we should start with how sales is using or should be using LinkedIn for any marketers that aren't with levels here.


That in kind of to preface that even I feel like in in maybe it's because my title has changed a few times in the past three years, but it seems like the past three years have gotten ridiculous when it comes to sales solicitations. And I'm guessing automation is somewhat to blame for this. But maybe tell me, what's the state of affairs thing and why is it gotten so annoying? Automation, yeah, OK, I would definitely put it the automation and bad advice, my consultants, LinkedIn consultants that don't know what they're doing and you know, they're selling a a process.


I mean, you know this. People have been around forever. They're good at selling you on doing something that they weren't good at doing that themselves. And they don't really know what works and what doesn't work.


The thing with automation and this works on the marketing side, too, I think, is that technology has made it so easy and cheap for us to. Just blast out a bunch of stuff because it doesn't cost any it does it cost you any more to send something to a thousand people or to aim at a thousand people than it does to aim at 100. And we get in our minds about I've got to have these high numbers and that when you do that, you you by definition become more generic because you can't focus.


And so we end up with a lot of crap and a lot of spam. And, you know, when I think we can thank the software companies for convincing people that sending out automatically sending out a thousand or hundreds of connection requests in your sleep is a good thing. And it's you know, it's not helping. It's not helping the buyers. It's not helping the sellers. It's not helping the marketers.


So, you know, and you nailed it, Wendy, because I would say two is about three years ago that LinkedIn started getting really noisy and and a lot of that. Yes. It's the automation. Yes, it is. Sales, sales, people discovering it as a channel. And and again, just not approaching it properly. But covid really pushed it because you had all of these people that had been face to face selling. You know, now this is our only option and they had to do it quickly.


You know, there's a lot of panic. And so when you're starting something new, you kind of take the easiest path. Yeah. And that, unfortunately, just adds a lot of noise and makes my job a whole lot more difficult. Yeah.


I wondered if if there was another covid spike. It would be interesting to see those charts.


There's a spike. I did see some link that, you know, now that LinkedIn is part of Microsoft, it gets like this much in their reporting.


So you don't get the details that you used to get. But the there has been an enormous increase in the amount of advertising on LinkedIn. And I see that in my news feed.


It's like ad after a sponsored post after sponsored post after sponsored post.


And, you know, it filtered in with maybe some of something that I really want to read. And then, yeah, people are the numbers. You know, they they they're they're sort of cagey and that they say we've got 700 million members or whatever they say they have now. Well, we know that there's only there's a lot of people that have profiles that don't know they have profiles.


They're not necessarily active people, but it is more active and it is a good place to be. It's just more challenging in breaking through all of that noise right now.


All right. Well, then I think it's time for you to lay it on us. What what works? What should people be doing?


Well, so let's let in the things I find it helpful to think of marketing as one to many and sales is one to one.


Agreed. And so in.


And that holds true on LinkedIn as well. So you're you've got your market, the marketing folks that are creating awareness, they're trying to reach a lot of people. They're not trying to have a conversation like this where as that's what your sales person ultimately wants to have.


If you're if you're selling a relationship based something if you're selling if it's transactional and you're just going to like go to a catalog on the website and order your parts, that's a different thing. But the the the I really want to stress the importance of marketing because it makes it possible for the sale, it makes it so much easier to get that sale done because of the the familiarity and the credibility that's being built there. You know, you I don't know if you've ever known a salesperson that worked for a known company and then they go to work for a startup or something.


And there, like I used to be able to get phone calls. People used to want to talk to me.


And they they need marketing, you know, to help get.


Wait a minute.


I said I was talking to a VP of sales and marketing recently, and he described how they're going it penetrating a new market. And he said our sales guys have their machetes out and they're clearing the path.


And I said, wow, wouldn't it be great if marketing was hearing that path with the machete and the salesperson's time was was better spent, you know, in more productive ways.


So that's absolutely that's absolutely true. Yeah. And it's got to be a team, you know, method.


But so what the sales people are doing is or should be doing is identifying who their ideal prospects are like who do they really want to talk to and keeping that. I advocate keeping that to imagine a manageable number. So if you spend the time up front really understanding who is going to make an ideal customer or client for you, then you don't waste your time talking to people that are never going to be good or going to waste your time. So it's a it's a much more efficient that way, even though the automation people would have you believe that automating the outreach is more efficient on the back end of that, besides the people that you inadvertently piss off because you spam them, you're also going to be talking to a lot of people that you you just don't need to be spending your time.


You're not doing each other any good at all.


So so figuring out who they want to talk to and that's a place that marketing can really contribute is who are these people really who are these people as people?


It starts with a persona, but personas are still kind of the average across. So if you're going to be talking one to many, you've got to hit the average. You're going to talk one to one. I want to know who you are.


But the pain points of the persona, all of that information is important for a salesperson to understand because it it informs the conversation that they might want to have because we know that. And this goes back to my marketing days. What is it like? Only 20 percent of people are ready to talk to a salesperson when they first touch a brand or go to your website or download something or whatever. And the same thing is true with outreach. Most people don't want to talk about the product right away, but salespeople, because we all like to talk about ourselves, tend to reach out with, hey, let's connect, we're connected.


Give me 20 minutes to show you.


You know, let me worry about our solution. Yeah. Yeah.


And unless you happen to hit somebody whose hair is on fire, that's not going to that is not going to happen. It just really doesn't work. And so what the salespeople need, even though many of them don't know that they need it, is a way to get to those folks and start a conversation that doesn't have to do with the product. It can have to do with the problems you're solving.


And that, again, is where marketing comes in and is able to create the content that is helpful in that area of talking about those problems and just hold the product stuff to later, you know, sales.


But I think every I mean, most companies have product information, right? I mean, I think that's where they start. So I think that the where where marketing can really be heroes and where salespeople can really cut through this noise is to to talk about to provide value in a different way.


So you mentioned content. So would that be in the form of a piece of content that speaks to a pain point? So not a product brochure, obviously, but something that's more, you know, informational?


It is that. And it's it's also I think so with LinkedIn in particular. It is. You know, it's the it's the personal profile. People go to LinkedIn to connect with other people more than they go to connect with brands. So the company page is important. It's great for recruiting. It's where you can put all your products, information and that sort of stuff.


But you're but the personal brands have always, and as far as I can see, will always get more engagement than the company pages do. And you look at your look at your subject matter experts, look at the people in your company that make your company different and craft their profile.


Miles, to emphasize that and then have them posting information about that, you know, here to talk about insights, that's the place the insights go is where your executives and your experts are that are they're talking about this is what I see.


And that will you know, an expert could be another engineer that is on there talking, you know, as well.


So that that's one. When I say content, I'm meaning content. Yes. In articles, also in what gets posted as a what they call status, update the post on the profiles.


And this is another place, Wendy, that automation gets in the way. And that is it's the auto posting of blog articles is so easy. And the tendency to look at LinkedIn as as just another social media thing. So we're going to do the same thing. We're going to post to Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and whatever.


It's so easy to do, Susan. Exactly. It's easy to do, but it's not effective. It just contributes to the noise. So what my recommendation for marketing people would be to pick the most influential people in your company and focus really on crafting their presence on LinkedIn to it's OK to post your blog articles, but do it with a point of view that's added there.


Why are you posting that blog article? Why should somebody read that?


And then also third party content.


So like your your study or, you know, the industry analysts or these other people, if it's all me, me, me, me, me or us, us, us, that gets really boring. And so you and a thought leader and, you know, buzzword alert, but that's you're bringing in what other people are seeing.


And I think that's the value that it sounds like your engineers are looking for nowadays and the salespeople can be using that is as well.


So one thing that you know, you know, I think that we have a very different we discovered a different way of approaching getting conversations with these ideal prospects, whether they be potential clients, partners, investors, whatever.


And I came to realize that there's three different kinds of conversations that you have with prospects. One is where the prospect talks about themselves. One is where you talk about the prospect and provide value. And the third is where you can talk about your products and services. But you have to earn the right to talk about that. That last conversation.


That conversation is where most salespeople go.


So by not going to that conversation, first, you get a better opportunity to talk to folks.


You can build trust. You can make connections. Yeah. Yeah. And it's you know, this is a perfect example here. What we found with getting that first conversation where you let the prospect talk about themselves is creating an opportunity for them to contribute their expertise in the name of helping other people. So it might be I have a podcast, be a guest. I'm writing a book. Give me some you know, you're you know, it's an ego thing, too, you know, with your experience would be perfect to have in this book research papers, building communities.


And I think it marketing could do for the sales people is create these opportunities where they could say, you know, my company is doing research on blah, blah, blah.


And it would be really helpful.


You know, if I could get like 15 minutes with you to get your input on this, then you have a conversation that's not. You know, it's not science, it's it's it's you and me helping somebody else, it's not like when she going to pitch me on something. Yeah, beautiful.


So I think that's a that's a good thing. Tell me if we're running out of time, because I can talk about this stuff forever.


No, I'm getting a lot of value out of hearing this. I'm not stopping you. You keep going.


I think that one other thing that I would caution marketers with is it's really easy to get caught up in vanity metrics when you're on any kind of social media. But LinkedIn is no different when you're if you're focused on views and comments and and likes and shares and that kind of thing, you'll you'll appreciate this. We refer to that as a pep rally.


And you're talking to who is someone who is once the mascot.


So I know a lot about pep rallies and was the tiger is it's an analogy that doesn't work outside the United States.


But, you know, but it's important. It's you know, you got the cheerleaders, you got the mascot, you got all this stuff. Everybody's getting excited and they're behind the program, but it doesn't win the game. You've got to have you got to get the players on the field ultimately. And the these vanity metrics they're in, it's so easy for marketing to use these.


I've done this before myself because it makes the whoever you're reporting to feel good. Oh, my God. We've got you know, we've gone up in this kind of stuff. But the reality is.


Views. Do you know what views mean on LinkedIn? I believe it means that you watch, you know, read or hover over something for a duration of time.


It means that the post got loaded into a news feed that you scrolled by at least. So you go to your news feed and if you go down a couple of pages, you have suddenly viewed 30 to 40 posts. But there isn't some time element.


There is at least three seconds or there is. And this is where I want to mention Andy Foote, Fotini, if anybody wants the details of how the LinkedIn algorithm and that sort of stuff works and he's really got his finger on the pulse. So go look at that.


There is a thing called it's not lag time, dwell time to. Well. Yes.


And that factors into how much LinkedIn is going to continue to show the post. So if it has a good lag time and that's why you see people doing slide presentations in their posts now, because it takes a few more seconds or whatever to look through six or nine slides.


It's you know, it's it's it's gaming and, you know, it can be fun, but it's it's not going to drive a predictable, repeatable amount of prospects to want to have conversations with your salespeople.


The value of looking at what are people commenting on and if you actually if you go when you look at that stuff and you look at who's commenting, you'll find a lot of consultants and salespeople and marketing people.


And if you find some engineers, reach out to them there.


He definitely. Oh, you you pay dirt. Yeah. Yeah. And get them in a conversation. That's a great way to start a conversation with them is, hey, you know, I saw you come in on this and and you know, that's perfect. LinkedIn doing it that way. You can also tell what topics might be of interest, if it's getting more of the views or likes or whatever. I just caution away spending too much time with that.


I would spend more time in making sure that, again, you know, just going back to your executives, your subject matter experts are posting the right things and help your sales people look good on LinkedIn, too, and they're still salespeople.


Well, to be able to ask you about that, because I'm you know, I think that you're right.


Like a marketer can only handle so many spokespeople. Right. Because as you as you said, you need to have a point of view. It's not here's this blog post. But so what? You know, so is that executive. Think about that. And it could be a technical spokesperson. It could be an executive, whatever. But then you have the rest of the sales team. And so what, you can't necessarily help manage those accounts and babysit those people.


Your modeling behavior of having a point of view, of becoming a trusted resource that I would think those salespeople could mimic in their own personal ways to work on their personal brands. I could not have said it better. OK, so it is a time investment, but it seems like marketing could educate with best practices and examples to the sales force and help them strike whatever balance makes sense and is productive for them perhaps.


Yeah. And give them frameworks to do their profiles around, you know, or maybe run a workshop and help them do it. It's, you know, it's really hard, it's hard for us to write about her.


So we like to talk about ourselves, but it's hard for us to write about ourselves sometimes.


And I think if you if you just sort of give them some guidelines on it, you know, that can be really helpful.


There's it's it's surprising how many sales people will still have profiles that say things like I crushed quota four quarters in a row.


Oh no. Yeah. Oh no. And you want to be. So salespeople I think need to think of themselves as expert problem solvers for their customers.


Advisors, technical advisor. Yeah it is, yes.


And the do the do the profile from that point of view is really extremely helpful.


And then what they're posting is they they can then repost what you've got your executives saying and your subject matter experts saying and your opportunities that hopefully you'll develop for them to get their prospects involved in creating content.


That's really what it is I like. It's great advice.


So LinkedIn, it seems like it is obviously spending more and more money on their platform as it grows, changing things. You mentioned algorithm earlier. Are there new changes or trends or features that you're watching pretty closely?


There is a new they have product pages.


If you're familiar with the old showcase pages, I don't know if there's still around on the company's go off the company pages. And this is a better round of that where you can actually create these product pages in your company page and get reviews in there and there. There are people that that know a lot more about that than I do. And what I'll do is send you maybe a link to some of them that you can put in the show, notes that they could go and check that out, because I'm not a tactical person on this.


I'm more about the strategy.


But there are the company paid the project pages.


There is a service marketplace that they're coming up with, I think, for companies that are more in the consulting area. And if that's if that's an excuse to be part of your offering, you can have that. You could be in the service there, too. But you can't put your service on a product page.


They're not allowing that. They keep saying that they're supporting groups and they haven't gotten rid of them.


But the reality is. You don't see much value in that right now, they are. We did have an instance back and it started at U.S. Thanksgiving where Arlington went through and globally did a massive restriction on accounts that they thought were using automation or that they saw evidence what they were using automation automated app, or that they were allowing other people to access and manage their accounts.


And this is one that I think has to change because marketing attention to this one.


Yeah, it's an I don't it's just not realistic for Arlington to expect an executive or, you know, directors or, you know, anybody that's got other things to worry about, to be managing their own LinkedIn account.


It's, you know, their assistants are there to help them do that kind of stuff. But yet we saw I know people that they just have their assistants using their accounts and their accounts got restricted.


And then you have to go and provide government approved ID that it's actually you and they'll open your account. But if you're using automate an automated app and I don't know if we really defined what that is, but it's a third party application. A lot of them are chrome plug ins.


It logs on to your LinkedIn account and it will send these connection invitations and then also automate a messaging sequence for you. It's spam. It's awful. I'm if you can't tell, don't anti doing this. But it's also against the user agreement. And they will. They can and they will shut your account down if you if you do that too much. So I would anybody that is using that because it sounds easy and it sounds efficient and you may be using a third party company to manage and help you with your LinkedIn program.


And they may be using it and you don't even know it. It's it's a risky thing to do. So so you want to be much more careful in how you handle it.


And if you if there if there are people that want to know more about how how we're doing that, then, you know, I'm happy to just have them contact me. And, you know, we'll tell you what's working now with that.


Well, that's a great segue into how can people do these things then?


I am on LinkedIn, Susan Tatum, and I'm at the the conversion company. So my email is Susan at the conversion company Dotcom.


And I am always happy to talk about how to reduce the noise, how to be more successful on LinkedIn, how to be a human about it and to establish some really good relationships.


So feel free to contact me and go dogs and go to my office.


And a little A&M in there, too. Yeah, there you go. Well, thank you so much, Susan. You were a wealth of information. I learned so much during this interview.


So I really do appreciate your time. Thank you. You take care. Thanks for joining me today on content marketing engineered for show neutze, including links to resources, visit true marketing dotcom slash podcast. Wow. There you can subscribe to our blog, Inari newsletter and order a copy of my book, Content Marketing Engineer. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast. So please, when you get a chance, subscribe and let me review on your favorite podcast subscription platform.


Thanks. And have a great day.