As a Social Marketing thought leader, triathlete and Head of Sales Solutions at LinkedIn.com, Ralf VonSosen is passionate about Technology enabling more meaningful and productive relationships among professionals. His experience spans from industry giants such as Siebel (now Oracle) and SAP, to a series of smaller companies including MarketLive, and most recently InsideView. He is a pioneer in the area of social selling and continues to be not only an active evangelist for Social Selling, but instrumental in creating the next generation of Social Selling solutions.
MD> Ralf, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. We would love to hear more about your thoughts on the future of Social Selling and insights regarding LinkedIn.
RVS> Having lived through the evolution of CRM, and seeing how social media is changing CRM and also how social media is effecting online collaboration, I find that there is enormous opportunity for improvement.
There are great collaboration tools (and everybody uses something different) such as WebEx, Go-To-Meeting, and Skype. My theory is that, there is enough human interaction in these kinds of collaboration software, that’s it’s time to throw all the processes out the window. People logging on and off, some use the phone, some use the computer, different screens/one screen, different channels etc. There is enormous need to unify the interactions and have a new CRM mindset.
My passion is for the technology being able to create more meaningful relationships. Now, we can have these meaningful interactions and conversations and this technology enables us to get a better picture of each other and follow the relationships. They provide a new level of trust and background with that person and that can change how we approach and do business. It adds humanity and integrity to the process.
We all move on and leave behind the people we worked with in the past, but now we can have meaningful conversations with them and grow our future contacts. Technology keeps us up-to-date and reminds us of the person and our previous interactions.
MD> So true. My first question to you: Are you a gamer? If so, which are your favorites?
RVS> (Laughs.) I’m not really a gamer, but the one thing that I do play with on an intermittent basis is the Game mechanics app FourSquare . When traveling, I can take pictures and keep track of where I am going and what I am doing. My brother-in-law updates his during his travels, too, and I try to beat other peoples’ high scores. A trip to the East Coast with my family gave me a great opportunity to beat my maximum points, and now my kids wait for me to check in on FourSquare.
MD> You are competitive! I am getting a better picture of you and have an idea of how you might answer this next question: How do you learn?
RVS> I learn through doing and interacting: very experiential. I empathize with people and kids in school who learn that way. I am starting to use sproutsocial to manage all the social feeds. I was recently on a one-hour webinar where they were presenting a demo of the product and I realized I just needed to start using it hands-on and playing around with it.
What I think is so exciting about LinkedIn is that you are trying to create a new experience within the sales process. On an individual basis, you are talking about something that people are already using and are familiar with. That’s one of the things, in trying to get user adoption, is that you get this concept of “this is intuitive and they are already using it”, rather than having someone learn the nuances of another software program or system. It certainly makes life a lot easier.
MD> As you know, we effectively use LinkedIn as our primary channel of doing sales. In fact, we were discussed in a case study in a recent edition of Harvard Business Review. Last time we chatted, you and I were discussing the drawbacks of cold-calling since we can now use social tools and learn more about our potential client and how to meet their needs. That led to a conversation about using CRM programs. Can you tell me more about the connectivity of LinkedIn and CRM programs?
RVS > We provide connectivity with Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics. You can integrate the two, right within your CRM, as you are working with a contact or opportunity with the account. You see all the information we have available on LinkedIn about that individual within the context of the CRM record. It really brings the two together and gives you a more unified view and message.
MD> PAKRA uses salesforce.com in which InsideView is a great value-added feature. All of this innovation has made for a much neater sales process.
You recently were brought in to lead the Sales Solutions’ marketing initiative for LinkedIn, what information can you share about the Sales Solutions?