Social-media giant LinkedIn has launched a data-driven sales tool for use by financial services professionals, but whether advisers will want to pay for the service remains an open question.
Called Sales Navigator, the social-selling tool uses LinkedIn's enormous database of professional contacts to give salespeople access to lead and account recommendations, articles and blogs written by network contacts, notifications about job changes and common connections, and advanced lead searches via LinkedIn features including TeamLink, InMails and Who's Viewed Your Profile.
The cost is $80 per month, or $65 per month for an annual subscription.
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Sales Navigator also allows for customer relationship management integration with CRM systems Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Although the new tool isn't integrated with CRMs that are more popular with advisers, such as Redtail and Junxure, LinkedIn is looking into additional CRM partnerships, according to company officials. For now, they said, Sales Navigator users who don't use Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics can manually enter their contacts.
The results of social selling are impressive, with salespeople using social media 51% more likely to beat their quota than traditional sellers, according to LinkedIn global head of sales Mike Derezin in a blog post.
“We are now in an era of social selling where the art of appealing to the savvy buyer takes place online long before the deal is closed,” Mr. Derezin wrote. “It has the power to reduce cold calls, and turn them into warm introductions.”
But Crystal Thies, a former financial adviser, LinkedIn trainer and co-author of “The Social Media Handbook for Financial Advisers” (Bloomberg Press, 2012), questioned whether the new tool will bring much value to individual advisers.
Having taken a look at Sales Navigator, she said the tool looked more likely to help business-to-business sales than business-to-consumer sales, which account for the bulk of contacts advisers are looking to make on LinkedIn.
“I'm not sold on Sales Navigator yet for the business-to-consumer salesperson, which is most financial advisers,” Ms. Thies said. “It's not a cheap tool by any means, and it's easier to build a company profile than a prospective individual client profile.”
She said she already teaches advisers about the advantages of using the traditional version of LinkedIn to prospect for clients. For example, Ms. Thies noted, she can use either the free or premium version to perform an advanced search of people and then save it for future reference.
“If I want to find all the vice presidents at Procter & Gamble within 25 miles of me in Cincinnati, I can run that search, find all of those people, and save the search. LinkedIn will send me a weekly notification of the updated search results within that saved advanced search,” Ms. Thies said.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn is moving forward with Sales Navigator and actively seeking the participation of sales professionals in the financial services industry. As a sign of that activity, compliance and archiving firms are signing on.
For instance, Hearsay Social Inc. has agreed to bring its compliance and content publishing support to the new product so that broker-dealers and their sales representatives can get on board with Sales Navigator, said Ron Piovesan, Hearsay Social's vice president of alliances.
“It's a key part of any adviser's social selling arsenal. It helps advisers reach out to clients and learn more about them for when they're ready to go out and make that call,” Mr. Piovesan said.
Hearsay Social in April announced that it joined the LinkedIn Certified Compliance Partners program to help remove barriers to social media adoption by advisers. Also joining in the partners program were compliance and archiving firms Actiance Inc., Erado Message Control Solutions, Global Relay Communications Inc., Smarsh Inc. and Socialware.com.
Sachin Rekhi, head of product for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, said in an email that LinkedIn is engaged with all of these partners to support the new Sales Navigator and plans to integrate many of them in the near future.