Using LinkedIn for Sales: My UI suggestions to LinkedIn

Last night, I tweeted:

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And received this response:

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I consider myself a LinkedIn power user. I’m a Premium subscriber and keep LinkedIn open in my browser as part of my work flow  - identifying customer development and sales prospects, researching people on a call invite I’ve never met, and connecting with new and old contacts to continually build my network. Spending this much time in any application reveals warts, and LinkedIn is a pretty hairy toad.

So okay, LinkedIn. Here are a few – not all – of the problems I have with your UI:

1. Why do you shut off third party API access? I mean, I know why you do it. And it’s stupid. I received this email from RelateIQ, my CRM, yesterday:

As a result of changes LinkedIn made to its API policies, however, we can no longer authenticate directly with your LinkedIn account. Going forward, this means LinkedIn contact profiles will be one click away from the platform through URLs. No action is needed from you—we just wanted to give you a heads up about the change.

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I just googled “linkedin api shut down.”

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Silly. Just silly. You know that job change notification service you shut down? That’s how I got my current position at Blend Labs. I received one of these notices for our CEO when he updated his profile on starting the company. I thought – “Oh hey – I’ve haven’t talked to Nima in a while. I should ping him.” And I did. Three months later I was consulting for the company and now I’m the VP of Sales and Marketing. Pretty cool. Because of one simple, silly little email notification that you shut off. Thanks for that.

2. Why can I click the direct user page URL from a profile, especially if I’m connected to that person? I used the search box to find a contact and then clicked on the search result. See below. From this view, the URL is gobbly-gook. All I wanted to do is grab my contact’s personal LinkedIn URL to include in an email. Now I have click the “Contact Info” tab to find the contact’s personal URL. Ridiculous.

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3. Why can’t “Reminders” be added to my top navigation bar? I started using the “Reminder” feature in the “Relationship” tab. The only place I’m reminding is buried at the bottom of my daily email feed from LinkedIn which I don’t get to everyday or simply forget to check:

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4. If I am a successful InMailer, why can’t I get props for that? My InMail ratings are 5-star. I’ve sent out more than 50 InMails, and received responses for about 50%, with 100% of those responses giving me a 5-star rating. No joke. 100%. For the rest, a response wasn’t received and the InMails were returned to me.

If I’m that good on InMailing, why not give me credit? Think of it like NFL challenge flags. When coaches challenge two calls successfully, they get another challenge. If the goal of LinkedIn is to build networks, why not reward excellent networkers like me with more InMails.

Getting three (3) InMails per month is kind of crappy, with the next step to 10 Inmails or pay $10 per InMail. In most cases, I think $10 for a successful InMail is a really good deal all things considered. It just feels like you’re nickeling and diming me, or just pushing me up to the next subscription level.

5. Why is your Inbox pull-down UI so bad? 

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When I hover over my mailbox icon, a pull-down menu shows my messages. The UI is so sensitive that clicking over the person’s name sends me to the person’s profile. To read the message, I have to remember to click on the gray space to the right of the message listing, which also happens to be to the right of the “Delete” button. The UI doesn’t discern for me what action I will be taking based on where I place my pointer. This is just bad usability.

6. Why can’t I tag, sort, or archive LinkedIn emails categorically?

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I’m doing some heavy outreach this week, setting up meetings at conference next week. As I’m pinging and emailing with people, my LinkedIn email inbox fills quickly and I can’t sort, tag, or otherwise categorize my emails. Instead I have to use  ”Search Inbox” to find emails. I’d like to tag emails and correspondence into buckets – i.e. by conference, by client type, by outreach method and source, etc. I can’t do that.

7. Why do you have two search boxes within the Inbox page? Do you know how many times I’m trying to search for a person by name in this top navigation bar only to get search results from my Inbox? So. Freaking. Frustrating.

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8. Why can’t I search more naturally? For example, I searched “duke university fuqua 2002″ and the results were not ordered or relevant except for the very first result who was a classmate and a first-level connection. I have 10+ first-level connections from my MBA cohort in my Contacts. Why is only one shown and the rest of the search results garbage?

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9. Why does the page reset after viewing a profile on “People You May Know?” If I take a few minutes to scroll through your suggestions and then click on a profile, when I go back to the “People You May Know” page, I have to start all over at the top of the page. I may have been scrolling down for several minutes before clicking on an individual profile. Blech.

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So there are nine ideas for you. That’s all I’ve got time to do. Time to get to work. And spend a couple of hours in LinkedIn.

The 7 x 1 Framework for Customer Success

paranoid“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

I’m a paranoid. I did a talk Monday night in San Francisco. When I got home, my wife asked me – “How was it?” I answered – “Why? What did you hear? Did someone say something bad on Twitter?”

I try to channel this paranoia into thinking like a buyer:

  • How do my customer feel during the sales process?
  • Are they happy after their decision to purchase a product from me?
  • What can I do to overwhelm the customer with love and attention?

This is why I developed the 7 x 1 Framework for Customer Success. It’s easy to execute with your customer to structure a clear, transparent plan that identifies unexpected outcomes during implementation, or negative feelings that your new customer may have about their purchase. That’s also why I include Implementation Planning as part of The Sales Model Canvas.

7 x 1 means that for each “first” time period following the conclusion of a sale, you have a specific action that you are taking for the client or with the client. For example, say you’ve been working on an enterprise software sale for nine months, and finally you get the call we all look for from your project sponsor – “Okay, we’re good here. I got the final budget approval and our SVP of Operations is signing the contract today. Let’s get started.”

Woohoo! With 7 x 1, your objective is to execute specific actions for:

  1. The first minute.
  2. The first hour.
  3. The first day.
  4. The first week.
  5. The first month.
  6. The first quarter.
  7. The first year.

Let’s look at how to use 7 x 1 in this example:

The first minute

  • Call the SVP’s admin to introduce yourself (if you don’t know him already)
  • Verify the contract is signed and how to get a copy to you.

The first hour

  • Notify your Customer Success team.
  • Contact the customer’s IT and implementation team by phone and email to set up a conference call to verify the key deliverables and work schedule over the next week.
  • This might be setting up data file transfers, opening up firewalls, and contacting Amazon web services to requisition more servers.

rabbit clockThe first day

  • Set up login accounts for individual users of your software
  • Send an email summary to your project sponsor and key executives of the actions taken today.
  • Book travel to the client site to accomplish critical deliverables with their IT and engineering team
  • Verify key performance indicators (KPIs) that your client and you established during the sales process and begin tracking.
  • Send written thank you notes to all of the key contributors on the sale

The first week

  • Send daily email summaries of actions taken
  • Do a first pass of the KPIs. The data might be sparse – that’s okay. The goal is to identify anything anomalous or interesting. Are there any quick wins by the individual users? Maybe a more technical user jumped in and is already using successfully for their daily workflow.
  • Review software usage by individual users to see which users are logging in and which aren’t.
  • Identify training timelines for user teams.
  • Review customer service tickets and logs, if any.

time machineThe first month

  • Review weekly updates and KPIs
  • Identify any users that missed training or are using the software less than expected.
  • Write up case studies of individual user wins.
  • Schedule next onsite meeting for end of the quarter to review if the KPIs are tracking, and whether the KPIs established are the right ones based on 2-3 months of actual implementation.
  • Identify three areas of strength and three weaknesses in the software implementation process. Develop work plan to address weaknesses.

The first quarter

  • Review customer service logs for feature requests and prioritize.
  • Provide insights to the customer about their usage – what’s working? What have they learned and accomplished that would not have been?
  • Ask for permission to use customer as a reference for future sales opportunities.
  • Identify partnership opportunities such as coauthoring a white paper or submitting a presentation at an industry conference.
  • Explore opportunities to expand the relationship through other divisions or business units.
  • Discuss business objectives for the rest of this year, and look ahead to prospective business cases in next fiscal/calendar year. Identify opportunities to grow the relationship in alignment with these client objectives.

stonehengeThe first year

  • Begin implementation with at least one additional business unit.
  • Review contractual terms and budget allocation to assure continuation of contract.
  • Review KPIs established before and after implementing your software.
  • Have KPIs been met or exceeded? Are there any ignored KPIs collecting dust?

That’s it. The 7 x 1 Framework for Customer Success. Give it a try.

Two examples of how meeting planning paid off

I’m traveling this week visiting a very major client and initiating the sales process with future clients (a.k.a. “prospects”). The act of simple meeting preparation helped me enormously. Twice.

Situation #1: Meeting on Wednesday with a potentially large client after several phone calls with an executive and his team.

What I did: In looking at the meeting invite and email correspondence, I noticed I didn’t have an address handy, so I went to the company website to map out their location. I noticed they happened to have three offices in the DC area, but I had been to their main office and was pretty sure that’s where we would be meeting. Then something in my head said – “You know what? You should confirm this anyway with Mr. Executive’s Assistant…”

So I shot her a quick email to confirm the meeting date and time, and pasted the address from the company website into the message:

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Her reply:

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Well… that would have sucked if I went to the wrong address with our company CEO…

Situation #2: A day and a half of meetings with a very big client.

What happened: The business manager we’re working with is super happy so far, and is helping with introductions to other executives across the company. He sent a list ahead of time of the four people we’d have meetings with during the visit. I took a few minutes to find their LinkedIn profiles and search them on their company website.

For one of the executives, I found a blog post he coauthored two years ago with another executive that was not on our meeting list. Once we got settled in a conference room, we reviewed the meetings and agenda for the next two days with our champion. I asked him about the person that I saw as a coauthor. “Hmmm…. you know, we should probably try to see her too.” Then three times during the day, our champion mentioned her name.

Coincidence? Maybe. Though probably not. A few minutes of research led to introduction to another executive in the company.