Reid Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur. You may not have heard his name, but you are sure to know some of the innovations he has been part of.
In 1997 he co-founded SocialNet.com, a platform focusing on matching people of similar interests. He later became chief operating officer of PayPal. Hoffman’s legacy, however, will always be associated with LinkedIn, which he launched May 5, 2003.
LinkedIn is, indeed, 20 years old this year. From an idea drawn up on a kitchen table, LinkedIn has grown to 36 offices worldwide and more than 19,000 employees. With more than 900 million members (16.2% of which are active daily), LinkedIn is the most ubiquitous networking enabler on the planet.
But fears about “social media” often hold back bankers from participating as much as they should.
Does LinkedIn Really Make a Difference?
Forward-thinking sales professionals view LinkedIn as a door-opening machine and high-performers access this social media platform on and off daily for between 30 minutes to two hours. There are some good reasons, as these statistics from LinkedIn suggest:
- 65 million users are key decision-makers and four out of five users drive business decisions.
- 58 million firms have a LinkedIn company page filled with nuggets of data that offer strategic insight.
- 73% of buyers are more likely to consider a brand if the salesperson reaches out via LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has also proven to be a major contributor to bottom-line results, as research comparing users to their peers illustrates. According to data that HubSpot compiled:
- 78% of businesses that engage in social selling outperform those that don’t.
- Sales professionals who use social selling earn up to 50% more new business than those who don’t.
- 61% of organizations engaged in social selling report revenue growth.
The “Social Media” Label Gives Bankers Pause
Bankers are late to the party when it comes to using LinkedIn as an education and prospecting tool. Financial services sales associates engage with LinkedIn less than 20 minutes a month.
That’s because many financial institutions continue to lump LinkedIn in with social media networks like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. LinkedIn is far and away different from the rest — I view it as social collaboration. But misperceptions have prompted some financial institutions to prohibit associates from accessing LinkedIn on their office computers. The fears are varied, but, for one, “It could get hacked into, you know, and then what?”
As a board member of a community bank, I am well aware of the millions of daily attempts to compromise our systems. Risk, compliance, and operations are key partners here. When they run the show and issue inflexible edicts, however, sales will never be maximized.
In my experience, when a bank CEO and other executives are active on the platform, their people are very engaged as well. LinkedIn leadership can’t be beat.
The other side of that coin is a CEO worried that if employees are on LinkedIn, recruiters will find them and steal them away. They are “not allowed” to be on LinkedIn (never mind that they likely use it on their personal devices). Executives with that mindset have more to worry about than just LinkedIn. They have a cultural issue, and it’s likely their bankers are already looking for other employment.
Some Bankers Lack Interest, But Who Doesn’t Want More Sales?
Very few organizations have provided training on LinkedIn other than how to get on the system, how to generate a safe password and a few other basics. Beyond the technical side, blending LinkedIn into the sales process is a rarity in training and development. No training, no engagement on the platform, no results.
It’s not just a corporate issue. Individual bankers continue to lag far behind in recognizing the power of LinkedIn. Some get sufficient referrals from their massive network, which includes “centers of influence.” Others view LinkedIn as another Facebook or a job board for recruiters. Some are just set in their ways and have no interest in trying anything new.
One banker told me:
“I’m 43. I’ve been here 15 years and have all the leads I want. I know everyone in the community. I’m not spending my time getting new friends, looking at pictures and dealing with people that want to sell me something.”
I checked my driver’s license and yep, I’m 73. Because I took a global perspective (and a positive one) when I joined LinkedIn in 2006, I saw something special — a way for me to provide value to bankers, to connect with the people that I had a symbiotic relationship with, to increase my reach and to magnify my personal brand.
LinkedIn is a tool, not the entire sales process. And by the way, who doesn’t want more business?
Explore this topic:
- 5 Key Social Media Questions Answered to Help Guide Banks’ Strategy
- How Bank of America’s Social Media Chief Drives the Brand Online
- See all coverage of Social Media in Banking
Leadership Matters, So Set an Example
One more brief rant about leadership. Many managers won’t or can’t do this. Some don’t believe in LinkedIn themselves, so why would other teammates use it? Others would lead this discussion, but they don’t know anything beyond the basics themselves and don’t want to look foolish.
On the flipside, I know a banker who ends every pipeline meeting with “10 minutes of LinkedIn.” His team reviews successes and challenges, best practices, and other ideas to help the team win. This brief LinkedIn discussion is helping those bankers excel — their ratio of connection requests to connection acceptance is 80% and they get appointments with 50% of those connections.
The calendar has turned and it’s time for new commitments. Start exploring LinkedIn. (And stay tuned for future posts where I’ll share ideas that can make your experience with this social-selling partner more fulfilling.)
About the author:
Jack Hubbard is managing partner of The [IN] Banker, a training firm that helps financial services professionals master social selling from a trust-based perspective. He is also chief experience officer of Jack Hubbard Consulting and has personally coached nearly 80,000 commercial bankers. Follow him on LinkedIn (ring the bell icon at the top of the profile) or reach him via email at [email protected].