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Wait, What?

This seems like a crazy claim. How could salespeople in today’s sales environment not be on LinkedIn? I mean if half were on Twitter, that would be a good number, but not to be on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn isn’t Facebook in its reach – 400 million members versus over a billion for Facebook – but it’s extremely unusual for me to meet a business professional who isn’t on the site. For some reason even my long retired, great Uncle Joe is on LinkedIn.

(I would say that the people not on Linkedin are the same people who aren’t using a sales automation CRM yet)

Do Statistics Lie?

As I discussed in a post about the lies that are spread about salespeople , you should always check anyone pushing statistics very carefully.

Here is why I think only half of the salespeople in the US aren’t on LinkedIn:

  • Data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows that there are 14 million non-retail sales jobs in the US.
  • Data from LinkedIn advertising targeting website shows that there were 6,495,834 people who listed their primary job function as ‘sales’ on LinkedIn:

  • That leaves us with 7.5M US based salespeople who aren’t on LinkedIn, which is 53% of the total.

Who Are These Salespeople?

Of the 7.5 million salespeople who aren’t on LinkedIn, I guess some of them might have filled out their profile wrong and listed their job function as accounting or customer service or something, right? But wouldn’t you expect the same number of accountants to make the same mistake?

Let’s assume one million salepeople filled out the form wrong.

What of the other 6.5 million? Perhaps they’re just not up on all this new Internet stuff? They’re the guys still sending faxes and urging the marketing department to use direct mail campaigns. I just can’t believe that.

Maybe the government statistics are wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Somehow I trust the LinkedIn numbers more.

What do you think is going on here? Let me know in the comments.

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About the Author Adam Honig

Adam is the co-founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a natural sales leader with a mission to help salespeople make more money using artificial intelligence — or any sort of intelligence for that matter. Adam has been a founder of four companies which resulted in two triumphant IPOs and two legendary mergers. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the ‘No Jerks’ hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.

6 Comments

  • haxx0rina says:

    Have you considered the possibility that LinkedIn is simply not a useful tool in every kind of sale? (Certain B2C sales come to mind…)

    Or is this another thinly-veiled, blind endorsement of LinkedIn designed to market sales software that subscribes to LinkedIn “social” sales strategies?

    I haven’t a clue what the statistics are on how many salespeople work in B2C vs. B2B sales. But, since the split of LinkedIn subscribers vs. non-subscribers is about 50/50, and the split between B2C sales vs. B2B sales might be around 50/50 too, I’m willing to bet that B2C salespeople, whose sales do not necessitate wearing a suit, “building synergy,” or “circling back around,” account for much of the 53% who have failed to flock to LinkedIn in droves the way we B2B salespeople selling into Corporate America have.

    Don’t forget the big picture here:

    LinkedIn is useful for making connections with a target audience that is otherwise impenetrable. C-level executives are the very definition of “impenetrable” when you’re just a random salesperson from a company he’s never heard of. These people are crazy busy corporate types who fail to respond to phone calls and emails, which leaves us with little choice but to give LinkedIn a shot — maybe there we can finally figure out how to become a blip on their radar that they’ll finally notice.

    But not every salesperson’s audience is similarly impenetrable. For some salespeople, every consumer is a potential prospect. They don’t need to spend time the way I do on LinkedIn, e.g. using it to navigate a large organization’s hierarchy, find out who answers to whom, and so on. I’m looking to reach a particular type of contact, and for that the research I do on LinkedIn is invaluable. These other guys, though? Their task isn’t easier than ours because their audience is actually possible to reach, but it *is* a more straightforward task — they just have to hit the ground running and go (and sell).

  • haxx0rina says:

    Another possibility:

    Many salespeople who are well-established in their careers have a steady clientele/loyal customer base — they have all the business they need. They have no need to resort to the internet to network with prospects in — let’s face it — a highly contrived manner with a specific end result in mind (read: “I’m reaching out today because I want to solicit you”). These established, possibly B2C salespeople are moreso in their element when they are at community events meeting friends of existing customers who heard about the salesperson’s excellent services via word-of-mouth. (These things still happen, even these days…I’m not making this up, I swear!)

    I feel like this post is written from the myopic point of view of a B2B salesperson with C- and VP-level executives of large companies as their target audience. You’ve completely ignored all the types of “sales” that go on outside of office parks and the higher echelons of multi-billion dollar corporations.

    One last theory as to what accounts for the 53% — I’d suggest you try using LinkedIn outside of a major metropolitan area. The farther you are from the city’s white-collar, typical “office jobs” and headquarters of major corporations nearby, LinkedIn can become a real ghost town. I just found this out using LinkedIn in the Central Valley vs. SF. People who sell farm and industrial equipment to the agricultural businesses that dominate in the Valley are less likely to spend their time scouring the internet for networking opportunities when they could probably meet more people by attending Sunday church service in their town of 5000. (It was a marked difference between the two metro areas; actually sort of creepy, you should try it out sometime as an experiment!) LinkedIn is only as useful as its *active* members. Even if we get all the farm/industrial salespeople to sign up for an account, their prospects won’t be on the site the way my prospects in IT will be. It’s ubiquitous in my world; in theirs, it’s a waste of time.

    Just remember…

    People have been making careers selling things since LITERALLY the beginning of time. They all survived before LinkedIn — and as for the ones who choose to STILL survive without LinkedIn, “crazy” is the wrong word to use to say that a salesperson in an entirely different field than you has a different set of tools that they rely on when making a sale.

    • Adam Honig says:

      Hi haxx0rina,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and write such long comments!

      Our soon to be released product actually doesn’t integrate with LinkedIn — their API is something that developers can’t really rely on. So, there is no inherent bias in our point of view.

      I’ve worked with sales professionals in every industry, across all models, and my personal experience is that LinkedIn is just a great tool. If someone is dependent on selling their product to only the people their meeting in church in a town of 5,000 people, I’d say their missing out on a great opportunity to reach beyond their immediate audience.

      I’m passionate about sales because I believe that most salespeople are passionate about their product / service and are truly trying to help their customers. Surely the sales professional has an obligation to help as many as possible right?

      I see lots of sales guys from Caterpillar and Deere on LinkedIn. Surely their customers are on as well.

      Adam

  • Mark Birch says:

    Interesting post and I agree that for many salespeople, there is little excuse for not having LinkedIn profile. Having sold into multiple industries at this point in my career though, I can tell you that being on LinkedIn is really no help for sales reps selling into several types of environments:

    1) Tight industry networks – These are niche industries where the traditional “relationship sales rep” still holds sway. Things like aviation and marine come to mind, where the pool of customers and the pool of sales talent is fairly limited, thus creating tight networks where everyone knows each other.

    2) Blue collar industries – In manufacturing, construction, and other similar industries, a lot of the buyers are not on LinkedIn. Also, most of the sales reps are out of those industries and thus would not be on LinkedIn. I see Caterpillar and John Deere listed in your comments, but I can tell you that they are hardly active on those, and many top sales reps from those companies do not even bother.

    3) The 1% Club – There are certain industries such as upper tiers of banking and real estate where buyers and sales people are simply not playing in the public sandbox with the plebians. Do not expect them to start doing so now or in the future, they prefer to be off the grid.

    4) Not a LinkedIn Fit – Plenty of professionals find LinkedIn pointless, good examples include Programmers and Designers, who have other networks like Github and Behance to showcase their professional accomplishments. If you sell to these types of audiences, then you are better off prospecting on those sites.

    Anyway, just a few of my own thoughts based on selling into each other of these segments. Really great stuff on your blog and look forward to reading more.

    • Adam Honig says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mark. Appreciate your kind words about the blog.

      I do know successful sales guys who aren’t on LinkedIn, but it’s always a surprise. Great pointer about going where the prospects are!

  • […] If I had to guess, I would say not many college students who major in math, go into sales. Of the 6.8M sales professionals on LinkedIn within the US, only 0.04% own up to studying math. (I can’t really comment on the salespeople not on LinkedIn.) […]

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