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Friday, April 27, 2012

LinkedIn: Selling You Out? by Victoria Barret

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...LinkedIn feels like a more pristine social network than most. It dubs itself “the world’s largest professional network on the Internet” with 150 million members as of February — and 27 million of those being “decision makers”. We post family photos and cat videos on Facebook. We await a call from a recruiter and share industry articles on LinkedIn.

Signing up is a perfect win-win. We get to post our resumes online free, and LinkedIn does the heavy lifting of making it searchable for recruiters. Those recruiters will pay up for faster, better ways to find talent.

But now LinkedIn is using our profiles for more than just job searches. With less than usual public fanfare (no press release) LinkedIn a few months ago started rolling out tools aimed at salespeople.

This makes perfect sense. A salesperson’s edge is information, and what better place to learn about prospects than a network of user-generated biographies? LinkedIn calls this “social selling” wherein a “cold call” becomes a “smart call”.

At a LinkedIn Sales Solutions March gathering in Chicago (the first of its kind, which you can watch here), Enterprise Account Executive Ryan Gainor summed it up: “LinkedIn is not primarily your online resume… If you are a salesperson, you have to think of LinkedIn as a super charged sales tool that can radically transform your business. That’s really key.”

Gainor is referring to “Sales Navigator”, a premium service from LinkedIn that aims to blend the power of its network (your resume) with Salesforce.com-like tools and actual integration.

What’s new here? For starters, a salesperson you don’t know can more easily search for and see your full LinkedIn profile (professional background, where you fit into your organization, and interests — should you chose to make that public). This tool is called Lead Builder. It allows a salesperson to search their “territory”, for example creating filters for geography, function, role, and seniority. Then that salesperson can check if anyone inside his or her company has a first-degree connection to you. This is the Team Builder product. Currently you have to know someone to see if they have a connection to someone you’d like to know. Sales Navigator also comes with bundles of LinkedIn’s “InMail”.

This new service costs $39.95 or $74.95 per month, depending on how many features someone selects.

LinkedIn’s members might feel differently about the network if they start getting “smart calls” from eager salespeople. Being on the network might become a nuisance if it results in a deluge of sales pitches. There are some online rumblings already and the verdict is mixed. One commenter on the OfficiallyScrewed.com blog responded to a concerned LinkedIn user who had taken note: “I had no expectation of privacy when I joined LinkedIn.”

Someone from LinkedIn might point out that this service makes sales calls better and not necessarily more frequent. It also is inevitable. Our lives are online. Anyone targeting us would be foolish not to take notice. Julie Inouye, who leads product press relations for LinkedIn put it this way: “You’re putting yourself out there on LinkedIn to be reached for all sorts of opportunities.”
Victoria BarretVictoria Barret

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