Source: Inc.Want a new way to measure every business's most important challenge? Without customers and sales you don't have a business. That's why every business needs to quantify its sales activities. Yet accurately measuring the impact of different sales strategies and techniques is often easier said than done. So here's a new approach based on social selling. If you're unfamiliar, social selling is the process of building stronger relationships with potential customers based on understanding their needs and problems (in short, actually knowing the people you hope to do business with.) I talked with Nick VanWagner, the Director of Sales Insights at LinkedIn, about how you can use social selling to measure the effectiveness of your sales team. (If you use Sales Navigator, LinkedIn just integrated their Social Selling Index to make it easier to track your results.) Here's Nick: Back when the stars of any sales team were the people who made the most calls, measurement of sales metrics was all about quantity. Cold calls made and meetings scheduled were the measures of success. Sales has grown up since the days of nonstop cold calling, and today, social selling--in which sales people use social channels to build networks and knowledge of prospects--is the place where deals get their start. That means measurement takes on an entirely different look and feel. Certainly, revenue and deals are still tracked, and are valid metrics of success--but cold calls and emails no longer signify sales teams are efficiently using their time to nurture prospects. Sales, which was always driven by relationships and connections, now has a new way to strengthen these bonds: social selling. Measure your sales team's ability to build quality relationships by tracking these skills and activities: 1. Establishing your professional brand. Do your salespeople take pains to build out their social profiles, and add rich media to engage viewers and teach them about products and services? Are they contributing blog posts that set them up as thought leaders--and that are gaining page views and followers? Salespeople's willingness to tell a story about their value to customers is an important indicator of their ability to work with prospects and customers. Salespeople should also spend time thinking about what their brand represents--asking themselves questions like, "What am I most passionate about? What do I have to offer that no one else does?" 2. Finding the right people. Do salespeople take a strategic approach to identifying decision makers? Do they make use of social channel search and list-building tools to find the right targets and then reach out to them? Salespeople who make efficient use of their social networks will seek out connections to people who are already connected with their own network (then they can request warm introductions). 3. Engaging with insights. Part of this skill is being a thought leader, and authoring content that shows customers your salespeople know how to address their pain points. When you become known as a problem solver, you strengthen personal connections. Take the time to identify a pain point and provide information to help solve it. The other part of engaging with insights refers to how salespeople use the information they glean from social selling relationships. For example, at LinkedIn, our Social Selling Index (SSI) measures sales people's response rates for InMails, the private messages that one LinkedIn member can send to another member. If salespeople are crafting InMails so they encourage thoughtful discussion with prospects--as opposed to just doing the hard sell--the open rates for their InMails should be higher. 4. Connecting to people that matter. Social selling is about quality connections, not quantity. Are sales people getting as many notches as possible on their social selling belts because they want the numbers? Or are they only adding people to their networks who they can engage with to help solve business challenges, and eventually close a deal? Our Social Selling Index measures this skill by tracking accepted connection requests versus total connection requests sent by a salesperson. A low number of accepted requests may mean the salesperson is not convincing the invitee that the relationship would be beneficial to both of them. Another way to gauge the value of connection and networks is to measure how many valuable connections sales professionals have at each key account. Multiple entry points into important accounts is critical when you're trying to nurture a prospect. You can track this metric by looking at social connections, but also by examining contacts within your CRM solution. Social selling has upended many of the old rules of sales, and in a changed world, measuring sales effectiveness requires a new perspective. Measuring social selling may require a new approach, but it's critical for future success.