What once started as a professional networking site, LinkedIn has quickly evolved into a more robust tool used for a variety of purposes including networking, job searching, sourcing and consumer marketing.
Savvy sales people have also realized LinkedIn can be used for lead generation and relationship management, making prospecting faster and more efficient. Here is my Sales person’s guide to leveraging LinkedIn to generate sales.
Step 1: Making the best impression
Your prospect is most likely looking you up on LinkedIn to better understand who they are dealing with. What impression do you want your profile to convey about you and the company you work for? Secondly, your profile can act as a great ice breaker to get your foot in the door. The more you add, the higher the probability your prospects see something they have in common with you.
Here are the eight must haves for your LinkedIn profile:
- A professional photo. I cannot stress this enough. Photographs help create an emotional connection. Many people have a better time recognizing someone based on their picture then just a name without a picture. Choose one that best represents your professional persona.
- Summary– Your LinkedIn profile is about you. The summary section provides a great way to showcase your entire professional persona. The best practice is two paragraphs at the most that best describe you and summarizes you overall professional experience. What makes you stand out against your peers?
- Update your current work experience. The best practice is about 5-10 bullet points that accurately reflect the work you do. If you are a sales person, what products do you sell, what’s your territory?
- Add company links under your work experience: Promote your company by adding the company website, You Tube channel, Facebook page or product videos. As people check you out, they also get to learn more about your company and its products.
- Education– Your university/college. No need to put dates.
- Solicit a few recommendations –People put a lot of credibility into recommendations, especially from existing happy customers.
- Interests– You would be surprised what an ice breaker this could be. Things like, traveling, biking, playing tennis, etc.
- Cross Promote: If you have a Twitter feed, add it to your LinkedIn account. When you add status updates you can tweet at the same time.
Need help creating a profile? Click here
Step 2: Build Your Network
What does your current network look like? Are they mostly family and personal friends? If so, it’s time to invest in building out your professional network to include colleagues, customers, propsects, industry associates, etc. Connections breed connections. As you build your network your network reach (up to three degrees) will also increase, giving you a broader pool of people to reach out too.
Here are six ways to build your network:
Tip # 1- Seize the moment!
Whenever you meet someone always follow up within 24-48 hours with a LinkedIn network request while it’s top of mind. Always include some context in your invite such as where you met them.
Tip# 2- Use Your Network to Identify and Target Prospects
Recruiters use LinkedIn to target potential recruits and get a better picture of their experience and skills. Sales people should be using LinkedIn to seek out key contacts, influencers and decision makers within organizations. LinkedIn profiles can provide a plethora of information such as office location, projects, groups followed, recommendations, etc. With a little investigation you can quickly zero in on who you should be talking to, who they’re connected to and how you’re connected to each other. Don’t forget to check out who’s viewed their profile to get some insight into who’s viewing them.
Tip #3- Use Advanced Search To Find New Prospects
LinkedIn has a fabulous, free, search component. With advanced search you can search for people by title, company, location or keyword. What’s even better is you can save your search criteria and set up a regular alert notifying you when anyone new matches your search. For example, you could save a search for a “Benefits Manager” within 50 miles of Tampa. Then you can get an email with anyone new who matches that search and deserves a closer look. New prospects to contact. Once you start using this you will wonder how you ever lived without it!
Tip #4- Get Introduced to Expand Your Network Connections
LinkedIn allows you to see up to three degrees of separation between your direct connections and your network. That means you can see how you are connected to people you may want to reach out to. In the example above, I can see that I am a third degree connection to Mary T. If I wanted to connect with her, the best practice would be to see who we have in common and ask that person to help make the introduction. People are much more likely to read and accept an email from someone they know then someone they don’t. If you send an empty connection request chances are your connection/email maybe ignored.
- Click on the person you want to connect too
- Beside the “Send InMail” drop down arrow select “Get Introduced” option
- LinkedIn will show you your common connections
- Select the person that you would like to approach for the introduction
- Craft your introduction message to the person making the introduction
Tip#5- Use Groups to Connect on a Large Scale
In my opinion one of the most under-utilized features of LinkedIn are groups. Think about it. A group of like-minded people, who share information, solicit advice, participate in discussions and ask for recommendations. This is where you want to be. Discussions can provide some insight as to where some companies need help or hot topics. Questions are often posted to group members asking for referrals or experts they can connect with. Group members can also see contact details of fellow members providing an opportunity to reach out. If you are not a member of at least 5 groups you are missing out on potential prospects!
Tip # 6- Follow Companies
As a Salesperson, you want to be informed about what’s happening at companies you may be targeting. Are there changes in the structure? Acquisitions? New markets? This information can be powerful and present a good reason to get in touch. The “follow” company feature on LinkedIn allows you to receive updates into your news feed. Don’t forget to follow your own company!
Step 3: Your Daily Checklist
Okay, now that you’ve updated your profile and put some key processes in place to help you build your network and identify new prospects. Don’t stop there. Each day you should spend at least 30 minutes taking a look at LinkedIn to see what’s been happening with your network and potential prospects.
- Review your news feed– What have your connections been up to? As your networks update their information it will show up in your news feed
- Check your groups’ digests – look for new members and for opportunities to participate. Join the conversation so people get to know you
- Look at who’s visited your profile and check them out to assess
- Calling a Client or Prospect? Take a look at their LinkedIn profile to find out if there any changes or updates? Knowing recent information helps break the ice and makes you look more informed. Pay attention to their profile changes and activity.
So, three easy steps to use social media to align with your sales plan. What other tips would you recommend?
by Ann Barrett, Director eRecruitment & Social Media Strategy