A Sales Person’s Guide To LinkedIn

Top tips for leveraging LinkedIn to generate sales
By: Craig James

A guest post by Craig James,  a leader in the use of social networks in generating sales.

By now, most of us have dabbled in one or more forms of social media, with varying degrees of gusto, and different degrees of success. In fact, many of us aren’t sure what “success” means; we’re still unsure of the merits of social media, or how to take full advantage of what’s available. Frankly, it can be overwhelming.

However, it can’t be denied that social media—Linkedin in particular—can help you generate more revenue. LinkedIn, unlike sites such as Facebook and MySpace, tends to attract people who want to develop business relationships, as opposed to friendships. But while many of us are familiar with the basic features of LinkedIn, we don’t always know how to best leverage them to drive sales. And because LinkedIn and its members rightfully frown upon solicitations for business (pitches), many have discounted its value as a useful sales tool. In fact, LinkedIn provides a multitude of ways for you to both develop and nurture relationships, which can lead directly to sales opportunities, and allows you to position yourself as a thought leader and a valuable resource who prospects will come to, without your having to “sell” them.

Get and give recommendations
What impression do you suppose a prospect will have after reading glowing endorsements about you from former coworkers, bosses, and, especially, clients? While they may suspect those clients likely did not volunteer to write those recommendations, they also know that clients would not agree to do so if they did not feel comfortable legitimately endorsing you. What’s the most tactful way to get a recommendation? Write one for someone else. Doing so accomplishes three things: one, it clearly flatters the person you write it for; two, it helps him or her look better to people viewing his or her profile; and three, it creates a desire to reciprocate.

Conduct Polls
People like giving their opinion about issues that are relevant or important to them. Every so often (once a quarter or so) use LinkedIn’s polling feature to take a poll. Your name appears (once again), reminding your connections you’re out there, and in so doing, keeping you top of mind. While having participated in a poll is not in and of itself likely to get someone in your network to buy what you’re selling, when combined with all your other LinkedIn activities, it will increase the likelihood you’ll be contacted when a need does arise for what you sell.

Read news
Each group has a news section that contains news articles other members post, and increasingly, blog entries. You never know what interesting tidbit you might come across that the difficult-to-reach prospect would appreciate receiving (and reward you for sending with a return call).

Contribute to discussions
Adding your experienced-based comments to existing discussions in the groups to which your clients and prospects belong is an unobtrusive, but powerful, way to demonstrate your thought leadership and your willingness and ability to provide value.

For example, I contributed to a discussion in one of the Mergers and Acquisitions groups. The very next day, I received an email from a boutique M&A firm on Long Island saying they “would like to learn more about [my] firm and services as they may be beneficial to [his] prospects and client base.”

Post documents, presentations, share what you’re reading
While you may not sell people on LinkedIn, your marketing material may. Use LinkedIn Applications such as SlideShare Presentations, Google Presentations, Box. net Files, and Reading List to passively communicate about your company and yourself. I’ve used this to post my standard sales presentation, which promotes what I offer, and a couple of books I’ve read and recommend. This helps others get to know me better as a person, effectively building my personal brand. Others use it to establish thought leadership by posting white papers their firms have authored.

In addition to these ideas, there are a few I’d like to share courtesy of a fellow business owner. David Leaver of Opus Partners recommends that his clients identify some trigger events—events that, when they occur, will create a need for a product one sells—among the weekly updates mentioned above. For Leaver, who provides sales training services, one trigger is when a VP of Sales changes jobs, since often times, he or she will want to bring in a sales consultant to evaluate the staff being inherited.

Better Targeting
Premium LinkedIn users have a host of additional benefits that are beyond the scope of this article. One that I’ve found extremely valuable is the ability to search for contacts using premium-only demographic criteria, such as company size, function, and seniority level. This provides me with a reduced, and more targeted, list of prospects, enabling me to zero in on the exact person or persons I want to reach, in the size of organization I want. I can then send a custom, targeted message to those prospects via InMail, or, if I don’t have a premium account, via a connection.

As we have seen, there are a plethora of easy-to-use tools available to you on LinkedIn that can help you improve your sales results. Start by picking one or two, and use them for about a week, until they become second nature. (Nigel Edelshain of Sales 2.0 disciplines himself to devote 15 to 30 minutes each and every day.) Then, gradually start using the rest of the features presented here, until you find yourself becoming a bona fide LinkedIn maestro.

Resources

Author Information:

Craig James is the founder of Sales Solutions, a sales productivity improvement business located in suburban Boston. He can be reached toll-free at 877-862-8631, or by e-mail at [email protected]

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