When it comes to social selling tools, business-focused networking site LinkedIn is top of the list for B2B salesexecutives the world over. And the figures say it all. The site’s reach now extends to some 200 countries and territories, with 450 million users worldwide – 128 million of which are based in the US.
But why is it so popular? The power of networking has long been known and exploited by sales teams and thanks to advances in technology, it is now a tactic that can also be used very effectively online.
But far more than simply being an online platform, LinkedIn has become neatly woven within the very fabric of the sales process, offering huge potential for lead generation and relationship nurturing. For example, there’s a blurring of the line between online and offline. Connecting with someone on LinkedIn following an offline networking event or meeting is now seen as best practice and can be a fantastic way to continue a relationship.
For sales reps, making the most of LinkedIn and what it has to offer stems from having a clear understanding about what is possible and what the opportunities are, along with knowing how to use the different features to your advance.
LinkedIn caters for many different needs and has become an indispensable tool for recruiters and job seekers alike. Businesses can use the advertising platform to target specific users based on various demographics, while sales people can take advantage of Sales Navigator through the professional version of LinkedIn.
The first step is to distinguish between free and paid for services, and to make sure you’re maximising every opportunity presented.
How to make the most of the basic (free) LinkedIn service
1) Strengthen your profile
It all starts with having a strong and appealing personal profile page. Make sure your photo is a professional one. You should avoid anything with a busy background, other people in, or your pets. A shot of you in your bathing suit is also not going to go down well!
A good clear headshot, where your facial expression and eyes are visible, is the best first impression you can give online. When we meet someone in person we will make an instant judgement about them based on what we see, and online isn’t any different. It’s more difficult if anything because all you’ve got to make that instant impression is one photo.
Fill out as much detail about your past experiences as makes sense. You certainly don’t have to list everything, particularly if it isn’t relevant to what you are currently doing. Keep it precise and explain in each case what you have done for that company, or on that project.
And avoid using the summary section as an introduction to your CV, instead make the most of this as the perfect spot to list what you and your company do for anyone engaging with you. What results do you bring? Talk about that in this section.
LinkedIn gives you a great tool to include your published work. So for example you can upload materials such as presentations and videos. You should also think about posting longer articles here, as they tend to have a good reach and can help your potential audience to learn more about you through your words and hearing you speak about certain topics.
Social selling is actually a terrible misnomer because there shouldn’t be any ‘selling’ involved in anything social! You wouldn’t go to a networking breakfast and simply hit everyone you meet with your best sales pitch. You’d engage in conversation. You’d listen. You’d talk broadly on different topics. The same goes for LinkedIn. Aim to find active groups and to engage with people there. Like posts and share them, pose questions, and be helpful and give answers.
4) Target research – prospecting
As a B2B sales person, LinkedIn can be really helpful for researching specific people you may want to engage with. This is especially true when you’re using ABM (account based marketing). You’ll want to visit LinkedIn regularly to research and engage with your target list.
Taking your prospecting and social selling a step further with LinkedIn Sales Navigator
When you’ve got the basics right and have started to connect with leads it’s a good time to take your activity up a gear. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is one the site’s premium offerings and is aimed at anybody involved in sales. Originally it was super pricey, putting it out of the reach of many people, but gladly it has come down a lot since then. However, price remains the biggest disadvantage to using it. It does have its uses though, particularly if you are involved in lengthy sales cycles and high price items. In those cases the expense is likely to be outweighed by the results. Thanks to the free 30 day trial you can see for yourself and find out if it’s worth taking the plunge. So what’s it all about?
1) What is LinkedIn Sales Navigator?
LinkedIn’s premium tool is probably one of the best prospecting tools out there and that’s where it fits into your sales circle. It is great for ABM as it can help you find people you want to do business with and engage with them.
While a tool like Lead Forensics can give you a valuable insight into who is visiting your website, with sales navigator you will be working on those prospects who haven’t yet visited, to encourage them to.
Its biggest advantage is the extended search and suggestion tool. It helps you uncover decision makers and new opportunities you may not have thought of before. The tool will show you the activity of the people you identify, making it incredibly easy to engage with them based on their activities. That means if they post an update you will see it and can like or comment on it, or if they become a member of a new group you might want to get in there too. They may even have got a promotion which might be a good conversation starter and you can then use LinkedIn’s other premium tool InMail to message them and make a connection that way.
Another big advantage for B2B sales executives is that when you’re chasing a big deal you won’t usually deal with just one person but a whole project team. Previously it was very difficult to not only find out who’s on that team but to engage with them. LinkedIn’s data mining is a superior tool that can help you dig deep and find out who’s who and how they are connected.
So in a nutshell, LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help you with the relationship building stage by unearthing an incredible amount of real time data and showing you the activity of your target list – leaving you to react immediately and go in with highly tailored and relevant communication.
2) Getting started
LinkedIn is so convinced that you’ll love their tool that they will give you a free 30 day trial period. They also provide a library of helpful articles and videos, meaning you’ll be up and running in no time. You will be using a different portal to the normal LinkedIn one and your first step will be to set that up. That will mean going through your current connections and identifying leads within them and then entering information about the type of leads you are looking for.
The tool will then give you suggestions for leads and opportunities which you can include in your list if you wish. You’ll be sent notifications for new leads who fulfil certain criteria and there are of course ways to filter down the large amount of data LinkedIn will hold on those contacts.
3) Using it
Once you’ve set it up you should spend time daily going through the people you’ve already identified and looking for opportunities to engage with them. Check out our daily LinkedIn cheat sheet for busy sales people for pro tips. Needless to say at this stage your aim is not to sell to them, you’re simply looking to connect and build a relationship – staying in contact, liking, commenting and engage based on their individual behavior.
Next spend some time on the companies tab where you will be able to see all the employees of a company for example and filter them down. If you have the pro version enabled you will also have access to Teamlink which gives you even more insights into the people connected to your own co-workers. This is often an invaluable tool to make new connections.
If you’re using InMail to send messages to prospects then consider the content carefully. You have a limited amount of messages per month that you can see and you should be aiming for quality. Generic, meaningless emails will not get you results. Instead, select the top contacts you want to engage with and start a conversation with them based on their potential needs, or activities you already know about.
In order to measure the return on investment of using this tool it is important to be able to link any activity done on LinkedIn to your CRM, so you can trace each sale to where it came from. There are connectors available for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. Otherwise on the standard version work with tracking URL’s in your InMails. Once you connect to the person that way these will help you keep track of everything in your CRM.
LinkedIn was recently purchased by Microsoft and so chances are things are going to get even better, and there’ll be a deeper integration with the various MS tools. Either way the boffins behind LinkedIn are likely to be working on even more exciting tools that will be of use to the business community. So if you’re in the B2B sales game then it’s definitely worth getting familiar with LinkedIn, not only on the basic version but their premium offering, so you never miss an opportunity.
Lead Forensics User bonus tip: When you start making contact with prospects through LinkedIn you’ll be able to set up a trigger so you’re alerted when they visit your website. Once they have visited then you can follow them inside Lead Forensics and add a special tag, so you filter out all your LinkedIn contacts. That way you can quickly see your ROI in terms of how many of your LinkedIn contacts came through to your website.