LinkedIn is the largest professional social network online today with 225 million users and a targeted audience of business professionals. Using LinkedIn to actually breed sales starts with building a solid professional profile and presence – which is not an easy feat. In fact, according to a recent poll by Steve Martin at the Harvard Business Review, only 40% of sales people have generated revenue through LinkedIn. So what secrets about selling more on LinkedIn do the 40% know that others don’t?
How do you stand out from a crowd of people trying to sell similar products on LinkedIn? What will make your network trust you as an expert in your field and want to learn more about your product or service? First, a foundation needs to be established in order to begin building your influence, generating introductions and referrals, and uncovering valuable sales opportunities.
1. Talk to Customers, Not Recruiters
Some people think of LinkedIn solely as an online resume. They are missing the social component of the platform though. It is not just a source to showcase your ability to crush sales quotas. For example, if you’re using LinkedIn for prospecting and networking, you need to have a different approach than if you are using it to find a new job. For example, while employers may be impressed that you beat your sales quota by 40% YOY, a potential customer will not be. Prospects have a problem or concern that you can help solve. Make sure the language you use in your profile suggests that you’re capable of helping them. For example, if you sell CRM software, your prospects need the best way to store data and manage the relationships they have with their customers. How are you showing that you’re qualified to help them? Are you demonstrating why your product is the best fit? Are you sharing customer case studies? Is the language you use in your profile focused on the customer and not you?
2. Make sure your profile is 100% Complete
Having a 100% completed LinkedIn profile provides you with a 40% greater chance for networking success. Follow the cues provided by LinkedIn to create a complete profile. Here is a quick checklist to make sure your profile is complete:
- Upload a professional image (but please, don’t make it cheesy!)
- Write a compelling headline in 120 characters or less that demonstrates your value. For example, “Partner Manager at Base – passionate about helping sales managers become more productive”
- List your current position and at least 2 past related positions
- Focus the Summary section of your profile on how you can help your customer in your current role
- Complete the Specialties section of your profile with keywords that will help get your product found
- Give recommendations and endorsements (later ask for them in return)
3. Optimize Your Profile To Get Found By Prospects & Customers
Once your profile is 100% complete, focus on optimizing it. By using strategic keywords related to your product and expertise in your profile, you’ll be easy to find by clients and prospective leads. Choose the best keywords by following these tips:
- Use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool: This free service identifies keywords by the number of global monthly searches they receive and how difficult it is to rank for those terms in Google. Chose words or phrases with numbers moderately competitive. If you use too many words with high-ranking search numbers, you may get lost in the crowd; if your profile is filled with low-ranking words, your chances of being found will decrease.
- Study Job Postings In Your Line Of Work: Identify the skills that are frequently requested in job postings related to your position and include those keywords in your summary.
- Steal/Borrow From The Best: Use the search feature on LinkedIn to find people in your same position, and check out the words they’re using to highlight their skill sets.
Once you’ve determined several keywords for your area of specialty, insert these search-friendly words in both the Summary and the Experience sections of your LinkedIn profile.
- Edit your public LinkedIn URL: By including your name in a custom URL, you to show up in search engines like Google and Bing when someone searches for your name outside of LinkedIn.
- Customize your “Website Listings”: LinkedIn allows up to 3 URLs in your profile where you can link to outside websites like your company website, your personal blog or helpful resources for your prospects – like an ebook or webinar.
- Include a link to your Twitter account: If you have one (and it’s professional!), list it. It gives clients and prospects another opportunity to engage with you.
- Make sure your profile is visible to the public: Being invisible won’t help you grow your network.
4. Engagement is the name of the game
- LinkedIn Groups – Join groups where you have shared interests – but watch the overkill as you could be seen as a spammer. Make sure the group is active (members post on a weekly basis at least). Once you’re in the targeted groups you should comment and help answer other people’s questions and share valuable content that’s not overly self-promotional. Groups are only as valuable as the members who are in them. Make sure you’re adding to the community and not spamming it with information about your company.
- Share your expertise – Try to make it a daily habit to post updates. Set a goal for yourself to make at least 25 updates your first month. If you read an interesting article, post a link to it with your comments on why you think it’s interesting. Highlight a customer case study, with a link to it. Post when you’re excited about a new capability your company has or the results your new customer is receiving. Ask questions about things you’re interested in, and don’t forget to respond to comments that might come in on your posts.
- LinkedIn Advanced Search – Did you know that LinkedIn has Advanced Search options where you can create highly targeted lists of people to contact based on multiple parameters including industries, companies, locations and other key words. A paid LinkedIn account includes even more criteria for fine-tuning your list. Over time, you can work on building relationships with the prospects in your list.
5. Connect with your customers
Top sellers are connected to almost 3x as many customers as everyone else, according to the 2013 Sales and LinkedIn Survey mentioned previously. The survey revealed that top performing sellers connected to over 50% of their customers while less successful sales people only connected with 18.6%. Here are some tips for growing your LinkedIn network:
- Send an invite after a meeting: Connect with prospects after a phone demo or in-person meeting. Since you’re fresh in that person’s mind, they will be likely to connect with you.
- Include a personal message: When I get invitations from people I don’t know without a personalized message, I typically ignore them. If you don’t know the person, at least give them a reason to connect with you, like a shared group, interest, or by asking them a question in your invitation.
- Browse other profile viewers: If you have a highly targeted market and you find a relevant contact, check out the “People Also Viewed,” section on the right hand column of their LinkedIn profile. You’ll likely find profiles that are similar and possibly new prospects to connect with.
Remember, growing your sales network through LinkedIn takes time and dedication. It establishes you as a top professional in your field (as long as you don’t spam people). Ultimately, if you stick with it, you’ll build a wave of momentum that leads people to contact you or at least be much more receptive when you reach out to them.
I’ve shared some additional resources below that I found to be helpful as I’ve built my presence on LinkedIn. What do you think? Did I miss any secrets that you’ve had success with?