There are, at present, over 400 million LinkedIn users across 200 countries and territories. It’s a social network with phenomenal reach; but then again, so are Facebook, Twitter and Google+. So what differentiates LinkedIn from its competitors and why should you incorporate it into your digital selling strategy?
Since its inception, rather than being a platform for sharing innumerable pictures of meals and viral videos of baby monkeys, LinkedIn has been a distinctly professional sphere. It’s used as a tool for recruitment, brand promotion, business networking, and increasingly, a powerful platform for digital selling.
By following a few simple tactics and easy-to-adopt approaches I’ve listed below, you will be able to make the most of your LinkedIn account, and harness that social presence to generate leads, drives sales and achieve ultimate digital selling success. You can also continue learning and transform your digital selling strategy with our Professional Diploma in Digital Selling, which will equip you with the essential skills and knowledge you need to reach quota, increase your OTE and achieve ultimate selling success.
Optimize Your Profile
I’ve already outlined how you can establish trust and build a personal brand by optimizing your social profiles, and this extends to LinkedIn too. It’s not only a platform on which you can identify and develop a deeper understanding of prospects; they can just as easily use LinkedIn to conduct research on you!
That’s why you need to use your LinkedIn profile to showcase yourself in the most credible and personable way possible.
There are certain LinkedIn profile tips that serve as a basic starting point; personalizing your vanity URL, using a professional headshot, filling in your job experience and education history. But in order to really amplify the value of your LinkedIn presence, there are a few more tactics you should implement:
Customize your headline: By default, your headline will be your current job title and company, which is already displayed in the “Experience” section of your profile. Rather than duplicating content, customize your headline with some keywords and key specialist functions. This not only increases your visibility and the likelihood of your profile displaying in a LinkedIn search, it also succinctly showcases your varied skillset.
Enhance your summary and contact details: Filling in your summary adds another layer of discoverability to your LinkedIn profile. Include a couple of succinct lines about what you do and why you’re passionate about it. There is a separate contact details section, but it’s only visible to existing LinkedIn connections, so include your contact details within your summary for potential customers, along with a suitable Call-To-Action. You can also add three links to either your Twitter profile, company website, personal website, blog or RSS feed, which further establishes your social authority and search optimizes your profile.
Add assets: LinkedIn allows you to add media assets to your profile, including documents, photos, links, videos and presentations. By adding additional relevant content to your profile, you can demonstrate your thought leadership and creativity to potential customers, and also use that content to persuade and convert them. Examples could include a video testimonial, an industry-appropriate blog or Slideshare presentation.
Ask for Recommendations: You should aim to obtain at least one recommendation for every job title listed on your profile. Recommendations are particularly important for digital selling; client testimonials that root your solution or service in a human context, for example, could mean the difference between successfully engaging with and acquiring a new customer and… well, not.
Incorporate keywords: If you want to increase your profile’s chances of displaying in LinkedIn search results, it’s important to use relevant keywords throughout your profile. Put yourself in the position of somebody who would be searching for you; what words or phrases would they use? Try to incorporate these into the content of your profile as naturally as possible – it will be obvious if you’re forcing them and could disrupt the fluency of the professional, accessible tone you should be trying to achieve.
Connect and Prospect
After you’ve maximized your visibility on LinkedIn, you should next focus on growing your network. If you’re serious about mastering digital selling, you need to view LinkedIn as a popularity contest; the more quality connections you make, the better your chances of building a healthy pipeline. There are a number of methods you can use to achieve this:
Don’t forget the people you know: Form the foundation to a successful LinkedIn network by first fostering connections with colleagues and past colleagues. This provides the perfect opportunity for outreach as you can evaluate your 2nd and 3rd degree connections and ask for an introduction where necessary. Utilizing the connections your already have is important; LinkedIn asserts that buyers are five times more likely to engage if outreach is conducted through a mutual connection.
LinkedIn also enables you to connect with people you may already know by importing your email contacts. Be judicious when using this method; avoid a mass import and be mindful of who you try to connect with, as your email correspondence with certain individuals might not be substantial enough for them to want to engage with you on LinkedIn.
Opt for Advanced Search: This is a valuable method to grow your network and prospect effectively. You can look for potential new connections using a variety of fields that can streamline your search. Even better, a basic LinkedIn account will enable you to save up to 3 people searches based on a particular job title and receive weekly alerts when new users match your criteria. With a premium profile, you have access to more search fields including seniority level, years of experience, function, and company size, as well as the ability to save even more people searches, which can further maximize your prospecting efficiency.
Even when using advanced search, try to use an existing connection by searching for fellow Group members or 2nd connections, before reaching out to somebody with whom you share nothing in common!
Remember; there’s a fine line between intercepting a customer’s need and coming across as intrusive, and your prospect is the one who draws it.
Try Sales Navigator: LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is a tool made for digital selling, with a focus on finding the right prospects as quickly as possible. You can use Sales Navigator’s Lead Builder function to build lead lists using the premium advanced search filters I mentioned above. You can also save up to 3,000 leads and receive real-time updates on anyone you’ve saved! This includes what they’ve shared, their company updates, and alerts when individuals or companies are mentioned in the news. Sales Navigator also generates lead recommendations that are tailored to your personal preferences and based on leads you may have already saved.
Insights such as who’s viewed your profile, and who on your team is connected to your leads to facilitate warm introductions (available in the Team edition of Sales Navigator) enable you to build meaningful relationships that are more likely to drive sales. You can even send InMails to your prospects, which, accordingly to LinkedIn, have been shown to get higher response rates than cold calling or emails.
Get Personal: Nothing says “I don’t really care about you I just want your money” like an automated invitation to connect! You need to make an effort cultivate a connection with your prospects; after all, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. If you start investing in your customer relationships from the very outset, you are better placed to drive both first-time sales and encourage repeat purchases, which is something you, as a seller, should definitely aim for. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, whereas the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%. The simple act of tailoring an invitation to connect, by succinctly and simply stating how you know them, why you want to connect, and what value your connection can provide them, can set a very positive precedent that can ultimately benefit your ROI.
You’ve built an optimized profile, you’ve developed a network of quality connections, and now you can sit back and relax.
Just kidding! Arguably, the most important element to using LinkedIn for digital selling success is engaging with your connections. Active participation on LinkedIn will enhance your visibility, establish your credibility and most importantly, it is the key to advancing those vital customer relationships. I’ve summarized a couple of fool proof approaches to engagement that you can very easily adopt:
Join LinkedIn Groups: LinkedIn has countless groups suitable for every professional and industry. You can search for, and join groups relevant to your target industries and geos in order to stimulate discussions and share content relevant to prospects. These groups also provide you with an opportunity to keep on top of industry trends and innovations, which will help you to better understand and accommodate your customers’ needs. By sharing content, advice and engaging in dialogue, you can present yourself as an industry thought leader, a trusted source of information and facilitate warm conversations with prospects in the process!
Keep your status updated: Status updates are an underused but highly effective LinkedIn feature. Aim to update your status approximately three times a day (either at the beginning or end of the working day) in order to maximize your social presence, but make sure that whatever you share adds value. Post informative, relevant content, use keywords in your headlines that will pique the attention of potential customers and be able to identify what you’re trying to achieve with each status update. Examples could include an educational ebook or Slideshare presentation to re-enforce your thought leadership, or a testimonial video to incentivize prospects to engage with you. Don’t post for the sake of it; your LinkedIn engagement should always complement and support your digital selling strategy goals, whether it’s in the context of refining your thought leadership status or nurturing prospects. Finally, don’t forget to extend your reach; always make sure the visibility of your posts is set so everyone, not just your connections, will see them.
Use LinkedIn Pulse: Pulse, LinkedIn’s publishing platform is another powerful method to expand your reach and accelerate engagement. Unlike status updates, which are suited to excerpts and links to other sources, the purpose of Pulse is to publish long-form content directly on LinkedIn. Long-form content is the ultimate way to consolidate your status as an industry authority and increase your exposure. When you publish a post on Pulse, your network will automatically receive a notification alerting them to the article and its title, so as with your status updates, make sure your headlines incentivize users to click! If your network is compelled to like or share your content, this will allow you to infiltrate their own connections, and if those connections like what you write, and decide to follow you, your network has the potential to grow exponentially. In addition to this, articles posted on Pulse are searchable both on and off LinkedIn, which extends your reach that little bit further!
If you’re repurposing content on LinkedIn, a company blog post for example, always be sure to credit the author (if it isn’t you) and provide a link back to the original source, and avoid republishing anything that isn’t owned by you or your company. If you’re creating original content, keep in mind the interests of your target audience, your existing connections, and use your insights to create content on topics that will appeal to them and consequently strengthen your relationships.
After you’ve implemented these simple strategies, you can measure your effectiveness by using LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. This is a quick and easy measurement tool that, with the click of a button, analyzes how successful you are based on a number of criteria, including establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights and building relationships. You can chart your progress on a weekly basis and benchmark yourself against both people in your industry and your network.
As always, you can use these metrics you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and adjust your approach accordingly. What is your Social Selling Index? Do you have any tips or insights on using LinkedIn for digital selling? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!