Both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) sales previously involved cold calling and uncomfortable rejection from strangers. With the advent of Social Selling, however, a new method for success has mirrored the rise of social media and digital business relationships. Social Selling involves building integrity-based relationships with buyers and prospects to achieve these key goals:
- Understanding buyers and prospects on an individual level and tailoring specific content to all stages of their specific buying journey
- Gaining referrals and further expanding your network using the contacts you've made
- Strengthening brand identity and credibility
- Earning the trust of customers or prospects
- Boosting sales
LinkedIn is the epicenter of the Social Selling universe and the most powerful prospecting tool. It is a particularly useful platform for finding new customers and expanding your network because it was built for that exact purpose.
Finding prospects on LinkedIn is easier than you might think; you just need to have the right tools and know how to use them. Despite this fact, many sales and marketing professionals still find the process of Social Selling intimidating.
I’ve compiled a list of 7 Social Selling essentials to expand your LinkedIn network, make business contacts, improve your sales, and build integrity-based relationships.
1. Optimize Your Profile
First, optimize your LinkedIn profile using specific keywords and search terms to allow buyers and prospects seeking your product or service to easily find you. Use strong keywords in the title and summary sections of your page that are specific to your ideal buyer’s persona.
Second, maintain a consistent and professional tone throughout the page. Your client should have a clear idea of who you are as a business person or company.
Third, make sure your profile is 100 percent complete. It seems minor, but it’s actually an indicator of follow-through and project completion. Show your buyers and prospects that you can complete tasks.
2. Expand Your Network
Your profile will only show up in LinkedIn search results of prospects who are already in your network (up to third degree connections for premium accounts). Therefore, having as large a network as possible is important. You are limited to 3,000 connection invites, so take advantage of all of them, but remember to choose relevant and likely prospects that mirror you ideal buyer persona. Resist the temptation to invite just anyone for the sake of increasing your numbers.
Opening your LinkedIn network will have a cumulative effect: as the number of connections increase and you utilize the LinkedIn publishing platform, more people will see, be influenced by, and share your content.
That shared content will, in turn, be seen, liked, and shared by the connections in your advocate network (your current second and third degree connections), which most likely includes champions and decision makers at companies you’ve been trying to access.
Savvy sales professionals will tap these expanded networks for introductions, or leverage them for further conversations.
3. Build Smart Relationships
Understanding your target market is crucial to finding success on LinkedIn. Know what kind of prospects you are looking for and actively seek them out. Search for peers within your industry. Find businesses and individuals with whom you share a target market but who do not offer the same service as you.
Propose ways you can help each other, and send referrals for their own business if you have any. Others may not always reciprocate – and that’s okay. They’ll remember your generosity and may come back with business later.
Likewise, when you come across an individual who is not an ideal client or customer of yours, help him/her find the service or person s/he is seeking. Refer him/her to the right business, and s/he will remember you when s/he needs your service in the future. Kindness is always an under-utilized, but highly-effective, sales conversion tool.
4. Join Groups
To network with a wider audience, join a few targeted groups on LinkedIn. You can join up to 50 groups, but it is more efficient to focus most of your energy on five to 10. Search for groups using relevant industry keywords and connect with your buyers and prospects in those groups based upon your common interests and specialties.
A well-managed group should have:
- Group managers who are involved in the discussions (and may be top-influencers)
- A strong set of rules
- Discussions centering around questions and dialogue
- Top influencers who are credible
The number of people in the group and group activity are not necessarily indicators of how well-run the group is, but can be important for lead generation/networking purposes. Corporate-sponsored groups are usually better managed, with managers who help facilitate the dialogue and keep the threads free from spam.
5. Search Smart
Once your profile is primed, you know who to network with, and you've joined the right groups, you can start fine-tuning your search to find potential advocates for your business. Utilize LinkedIn’s advanced search options by searching specific keywords, mutual connections, groups, interests, industry, company size, and more.
When you find potential leads, invite them to connect with you with a customized connection message and begin your digital professional relationship.
6. Strong Communication
In order to start a dialogue with your new prospects, you need a unique, professional and specific message. The goal is to be informative and friendly enough to spark further communication. Here are some tips for sending a strong message:
- Address them by name. This shows that you've put thought into your message and aren't sending out mass spam.
- Tell them how you are connected. Maybe you have a mutual acquaintance in real life, you’re part of the same group on LinkedIn, or you are interested in trading services. Be direct in how you found them and why you are sending them a message.
- Be concise. Try to tell them in three sentences or fewer who you are, what your business does and how you can help them/why you want to connect.
- Ask them a question. People are more likely to continue communicating if you give them a reason to respond to the initial message. The question should be professional (not personal) but friendly. For example, ask them about a current project they might be working on or their opinion about a relevant industry issue.
- Say “Thank you.” Your mother taught you good manners. Don’t forget to use them.
7. Follow Through
The final step in improving sales through LinkedIn prospects is to follow through. Maintain contact with people, and continue to build the relationships you've started. Send periodic LinkedIn messages and emails (but don’t waste their time), refer new customers to them, offer them a first look at your new projects, but always offer something of value to establish sincerity in your motives. If you can avoid appearing self-serving and position yourself as an impartial resource to your buyer, you’ll find that your network will expand and strengthen, and your Social Selling success will grow exponentially, as well.
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Want feedback about your personal LinkedIn profile? Wondering how to attract new buyers and prospects using LinkedIn? Contact me directly using the button below and we'll chat.