Let’s get the first question out of the way: “Why is some writer trying to tell me how to use LinkedIn for sales?” Because this writer, like you, is in sales, and has been his whole career. Perhaps unlike you, however, I’ve amassed a following over 4,500 strong and have used LinkedIn effectively to develop relationships with thousands of business owners and C-level colleagues. Using LinkedIn effectively has led to a lot of good business and professional connections for me over the years.
If used properly, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful and “free” sales tools you can add to your arsenal. If used incorrectly, it won’t do you any good at all. In fact, it could actually hurt your close rates. The blog you’re about to read will help make sure you squeeze as much value and power out of LinkedIn as you can. We’re going to cover the “DOs” and “DON’Ts” that I’ve learned as a power user over the years. Let’s dive in!
DO: Update your profile:
Nothing looks more unprofessional than a half-baked profile page. LinkedIn tells you how complete your profile is, so make sure you’re as close to 100% as possible! This recommendation will be longer than the rest because we’re going to cover some fundamentals. In particular:
- Profile picture: Make sure it’s a good one that clearly defines who you are! If you are a suit and tie person, a jeans and polo person, or a midnight cowboy, just make sure your picture tells the story of who you really are. Check out mine. It won’t be what you expect but it will tell you what to expect when we meet, virtually or in the real world. Bonus points: Get rid of the standard LinkedIn background image and use one that helps tell your story.
- Career & education: You’ve done some awesome things and people should be able to get a good feel for your awesomeness by looking at the things you’ve done. Take some time to craft good descriptions. If you’re not a writer, find a friend who is and get some help. One of the first things I do when I’m checking out a connection request, I’m not familiar with is to scrutinize this section. Anybody in a decision-making capacity will do the same.
- Recommendations: Don’t be afraid to ask people who know you well to provide recommendations. These aren’t just important for job seekers; they are important for building your influence and trust level. I have 23 listed, check them out. Just as important, GIVE recommendations! Make sure they are genuine; you’d be amazed at how much good comes back from the effort.
- Accomplishments: Have you received some accolades, written some things for trade publications, belong to some career-focused and philanthropic organizations? Make sure you list them all!
DON’T: List Your job title in your Headline.
Have you checked out my LinkedIn profile yet? Go ahead, look here and come back when you’re done… https://www.linkedin.com/in/westmcdonaldco/. Finished? Notice my headline doesn’t simply list my job title. There’s plenty of room on LinkedIn for that, but first get people wanting to know more about you. Your headline should focus on what makes you tick and what you think will best serve your audience. For me, it says “Flat-Rate Billing Innovation Specialist and Converged Services Enthusiast.” You may have some questions after reading my headline, one that could inspire a conversation. The minute your headline says something like “Sales Representative” you’ve turned off about 75% of the people who view your profile. People love to make snap judgements, that’s just life. So be smarter and more strategic. Try it; you’ll thank me.
DO: Grow a QUALITY network.
Do you remember in the beginning of this article when I shared that I have over 4,000 connections? It’s taken me years to amass that many. Each and every one of them is somebody I know, somebody I trust, somebody who trusts me. Having a network of fewer than 500 won’t do you any favors, but neither will a network of over 20,000 if they aren’t quality contacts. LinkedIn isn’t a popularity contest, it’s a peer-networking tool to help you grow your knowledge (and sales) by having contacts that are actually relevant. I’m in technology sales so it should come as no surprise that my network doesn’t have any people from zoology institutions or spiritual retreats. I have those in my Facebook network, but this isn’t Facebook. So how do you grow your network? Simple. Spend 15 minutes a day searching for contacts in your real-life network first, and then start looking for contacts you’ve met at industry events, etc. If you aim for 5 new quality connections a day, that can grow to over 1,825 quality connections in a year. That’s far better that 5,000 you’ll never actually engage or interact with.
DON’T: Spam new contacts 5 minutes after you connect.
I don’t know who’s training sales professionals to do this, but somebody must be because I see more of it these days than ever. It goes something like this:
- Somebody asks me to connect. I see they are in the office equipment or managed I.T. services channel. I accept their invitation.
- 5 minutes later I get a message on LinkedIn: “Hi there. I’m glad you accepted my connection request. I think I have a way that could generate 10 times as many quality leads for your organization to help you increase sales. Could we book a time to talk in the coming days?”
- I remove the new connection from my network.
This approach is spammy and insincere and won’t generate a single sale for you. It will get you a smaller network though. The first thing you should always do after somebody accepts your connection request is to thank them. Maybe a week or two later you can congratulate them on something you read about them through a press release. And maybe down the road you’ll share an article with them that really gets to the heart of what their business cares about. Yes, this takes longer, and yes, it’s far more likely to garner you a REAL opening for a sales opportunity down the road. LinkedIn networking isn’t cold calling or dialing for dollars.
DO: Share incredible content and ideas.
I now get far more LinkedIn networking requests that I request myself. The reason is that I’ve established myself as an industry expert who produces and shares a lot of useful and valuable content. Check out our blog at https://blog.tigerpaw.com/ . You should see a recurring theme and that theme is helping our customers beyond the products that we sell. Content, if helpful, is your best friend on LinkedIn. You don’t have to be a writer; you can also share valuable content that you think would benefit others. Do this at least once a day. Start building a solid reputation as a helpful and insightful professional. This will lead to conversations with folks that could lead to you sharpening your skills, and eventually, leading to sales. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share things about your company, you should! If you’ve won an award, or have a recent press release, or if your company has done some cool charitable work, share away! Just make sure it’s only a portion of what you share. Think of the topics that concern your industry the most and start sharing that. Potential customers will take notice in all the right ways.
DON’T: Share your personal views (religion, politics, etc.).
I’ll say it again: LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Approach it with the lens that you are using it for business purposes. No matter which side of a political or religious argument you take, there will be a group you’ll offend. I offend tons of people in life, I’m sure of it, but never on LinkedIn. Getting myself into contentious discussions about subject XYZ doesn’t promote my professional ambitions nor does it change anybody else’s mind on any given topic. I would never tell you not to take a stand on something you’re passionate about. Just find a different venue because LinkedIn just isn’t the place. Some people have told me, “You’re not being authentic if you can’t express your opinions, no matter what they are!” Okay. That’s like saying I’m not being authentic for not talking about how awesome meat tastes when I’m having dinner at a vegan friend’s house. It’s just using discretion and LinkedIn isn’t any different.
DO: Engage in conversation.
If you see a post that you think warrants a comment, go for it! If you have something to add to a conversation that can help others to see a deeper angle or if it inspires some new and innovative thinking, post away! But as mentioned above with religion and politics, if you’re instinct is to try and be contrary or negative, move on. I’ve learned this one the hard way over the years so you don’t have to. Besides, positive contributions and additional expertise are the kinds of things that will motivate people to come to you for more. Think of every conversation you contribute to as an opportunity to help you be seen as an expert. Contacts will remember your inspired moments and could lean on your for help down the road. I call it “side door selling” because you’re not busting down the front door, you’re simply leaving the door open for people to come in when they’re ready. And they do. The number of messages I’ve had from leads looking for more information on a piece I wrote or a conversation I contributed to, well, I can’t count them anymore. It works.
DON’T: Check in once a week.
An apple a day… Make sure to check in at least once a day, twice a day if possible, to see what your network is up to. This could take as little as 10 minutes of your day or as much as 20 minutes. You’ll see what’s new with your prospects, what your competitors are up to, and it will allow you to add your voice to relevant conversations that put you in a position as a contributor and aide. I’m pretty sure that LinkedIn also has an algorithm that elevates your contributions and content the more you use it. I could be making that up but it certainly feels that way: The more consistent I am in using LinkedIn, the more likely I am to form relevant relationships that have the potential to grow into partnerships or sales.
DO: Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Ready for your first LinkedIn mission? Find me on LinkedIn and let’s connect. Be sure to send me a personal message with the connection request referencing this blog. I’ll then accept your request and over time, who knows, maybe we can help each other to learn more and sell more!
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