While LinkedIn may not have quite as large of a user base as its social cousins Facebook and Twitter, it continues to grow in popularity around the world and boasts a highly-engaged core of power users. As B2B sales opportunities increase exponentially on the platform, creative sales professionals are discovering new and unique ways they can use the inherent qualities of LinkedIn to the advantage of their company and their customers.
What was once seen as a tool for job seekers to ply their connections for opportunities has become an important part of any successful sales rep’s toolbox. Social selling has moved beyond a niche concept, and many B2B buyers actively welcome and anticipate communication with their sales rep on LinkedIn. Sales professionals who know how to use it wisely have found LinkedIn to be integral to identifying qualified prospects, understanding a client’s specific needs, staying engaged with previous customers, and even closing deals.
1. Be social
LinkedIn is a social media site after all. It sounds counter intuitive to some, but not every interaction you have with a prospect or customer on LinkedIn has to be about business. If you haven’t touched base with them in a while, reach out and start a friendly conversation that is unrelated to any sales activity. You may eventually discover that they or someone they know has a need for your product.
2. Refrain from sending a sales pitch immediately after a connection
If this is your first communication with a prospect after connecting with them you should never begin with a sales pitch. What you view as getting down to business and trying to solve their problem, they may interpret as too forward. Instead, use your new connection as an opportunity to learn more about your potential client and their company.
3. Share valuable information
Once you have established a digital relationship with your contact you can begin to look for opportunities to nurture this relationship. One successful strategy for accomplishing this is to be on the lookout for articles and resources that are relevant to their company, job or interests. People almost always appreciate when someone shares valuable content with them, as it is a reminder that they haven’t been forgotten and that the sender understands something about their interests. LinkedIn allows sales reps to act as de facto content marketers. Just as with formal marketing, it is important to remember that sharing content with no perceived value amounts to little more than noise in the recipient’s feed.
4. Connect your client to your coworkers
If there are still sales reps who are wary over sharing connections with their coworkers over a fear of lost commissions they need to get over their fear quickly. LinkedIn offers opportunities for collaborative sales through premium tools such as TeamLink, which allows an entire team of reps to support each other and the client through the power of shared connections. Larger, more robust networks are good for everyone involved, and they often yield unexpected benefits in the future.
5. Pay attention to job turnover
One of the most significant factors in B2B sales is knowing exactly when your customer is most likely to pull the trigger. For many organizations, one of the prime buying times is when there has been a recent change in management and the new leader is looking to make their mark on the division by incorporating innovative solutions. They may also have been handed a clean budget for their tenure in anticipation of making changes. Savvy salespeople are using LinkedIn’s job change alerts to monitor vacancies and promotions for companies that might be a good fit for their product.
6. Invite your customer to participate in groups and forums
Clients appreciate when salespeople make an effort to demonstrate that they are interested in their company’s future, and that they are eager to help them find optimal solutions to their problems. LinkedIn groups and forums are a great resource for connecting with like-minded individuals, and sharing knowledge and best practices that will benefit everyone. Groups can also be useful for promoting various events and conferences that you feel will be valuable to your client or prospect.
7. Request referrals whenever possible
There is no shortage of research that points to the power of referrals when it comes to closing leads, so why not use every available opportunity to seek them out? Many sales reps are afraid that directly asking for a referral breaches some sort of social barrier, but in reality most customers will be happy to oblige as long as they were satisfied with their experience.
8. Use your profile as a competitive advantage
While brand identity holds enormous power for a company, a LinkedIn profile holds the same for you, the salesperson. B2B buyers on LinkedIn are looking for experts in a particular field who can become an asset to their company, so adorn your profile accordingly. Ideally it should demonstrate that you have a detailed knowledge of the problems you are helping your customers solve, and that you are the person to contact if they are looking for a fresh perspective.