Using LinkedIn as a Sales Tool

I was recently invited to write a series of articles entitled “Secrets of Selling More! (With Social Media – REALLY!)” for Marketects for their monthly newsletter. Be sure and click on the link for other great industrial marketing tips from Kerry O’Malley.

Using LinkedIn as a Sales Tool

There is a lot of hype surrounding social media marketing and there are numerous articles explaining how to set up the accounts, how to use the various platforms and outlets, and, daily, new app’s to assist you in your marketing efforts.  Frankly, it’s overwhelming. We’re not going to discuss much in this series about how to “build” your Social Media profiles. There are plenty of resources out there to find that information. We will talk about some “construction” issues but only as they relate to your selling efforts.

Rather than focus on what’s new, what’s the latest and greatest, this series of articles is going to focus on how you and your company can use social media as a sales tool and drive sales and profits to your bottom line.

We’re going to start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the ‘cornerstone’ social media outlets for b-to-b selling.  It’s not something that any marketing agency can “do’ for you. YOU have to do it yourself.

The Selling Process

As anyone who has been in sales for any length of time will tell you, sales is about relationships: When you get right down to it’s one person trusting another person enough to do business with them. Selling is a people business. People do business with people.

LinkedIn is a tool just like a car, a cell phone or email. LinkedIn is a tool that can help you and your company: 

  • Prospect
  • Network
  • Shorten the Sales Cycle
  • Develop Rapport
  • Strengthen Relationships
  • Demonstrate your expertise

As with other tools if you don’t use them, if you don’t check voice mail, if you don’t respond to emails, if you don’t pick up the phone, make a call and drive to see someone you won’t sell anything.

By the same token, if you have a retail store and all of the products are in the warehouse, and the shelves are bare, then anyone who walks in won’t know what you have to sell. LinkedIn is like a retail storefront.

Getting started

As a first step in your LinkedIn “storefront” here’s a short checklist of must do’s to “stock your shelves” in your LinkedIn storefront:

  1. Complete your personal profile
    1. Employment History – demonstrates your expertise in your field
    2. Profile Picture – People do business with people. A picture is worth a thousand words. It takes two minutes to do it and later people can associate a name to a face.
    3. Input your website – And change it from “company name” to your actual company name
    4. Ask for recommendations – Most b-to-b businesses are relatively small.  Sales professionals tend to stay within their industry. If you have a customer who is willing to speak highly of you then ask for the recommendation.
    5. Complete your Company Profile
      1. Upload your Logo – Again, it takes about two minutes. If someone decides they like what you have to say and try to check you out on the web and find no logo then they tend to ask themselves “How responsive is this company?” and other questions that raise red flags
      2. Paste in your company mission statement of bio – What do you do? In this day of immediate soundbite decision-making people are going to make pretty quick decisions on whether to give you a more detailed look see.
      3. Insure that your other company employees have not only joined LinkedIn but that they appear in your company listing of “employees” – This avoids the “Oh, you went to see XYZ company. Yea, my sister-in-law is a VP there” after you’ve been knocking on the door for 6 months.
      4. Join Groups
        1. There are a multitude of business discussion groups within niche b-to-b industry segments. Join a few
        2. Encourage your sales force to join groups – There may be enough industry discussion groups already in place that you can segment who is going to handle which areas
        3. Encourage the “TEAM” – Salespeople tend to think “that’s not my account, my territory or my area” and tend to be very “territorial”: Anything that doesn’t help them personally is not worth the time. That’s a management issue. Because social media is about sharing and collaboration your “team” should already be used to working together and helping each other. It’s the way to make this tool most effective.
        4. Connections
          1. Invite your business contacts to join you – You never know whom they might recommend to connect with you
          2. Invite your personal contacts to join you – “Say John, How do you know Bob Smith?” “Oh we’re on the same church group committee, he’s a good guy” “Could you introduce me to him?”

Selling

Have you sent out newsletters? Have your salespeople sent out emails to customers with news stories that affect them? Have you encouraged salespeople to “prospect” through trade magazines, customer lists, contact files? If you have done any of this then you will find LinkedIn a great tool.

Just by completing some of the above “Getting Started” areas salespeople will quickly learn that there are numerous ways to be in touch with new people.

Status Updates

Did you know that you can update your status on LinkedIn?  This isn’t just used to say “I love this restaurant” it’s a way to share with your connections news articles and industry information.

But wait. That’s not where it ends.  If you believe that a news article is relevant enough to send in an email to some of your customers then you should also share it with your LinkedIn groups where others might find it useful information as well.  LinkedIn makes this easy.  As soon as it posts in your status you can click the “share” button and post it to groups that you are a member of and even send it out as an email to specific people whether they are on LinkedIn or not.

By doing this you are accomplishing several things:

  1. Prospecting – If you shared it with a group, you’ve now started a “discussion” there.  If others find it useful, and comment on it, then you are now in a dialogue with people. Those people know other people.  Watch who comments. Listen to what they have to say. Check out the other group members and find out what they think about the various subjects. People do business with People. If you find that you already have rapport it’s pretty easy. Insure that you and your salesforce have their prospecting cap on because you will find that there is a tremendous amount of data to be mined.
  2. Networking – Several months ago I posted a discussion which prompted one of the members in one my group to view my profile. When she saw what I did professionally, she reached out and told me that I should talk to a friend of hers about what I do. The group was an engineering discussion group and not really about marketing.  Just like you learned to put down you personal appointment in your day planner you will find that your interests and hobbies can, in a roundabout way, also generate business contacts.

Shorten the Sales Cycle

One of the first things that we all do in sales is try to figure out how to develop rapport with people when we meet them. LinkedIn can shorten that cycle.  IF you have completed your profile you can send out connection invites to new contacts and old. You might be surprised what you find out.

I have an interest in STEM education, Autism, Gifted Education, Old cars, Racing and numerous other personal interests. These are my personal interests and you have your own. You don’t have your hobbies to sell more you have them because you like them. But, it is a commonality to develop rapport and strengthen new and existing relationships.

A friend of my runs marathons.  He connected with a new prospect on LinkedIn and at his meeting he found that they both run marathons: “That’s why I didn’t cancel the meeting when something else came up.”  I had a customer whom I already had a good relationship with, who called me and asked me in to talk about some new projects he needed help with.  After our meeting he told me, out of the blue, “I like working with guys who wrestled.” Who knew?!? People do business with People.

Account penetration

Do you have great relationships with some customers but still feel that others may not completely trust you? You’ve serviced someone well, you’ve felt that you’ve done everything “just right” but you just can’t seem to get to that next level?  Perhaps, again, perhaps, LinkedIn can help you with that.

The conversation might go something like this: “I saw that Bobby Ray wrote a recommendation for you on LinkedIn, Did you know we do a lot with his company?  He’s a good guy, Come on into my office I want you to look at some stuff”

As you can see there is not just one thing that you can use LinkedIn for as a selling tool.  This short article barely scratches the surface of how you can begin to use LinkedIn in your sales efforts.  Sales people are pretty good at “thinking out of the box” and looking for solutions.  Give them the tools, encourage them to learn how to use them, and you may just be surprised at some of the innovative ideas that they start to implement LinkedIn to assist them in their sales efforts.

If you have other ideas or comments I’d love to get your feedback.

Bernard T Martin
President
Rapid Production Marketing
232 Dogwood Circle
Baden, PA 15005-2346
c: 412.996.5700

bernie@rpmconsultants.us
www.rpmconsultants.us
Twitter: @BernardTMartin
Twitter: @RPMconsultants
BLOG: Manufacturing Supply Channel
LinkedIn: Bernard Martin

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