On most social networks, sales prospecting is a dangerous game. Many users of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media networks are there specifically to escape being on the selling end. But the dynamics of LinkedIn are different. As an expressly business network, LinkedIn encourages sales prospecting. LinkedIn users not only expect it, but if executed properly, look forward to it.
Here are important strategies and tips for effective sales prospecting on LinkedIn. None of this is rocket science, but it takes practice and patience to build a pipeline of LinkedIn prospects. The effort is worthwhile because, on LinkedIn, the quality of prospects is likely to be higher than those coming from other social media sources.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure your bio includes an accurate and compelling summary of your skills and experience. Use keywords in your bio that people are likely to use when searching LinkedIn for the products/services you sell. Your profile should also include credibility statements, one or two outstanding accomplishments, and links to your website and/or blog. Also, make sure your bio is visible to the public.
Your profile is important for both inbound and outbound sales prospecting. In terms of inbound, people searching for your products and services on Google may find your LinkedIn profile higher in the rankings than your company website. For outbound efforts, prospects you’ve made contact with are likely to carefully review your LinkedIn profile while vetting you and your company. A solid profile can make or break those outbound prospecting efforts.
Engage Before You Sell
The most important factor in sales prospecting on any social network is timing. You can’t just burst on the scene and start soliciting business from strangers on a social platform, even one as business-focused as LinkedIn. By launching into a pitch too early, you risk alienating prospects who otherwise would be disposed to listen.
Engaging prospects on LinkedIn can be done in a number of ways:
- By commenting on posts published by your target prospects
- By commenting on comments on these posts (the publisher of the post will notice your engagement)
- By tagging target prospects in your posts if you think they offer these people valuable insights or information
- By joining LinkedIn Groups and engaging in thoughtful, non-self-promotional conversation.
Once prospects have you on their radar and understand you aren’t on LinkedIn simply and solely to promote your business, you will find them much more open to your forthcoming sales pitch.
Pro tip: A great way to engage target prospects is by referring leads to them as an initial or early step in your engagement. Nothing warms up a prospect like getting a high-quality lead.
Build Your Prospect List With Care
One of the great strengths of LinkedIn as a sales prospecting platform is the depth and breadth of its user database. It usually takes some serious trench work, but you can find prospects by searching LinkedIn based on a company, industry, title, geographic location and other variables relevant to your business.
Beyond that, you can scour followers of companies you compete with and companies in related industries to identify individuals likely to need your products or services. You can take it even a step further by following these newly identified prospects and monitoring your feed for changes in their job status, such as a promotion or move to a new firm. When prospects are in work transition, they tend to be more open to considering new suppliers, products and approaches to doing business.
Publish on LinkedIn
Earlier I mentioned credibility statements, always important for building confidence in a sales prospect. Taking advantage of LinkedIn’s publishing platform is an excellent way to build credibility — and also pull in more prospects. Articles on LinkedIn function much the same as articles you might write on your blog or as a guest blogger. LinkedIn articles are searchable on the platform and on Google (if your profile is public), and stand a good chance of outranking articles published on other blogs.
Articles that offer real insights and/or take a provocative editorial position may get a good deal of attention and attract lots of comments, serving to expand your circle of influence — and potential prospects. With this in mind, make sure your LinkedIn articles are of the highest quality: Standards are high on this platform, and subpar posts may seriously harm your credibility rather than enhance it.
Stay With It
Strategically, the prospecting formula on LinkedIn should be authentic engagement followed by gentle but serious sales prospecting. How long does engagement take before it’s time to start selling? This is a great question and one that has no pat answer.
When prospects respond to one of your comments, it’s a great sign. When a prospect comments on one of your LinkedIn posts, it’s another great sign. When a prospect comments on one of your LinkedIn articles or shares it with his/her network, it’s yet another sign that the individual is taking you seriously and ready to discuss forming a business relationship.
With some people, this engagement process may take a few days; with others, a few months. The key, as it is with all sales prospecting, is to stay with it and resist the temptation to give up and turn your attention elsewhere. Many new customers are lost because the seller just didn’t hang around long enough to hear the word yes.
Author bio: Don Matejko is Chief Revenue Officer at Showpad, the leading sales enablement platform for the modern seller. Showpad’s all-in-one platform empowers sales and marketing teams to engage buyers by integrating industry-leading training and coaching software with innovative content solutions. Matejko is responsible for scaling up Showpad’s revenue growth worldwide. His extensive SaaS experience includes building high-performance global sales teams and transforming companies such as SAP Hybris and Adobe into high-growth market leaders.