With over 300 million members on LinkedIn, this is a growing network you cannot ignore. It is a powerful platform for all professionals, but particularly sales professionals. Here are a few tips how you can use LinkedIn to build business – connect to the decision makers, build your personal brand and encourage your customers to connect with you.

Why Social Media Matters in Sales Today

1. It opens new ways to connect to your customers: Social media opens new and more effective opportunities to connect with your customers. Interruption-based sales techniques like cold calling or direct mailing frequently do much more harm than good. Statistics shows, that 72 % of Americans have signed for the National Do Not Call Registry. So why do companies think cold calling is still a good idea? Just because you have my email address or phone number, it doesn’t mean you should email or call me with the sales pitch.

2. It can help build business: the role of social media is undervalued in today’s business. Managers must realize that when salespeople are interacting through LinkedIn profiles, this activity is more likely to contribute toward eventual sales than cold-calling a buyer. However, at some organizations, using social networking services during work hours is banned that is, of course, ridiculous. Even in those organizations where it allowed, many sales managers don’t allocate time for social networking or give credit to the people who use social media effectively to build business.

3. It helps to create personal touch: In addition, communication through social media helps to create more a personal touch with your customer, which is fundamental for a successful sale. Hundreds years ago our great-grandparents personally new the people who sold them shoes or chickens, this personal touch is still important today.

Why LinkedIn?

What do you think? Where is the first place your customer goes before having a call or meeting with you? LinkedIn. Just as we research someone online before agreeing to a first date, our prospects will look for you on LinkedIn before agreeing to or attending an initial business meeting.

LinkedIn is the single most important social media platform for B2B sales today.  Being the largest growing professional network and growing at a rapid rate of 2 members per second, you can’t afford to ignore this gold mine.  Worldwide there are over 300 million LinkedIn members, 75 million in Europe alone.

LinkedIn is a powerful platform for all professionals, but particularly sales professionals.  You can follow your line of connections to discover how you may be linked to a prospect.  You can ask to be introduced by a mutual contact.  You can follow Company Pages and join Groups to learn more about your prospects, their growing concerns and trending topics in their industries.

In addition, LinkedIn can be a great tool to create your personal brand and encourage your customers to connect/to work with you. People like to buy from people they can relate with. And LinkedIn can really help you create a memorable first impression and a strong image as an industry expert your customers would like to work with.

How to use LinkedIn to Build Business

Tip #1: Use 2nd Connections

Many people don‘t realize the power that lies in the 2nd degree of their LinkedIn connections - people who are connected to your 1st-degree connections (you'll see a 2nd degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile). They can be enormously valuable when trying to reach your perspective customers.

If you work in your industry for some time, there is high probability that many of your prospective customers lie in your 2nd degree connections. Use the Advanced Search options in LinkedIn to find out who they are and how they can help you to reach your sales goals.  The process of getting to them is very simple – just ask the person from your 1st connections that you have the best relations with for a Magic Mail (introduction mail).

To start harnessing the power of LinkedIn, seek the best people in the best positions to help you reach your desired contacts.

Tip #2: Enhance Your Network with Meaningful Contacts

Here are a couple of tips how to increase your professional network with relevant contacts:

1. Find people by companies you are targeting. In the search box at the top of the page, select the dropdown arrow icon to the left of the search bar.  Select “Companies” and type the search for the company you are courting. In these results, look for the stakeholder employees that would normally be involved in a business systems purchase.  Select each individual’s profile to check whether you have any mutual contacts.  If you do, ask for a Magic Mail (an introduction) from this contact.

2. Generate attention and connect by answering questions on LinkedIn: Many people use LinkedIn as a knowledge or professional questions & answers forum. They ask and respond to relevant questions via their LinkedIn groups and interests. You can engage the desired audience in LinkedIn in a similar way.

Joining groups in which your prospects are members is a great way to understand the frequently asked questions and objections they may have about Cloud Solutions.  A bonus to this is, answering questions via this forum also positions you as an expert on this topic to the members of this Group and they may InMail you or seek out your company when a Cloud project comes to the table.

Logistically, when you answer a question via a LinkedIn Group it will display in the Network Update feed of each of your connections.  Investing the time and resources into answering these questions provides delivers a dual value to your prospecting efforts, as first it showcases you as a knowledgeable professional in the Group and second as a knowledgeable professional to your entire LinkedIn network as the answer displays in their feeds.

A bonus tip, in the answers you post to questions, you can include links to relevant articles you may have written or landing pages/blog posts that lead back to your website.

3. Gain new contacts from integrating LinkedIn in your sales activities: Anytime you do a webinar or present at a trade show, invite your audience to network with you on LinkedIn. It will naturally enrich your LinkedIn network with meaningful contacts.

Tip #3: You are what you publish. Foster the right networking attitude.

Don’t make a mistake using LinkedIn only to sell, sell, sell. The expected attitude from you is sharing useful information in proactive way without expecting anything immediately in return. In LinkedIn, as in all social media platforms, guide your activity by the Give & Receive principle. Inform and educate first instead of interrupt and sell.

The do’s and don’ts of LinkedIn for selling:

1. Think of LinkedIn as the ultimate business dating platform. As marketing guru, David Meerman Scot, says “The next time you create a sales strategy, think about how you would approach it if you were trying to DATE the buyer instead of SELL to them.”

2. Highlight your value and expertise to win LinkedIn business.  LinkedIn isn’t just about creating connections, it showcases the value you bring to the table in the business relationship.  Sharing videos, useful content (e.g. blogs, ebooks, guides, case studies), and guided experienced advice through LinkedIn is how you make those connections and strengthen relationships.

3. Sell less to sell more.  Bottom line, LinkedIn isn’t a sales forums, it is a professional business network.  If you try to use your classic sales techniques in this forum, you will only shrink your network.  Honestly, when you actually stop selling, you will make more connections and gain more ground in this platform.

Tip #4: Don’t’ miss the sales signals

You can also use LinkedIn as a radar to catch the sales signals. When your prospective customer clicks on a link you shared, it’s a sales signal. When your customer changed their job title on LinkedIn, that’s a sales signal. Don’t miss these subtle signals in LinkedIn to make a move on the sales front.

And finally, employees change jobs, which means they change email addresses. Companies get bought out and go out of business, which means your customer data and CRM system are out-of-date. No matter how many career changes, mergers or bankruptcies, the LinkedIn profile for each connection, each prospect, will always be updated to the current status.

Good luck exploring all the possibilities of LinkedIn for your Cloud sales.

1ClickFactory Self-Provisioning for Microsoft Dynamics NAV on Microsoft Azure and in Office 365