29 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn for Social Selling

  1. Establish your LinkedIn profile if you haven’t already. Duh. LinkedIn is the premier B2B (business to business) networking tool out there. Get LinkedIn or get locked out is my motto.
  2. Create compelling content that tells people the value that they receive when working with you.
  3. Make sure your profile is 100% complete.
  4. Include a professional headshot…not one of the kids or from your last fishing vacation!
  5. Improve your search rankings by adding applicable keywords in the headline area underneath your name. Sorry, but nobody searches for CEO of anything. Sprinkle those keywords (where it makes sense) throughout your summary information.
  6. Customize your website links. Instead of leaving the standard “company website” title, edit it and include the name of your company, product, service or last radio interview you conducted. It’s all about branding folks.
  7. Post a status update with information relevant to your network on a daily basis. Connect your Twitter account using the Twitter app and your LinkedIn updates will feed Twitter and vice versa.
  8. Share an article from LinkedIn Today, which you’ll find under the News tab.
  9. Peruse the network home page to see who’s connected to whom – maybe they are a good connection for you too.
  10. Make a point to like and comment on updates from people in your network.
  11. Secure recommendations. Make sure that they are relevant and authentic.
  12. Look to see “who’s viewed your profile”…is there an opportunity to reach out to them to say hello?
  13. After every networking meeting, sales meeting or speaking event, invite appropriate people to connect with you.
  14. Personalize your invitation requests to let people know how they know you and why connecting with you create a win/win for you both.
  15. When accepting the invitations of others, immediately click on “send email” and thank them for reaching out to invite you to connect on LinkedIn. Everybody loves a thank you!
  16. Share the profile of colleagues with people you know who might be a good prospect for they offer. Take a moment to tell them why meeting with your colleague is a good idea.
  17. View the connections of your 1-1 connections regularly and ask for a personal introduction to people that you want to meet. Don’t forget to ask them how you can help them with something in return!
  18. Export your contacts and invite a few colleagues to a contact sharing meet-up. Each of you brings your list and you find ways to help each other get to new prospects.
  19. Join LinkedIn groups that your potential buyer is likely to join. Participating in discussions gives you an opportunity to demonstrate the credibility you bring to the table.
  20. Promote other people in your network. Share their events, good news, presentations or company page.
  21. Follow companies that you’d like to do business with and keep tabs on the people and changes in the organization.
  22. Set up your own company page. This becomes a mini-website within the LinkedIn platform.
  23. Set up a FREE Slideshare account and share a presentation about your capabilities or a business topic relevant to your industry.
  24. Host a video clip on your profile using Google Presentations.
  25. Post your upcoming events using the Events application. Once set up, you can share the event with 50 members in your network and ask them to pass on to people in their networks. Copy the event link and use it to post as a status update for your entire network to see.
  26. Conduct sales research using Company Pages or the Answers section. In today’s sales world, decision makers expect that you’ve done your homework. Don’t ask them lame questions during that all important sales meeting that you could have easily uncovered on the web.
  27. Connect your blog to your profile using Blog Link or the WordPress application. Every time you post, your profile is automatically updated.
  28. Earned a certification, speak several languages or have published a book? Use the “Add Sections” feature to include them. When in edit mode, you’ll find the feature just before your summary information.
  29. Finally, and maybe most importantly, set up a “Saved Search” using the Advanced Search capability. Set up your search using the keywords or titles that best describe your sales target. Break it down by industry and geographic location based on zip code. Once you run the search – SAVE IT! You can save 3 with the free version of LinkedIn. Why save? Because every Monday morning LinkedIn sends you an email telling you what people matching your criteria have just joined your network. A most incredible and FREE lead generation list. Oh, but it does mean that you need quality and quantity of connections for the data to have any value.

Whew, well there you have it. Twenty-nine ways to better leverage LinkedIn to drive sales activities and results. Have fun and happy selling!

Hum, Do I Know You?

Today marks seven years since I first began using LinkedIn. As a raving fan, I use the networking tool daily for making connections, sharing referrals, prospecting, conducting pre-sales call research and more. It is an amazing sales tool with power far greater than what most people realize, which is why salespeople need to to invest the time to learn how to use LinkedIn effectively.

Making and accepting invitations is the first step in building your network, so I’d like to share 3 brief tips about how to do it the right way. Before I do, I need to tell you that I do not subscribe to the “open networker” philosophy, and I do not say yes to everyone who asks me to connect with them. Our networks are business assets and should be treated as such. If I’m going to allow someone access to my connections, I need to know that I can trust them to behave professionally. I’m about the quality of connections not the sheer number of them.

Ok, now that I’ve set the stage with my feelings about building my network, here are 3 tips for making and accepting LinkedIn invitations.

1. Invite people that you know. LinkedIn’s official policy is that you connect with people that you know. Daily, I receive invitations from people that I’ve never heard of, never met and never conversed with in a LinkedIn group. These invitations usually indicate that we are friends when we aren’t. Or, they suggest that we’ve done business together, which we haven’t. I keep an open mind about connecting with people that I do not know yet, but you have to give me a compelling reason to do so. What’s the benefit to me? That leads me to point number two.

2. Personalize your invitations. I’m pretty much over the standard “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.” Really, why? Why am I a good connection for you and vice versa? The “you are a person that I trust” message also gets under my skin. These invitations are especially irritating when I have no idea who you are. How do you know that you can trust me? The way I see it, if the connection is important to you - stop and take a moment to customize your message. Guess what, I don’t have the time to look up your profile and figure out if we’d be good connections for each other. Other people don’t either. Your job is to make it clear why connecting makes sense for both parties.

3. When you accept a connection, send a personalized message saying “thank you”. It’s a small, but very important way to stand out. In fact, I conducted social media training for a group of salespeople on Wednesday, and one gal in the room said that it bugged her when people never responded to her after connecting. All it takes is a minute to click on “send a message” once you’ve accepted the invite. It lets the other person know that you actually care about being connected.

People buy from people that they know, like and trust. Sales referrals are shared with other professionals for the same reasons. Relationships matter. Remembering that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, make your first LinkedIn interaction count!


Where’s My Atta-Girl?

Last Thursday was one superfantastic day! At Atlanta Women in Business, we held the 7th Annual “Results Count” award luncheon at one of my fave restaurants, Maggiano’s. What an amazingly good time! The room was packed and the networking took on a fever frenzy. It was clear that people were not only enjoying the opportunity to network with other like minded professionals, but they were in celebration mode. Think Oscars but smaller:).

And the winner is…

Eleanor Morgan, President/CEO of MD&E. An absolutely amazing business woman with grace, charm and humility to boot, Eleanor embodies the true spirit and meaning of the annual award. Congrats Eleanor!

While Eleanor was speaking, I was fondly remembering back to last year when I was honored with the award, and it occurred to me that as an entrepreneur, I don’t receive accolades like I used to back in my corporate sales days. I mean, who’s gonna pat me on the back and give me that sales award anyway? Me? During Eleanor’s comments, she also mentioned how nice it was to be recognized by her peers. I couldn’t agree more!

To all of you who own your own businesses, I am giving you the high 5 right now! If you came from the corporate world, you know what it really takes to make your own rain every single day. “Success is an inside job” takes on new meaning, doesn’t it? It isn’t always easy, but you do it day in and day out. For that, I salute you all!

By the way…that’s Eleanor on the left and Lya Sorano, Founder and CEO of Atlanta Women in Business on the right.

Brand Killer: Part III

If you read posts 1 and 2 on the topic of busting your brand, you know that I didn’t take kindly to the dimwit who decided it was okay to send me spam, because we were members of the same LinkedIn group. You also know that he didn’t care for me making the suggestion that spamming people wasn’t the way to go about driving successful sales. His response said it all.

But, that wasn’t the end of it, because as you know I felt compelled to let him know for the second time that he’d now taken rude to another level. I figured that would be the end of it. Ah, but not for this guy. Here is his final response. There are soooo many things that I wanted to say in return, but what would be the point? He considers me “sanctimonious”, perhaps because I was the first one to tell him his approach might be losing him sales. As for the rest of his logic…one can only wonder.

“You were never going to buy from me to begin with. Just because you wrote just another book on sales doesn’t mean your way is the only way to get new business. (Hey I have a book published too. 5 stars on Amazon.com - which is really great, but I don’t consider my book to be the definitive answer to anything). There is still plenty of room for cold calling in the market today - and you are wrong if you think otherwise. There is rude, and there is sanctimonious. Besides, those in your network, who like you, believe that there is no room for Cold Calling were never going to buy from me anyway, so be sure to let them know. Actually, I am sure that some sales professionals will be interested to speak with me just because you tell them not too.”

By the way, some of my colleagues suggested that I was only wasting my precious time responding to this guy and then blogging about the situation. My feeling is that every now and then you’ve got to take a stand. I’m getting far to many of these cheezy sales pitches thrown at me via LinkedIn, as are many others, and I felt that I needed to speak up. Whether he hears the message or not is really not the point. Oh, and if you are one of the sales professionals who want to talk to this guy just because I suggest you look elsewhere, please let me know. I’ll happily pass along his contact information:)

Networking Game Plan

by guest author, Peggy Parks, The Parks Image Group

I had never networked until I started my business and was absolutely petrified. What should I do? What should I say? How do I start a conversation? How do I end a conversation? What do I talk about? How do I approach people? What do I wear? It was all so overwhelming. Therefore I’ve decided to assemble this “cheat sheet” for those of you who may feel uncomfortable mingling in a room full of strangers. Read this before you leave the house!
Before the Event: Have a Plan

  • Where are you going?
  • Why are you going?
  • Who will be there?
  • What is your goal?

Make sure you have plenty of business cards (neatly organized in a card holder) and a pen and notepad. Clear out your wallet and handbag to avoid any embarrassing spills.

Have your “elevator pitch” ready. An “elevator pitch” is essentially a spiel you give in the time it takes to ride an elevator (anywhere from 30-60 seconds). Hit the major bullet points - who you are, what you do, what you’re looking to accomplish - and be prepared to recite this throughout the event.

When You First Arrive 

  1. Survey the room. As you approach the door, take a moment to check your posture, adopt a relaxed and confident facial expression, and determine whether or not anyone you know is inside. Take a deep breath - it’ll help you calm those nerves. 
  2. Make conversation. Approach someone who is standing alone - most likely they’ll be grateful for the effort. Do not interrupt people who are deep in conversation, and do not invade others’ personal space. If you’re still at a loss, introduce yourself to the host or check-in person; oftentimes they are happy to make introductions to get the party going.

What to Say
We all know to stay away from politics and religion, but you should also make sure that you leave your personal life behind. Don’t talk about health issues. Do not criticize the venue or the food. Do not gossip.
Check the headlines and be aware of what’s going on in the news. This will give you a conversation starter. “What do you think of….?” This way you can gauge the person’s opinion and respond accordingly. There’s less chance of offending someone.
The easiest thing to do is ask others to talk about themselves. We all love to do this. Even if the person you are talking to is boring, be mindful; do not make them feel uncomfortable. Listen to them, nod, agree, be in a forward position, and look at them, not at who is coming through the door!

Should the person not know how to stop talking, you need to make a graceful exit. Do not make them feel bad. Smile; tell them you enjoyed the conversation and that you need to mingle with others.

Business Cards
I attended an event earlier this year. The event had already started and I noticed a woman who came in late. Before she sat at a table, she made sure she distributed her business card to everyone in the room. She was trying to be “discreet” but was very disruptive and rude. The woman next to me said, “Peggy, she needs to take your etiquette class.” What was she thinking? (She wasn’t.) Do not hand out your business card unless someone asks for it. All they will do is throw it away. Do not assume you can add someone to your distribution list simply because you have their contact info. Networking is about forming relationships, not selling yourself. People won’t buy from you unless they know you, like you, and trust you. It all takes time. Research shows that it takes seven “touches” for people to remember you. Exercise a little patience and take the time to forge a connection.
What to Wear
If you want to “work the room,” I recommend that you wear friendly and approachable colors such as a medium brown, a medium blue, or earth tones (if they are flattering to your skin tone). Wearing black may be a bit intimidating.

Wear a jacket which has two pockets. It will help when giving out your business card. Put your business cards in your right pocket, and put the business cards you receive in your left pocket (or vice versa). This will prevent the embarrassment of giving out someone else’s business card!
Following Up
This is the most important part of networking. Don’t let a great connection slip through your fingers because you were too lazy to follow up!

  1. Enter your contacts into your database. Include a few notes so that you can recall what you discussed.
  2. Pay it forward by making connections and introductions. Not every person you meet will present a business opportunity for you - yet. But by connecting someone with another contact who may be in the same field you can impress two friends, who will more than likely return the favor down the road.
  3. Send a thank you note or email if you are short on time.
  4. Check back a month later.
  5. Connect on social media. LinkedIn and Facebook - provided your profile is professional, not personal - can be a great way to keep in touch.

Peggy M. Parks is an international image consultant and founder of The Parks Image Group, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Custom corporate workshops on professional business attire and etiquette, private one-on-one consulting that features a personal and individually crafted image plan and wardrobe planning and selection form the core services Peggy’s company provides. www.theparksimagegroup.com

What’s Your Social Voice?

I so love LinkedIn! This amazing business networking site boasts an impressive 65M+ user base and climbing. Roughly 65% of LinkedIn’s users are tagged as key decision makers, which is sales code for…they can buy from you! That, in and of itself, is a HUGE reason for you to use LinkedIn as a sales relationship tool that becomes a part of your natural sales/networking process. Decision makers, with money to spend, are using LinkedIn to check out your capabilities (and that of your competitor), polling colleagues for recommendations and doing research into what is available. They are talking about their like’s, dislike’s and sharing their current business frustrations and challenges. Are you listening? For sales people, LinkedIn should be the #1 place they go to prepare for their sales meeting. The amount of real-time information to be leveraged is…well…just plain staggering.

Speaking of leveraging conversation and information…I want to tell you about a really great question that was posed recently by Dana Detrick-Clark in one of my LinkedIn groups. She’s curious about the approach that others are taking in determining their blogging voice. And because the question is so applicable to “What approach do I take/voice do I use when answering group questions in a social community?”, I wanted to share Dana’s question and a part of my response.

Dana asks…Which is more important in a blog: speaking to a particular kind of reader, or speaking in your own ‘voice’? I’m curious as to what other business owners prefer, especially in business and/or marketing related blogs. Do you like the more journalistic approach, where you get “just the facts” for the information you’re after, or would you rather read a blog that’s more personal (even if that means at times it can be irreverent or reveal more personally about the author than what you normally find in a biz blog)?

Here was a portion of my answer…

You asked a great question that comes up a lot with clients. How much is too much information? Of course, like all such questions, the answer invariably is “it depends”.:)

Given that I own my business, I have more latitude with the approach I choose to take. So to be fair, I have a little more freedom when it comes to the information that I share in my blog posts. Each company has to decide what supports their core values and customer loyalty statement. But I urge companies to move away from their fear of “what could happen if someone says the wrong thing” and embrace the opportunity for building brand loyalty through media like blogs. There are a number of great stories about how companies were humanized in the eyes of their buyers and all because they “got real” on a blog. Sure, guidelines need to be established so that people know what’s cool and what isn’t (had to do it with email, remember?). From there, give employees training and then hold them accountable to be responsible when having conversations in the social space.

So what’s your take? Real in the blogosphere or not?

Follow Companies on LinkedIn – New!

LinkedIn has made the Company section more robust. It is now even easier to research companies and keep up with the people changes happening with those companies.

The Improvement

You can now “follow” companies. Okay, STOP right there! Before you close your mind to it, because images of nonsensical conversation on Twitter just popped into your head, please hear me when I say that “the concept” is similar, but definitely different. This is the kind of follow that you want to engage in, because…

Sales Benefit

You will hear about key developments such as who’s joined, left or been promoted at the companies you follow, business opportunities and job openings. This moves your ability to research target companies you want to work with to another level.

Once you elect to follow a company… when you log into the Company Home Page on LinkedIn, you will see a list of updates for the companies that you follow. You will also see a “company updates” section now showing up on your LinkedIn Home Page.

This is so much easier than tracking the individual movements of people within in a company. LinkedIn aggregates the list of changes for you. You can easily scan the list to keep up with what’s changed. Here’s a quick screen shot of the company I set up to follow today to check out how this works.

How To

Find Companies under the “More” menu. Click on Companies. Search companies you want to track. Once you’ve pulled up their company page…look to the upper right and click on “follow company”. Scan the updates once a day or once a week.

Definitely check it out! Share your success stories.

Cold Calling 2.0?

Since the early days of John Patterson and his NCR sales playbook, “cold calling” seems to be ingrained in the collective sales consciousness as an expected part of the sales process. I still wonder why. Come on. Cold calling doesn’t work (it never has, and I don’t care what that last sales trainer told you).

This ridiculous notion of “dialing for dollars” is so yesterday. Sales people resist cold calling like the plague and with good reason. At some level, they know it doesn’t make any sense to call a stranger and expect them to buy within seconds of receiving their call no matter how charming they may be. Old school sales thinking is that you just call enough numbers and eventually somebody buys. What a waste of time and energy! Not to mention how potential buyers detest this approach. They don’t appreciate your rambling, inarticulate, blathering feature dumps and the evident randomness of the call. As a business owner, I can relate. Maybe I’ll create an audio book one of these days with the “best of the worst” phone calls that I’ve ever received. I save them. Hilarious and painfully sad at the same time. Hint: if you have to cold call then at least do some remedial homework. Make sure I’m in the market for what you sell. Everyone is NOT your customer!

Get over the notion of cold calling. Nobody likes it, it doesn’t work. Instead, what about using social media/social networks, email, Twitter, Facebook, referrals and the like to start paving the way for a great relationship? There is just NO excuse anymore for sales management to think that “dialing for dollars” has much chance at success. Instead, invest time in learning to use social media to augment and extend your sales reach. Insist that your sales people use social tools and social networks to begin conversations that will lead to finding common ground and getting to know each other. Then, when you do reach out to secure that sales appointment there will be nothing cold about it!

How Do You Gather Customer Feedback?

Ironic isn’t it? We live and work in a digital age, and the discourse about the power of social media to communicate with potential buyers and current customers in more effective ways reached deafening proportions in 2009. Yet a current poll running over on LinkedIn shows that 46% of the respondents thus far still think that the most effective way to gather customer feedback is in direct, face-to-face meetings. Hum… me thinks there is a disconnect.

Your customers and potential customers are sharing a wealth of information and insight about what they want - online. In 3 easy steps, here’s how you can begin to capitalize on the wealth of opportunity staring you in the face.

  1. Determine where your current customer (or prospect) is likely to “participate” online. Don’t assume they are using Facebook or Twitter or any other social technology people tell you is the hot thing. Put your thinking cap on. Consider the demographics of your audience. What do you know about them now that can help you identify where they travel in the online space. EXAMPLE: Your customer is the VP of Sales in technology and telecommunications companies. What does he/she care about? What challenges are top of mind? In what forums or groups are they talking about what they need or wish vendors provided?
  2. Listen to what is being said. Now that you know where your customers live…listen to what they are talking about. What questions are they asking? How are they gathering feedback about products and services on the market? Don’t show up in a group and start pitching your wares. Take the time to listen.
  3. Engage them in dialog. Ask relevant questions and don’t argue the answers. Defending your turf  only looks and sounds self serving. Your goal is to set your agenda aside. How else can you really understand what is important to your most valuable asset - your customer? Use what you learn to innovate your products and services and build stronger loyalty with your customer base.

It’s hard to know what that 46% was thinking when they answered the question posed in the poll, but it seems certain they may be missing the entire point and opportunity that social media represents.

No Magic Bullet for Sales

2009 will be a year remembered for many things. Most of them non too positive. Financial meltdowns, rampant greed, thousands put out of work. Fear, negativity, anger and often complete disrespect for other human beings showed up everywhere. For entrepreneurs, it proved tough just trying to make it through, while at the same time companies beat them down on price and strung out the process of paying their bills to boot. Sales organizations began to finally realize that strategies that used to work, no longer did. Consumer confidence hit an all time low. Not all was gloom and doom though, and what I will remember most is how people began waking up to the power and potential of social media. Budget cuts and spending freezes forced companies to look at new alternatives to old processes that no longer made sense, and that, I think, is a very good thing.

Social Media’s Role in Sales

Here are just a few of the benefits that, I believe, social media brings to the sales process:

  • Fill the pipeline with “better qualified” buyers.
  • Improved efficiency of lead generation efforts.
  • Shrunken sales cycle and reduction in the “cost per sales hour”.
  • Increased conversion rate of leads generated to clients enrolled.
  • Enhanced customer loyalty that leads to sustained revenue and higher profits.

One key to success using social media as a sales prospecting and lead generation tool is in the ability to reach more people with less effort and cost. It is a way to build visibility, demonstrate expertise and capability to potential buyers, while also keeping abreast of what’s happening on the competitive front. Done well, social media reinforces your brand so that when your ideal buyer is ready to make that purchase, they think of you!

No Magic Bullet

The opportunity to increase sales using social media is real, but success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes thought. It takes planning. It takes training. It takes commitment to use the tools - often. It most definitely requires patience. There is no quick fix, regardless what so many of the so-called “experts”, who inevitably arrived on the scene, would have you believe. They would tell you that the key to success lies in your ability to get 200 Twitter followers a day, and other such silly nonsense.

Getting Results

For each sales organization and sales person, the approach taken and the technologies used will vary, but the fundamentals of getting started will not. Boring as it may sound…determining your purpose, identifying the characteristics of your ideal buyer, developing your brand message and creating your plan are the things that must come first. Without these things, what difference does it make how many people follow you on Twitter or belong to your LinkedIn network? Better to have 20 of the right people following you than 200 of the wrong, an important fact conveniently ignored by those desperate to believe that a social media profile today means an influx of sales tomorrow.