How to Use LinkedIn for B2B Salespeople

Your Sales Team: Connected

LinkedIn for Sales PeopleSocial media promotion has become one of the most widely used and effective forms of B2B Internet marketing -- but chances are your employees outside of the marketing department are not using these platforms correctly.

Sales people, especially, are drawn to LinkedIn, a social networking site that focuses on professional environment. LinkedIn is rapidly becoming the primary network for B2B marketers and salespeople, as its users are inherently more open to receive business-related requests and pieces of content.

LinkedIn differentiates itself from other social media giants Facebook and Twitter in that it’s set up as an online work-related portfolio. Users primarily input job-related data opposed to more-personal information given to other social networking sites -- including a resume and lists of skills instead of hobbies and likes. Salespeople and marketers alike use LinkedIn to promote their company's messages, products, and services to targeted audiences interested in receiving work-related news, information, and opportunities.

Complete Your Profile

In a recent blog post, I gave 4 steps to get started with social media marketing, but the same concepts translate to sales folks, as well. LinkedIn claims complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn, so it's important for sales people to including the following when creating their profile:

  • Your industry and location
  • An up-to-date current position (with a description)
  • Two past positions
  • Your education
  • Your skills (minimum of 3)
  • A profile photo
  • At least 50 connections

Initially, it might be difficult to find 50 connections, but the rest of these should be taken care of right when you sign up for your account. Start by searching for current and past clients, partners, employees, co-workers, etc. and add them. Continue adding connections weekly; think of this as your online rolodex. If you find you're struggling with your connections, try promoting your LinkedIn page in your email signature or business cards -- slowly, you develop and grow a strong base of former and future co-workers and clients.

When building out your LinkedIn profile, it's important to remember that you are representing your company -- make sure your profile will not jeopardize your position or embarrass your organization.

Network

The primary benefit of every social media platform (LinkedIn included) is the ability to network with a wider audience than previously possible. LinkedIn makes it simple for salespeople and marketers alike to network with highly-targeted audiences through joining and participating in various groups. Groups can be created by any LinkedIn member, and can be based on any topic imaginable. Groups not only allow for personal networking, but they serve as incredible platforms to promote your company to an interested audience.

Start by joining obvious groups related to your industry...if one doesn't exist, create one. Keep in mind that not all groups are created equal. A group might seem like a perfect match for your B2B marketing strategies, but might have little activity, or a small amount of members. It's not worth promoting to a small group without much participation, so it's recommended to find and join relevant AND popular groups -- LinkedIn makes it easy to see how many members each group has, and how often its members actually participate.

For salespeople, networking through LinkedIn serves as a great way to prospect and monitor leads. Groups are not only used as promotional platforms to post your company's content; it's also a great tool to monitor industry engagement and keep an eye out for clear pain points and buying signals you can leverage in a sales pitch. LinkedIn is an invaluable resource for sales people to nurture existing customers while generating relevant leads -- and users tend to be more receptive to sales opportunities vs. other methods of communication (i.e. the cold call).

Warm up a Cold Call

Cold calling has always had a low-success rate because cold calls, by nature, are intrusive. A salesman might call 100 accounts before getting someone on the phone who might be somewhat receptive to his or her sales pitch. With an increased pace of life and the public’s growing ability to see through cold calling pitches, LinkedIn can help.

Use LinkedIn to target specific members of the business you’re trying to contact. Gatekeepers aren't stupid; if you call in asking for the person responsible for purchasing whatever you're selling, get used to being hung up on. Salespeople will always be more successful when asking for someone by name. LinkedIn's search function allows you to find people based on; job titles, companies, geographic locations, to name a few -- use this to target decision makers, gather information, and go into your next sales call armed with this knowledge.

By going into a sales call with information about your target prospect; not only will you have a greater chance of reaching that person, the effectiveness of your call will increase exponentially vs. a completely cold call. It shows your prospect that you have done your homework, and should be a reliable partner in the future. Very few sales tactics work better than showing dedication to your clients and their specific needs -- LinkedIn helps humanize cold calling, and humanize the (often misunderstood) art of sales.

Paid Services

The one downside of a free LinkedIn account are profile visibility restrictions. LinkedIn currently only allows members within your network to view your complete profile (1st degree connections). What this means is that without an incredibly large amount of connections, most of your prospect's accounts likely won't be visible; placing your sales efforts back at square one. Without paying for a premium account, the only way to bypass this is to join relevant groups and grow your connection base -- the ladder being easier said than done.

So, what do you get with a premium account? For starters, LinkedIn offers paid accounts for Businesses, Recruiters, Job-Seekers and Sales -- all ranging from $15.95 to $499.95 a month. The the sake of this blog entry, we will be focusing on the features of the Sales accounts which include Basic, Navigator and an Executive program.

In terms of profile visibility, all three sales account tiers allows you to view complete profiles of all 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connections. This is crucial to gather information before contacting him or her -- allowing salespeople greater insight into the day-to-day tasks and job responsibilities of their prospects for highly-focused sales pitches. The downside is that although the full profile is visible; only sales executive accounts can see full names of all 3rd degree and group connections.

One of my favorite features of a premium sales LinkedIn account is the ability to see a complete list of all users who viewed your profile. This can be one of the most powerful features for salespeople. If someone is viewing your account -- regardless of how they landed there -- chances are they're interested in something about you (hopefully interested in the products or services you're selling). Use this to your advantage and push these people to the top of your sales list.

Regardless of level, a Sales LinkedIn account includes tools to better find and target prospects including sales alerts, lead builder (organize leads into folders) and more premium search fields designed to pinpoint your targets. The accounts also offer tools for better engagement; a predefined set of Introductions per month -- and the Navigator and Executive accounts offer InMail messages per month (generally $10 each).

Next Steps

  1. Create your LinkedIn profile and begin to build your connection base
  2. Add your LinkedIn URL to your work email signature
  3. Join groups related to your industry and participate
  4. Read Backbone Media's Blog focused on online marketing and social media trends and best practices
  5. Come back often!