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How to Sell through LinkedIn

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know social media, especially LinkedIn, plays an important role in sales. But you may be surprised by just how big that role is. According to LinkedIn research, 89% of top sales professionals find social networking platforms such as LinkedIn important to closing deals.

Indeed, our own research reveals the majority of buyers—82%—will review your LinkedIn profile, and, yes, judge you, before accepting a meeting or otherwise connecting with you.

That’s right! Eight out of every 10 buyers are vetting you on LinkedIn before deciding whether to respond to you.

You’re being evaluated daily based on your digital brand.

andy-springer-profile
All the elements of your LinkedIn profile are under scrutiny: your work experience, skills, summary, education, endorsements, headline, shared connections, number of connections, group memberships, and profile picture.

And the message each communicates can sway buyers to accept or decline meetings or connections with you.

Makes you want to polish things up a bit, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, you can get started on that immediately. In this post, I share how to sell through LinkedIn.

 

Why Should You Care?

  1. 82% of buyers look up a seller on LinkedIn before replying to a seller's prospecting efforts1
  2. 50-58% of C-level/VP executives will connect with sellers on LinkedIn even if they don't know them1
  3. 92% of B2B buyers start by searching on the web2
  4. 84% of C-level/VP executives use social media to make purchasing decisions3
  5. 50% of B2B buyers avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles4
  6. 88% of B2B buyers accept connections through someone in their existing professional network4

1 Top Performance in Sales Prospecting Benchmark Report, RAIN Group Center for Sales Research
2 The Modern B2B Buyer, Inside Sales Virtual Summit 2013
3 Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience, IDC, 2014
4 How B2B Buyers Perceive Sales Professionals, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, 2014

 

Plus, I’ll share 15 ideas for spending 15 minutes a day for selling on LinkedIn. I challenge you to do this for at least 15 days in the next month. After 15 days you'll have a stronger LinkedIn presence and be better positioned to sell through LinkedIn.

More on that later. First, there are few things about selling on LinkedIn you need to know.

How to Sell through LinkedIn

To get the most out of LinkedIn, focus on these four core activities:

  • Build Your Digital Brand through Your Profile
  • Search and Listen
  • Connect and Join
  • Strengthen Relationships

1. Build Your Digital Brand through Your Profile

Optimize your profile so it’s complete, professional, and impressive to your target buyers and clients. If the last time you used LinkedIn was to help you land a job, it's probably not communicating what you want. You need to build a LinkedIn profile for sales.

Buyers visiting your profile are asking themselves whether they want to engage with you. Make sure the message your profile communicates has them saying, “Yes!”

Here are some LinkedIn profile ideas for sales:

  • Use a professional profile photo.
    • A professional photo is best, avoid cropped casual photos, and be sure to dress the part.
    • If you don’t have access to a professional photographer, use your phone’s camera set to portrait mode.
  • Communicate value in your headline.
    • Tailor the headline to what you want to communicate to your audience. Think about what’s in it for them and how you help your buyers.
    • Use the headline to define your value. Try using this simple formula:

      “I help people ____by ___.”

      For example, I help leaders increase team productivity by providing easy-to-use collaboration software solutions. 
  • Complete and update your profile.
    • Communicate messages that depict you as you want to be perceived. For example, are you a problem-solver for your clients? What problems do you solve? What’s your superpower?
    • Maximize your credibility with appropriate videos and content. This doesn’t have to be content that you’ve created yourself. Ask your marketing team for appropriate assets to post and share.
    • Avoid grammar, punctuation, and spacing mistakes. Have someone else review what you’ve written—we can all use a second set of eyes before we hit the publish button.
    • Keep your profile up to date with your latest awards, featured content, and publications.
  • Give and request recommendations and endorsements.
    • Recommend and endorse others. People will appreciate it and remember you for it!
    • Ask others to recommend and endorse you. If you’ve given someone a recommendation or endorsement on LinkedIn, they’re more likely to do the same for you. This is reciprocity in action.

 

Download the RAIN Group LinkedIn Checklist [PDF] to
Give Your Profile a Boost

LinkedIn_Checklist

 

2. Search and Listen

LinkedIn gives you a valuable view into your connections’ professional lives (and sometimes their personal lives).

Monitor your newsfeed to see what’s happening with your connections, but don’t stop there.

Take your searching and listening to the next level by following these tips:

  • Use LinkedIn’s tools and search functionality.
    • Locate potential buyers, learn more about their background, and find trigger events that give you a reason to reach out.
    • In Sales Navigator search, you can filter and find buyers by industry, company size, geographic location, title, function, seniority level, years of experience, school attended, and more.
  • After you identify appropriate prospects:
    • Connect with them
    • Save them as a contact (which will allow you to follow them and their activity)
    • Send them a message
  • Learn more.
    • Follow what your connections’ share about their needs or industry trends.
    • Stay alert to trigger events that give you a reason to reach out. For example, a recent promotion, job change, company growth, new hires, industry events, awards, and so on, could each offer a reason for you to reach out to someone—to strengthen the relationship or share something relevant.
    • Follow companies, clients, potential buyers, and industry groups that are important to you.

3. Connect and Join

Connecting with people is an art.

In sales, you can spend a lot of time trying to connect and getting no response, or you can do it right and see some conversions.

Again, LinkedIn’s tools help here—from identifying targets to leveraging your entire team’s network.

Here are some tips for connecting on LinkedIn:

  • Grow your network. If you don’t have 500 connections, work to get there.
    • Connect with colleagues at your company. You never know who they are connected to or where they’ll go next.
    • Connect with prospects when they enter your pipeline and are likely to accept your connection request.
    • Connect with someone following an email exchange.
    • Connect with new contacts in real-time when you meet them. Instead of exchanging business cards, open the LinkedIn app from your phone, search their name, and connect on the spot.
  • Join groups. You can join up to 100 groups. Once you're part of a group, you’re able send message requests to fellow group members, participate in the group conversations, and send invitations to connect.
    • Join the groups your prospects are in. LinkedIn groups are community spaces for like-minded professionals to engage and contribute to relevant industry conversations and postings.
    • Widen your target pool by messaging people who are in the same group—this is a benefit of being a group member. It means you don’t have to be a premium LinkedIn member or use InMail credits. You gain a direct channel to people you want to target, as well as people in similar roles.
    • Watch and learn before you post. Many sellers have learned that jumping right in and posting overly promotional messages before learning about the group and its norms can result in getting scolded by the group’s administrator or even worse—banned.

4. Strengthen Relationships

One of the biggest mistakes when selling through LinkedIn is making a valuable connection and then never doing anything with it.

Use LinkedIn to strengthen your relationships. Here’s how:

  • Curate relationships with your connections in a planned way to maintain and deepen them.
    • Post updates and share frequently. People are more likely to remember your interactions, comments, and posts when they regularly see them. You want to be seen as a valuable resource.
    • Send personalized messages to your connections to acknowledge their work anniversaries or other accomplishments.
    • Share and comment on their content that resonates with you.
  • Go from messaging with the buyer to meeting with them.
    • Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with business- and rapport-driven messages.
    • Share a value-based offer as part of an attraction campaign to suggest meeting as the next step. (Remember: you wanted to know how to sell through LinkedIn!)
    • Before a meeting—whether in-person or remote—look up the person you’re meeting with, their team, and company on LinkedIn. A little research in advance will give you conversation starters and other talking points. Look for shared interests, connections or other points of similarity to help build rapport.

By taking a systematic approach to LinkedIn, you’ll amplify your brand and become a person of interest to your buyers.

Learn How to Sell through LinkedIn with 15 Ideas for 15 Days

Here are 15 ideas for 15 days of selling on LinkedIn. Commit to just 15 minutes a day for the next 15 days to give these ideas a try.

 

Every day: Scan your news stream for a few minutes. "Like" your connections' updates that resonate with you, make comments as you see fit, share articles you find valuable.

 

Day 1: Strengthen your profile

Use the RAIN Group LinkedIn Checklist to help you create the strongest possible profile.

Day 2: Add connections

There are several ways to do this. Click on “My Network” in the top navigation and any pending invitations will display near the top of the page. On a member’s profile, click the “Connect” button.

On the “Grow Your Network” page, search your email address book to find contacts or invite them using their email address. LinkedIn can help you search for your connections and make suggestions for you.

Think about your top targets and contacts; search for them specifically and add them. Be sure to customize the message you send when asking to connect.


Day 3: Search for prospects, influencers, and referral sources

Search for specific people you want to connect with or people at specific companies. For cold connections, it’s a good idea to follow someone before you connect with them. You can follow anyone from their profile page unless they have restricted followers to only their 1st-degree connections. 

Day 4: Join groups

Join groups in the areas where you’ll find buyers, clients, influencers, and competitors. Follow members in the group whose updates you want to see. You can also send messages to anyone who’s a member of the same group you’re in, so be sure to join the groups where your target prospects are members. 

Day 5: Send messages

Go one-by-one through your connections and say hello, catch up, check-in, or set meetings with people where it would be worthwhile. Scan your connections—and the connections of your connections—and then reach out.

Read: 8 Tips for Selling with Social Media

Day 6: Find alumni and connect

Search for your school’s page on LinkedIn and click on “Alumni” in the side navigation to find people who attended your school. LinkedIn will help you search for people with whom you share work, school, location, and other connections. As always, be sure to personalize the message and highlight the shared alma mater when you ask to connect. 

Day 7: Follow companies

Search for and follow companies that are important to you—customers, prospects, competitors, partners, and vendors. You can follow up to 1,000 organizations and get updates with their posts.

Day 8: Send messages

Yes, this one again. You’re here to learn how to sell through LinkedIn. Make connections and strengthen relationships. 

Day 9: Identify 15 relationship targets

Highlight at least 15 people you’re not connected to, and don’t currently know, that you want to connect with. They might be buyers, referral sources, or other stakeholders at existing clients. First, simply create this list of targets. 

Day 10: Connect with targets

Review each relationship target’s profile for similarities or reasons to connect. This could include work interests, past work experiences, mutual connections, and so on. Customize your message and reach out to connect. 

Day 11: Study profiles

Find profiles that are interesting. See how people describe themselves and what they post about themselves. Take notes about what you like and don’t like. Then review your own profile and make updates. 

Day 12: Look at who's viewed your profile

Scan who’s viewing your profile. If you aren’t connected, reach out and make a connection. If you are connected, reach out and strike up a conversation. Follow important people. 

Day 13: Scan groups

On day 4 you joined groups. Now it’s time to take a careful look at them. Scan questions and answers to see if you want to engage. Start by chiming in and responding to others’ questions, not leading discussions. Scan the list of group members to see who you might want to follow. 

Day 14: Send messages

One more time! Keep on connecting with people and drumming up conversations. Selling on LinkedIn doesn’t happen without, you know, actually selling. 

Day 15: Track results

Take a few minutes to summarize results.

  • How many connections did you make?
  • How many new relationships did you create?
  • Did you create or move any business initiatives forward?

Evaluate the results you’ve had spending just 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn and then calibrate your time and efforts up or down. Do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.

Using LinkedIn effectively doesn’t have to be a big project or overly time-consuming. If you approach it with just 15 minutes a day, you’ll be tapping into this powerful selling tool and building important business relationships in no time. 

 

Take the LinkedIn Challenge

If you’re ready to dive in and leverage LinkedIn to the fullest, consider accepting our 15-Day LinkedIn Challenge: 15 ideas for what you can do on LinkedIn in 15 minutes.

LinkedIn_Challenge

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Download: LinkedIn for Sales Guide

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Topics: Social Selling

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