Why every sales person needs LinkedIn 30/01/2015

Have you got a LinkedIn profile? I’ve had one for longer than I can remember – I certainly joined LinkedIn before I joined Twitter (still my favourite social network), I estimate that it was somewhere between MySpace and Facebook that I first discovered LinkedIn.

I set up my LinkedIn profile at work one idle Friday afternoon as I waited for 5pm to roll around. I was beginning to tire of my job and had heard that LinkedIn was a great way to get spotted for a new one – described as a public platform to post your CV.

It wasn’t long after I had uploaded my profile picture and finished agonising over my professional summary that I discovered the wonders of the LinkedIn search tool. A fantastic feature that allowed me to research potential clients, find out where they worked, who they were connected to and what they looked like (the last one is pure nosiness, but it’s always helpful to put a face to a name).

Now, 6 or 7 years later I have founded Cloverleaf – a Business Development, Sales and Marketing consultancy and outsource service to other businesses, and LinkedIn is one of my most useful tools.

LinkedIn makes my work a lot easier – and here’s why:

1. It gets my name out there

A lot of time and thought goes into my LinkedIn profile, it is just one of my many shop windows and I update it regularly. I have a website, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account for my personal use and for Cloverleaf – but my LinkedIn account is right up there leading the way.

My business is built upon my reputation, my abilities and my experience – if people don’t buy into me, then they will never buy into Cloverleaf.

By clicking onto my LinkedIn profile any prospective client or associate can see who I am, what I have done, what I know, who I know and where I am – hopefully the information on my profile will entice them to want to work with me. If it does, it enables them to get in touch straight away – and even better, I get a notification to tell me that they have been looking me up!

2. It brings knowledge, and knowledge is power

Getting through to the relevant person in an organisation can be very time consuming. If you want to sell your services to a company that you have no connection with, then merely finding out the right person to speak to is a task in itself.

My Mum is a receptionist and I know how seriously she takes her position as ‘Company Gatekeeper’, she gives nothing away to cold callers – and as for actually putting their call through? Forget it!

I have attempted many ways and means to butter up a frosty receptionist over the years and I can reliably tell you that LinkedIn can save you hours of sneaky questioning – if you know where to look.

The LinkedIn search tool is your sales friend. You can use it to search for companies, people and special interest groups so not only can you find new connections, you can also check the lead information that you already have.

If I am working through a database or a list of prospects, I rarely make a call without checking LinkedIn first. If I don’t have a name to search for then I can still browse through a list of company employees, check their position within that organisation and find out who would be a relevant person to ask for when I call.

In the lucky event that I am connected to the person I need to speak to then I might even send them a private message politely asking if I can give them a call.

The next best thing is a shared connection with that prospect, and if I feel it is appropriate I will ask that shared connection to make an introduction (either via LinkedIn, or directly through email).

My advice to anyone who is sending out sales messages to LinkedIn connections (or even worse – sending a sales message along with an invitation to connect to someone) is to stop it.

Put yourself in the place of the recipient and imagine what you would do in their position – skim the annoying message and ignore it? Or delete it altogether? In some cases I have severed connections with repeat offenders – the key to building effective relationships with your prospects is to inject personality into your sales.

Trying to find a quick fix through LinkedIn is rarely successful. Use LinkedIn as a means to an end – not as a lazy short cut to getting what you want. Be creative in the ways that you approach people and you will stand out from the crowd.

3. It brings opportunities to strengthen connections

LinkedIn Endorsements have become the butt of many a joke and I admit that they are rather pointless at times. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t receive a kindly endorsement for a skill I didn’t know I had from a vague connection (quite often someone I have never actually met!). It is easy to just click ‘endorse’ when LinkedIn presents you with a list of people alongside the skills that they have on their profile.

I actually like Endorsements, though I am choosy about how and when I use them. An Endorsement is sort of like a lazy Recommendation, and if you are recommending someone for something – surely it should be for something you know they can do?

If I want to contact one of my LinkedIn Connections – or I would like to pop up on their radar – I often view their profile to look at their list of skills, I then pick out one or two that justify the relationship that we have.

For example, if there was a PA who I wanted to speak to because I know they arrange meetings and I had a venue that I would like them to look at, I would Endorse them for ‘Meeting Planning’ and ‘Event Organisation’.

Easily done and perhaps slightly tenuous, but it might just encourage them to look at my profile and be reminded of my super venue finding skills! In this competitive and busy world of sales, every little bit helps.

Be mindful that whenever you access a LinkedIn profile, that person will receive a notification of your visit.

I always check who has been looking at my profile – and if I have the good fortune to spot a visit from a hot prospect then I will pay their profile a return visit, followed a few weeks later by a call or an email to say hello and suggest a coffee. It’s a little bit like a dating game (for business!) and a lot of toing and froing, like two moths dancing around a flame – but it keeps business relationships going, in a nicely convenient and unobtrusive way.

These are just 3 ways that I like to use LinkedIn. It is very easy to get lost in the dizzy world of searches, advanced searches, your connections, your connections’ connections, updates, group discussions and recommendations so I am going to leave it there for now.

If you have any questions or suggestions for using LinkedIn for sales then please drop me a line and I would love to chat further!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you again soon!

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