Global B2B Sales professionals in a multitude of industries, ranging from telecommunications, manufacturing and high-tech to financial services are maturing in their use of LinkedIn to find and engage with their target audience.
Many are starting to consider their LinkedIn profile more seriously, as the top B2B social network–with over 238 mm business professional users–grows and delivers business at a rapid pace.
Two Critical Tools for B2B Sales via LinkedIn
In using LinkedIn as a sales machine, two critical areas must be discussed and considered: LinkedIn Company Pages and LinkedIn Groups. In this article, as a LinkedIn trainer, I will provide you with some of the top ways you can leverage these tools to drive better results from your LinkedIn selling experience.
Let’s assume you have spent ample time in a personal brand assessment and in developing a strong and engaging personal LinkedIn profile. You are now ready to represent yourself fully to the universe within LinkedIn Groups, and those decision makers you will find searching LinkedIn Company Pages.
The LinkedIn Landscape for B2B Sales Pros
Here are some important statistics on B2B sales opportunities through LinkedIn Groups and Company pages, for those who are not yet convinced that this (LinkedIn) is the place for B2B selling. There are:
- 2 million LinkedIn Groups
- 3 million LinkedIn Company Pages
- 1.2 million products and services on LinkedIn Company Pages.
For those that not yet familiar or who have not spent considerable time in LinkedIn Groups, these Groups are often referred to as “Communities.” Similarly to Google and Google+, these are places on LinkedIn where business professionals with similar interests, professional career paths, member-associations or university ties can connect on a Discussion level.
Using LinkedIn Groups in B2B Sales
Groups enable their members to lead and participate in business discussions, promote their own products, events and services (in the Promotions tab), as well as like, comment and share other group members’ posts. There is a group moderator or owner who sets the group rules, can open the group to the LinkedIn universe or make private, and approves all member-related posts.
Finding and engaging in qualified LinkedIn Groups for the purpose of developing business relationships that lead to sales and ongoing referrals requires a good bit of planning and daily proactive effort. As a B2B Sales professional, finding “low-hanging fruit” through LinkedIn Groups can be achieved by listing any current strong networking groups and associations of which you may be a member. These can be industry or target-specific.
Chances are that association will have a related LinkedIn Group. Searching for groups is easy. Simply use the search tool at the top of your LinkedIn homepage and select the “Groups” selection, then type in the name of the association or networking group where you are already involved and grooming business.
The next type of group you should consider joining is that of any target industry types. In these, you need to be wary of group rules, so that your contributions to discussions truly add value. Group moderators will push your posts to promotions and have the ability to withdraw comments if they are not useful to the community or group.
If you are planning to expand your client base to other physical locations and have travel plans to do so, finding and joining groups that have strong followings and qualified members in those locations. It’s a great way to make introductions to those in the LinkedIn ecosystem who can be referrers of new business (or even your next client).
Finding the Right LinkedIn Groups
There are several indicators to the quality of groups. A group doesn’t necessarily need to have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of members. It could be a newer LinkedIn group or even a local, target-specific or sub-industry group. Those smaller groups can help you to develop one-to-one business relationships on a local, specific level. Of course, larger groups are also important.
The keys to your success from involvement in any LinkedIn Group depend on the following factors:
- When choosing your groups (you can choose up to 51 with a paid LinkedIn subscription and will engage 5 to 10 percent over time), choose by related association, university, industry, target industry, location, and/or interest.
- Always read the group rules and abide by them.
- Introduce yourself to the group and individually to the group moderator. As you move forward in engaging, message individual members who you can help in the LinkedIn universe or on a local, business development level.
- If the group hosts off-line events, try to attend as many as possible.
- Volunteer to help the group moderator when needed.
- Follow active members of groups you care about most. Take the time to connect with them one on one, to develop relationships that can lead to business.
- Know that to win in groups, you must be an active participant. Too many group members I see do nothing in groups and expect business to just happen.
- Being proactive and engaged in groups means to read and comment in discussions that matter to you and where you can add value to the group. Further, that you lead discussions by supporting members in the group and by their needs and interests as it relates to using LinkedIn as a source for information and business.
- Use the group’s promotions tab and jobs tab when necessary.
- If you have a reason for and commit to starting and owning a LinkedIn Group, spend time to get to know and promote individual group members. Work to make the group grow by actively promoting it as part of your marketing efforts.
- The use of a social media management tool to monitor, manage and pull analytics from your groups makes life much easier. Viralheat, the social media marketing suite, includes the management of LinkedIn Groups.
You can learn more about the ins and outs of using LinkedIn Groups and watch a step-by-step tutorial on my LinkedIn Crash Course by the Online Marketing Institute.
LinkedIn Company Pages for B2B Sales Pros
LinkedIn Company Pages are another area on LinkedIn that B2B sales professionals cannot ignore if they expect to use LinkedIn as their selling machine. The Company Page is where over 2 million companies promote their own products and services, list jobs and share their latest news and event information on LinkedIn.
By following target companies, a B2B sales professional can view the profiles of important company executives and identify the decision-tree. Similar to LinkedIn Groups, by following a LinkedIn Company Page, you can get involved in adding value to the discussions by commenting, liking and sharing posts with your networks and groups on LinkedIn, as well as on Twitter.
You can also search through a Company’s employees in their company list to see if anyone of influence may be in your first network, in Openlink or in shared groups. In these ways, you can start to connect and message directly to open sales opportunities to decision makers.
By having a target list of companies and following and engaging in related company discussions, a B2B salesperson can truly gain a deep understanding of a target’s decision-tree, buying cycles and needs for their vendor-related services. Through social media monitoring tools like Viralheat, a B2B sales professional can manage his or her target LinkedIn company page efforts seamlessly.
As a social media trainer, I had the pleasure of testing this tool overall for its positive impact on the LinkedIn user experience. In it, I found that a B2B salesperson or group has the ability to leverage the platform for posting, sharing, publishing and viewing detailed analytics, such as top message type; most popular link by engagement or count; total connections; most active groups; top groups by size; group connections by location, industry, position, company, etc.; and much more.
The LinkedIn Opportunity for B2B Sales Professionals is Alive and Well
LinkedIn provides B2B sales professionals with multiple opportunities for social sharing and engagement with influencers and decision-makers. Proactive use of LinkedIn targeted Groups and the same in Company Pages are excellent ways to use LinkedIn as the sales machine that it truly is.
Other ways that are inherent to the sales subscription model of LinkedIn are using tools like Lead Builder, Profile Organizer, Tagging and Daily Network Updates. In my next LinkedIn installment for sales pros, I will provide actionable tips around these areas.
To your LinkedIn success! Remember to send me a personalized connection invite on LinkedIn and mention this article.