LinkedIn, the world’s largest B2B social network, has come a long way from its beginnings as a simple business connection network in 2005. Today, LinkedIn acts as a personal branding tool for executives, the number one way for recruiters to attract top talent, a highly targeted ad network for marketers, and a professional salesperson’s total package for selling. So how do you take advantage of all that LinkedIn offers as the network takes on a new face in 2014? Here are my top three tips for selling on LinkedIn for 2014:
1. Personal Brand Development on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the place to be found by your target. To do this, you first need a strong, visible, and engaging online personal brand. For B2B executives, HR recruiters, and sales professionals, this starts with a solid LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile needs to tell your story about what you can deliver and how your track record supports your credibility in your industry. Your profile should be well-thought-out based on your developed personal brand market position. This means everything you deliver there, from your photo to your summary, presentation links, graphics, patents, experience, education, and volunteerism, needs to tell a story that delivers a personal brand and related perception to your target audience. The LinkedIn personal profile can deliver interest, a sense of real connection, and a visible story about your areas of leadership.
Once the appropriate profile is established, personal branding on LinkedIn as a business professional requires a real commitment to lead and educate others within your network. One way in which you can deliver your promise as an educator in your space gets me to the second strongest way to sell on LinkedIn in 2014: engagement in targeted groups.
2. Targeted, Qualified Groups Activity
The absolute best way to start finding and engaging with global executives on LinkedIn is by affiliation and active participation in related LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn Groups should include at a minimum:
- Your business school alumni
- Any associations of which you are already involved (CEO Club, etc.)
- Your target client industries (where you can show real thought-leadership and a track record)
- Your colleagues (others who have your level of experience and are in your industry)
- Peer groups (where other C-levels hang out)
LinkedIn has worked to make the groups’ experience more qualified for business professionals. Enhancements that have been added to make selling via group activity include:
- The ability to connect with a member on LinkedIn by association with a group
- Rewarding participation in a group with the “Top Contributor” award
- Highlighting of skills of members in a group to support LinkedIn Endorsements
- The ability to share group discussions and comments
Here are some of my quick rules on the best way to engage in groups:
- Look to add value to the groups. In this way, consider what you are sharing in discussions and promotions. Does it truly support the types of group members that are involved?
- Try your best in discussions to lead with actual discussions for conversation. If there is advice you are seeking, what better way than to seek it from your colleagues or mentors in related groups?
- Use the Promotions Tab. This is a great way to promote specific programs, services, and campaigns.
- Use the Job tab if you are an employer or recruiter. If you are leading discussions and a credible employer, talent will want to work for you.
- Support others in the groups. This is the key. LinkedIn is a B2B social media ecosystem.
3. Gain Referrals Through a Strong 1st Network
Building and nurturing a qualified network of referrers on LinkedIn is not new, but a priority if you want to sell on LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it easy these days to see what’s new in your network by almost acting as a mini-CRM. Once you have imported your best people from Salesforce or a straight import, you should utilize LinkedIn’s capabilities to segment/tag those by how they can support your LinkedIn selling efforts. You should make it a daily practice to review what your network is talking about, what professional moves they are making, what connections they are making, and what/where they are commenting on. It is your job to help your network find business on LinkedIn, provide advice when qualified, and help your network gain visibility by sharing their profiles within the community. Your 1st network should be your best source of referrals for new business. You need to think of your 1st network as something similar to your best off-line industry association, board group, or networking group where you meet with members frequently. In fact, you should take the time to speak to your 1st network connects on the phone and in person. LinkedIn is about building relationships, one business professional at a time.
There is so much more I can share about selling on LinkedIn; but these top three ways are a great way to get you started for serious new business development in 2014. Make LinkedIn selling and marketing a daily practice for 2014 and as always feel free to share your LinkedIn stories here on ClickZ.
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