By Dolly Howard
Social media is an incredibly powerful and essential tool for any inbound marketer, but social media extends well beyond marketing and, when used appropriately, sales teams can leverage social media to develop a robust pipeline of prospects. By aligning sales and marketing teams, focusing on delivering value-based content, and building relationships, sales and marketing professionals can position themselves as trusted advisors on a variety of social media platforms. And by following these six simple steps, your sales teams can leverage LinkedIn to gain more leads, close more deals, and increase sales faster than ever before.
1. Know Who You Are Calling
When marketing passes along a lead to the sales team, it should include valuable information, like what brought them to the website, what they viewed, and where they are in the buying process. But while this information is essential and incredibly useful to both sales and marketing, it only gives part of the story. To truly succeed in the sales landscape of today you need to know how to build relationships with your prospects, and the best way to do that is by learning who they are and building on commonalities. LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Before making a call to a prospect, look them up on LinkedIn. Make note of their work history, the places they’ve lived, where they went to school, the sports teams they favor, and the companies they follow. See if there is anything you have in common with them you can use to engage them in conversation.
2. Evaluate Current Customers
When looking for new customers there is no better way to understand your prospects than by truly understanding your current customers. Bring sales and marketing together and create a list of your top 25-50 best customers and look them up on LinkedIn. Determine what groups they are involved in, what companies they follow and what kinds of information they post to their profile. You will begin to form a picture of where your top prospects are likely to hang out and the kinds of information they appreciate. Once you’ve identified 10 or more top groups, join those groups and start looking for ways to connect with your prospects by joining the conversations they are involved in and posting valuable content.
3. Get Connected
On LinkedIn, you are only able to make a connection with someone that you know, unless you share commonalities on LinkedIn. Commonalities include past companies you’ve worked for, schools you have attended, and the easiest manufactured connection, LinkedIn Groups. If you are looking to get connected to a prospect, go to their profile and look to see what groups they are a member of on LinkedIn. Next, start digging to find out what groups they are active in. Join those groups. Once in, start commenting on content shared by your target prospects as a way of breaking the ice. After developing a bit of rapport, send them an invitation to connect. On LinkedIn you can send a connection request or a message to a complete stranger as long as you are part of the same group.
4. Change Your Title
Nothing scares away a potential connection faster than seeing “Sales Rep at…” in your title. Instead of accepting your connection or responding to your message on LinkedIn, you may be denied on the belief that all you are going to do is try to sell them something. Bring sales and marketing together as a group and collectively decide on an outward facing title for your sales reps, something beyond the traditional “Inside Sales” or “Account Manager” titles. Evaluate ideas like “Solutions Provider,” or “[your company’s service] Architect”. Think in terms of the values and benefits customers receive from your company and use those to craft a strategic sales title positioning your team members as resources rather than salespeople.
5. Use Your Connections
If one of your connections is a 2nd or 3rd connection of one of your top prospects, ask for an introduction to the prospect or an introduction to the person who could make the introduction. Ideally give them a reason to connect you other than the obvious sales purpose. This is another time when knowing your prospect comes in handy because you can identify other good reasons for being connected to them.
6. Identify Future Prospects
Use the advanced search feature to browse alumni and/or current students from your alma mater that might be a good fit for your company’s products or services. You can use the filters within LinkedIn’s search tool to look for people within a particular industry that typically purchase your product or services, or within the service area of your company. Just like being a member of the same LinkedIn Group allows you to connect with someone you don’t currently know, being a student or graduate of the same school allows you the same privileges. You can start developing relationships with these prospects and building your pipeline so that when your prospects are ready to make a purchase, you already have the relationship in place to capture their business.
The keys to successful sales and prospecting on LinkedIn are to look, listen, contribute and connect. By following these best practices you will be well on your way to closing more deals. What other ways have you found success using LinkedIn?