How much better would your life be if you had a predictable and consistent way to generate new leads and clients?
Of all the digital marketing tactics I have seen and tried to generate business for B2B companies, none has been more effective than social selling on LinkedIn. The only exception might be paid ads supported by a huge budget.
Otherwise, whether you are a salesperson, B2B business owner, marketer or professional, I guarantee you will see more results (revenue) following the steps I’ve outlined in this article than implementing all the other digital tactics combined.
But before I dive into the nitty-gritty of the critical social selling steps, I want to make sure you understand what social selling actually is.
Social selling refers to using social media platforms and other digital tools and processes to find and connect with leads and prospects, thereby increasing sales. For B2B businesses, it comes down to building relationships with prospects on platforms such as LinkedIn.
Social Selling = Relationship Building
Relationships are the lifeblood of B2B businesses, and LinkedIn is the premier platform for B2B businesses to build those relationships.
Now that you know what social selling is, follow the essential steps to social selling on LinkedIn detailed in this article so you can reap success.
19 Critical Steps to Social Selling on LinkedIn
I have laid out each of the steps to social selling on LinkedIn in an easy-to-follow manner to ensure a smooth process for you from beginning to end.
I cannot stress enough the importance of starting with your LinkedIn profile, which reflects on you as a brand. Skipping these first steps will greatly hinder your ability to utilize LinkedIn to your benefit.
Be sure to complete steps 1 through 4 before moving on to the remaining social selling steps.
Personal branding: the foundation of social selling on LinkedIn
1. Have a complete and professional LinkedIn profile
Having a compelling professional profile is critical to your social selling success on LinkedIn. This is a pre-requisite for actively using LinkedIn as a lead generation or business building tool.
If you haven’t done this yet, stop everything and read how to create an All-Star LinkedIn profile right now.
2. Use a professional headshot
First impressions are everything, especially online.
You have only seconds to make a positive impression. Ensure your profile image is a professional headshot, leaving your profile visitors with the best first impression.
Here are some tips for your headshot to help create a great first impression:
- look straight at the camera
- have a clean, plain background
- dress appropriately for your profession and audience
- do not include anybody else but yourself in the picture
3. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is client-focused
Begin with your ideal client in mind.
Your LinkedIn profile must be 100% client-focused. It needs to demonstrate to your prospects you understand their problems and have a solution to those problems.
If you understand where they’re coming from and what their motivations are and speak their language, you’ll be able to connect with them in a meaningful way.
The truth is, your prospects don’t care about you. They only care whether your solutions can solve their specific problems. Social selling on LinkedIn begins with a profile that speaks to your target audience, not a boring bio all about you.
To begin, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your ideal client and, more specifically, who are they on LinkedIn?
- What is the typical language of their business, industry or organization?
- What kinds of challenges do they face?
4. Request recommendations for your current position
LinkedIn recommendations are powerful because they serve as social proof of your expertise. Prospective clients can see that recommendations others left for you are not fake testimonials because they come from real people whose profiles they can visit.
When people are deciding with whom to do business, they are often swayed by the decision’s others have made. That means the more recommendations you have, the better, especially quality recommendations.
The key to getting recommendations is to strike when the iron is hot.
Each time you receive some form of testimonial or praise via email or a private message, thank the sender and then ask them if they would be comfortable writing that feedback as a LinkedIn recommendation or a testimonial for your website.
For example, someone left a positive comment about my LinkedIn training on a Facebook thread. I replied, saying that would be a great testimonial.
I could easily turn that Facebook comment into a LinkedIn recommendation by asking Julie if she minded writing the same statement in a LinkedIn recommendation for me.
I have over 150 LinkedIn recommendations, and at least 65% of them came from this exact strategy.
Exercise: Ask several of your past and current clients for LinkedIn recommendations. Stick to asking people who can genuinely vouch for you and your work. Start by sending them a message, asking if they could provide you with a recommendation. Once they say yes, send them a customized message through the request a recommendation function on LinkedIn.
Content marketing: build authority, credibility, and trust
5. Create high-value content your target market is interested in
One of the most effective ways to build your authority is to create and share original content. Plenty of research supports the value of original content.
82% of consumers feel MORE positive about a company after reading custom content, and 90% find custom content useful. Also, 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it. (Source)
Additional research suggests that 65% of buyers feel the vendor’s content had an impact on their final purchase decision and that nearly 82% of buyers viewed five to eight pieces of content from a winning vendor. (Source)
How do you know what type of content you should provide to which members of your target market?
It’s simple. You need to create content that discusses the top of mind problem your prospects and clients have. You will need to produce different types of content based on where your prospects are in the buyer’s journey.
To figure out what content you need to write, use a content marketing roadmap, which will guide your content efforts, based on your objectives at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
6. Curate popular content that is relevant to your target market
Curating content means sharing content created by others that would be of value to your prospects. It is an essential part of your content marketing strategy, whether or not you are creating original content of your own.
Curating content has many significant benefits:
- when posting others’ content with the addition of your perspective, you create more opportunities for discussion and engagement with prospects
- sharing others’ content is more efficient than just creating your own original content because it provides you with more material to post
- curating content allows you to share fresh insights with your prospects regularly
- curated content can help your prospects with a current struggle, and by providing this value to them, you strengthen your relationships with them
7. Stay top of mind by posting daily status updates
When you post a status update, many of your connections will see your update in their newsfeeds.
If you are publishing valuable content and insightful ideas, you will become top of mind within your network. Over time, this will enhance your authority and credibility.
Aim to post at least one status update each day to get the best results.
8. Republish articles you have written on LinkedIn Publisher
Regularly posting articles on LinkedIn Publisher is an effective method to build your influence and create conversation and engagement with both your potential prospects and your larger network.
Posting on LinkedIn Publisher is effective because it gives you your own publishing platform, similar to your blog, while expanding your reach beyond your network.
Your posts are displayed on your profile in your Activity box, shared with your 1st-degree connections in their homepage newsfeeds. But they can also be seen by your 2nd– and 3rd-level network when your connections engage with your content through liking, commenting and sharing.
Additionally, LinkedIn Publisher posts are indexed by Google and show up in organic search results.
A quick way to start building your presence on LinkedIn Publisher is to re-post the most popular relevant articles from your blog. Before you republish a newly published post off your website on Publisher, give Google a few days to index the post on your website first.
Explore opportunities: expand your LinkedIn network
9. Connect with existing colleagues, clients and other professionals that you know outside of LinkedIn
When building your network on LinkedIn, start by connecting with people you know and have recently met. These are the most natural people to connect with, whether they are an old colleague or someone you just met at a conference or networking event.
When connecting with people you have recently met, always remind them how you know each other in case they forgot. If you just met someone at an event, be sure to send your message soon after the event as this will increase the likelihood they will remember you and accept your invitation.
10. Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your target market
Important: people can find you on LinkedIn only if you’re their 1st–, 2nd–, or 3rd–level connections OR if you belong to the same group.
LinkedIn allows you to join up to 100 groups. You can significantly expand the size of your reach (potentially by thousands or even millions of people, many of whom are leads and prospects) by joining targeted groups your ideal clients are members of.
Joining LinkedIn groups is one of the fastest and most effective ways to expand your LinkedIn network – but only if you join the right groups.
The big mistake people make with LinkedIn groups is they join only their industry-specific groups. To benefit from the increased network LinkedIn groups provide, you must join the groups your ideal clients belong to, NOT your competitors.
11. Use the Advanced Search function to find prospects
You can easily find prospects on LinkedIn using its Advanced Search function. This is a fantastic tool for finding potential prospects you can connect with.
You can further increase the effectiveness of the search tool by using Boolean search, which gives you the ability to refine your search to find exactly what you are looking for.
12. Connect with 2nd and 3rd-level connections that have engaged with your content
When your 2nd– or 3rd-level connection engages with your status updates or LinkedIn Publisher posts, it serves as a trigger event for further engagement on your part.
These trigger events provide you with the perfect opportunity to very comfortably and naturally engage your prospects in a dialogue, send them a connection request and further the conversation.
13. Reach out to your network for referrals and warm introductions
A great way to expand your network and jumpstart potential relationships with new connections is to have a mutual connection introduce you. This is known as a warm introduction.
Buyers are 5X more likely to engage with you via a mutual connection (warm referral), and 84% of B2B decision-makers begin their buying process with a referral. (Source)
14. Follow and engage with influencers
One of the fastest ways to expand your LinkedIn network is to collaborate with others.
Look for collaboration opportunities with other professionals or influencers who provide complementary products or services. They don’t need to be mega-influencers. They just need to have influence over a group of people who could also benefit from your service.
For example, you could interview someone on a topic that would be of interest to your target market, introducing them to your community. That interview could be shared in a blog post, podcast, video, live stream or webinar.
In addition to expanding your networks’ connections by introducing them to someone who can help them (in an area you don’t work in), you can expand your own reach and increase your credibility if the person you are collaborating with introduces you to their connections and community.
Collaborative opportunities can take many forms, including:
Strategic Alliance: two or more people/companies working together to pursue an agreed upon goal while remaining independent of each other. For example, you may collaborate with another expert to co-run a podcast, develop a training program or create a live streaming show.
Joint Venture Partner (JVP): two or more people/companies coming together to form a temporary partnership to complete a specific event or project. For example, a group of industry experts may get together to run an online summit or conference, or share their programs with their partners’ email lists (affiliate relationship), earning affiliate commissions from sales.
Referral Partner: two people/companies forming an agreement to send relevant leads to each other because they offer complementary services to similar audiences. For example, if you’re an accountant, you might set up a referral partnership with a business attorney.
Engage and interact: social selling is relationship building
15. Engage in a dialogue with your new connections and build rapport
Once you connect with a prospect, begin building rapport with them by starting a conversation. To do this, send them a personalized message, expressing interest in learning more about them.
The process of building relationships with your new connections isn’t limited to just one message. You’ll want to send additional messages to continue the momentum and keep adding value to them.
The content of these messages will depend on your industry and goals but should NOT include anything that could be perceived as a sales pitch of any sort.
Doing so is the fastest way to kill a potential relationship.
Don’t forget to personalize all your messages!
Learn more about The LINK Method™, a five-step approach to go from a cold connection to an offline conversation in my book LinkedIn Unlocked.
16. Review your notifications and look for opportunities to engage
Your LinkedIn notifications are a wonderful source of potential connections and conversations.
Every day, you should review your notifications to look for engagement opportunities. This will show you all the people who have engaged with your content, followed you, liked your updates or taken any other action involving you.
You can then look for an opportunity to connect with them, reply to their comments or begin a private conversation with them.
17. See who is viewing your profile and connect with prospects
When someone views your profile, they give you an excellent reason to connect with them if they are a lead, prospect or potential partner.
As always, when you send a connection request, make sure you personalize it.
18. Ensure all follow-up messages are “all about them”
Does your message pass your prospect’s WIIFM (what’s in it for me) test?
A great way to further your relationships with your prospects is to send them content that can help them overcome one of their key challenges. This content must be:
- written in their language and at their level of understanding
- free of any sales-related material.
To do this, when you come across something you think would be of interest to a prospect (an article, news story, stat, case study, etc.), share this information with them via a private message.
Using content that is not your own is often useful at this stage as it feels more genuine than trying to get someone to read one of your articles.
LinkedIn sales conversion: move the conversation offline
19. Once you have built rapport with a prospect, move the conversation offline
Social selling isn’t about selling. It’s about lead generation through relationship-building. The next step – converting a lead to a client – happens offline.
Before you can move the conversation offline, you need to earn the right to do that by building rapport and trust with your leads first. So many people are in such a hurry to do this that they turn prospects off, interrupting the relationship-building process and never getting the chance to convert their leads to clients.
Once you move the conversation offline, learn more about the person and the challenges they face, and then make recommendations involving your solutions.
19 steps to social selling on LinkedIn summed up
Each step of social selling on LinkedIn laid out in this article is an important piece of a larger whole.
This is a system that will help you:
- create a personal brand that appeals to your prospects
- establish your authority and build trust through content marketing
- expand your LinkedIn network, increasing a pool of leads and prospects
- start conversations and build relationships with prospects
- move your relationships offline, where you convert a prospect to a client.
This can feel overwhelming, but if you focus on one section at a time, it is easy to do. By approaching these steps to social selling on LinkedIn one step at a time, you will be able to generate a predictable stream of new prospects and clients.
If you need help with social selling on LinkedIn, this is precisely what I specialize in. Click here to speak with me about how I can make this as easy and as profitable as possible for you.