How much better would your life be if you had a predictable and consistent way to generate new leads and clients?
In all of the tactics I have seen (and tried) for generating business with digital marketing, none has been more effective than social selling on LinkedIn (for B2B businesses).
Whether you are a salesperson, a B2B business owner or entrepreneur, a marketer or offer a professional service, I can guarantee that you will see more results (revenue) following the steps I’ve outlined in this article than all other digital tactics combined (maybe with the exception of those of have a huge budget for paid ads).
But before I dive into the nitty-gritty details of the critical social selling steps, I want to make sure that you understand what social selling actually is.
Social Selling = Relationship Building
Relationships are the lifeblood of all B2B businesses. 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. Social selling comes down to building relationships with prospects on platforms such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the premier platform for B2B businesses.
So now that you know what social selling is, I am going to show you how to be successful at it, by laying out the essential steps to social selling on LinkedIn.
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 (aka your personal brand). Skipping these first steps dedicated to your profile will not only greatly hinder your progress, but it can also actually hurt it. Be sure to complete steps 1 through 4 before moving on to implementing 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 and professional profile is critical to your success on LinkedIn and social selling. This is a pre-requisite before you actively use LinkedIn as a lead generation or business building tool.
50% of buyers avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles. (Source)
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 only have seconds to make a positive impression, so make the best first impression with a professional headshot to ensure that your profile image will convey the impression that you want to make.
Here are a couple tips to help you create a great first impression:
- Look straight at the camera
- Have a clean, plain background
- Dress appropriately for your profession and audience
- The picture should only include you
3. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is client-focused
Begin with your ideal client in mind.
Your LinkedIn profile must be 100% client-focused. Show your prospects that you know what their problems are and that you can offer a solution. If you understand where they’re coming from, what their motivations are, and if you 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 about the solutions that you can provide to 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 – they are a powerful form of social proof as prospective clients can see them and be assured they are not fake testimonials as they can click on the profile of the people who have given them to you.
When people are deciding with whom to do business, they are often swayed by the decision’s others have made, so the more recommendations you have, the better. Quality recommendations are important.
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 as a LinkedIn recommendation or a testimonial for your website.
For example, on a Facebook thread that I was mentioned in, someone left a comment about how much they liked my LinkedIn training. I commented back and said that would be a great testimonial.
I could then easily turn that testimonial into a LinkedIn recommendation by messaging Julie on LinkedIn and asking her if she’d mind using what she wrote on Facebook and providing that to me in a recommendation on LinkedIn. I have over 150 LinkedIn recommendations, and I would say at least 65% of them came from this exact strategy.
Exercise: Go ask several of your past and current clients for a LinkedIn recommendation. Stick to asking people who can genuinely vouch for who you are and what you do. Start by sending them a message asking if they would mind providing 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. In fact, there is plenty of research to support the value of creating your own original content.
82% of consumers feel MORE positive about a company after reading custom content, and 90 percent find custom content useful. Also, 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after reading content about it. (Source)
Additional research suggests 65% of buyers feel that 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)
So 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. There will be different types of content based on where they are in the buyer’s journey.
This is where you will want to use a content marketing roadmap, which provides you with the framework that you can use to 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 is sharing content created by others that would be of value to your prospects and is an essential part of your content marketing strategy, whether or not you are creating original content of your own.
There are many significant benefits to curating content such as:
- When posting other’s content with the addition of your perspective, you create more opportunities for discussion and engagement with prospects
- Sharing other’s content is more efficient than just creating your own original content while also allowing you to share fresh insights with your prospects regularly
- Curating content can help your prospects with a current struggle—and by providing this value to them, you strengthen and build relationships
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 newsfeed. If you are publishing valuable content and insightful ideas, you will become top of mind within your network, and 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 to create conversation and engagement with both your potential prospects and network in general.
One of the reasons that posting on LinkedIn Publisher is so effective is because it gives you your own publishing platform, similar to your blog, but it can expand your reach beyond your own personal network.
Your posts are displayed on your profile in your Activity box, shared with your first-degree connections in their homepage news feed, and can be seen by your 2nd and 3rd-level network when your connections engage with it (likes, comments, shares).
Additionally, LinkedIn Publisher posts are also 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 and relevant articles from your blog. Be sure that Google has already indexed the post on your website first by waiting at least a few days after posting the article on your blog to republish on Publisher.
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, be sure to 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 of how they know you or where you met, just in case they have forgotten who you are. If it is someone you have just met at an event, be sure to send your message soon after the event, as this will increase the likelihood that they will remember you and accept.
10. Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your target market
It is essential to know that people can only find you on LinkedIn if you’re in their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level networks – OR – if you’re a member of the same group.
LinkedIn allows you to join up to 100 groups, so 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 that your ideal clients are members of.
This is what makes joining LinkedIn Groups one of the fastest and most effective ways of expanding your LinkedIn network, but only if you join the right groups. The big mistake people make is they just join their industry-specific groups. To benefit from the increased network that joining LinkedIn groups provides, you must join the groups that 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 their 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 using Boolean search, which gives you the ability to filter your search so that you find exactly what you are looking for.
12. Connect with 2nd and 3rd-level connections that have engaged with your content
When one of your 2nd or 3rd-level connections takes the time to read and engage with your status updates or LinkedIn Publisher posts, this trigger event provides a comfortable engagement opportunity you don’t want to miss. These trigger events provide you with the perfect opportunity to very comfortably and naturally engage them, send them a connection request and start a 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 by having 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 by collaborating 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 that could also benefit from what you offer. An example of this might be interviewing someone on a topic that would be of interest to your target market and introducing them to your community. That interview could be shared in a blog post, podcast, video, live stream, or webinar.
As well as aiding your connections by introducing them to someone who can help them (in an area that you don’t work in), there is also the chance to be introduced to the connections and community of the person you are collaborating with. This is a fantastic way to expand your reach and gain credibility.
Collaborative opportunities can take many additional forms, including:
Strategic Alliance: This is when two or more people/companies work together to pursue an agreed upon goal while remaining independent of each other. For example, if you work with another expert to co-run a podcast, create a training program, or create a live streaming show.
Joint Venture Partner (JVP): This is when two or more people/companies come together to form a temporary partnership to complete a specific event or project. For example, when a group of industry experts gets together to run an online summit or conference or share someone’s program to your email list (affiliate relationship) where you can earn an affiliate commission for any sales generated or vice versa.
Referral Partner: This is a person or company that sends relevant prospective leads to you and you to them because you 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 are connected to a prospect, you need to start building rapport. You do this by starting a conversation with your new contact, so you can begin the process of building a relationship with them.
To do this, you follow up with a personalized message, expressing interest in learning more about them. The process of building relationships isn’t limited to just one message after you connect with a prospect. You’ll want to send additional messages to continue the momentum and begin to add value to them and their business.
The content of these messages will depend on your industry and goals but should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales materials or a sales pitch of any sort!
Doing so is the fastest way to kill a potential relationship.
And all of your messages must be personalized!
Learn more about The LINK Method™, a five-step approach to go from 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, have followed you, have liked your updates, or have taken any other action that involves you on LinkedIn. 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, this is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with them if they are lead, prospect or potential partner. As always, when you send a connection request make sure you take the time to personalize it.
18. Ensure all follow-up messages are “all about them”
Does your message pass your prospects WIIFM (what’s in it for me) filter? A great way to further build the relationship and stay top of mind with potential prospects is to send them content that can help them to overcome one of their key challenges. This content must be professional, written in their language at their level of understanding and contain nothing that contains a sales pitch or could be taken as sales related.
To do this, when you come across something that would be of interest to a prospect (article, news, stat, case study, etc.), you can send them a private message letting them know you came across something you thought they’d be interested in.
Using content that is not your own is often useful at this stage as it feels more genuine than trying to get them 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. You need to get to the point with social selling that you have earned the right to have a conversation offline by building rapport and trust. It’s through an offline conversation that you can learn about the person, the challenges they face and then make recommendations that involve your solutions.
It’s offline that you convert a prospect to a client. So many people are in such a hurry to do this that they turn prospects off and never get to this place.
19 Steps to Social Selling on LinkedIn Summed Up
Each of the steps to social selling on LinkedIn that I have laid out here are an important piece of a larger whole.
This is a system that helps you to create a personal brand that will appeal to your prospects, establish your authority and build trust through content marketing, expand your LinkedIn network (and pool of leads and prospects), start conversations and build relationships with prospects and finally move your relationships offline, which is where you convert a prospect to a client.
This can feel overwhelming, but if you break it down and just focus on a section at a time, it is easy to do. By approaching these steps to social selling on LinkedIn one step at a time, it will also be highly useful for you in generating 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.