Social selling has become a widely used term, but very few know how to do it effectively. In fact, most people seem to believe that social selling on LinkedIn is about spamming your connections.
Those who see social selling that way will never be successful at it.
Social selling comes down to building relationships with prospects on platforms such as LinkedIn, which is the premier platform for B2B businesses.
The strategies outlined in this article are effective for salespeople or any B2B professionals who want to attract more leads and clients. But before I dive into the how, I want to make sure you understand the why.
If you are still wondering whether learning and using social selling techniques is worth your time and resources, consider that 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media. (Source)
Statistics collected by LinkedIn provide further compelling evidence of the benefits of social selling (Source):
- 98% of top salespeople report using sales technology on the job
- more than half (62%) of top salespeople strongly attribute closing more deals to incorporating social networks into their sales strategies
- 94% of top salespeople agree that social networks provide them with valuable insights into trigger points, such as job changes, promotions and news mentions, which create an organic way to connect with customers and prospects
- a third (32%) of business decision-makers respond to cold calls less than 10% of the time but are more likely to respond to someone who was introduced to them through their professional networks
- 64% of B2B decision-makers say they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson if the communication was not personalized
- 77% of buyers say they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson if they didn’t do the necessary homework that would give them insights or knowledge into their businesses
- a substantial majority of B2B decision-makers (62%) say they look for an informative LinkedIn profile when deciding whether to work with salespeople
- 85% of B2B decision-makers surveyed consider it essential for salespeople to be connected to other people at their company.
From a company standpoint, companies engaged on social media are 40% more likely to be perceived as competitive and 58% more likely to attract top talent compared to those who are not engaged on social media. (Source)
I realize that was a lot of data, but before I explain how to succeed with social selling, I want you to understand why social selling on LinkedIn is so important. That’s because:
80% of B2B leads generated from social media come from LinkedIn. And that’s with most people doing it wrong! LinkedIn is a B2B goldmine because…
LinkedIn allows you to connect with decision-makers directly
LinkedIn is widely used by not only business owners and professionals but also C-Suite executives. This makes LinkedIn the best social network to connect directly with decision-makers of all kinds.
But just how many decision-makers and C-level executives are actually using LinkedIn?
Currently, there are 8.2 million C-level executives on LinkedIn. (Source)
This provides a lot of compelling evidence that your ideal clients – regardless of their position in a company – are likely using LinkedIn and expect you are as well.
How do you best find, connect and build relationships with these leads and prospects?
You must create a strategy that can help you do the following:
- identify your ideal clients, referral partners and possible strategic alliances
- determine how you will connect with them
- outline the steps you will take to build relationships with them
- decide the ultimate goals for the relationships.
This plan should include the steps you must take to move each prospect through your sales funnel and the approach you will take at each stage.
To help you create an effective strategy, I am sharing the five steps of my proprietary system, The LINK Method™ (detailed in my book LinkedIn Unlocked), to help you excel at social selling on LinkedIn.
Social Selling on LinkedIn with The LINK Method™
1. Prospecting on LinkedIn
There are two ways to prospect on LinkedIn. The first is doing a targeted search for prospects. The second is leveraging your network to gain warm introductions.
While most social selling is an active process, you can do many things to help enhance your efforts. The first thing you MUST do is optimize your profile to speak directly to your ideal clients, including the specific keywords a prospect might use when looking for someone with the products or services you provide.
The very first thing I do when I deliver LinkedIn training to a sales team or B2B professional service provider is ensure they have laid their foundations for success by having client-focused LinkedIn profiles. If you plan on connecting with key decision-makers, you must ensure your profile looks professional and you look credible.
REMEMBER: When you are searching for prospects, only people in your network (1st-, 2nd– and 3rd-level connections as well as members of the same group) will show up in your results.
If you have a small network, you will have limited results. The same applies to anyone searching for someone who offers the products or services you provide. If you are not a part of their network, you will not show up. Adding new connections is an essential part of an effective LinkedIn marketing campaign.
Thankfully, LinkedIn makes finding prospects easy through its Advanced Search function.
Different levels of membership, however, give you access to different search filters. For example, Sales Navigator offers the most robust set of filters to do highly targeted searches.
You can still do searches with a free or a Premium account, but you will have fewer search filters available to you.
Using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search for prospecting
LinkedIn’s Advanced Search tool is excellent for finding leads and prospects you can connect with.
The Advanced Search uses what is known as a Boolean search. It gives you the ability to hyper-target your search by adding additional filters for more precise search results. You do this by adding elements to or eliminating elements from the search parameters.
If you find a particular search produces targeted results, you can save that search using the Save Search function. With a click of a link, you’ll be able to reuse the saved search repeatedly as well as see people new to your network who meet your search criteria.
Advanced LinkedIn Social Selling Tip
One LinkedIn activity most people fail to capitalize on is connecting with potential referral partners and people with whom to form strategic alliances. Having someone else refer their client or connection to you (particularly when they are a trusted source) results in valuable third-party credibility, dramatically shortening the sales cycle with a prospective client.
To benefit from this important strategy, connect with other professionals or authorities in different industries who serve a similar to your audience, and begin building relationships with them. You can also look at the connections of your current clients for anyone who may be an ideal prospect and ask that client for a warm introduction.
2. Make first contact
After you locate prospects and referral partners, you need to make the first contact.
This process starts with your initial connection request.
Personalize it, giving people a reason to accept your connection request. What you put in your connection request message will largely determine whether your prospect clicks Accept or Ignore.
You should think about this first contact on LinkedIn the same way you would about the first time you meet someone face-to-face. You want to make an excellent first impression and leave them wanting to get to know you better.
Approach reaching out to prospects as if you’re at a networking event, meeting them in person for the first time. Always start by greeting them by name. A simple “Hi Jonathan” works great.
The body of the invite is crucial. Remember you have only 300 characters to convey your message. If you have connections, interests or something else in common, leverage that commonality in your message. In other words, give them a valid reason to click Accept.
If you don’t know what to include in your connection request message, these conversation starter strategies might help:
- find commonality
- comment on something in their profile
- comment on content they have shared
- comment on or compliment their company
- compliment them
It is critical you personalize your connection request to ensure they don’t click Ignore. If someone clicks Ignore, they will also have the option to select “I don’t know this person.”
WARNING: If you receive an excessive number of “I don’t know this person” responses, your account will be restricted, destroying your ability to connect with prospects and expand your network going forward.
Personalizing your invites is not optional if you want to connect with new prospects and succeed at social selling on LinkedIn. If you follow just this one tip, you will significantly increase your success on LinkedIn – your invite will stand out because most people are not personalizing their requests.
3. Engage in dialogue
When you first meet a prospect face to face, I imagine you do NOT dive into a sales pitch from the get go. You first have a conversation to get to know them better. The same should be true online. Sadly, too often… it’s not.
After a person accepts your connection request, you must start a dialogue with them to establish rapport and build a relationship with them successfully. You do this by following up with a personalized message. I call this the welcome message.
When writing your welcome message, remember the goal at this stage is merely to establish rapport and start a dialogue, requesting nothing in return.
In addition to thanking your prospect for connecting, personalize this welcome message by commenting on something you’ve learned about them from their LinkedIn presence or asking them a question.
You never, ever want to pitch anything. While the content of these messages will depend on your industry and objectives, it should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales material.
4. Build relationships
The process of building relationships requires more than one or two messages. It is vital to send additional messages to get the dialogue going and find ways to provide value to your new prospects.
That is why I call the next message in the sequence the relationship-building message. Most people never get past the welcome message, failing to ever build relationships with their new connections/prospects on LinkedIn.
Look for appropriate and relevant ways to add value to your new connection. An effective way to do this is to provide them with a resource they would find valuable or interesting.
Once again, the content of these messages will depend on your industry and goals, but it should NOT include anything that could be perceived as a sales pitch of any sort!
Do NOT make the mistake of trying to sell or pitch your product or service in a LinkedIn message. Doing so is the fastest way to kill a potential relationship.
The resource you offer must relate specifically to their business or industry. It should either offer them new insights or help them overcome a challenge. Your only goal is to build the relationship, positioning yourself as someone who provides value and is potentially an authority on your topic. Doing so builds rapport and trust.
When deciding what content to share with your prospects, consider these questions:
- What are they interested in?
- What is important to them?
- What problems do they face?
5. Move it offline
No relationship with your prospect should be kept solely on LinkedIn. The real magic happens when you move the relationship offline. It is offline that you get to know your prospect, understand their challenges and, when appropriate, offer your solution.
If you have established rapport with, built some trust with and provided value to your prospects, many of them will be willing to have offline conversations with you because you have earned the right to do that.
In the offline conversations, you can get the information you need about your prospects and talk about your solutions.
It’s offline where you convert a prospect to a client.
This means you should NEVER try to sell on LinkedIn. You should use it to get to the place where you can have an offline conversation. It’s here, your typical sales process kicks in.
Too many people rush this process. In rushing it, they only succeed at turning their prospects off and damaging their credibility!
When you get no response
This process, however well-executed, isn’t going to work with 100% of the people you connect with – or even with 50%. Just like all sales, it’s a numbers game.
Many factors contribute to why your messages might not generate interest from a prospect. Some of them include:
- they are not the right target market
- they don’t need what you are offering right now
- they aren’t ready for the solution you provide
- it’s not a current priority for them
- personal or professional problems are distracting them
- your messages are not capturing their attention and need to be re-written
Not all your prospects will be ready for or motivated by the solution you provide when you reach out to them.
That doesn’t mean they won’t be ready in six or 12 months from now. The key is to remain top of mind with these people. You do it by implementing The LINK Method™, making sure you don’t stop engaging with them.
Advanced LinkedIn Social Selling Tip
In addition to the messages you send as part of your lead generation sequence, you may want to engage or message your connections for many other reasons. These reasons (also known as trigger events) will provide opportunities to engage your connections comfortably and naturally, which will allow you to nurture your relationships.
In each instance, you want to ensure your engagement is still relevant to each person and/or circumstance. The goal is to stay on their radar, provide value, build trust and be top of mind when they want or need the solution you offer.
Summing up social selling on LinkedIn
The old way of selling isn’t as effective with today’s modern buyer as it used be. The new method of selling has evolved. It requires you to connect with your potential buyers digitally, educate them and build relationships with them.
You will succeed at social selling on LinkedIn when you make your primary goal to:
- offer great value to prospects
- establish yourself as a trusted authority
- communicate in a way that creates interest in you and your solutions to their problems.
Are you currently having success with social selling on LinkedIn? If not, I have another incredible free resource you’ll want to take advantage of. Attend my new online masterclass How to Turn Cold LinkedIn Connections into Clients, where you’ll learn a predictable way to generate more leads and clients in under 30 minutes a day. Register here.