Social selling has become a widely used term, but still 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 that 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 sales professionals or any B2B professional that wants 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 if 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 as to the benefits of using 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 strategy
- 94% of top salespeople agree that using social networks provides them with valuable insights into trigger points like job changes, promotions, and news mentions which create an organic way to connect with customers and prospects
- A third (32%) of business decision-makers will respond to a cold call less than ten percent of the time but are more likely to respond to someone that was introduced through their professional network.
- 64% of B2B decision makers said they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson if the communication was not personalized.
- 77% of buyers say that they wouldn’t engage with a salesperson if they didn’t do the necessary homework that would give them insights or knowledge into their business.
- 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.
And from a company standpoint, companies that are 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 realized that was a lot of stats and data I just shared with you, 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 Directly with Decision Makers
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 certainly provides a lot of compelling evidence that your ideal clients – regardless of their position in a company, are likely using LinkedIn – and expect that you are as well.
So how do you best find, connect and build a relationship with these leads and prospects?
You must create a strategy that can help you identify your ideal clients, referral partners and even possible strategic alliances and then determine how you will connect with them, what steps you will take to build a relationship with them and what the ultimate goal of the relationship is.
This plan should include the steps you must take to move each prospect through your sales funnel and the approach you will take for each stage.
To help you create an effective strategy, I am going to share the five steps of my proprietary system, The LINK Method™ (detailed in my book LinkedIn Unlocked), to use LinkedIn for social selling.
Social Selling on LinkedIn with The LINK Method™
1. Prospecting on LinkedIn
There are two ways to prospect on LinkedIn. The first is by doing a targeted search for prospects, and the second is by leveraging your network to gain warm introductions.
While most social selling is an active process, there are many things that you can do to help enhance your efforts. The first thing you MUST do is to optimize your profile to speak directly to your ideal clients and include the specific keywords a prospect might use when looking for someone with the products or services that you provide.
The very first thing I do when I am providing LinkedIn training for a sales team or B2B professional services providers is to ensure they have laid their foundation for success by having a client-focused LinkedIn profile. If you are going to be connecting with key decision makers, you must ensure that your profile looks professional and that you look credible.
REMEMBER: It is important to know that 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 that 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 this easy by offering the ability to find prospects through its Advanced Search function.
Depending upon the level of membership you have, the search filters will be different. For example, Sales Navigator offers the most robust set of filters to do highly targeted searches. You can still do searches with a free account or even a Premium account, but you will have fewer search filters available to you in the Advanced Search function.
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 also uses what is known as a Boolean search, and this gives you the ability to hyper-target your search by adding additional filters so that you can pull up highly targeted search results. You do this by adding or eliminating elements from the search parameters.
If you find that a particular search produces really targeted results, you may choose to save that search using the Save Search function. This will allow you to come back later and reuse that same saved search repeatedly, as well as see people that are new to your network that meet your search criteria, with just the click of a link.
Advanced Social Selling Tip
One area that most people fail to capitalize on when using LinkedIn is to connect with possible strategic alliances and referral partners. Having someone else refer their client or connection to you (particularly when they are trusted source), results in valuable third-party credibility and that dramatically shortens the sales cycle with a prospective client.
To benefit from this important strategy, be sure to connect with other professionals or authorities in different industries that serve a similar audience to you, and begin to build relationships with them. You can also look at the connections of your current clients for anyone that may be an ideal prospect and ask them for a warm introduction.
2. Make First Contact
After you have located prospects and referral partners, you need to make the first contact.
This process starts with your initial connection request.
Make it personalized; give people a reason they should accept your connection request. What you put in your connection request message will largely determine whether they click Accept or Ignore.
You should think about this first contact on LinkedIn the same way you would as 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.
When reaching out to prospects, approach it like you’re at a networking event and 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 that you only have 300 characters to convey your message. If you have connections, interests or something else in common, leverage that commonality in your message. Be sure that your message provides a valid reason for them to click Accept.
When in doubt about what to include in your connection request message, refer to these conversation starters:
- 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 that you personalize your connection request as you do not want them to 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, and this will destroy your ability to connect with prospects and expand your network going forward.
Personalizing your invites is not optional if you want to succeed at social selling on LinkedIn and to connect with new prospects. If you follow just this one tip, you will significantly increase your success on LinkedIn, as most people are not doing it, and your invite will stand out.
3. Engage in Dialogue
When you first meet a prospect face to face, I would imagine that you have a conversation and get to know them, and NOT dive into a sales pitch. The same should be true online. Sadly too often… it’s not.
After a person accepts your connection request, you must establish rapport and start a dialogue if you want to 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, start a dialogue, and request nothing in return.
In this first message, in addition to thanking them for connecting, I suggest you personalize the message by commenting on something you’ve learned about them from their LinkedIn presence, or perhaps ask them a question if it is relevant.
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 materials.
4. Build Relationships
The process of building relationships isn’t limited to just one message after you connect with a prospect. It is vital to send additional messages to get the dialogue going and find ways to provide value to them.
That is why I call the next message in the sequence the relationship-building message, as most people never get past the welcome message and fail to ever build a relationship with their new connections/prospects on LinkedIn.
When appropriate and relevant you can look at ways you could add value to your new connection, and effective way to do this (when done right) 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 should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales materials or a sales pitch of any sort!
Do NOT make the mistake of trying to sell or pitch your product or services 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 and should either help them discover new insights or overcome a challenge they may be having. 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, 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, built some trust, and provided value to your prospect (essentially earned the right), many of them will be willing to have an offline conversation with you.
It’s offline you can get the information you need about them, it’s offline you can talk about your solution, it’s offline where you convert a prospect to a client.
This means you should NEVER try and 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 50%. Just like all sales, it’s a numbers game. There are many factors contributing to why your messages might not generate interest from an individual 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 of your prospects will be ready or motivated by the solution you provide when you reach out to them.
That doesn’t mean that they won’t be in six or twelve months from now. The key is to remain top of mind with these people and not let engagement with them stop at the last message in The LINK Method™.
Advanced Social Selling Tip
In addition to the messages that you send as part of your lead generation sequence, there will also be many other reasons when you may want to engage or message your connections. These reasons (also known as trigger events), will provide opportunities to very comfortably and naturally engage your connections, which will allow you to nurture your relationship.
In each instance, you want to ensure that your future engagement is still relevant for 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. The new method of selling has evolved and requires you to connect digitally, educate buyers and build relationships.
You will find that 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, and provide messages that create interest in you and how you may be able to help them.
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 called 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.