At any given moment, there will be people on LinkedIn sharing news about taking on a new job or role, an open position at their firm or one they know, a recent article that affects their industry and a quote from a leader they admire. It’s rare, on the other hand, to see a LinkedIn update that says, “I’m looking to buy this product and want to speak to a sales rep.”
While such a tactic might work -- who wouldn’t jump in response to that kind of direct request? -- it’s obviously not what LinkedIn was designed to do. Initially a place to create a sort of digitally-enhanced resume, LinkedIn has expanded to become the world’s biggest business-oriented social network. This includes access to job listings, of course, but also online training, blogging tools and most importantly, a place to build connections with peers and mentors.
As a result, sales pros that want to use LinkedIn need to respect the boundaries of approaching customers on the platform. It’s unlikely that many deals will actually close via an InMail message (LinkedIn’s built-in communications system). Instead, LinkedIn represents a touchpoint where customers may be in a particular point of a buying journey where some kind of interaction makes sense.
Much like other social media channels, LinkedIn represents a place where sales reps can listen to their customers, understand their interests and concerns and exchange ideas and develop a more authentic relationship. That can put you in a much stronger position when it actually comes time to pitch something, especially when you combine it with data from a CRM like Sales Cloud.
Before you dive in, though, take a look at the tips below and make sure you’re ready to make the most of LinkedIn -- and to make a good impression with customers.
It probably goes without saying that you should have a professional headshot on LinkedIn, but your profile needs a lot more than that to position yourself as a potential advisor when customers are considering a major purchase. If you haven’t paid attention to the following elements before, now is the time to start:
Your company may already produce blog posts, white papers, eBooks, infographics and other materials to increase awareness of the products and services you sell. While those assets may be promoted through other channels, including LinkedIn, sharing them via your personal profile allows you to make a more direct impact on specific customers.
Think about how you can annotate the links you share, for example. Mention the chapter of an eBook you’re sharing that really captured a key industry insight. Use the “@” symbol to tag a contact if you think the asset you’re sharing pertains to something they’ve said or shared on LinkedIn previously (but use this sparingly -- don’t over-tag!). Do the same thing with third-party content that aligns with the asset your firm produces, whether it’s a trade publication, a blog or a market research report.
You can also help your customers out by amplifying the content they produce. This can include sharing it to your feed, of course, but even commenting on a link they share will make it more visible to your other connections. If a customer writes a LinkedIn post, comment on it as appropriate and build upon their ideas. All these activities will make you a more familiar face when a “sellable moment” emerges.
Besides status-style updates in your feed, LinkedIn offers simple ways to create posts where sales reps could provide information, education or inspiration about what they’re learning from their customers. If you don’t feel like a natural writer, though, that’s okay. LinkedIn has also recently been emphasizing the power of video to help its users convey ideas through short clips.
LinkedIn videos don’t require high production values. Just make sure your audio is easy to hear, and include captions in case customers don’t want to have the volume turned on while they’re working. Talk about an upcoming event you’re attending and the sessions you think customers should check out. Explain why the latest features in your product address a common customer pain point. Describe a case study your firm recently published, and include details on how they could download and read the entire thing.
The more you practice these strategies, the more likely you’ll be getting in front of customers that may be difficult to reach in person, or even over the phone. Customers may decide to reach out in response the next time they need help, whether by Inmail or the contact details you include in your profile.
When that happens, they’ll not only be glad they connected with you -- they may be willing to make a referral or reference the next time you need to introduce yourself to someone else on LinkedIn.