It’s time to rethink the way you use LinkedIn.

Without some of us even noticing, LinkedIn developed into a useful publishing platform and tool to generate leads for marketers and salespeople looking to build relationships with prospects.

But if you’re looking for an easy lead source, you won’t find it here. After using LinkedIn to build my own discussion groups, I’ve discovered that using LinkedIn to generate leads can be a pretty simple process  — if you’re willing to invest a little time sharing your expertise and thought leadership.

As referral selling expert, Joanne Black writes in a post:

“The goal of social media is not to sell; it is to begin conversations and ultimately build relationships. Hopefully, many of those relationships will yield sales or referrals. But when you start making sales pitches on LinkedIn, you don’t attract clients. You just annoy people.”

10 Ways to Generate Leads on LinkedIn

 

1. Create a polished and personally branded profile on LinkedIn.

If you haven’t already, spend some time perfecting your profile to make sure it is clear what you do and what your strengths are. Focus on your headline and summary. It should be compelling.

Your headline will automatically be displayed as the last job you’ve had, unless you change it manually. Sales expert and author, Jill Konrath put together a great video on 4 steps to writing your LinkedIn headline and summary. I’ve applied her lessons to my own profile. You can access Jill’s free “how to learn” LinkedIn rapid learning mini-course here.

You can also check out how you rate on LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. The tool can help recommend ways to get better.  For example, my results indicated that I can improve in “engaging with insights.”

 

generate leads and build influence with LinkedIn

 

2. Connect, reconnect and help — social media marketing at its best.

Start connecting with your current and past contacts, focusing on relationships where trust already exists. It’s easy to conduct a search on LinkedIn to find individuals you’ve lost touch with.Then reach out the them and offer help in some way. Help first. You’ll find that people usually want to help you as you want to help them.

When you get a new business card from someone you meet, look them up via LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you. If you’re just starting out as a LinkedIn user, you can import your contacts from Outlook, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!, or AOL. Be sure to include your distinct URL in your email signature, on your traditional resume, on your blog, on your website, and on your business card so that others can connect with you easily.

3. Reach out to former clients.

You can track what your former clients have been doing since you last saw them — with no awkwardness. When contacting a former client, instead of sending an open-ended message, make a positive comment about their achievements and ask questions about their new projects. And again look for ways to help.

4. Join LinkedIn Groups where your clients/customers gather.

Groups can be extremely powerful to your personal brand. Use Advanced Search to find practitioners within your firm and in industry at-large. Through these groups, you can learn a lot about your industry by tuning into the conversations. You may discover new industry-wide pain points and learn about options to solve those pain points. Learning more about your industry by watching from afar will give you real, everyday insight into ways you can help and connect.

5. Post relevant content on groups (if that’s their approach) and answer targeted questions.

First figure out the rules of the group. If they allow content sharing, start building your credibility in the group by sharing relevant content that fits the interests of the group. This includes relevant blog posts, links to articles you have written, articles that quote you, and event notices for webinars. Be sure to stay sensitive to the dynamics of your group — don’t ever try to dominate the conversation. Your materials should be a helpful resource, not a sales pitch for you.

6. Answer targeted questions in areas of your expertise.

Many group members use LinkedIn as a discussion board, and you’ll find many questions posted on any given day. Take time each day to answer a few or to post a few questions yourself. Answer questions that are relevant to your expertise or something you’re passionate about.

If you find a question you can answer well from someone you want to do business with who’s relatively senior in a company, write a detailed, high-value response. You never know who’s reading the information. Lots of members gain a foot in the door because of the expertise they lend to a discussion.

7. Check out individual profiles

Find out if your potential customers contribute to blogs. Learn what events they are attending and even the books they are reading. This is the beauty of LinkedIn: How many other sources will surface prior work history? This helps you be more intentional and have more clues about how you could potentially help.

8. No more cold calls. Use the information to do warm outreach.

An introduction received via LinkedIn is much warmer than a cold call because it comes with a bit of trust. You’re not the stranger trying to upsell something; you come with a recommendation from a person that the receiver is connected to, or you share a common membership in a professional group.

Even if you can’t find a path to connect to someone, sending a direct message via LinkedIn is better than sending a cold email because LinkedIn implies a business context. So when you are checking out a potential customer, you can review their profile, discover their interest and determine if you have something in common with them to help warm up your call with them.

8. Search with Advanced Filters and use messaging aka InMail.

One of the best features of having a LinkedIn Premium or Sales Navigator account is being able to use Advanced Filters in search. Not only can you search by company and relationship, but Premium advanced search on LinkedIn allows you to search by function, location, seniority level, and company size, as well. Pair that with Messages (aka InMail), and now you can contact prospects directly without a referral.

When I write personal relevant emails using InMail with research I get via LinkedIn, I almost always get a response.

9. Create your own LinkedIn group

Starting your own group gives you control over its content and reach. You can choose to open the group only to people you know or (if appropriate, and if you have the time) you can open it up to a much larger audience. The goal is to engage your audience and leverage your thought leadership to make a difference with members of your group.

LinkedIn offers tips for consultants using the channel to build their business, demonstrate areas of expertise, and leverage their network. Check out the B2B Lead Gen Roundtable Group on LinkedIn. I started this group, and it’s all about sharing ideas that focus on the many aspects of B2B lead generation. The group has grown to 19,100 members, but I’m even more excited about what’s not happening. I’m learning a ton from members because we have rules about what can and can’t be posted, and it’s 100% discussion only. If you are going to do this, be ready for the time commitment this will need to be a successful group. I’ll be writing more on this later.

10. Post regular updates.

Spend a minute posting an “Update” or “What’s on your mind?” to your LinkedIn network each day. You can use updates to share a link to an article, blog post, or  video relevant to your potential customers and network. Or use thePulsefeature on your LinkedIn dashboard.

When you post an update, what you post gets displayed in the feed of all the people you’re connected with. This isn’t the place to sell. However, don’t be afraid to share significant announcements or news either. Add value with each update.

It’s that keeping-up process that will spark conversations about opportunities for both you and your contacts. It’s in these conversations (which could also be done by email) that ideas will arise about prospective clients, possible partnerships, and other revenue-generating projects.

Conclusion

Implementing these tips into your daily routine will require a time commitment, but it’s easy to join the conversation for a few minutes each day and check in with various groups. Also, LinkedIn is constantly evolving, so keep an eye on it. As it continues to grow, people will find new and smarter ways to utilize it. You’ll want to be there, ready to dive in and generate leads.

Read more articles about LinkedIn strategy on The Conversion Company blog.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Image credit: Janne Moren on Flickr