The word is out. IT and other B2B buyers are on LinkedIn, actively seeking help in solving business problems and ready to connect with vendors who do it right. The same prospects who totally ignore your cold calls and email messages will accept your outreach on LinkedIn. Again, if you do it right.
More than a research tool
Most sales teams that are active on LinkedIn are using it merely as a research tool; and indeed, survey results indicate that sales people find LinkedIn to be THE most accurate source of information about prospects. Which makes sense if you think about it.
But LinkedIn is much more than the best way to collect data about your prospect. LinkedIn provides a communication channel that lets sales people connect with prospects early in the buying process when you have the best chance of getting a competitive edge. LinkedIn provides an opportunity for buyers get to know, like and trust you before committing to a demo or a phone call.
What your prospects want
IT decision-makers told Forrester they use social networks – primarily LinkedIn – to validate the massive and often conflicting amount of information they receive from almost every imaginable channel. Your prospects are using LinkedIn to help them make buying decisions for four main reasons:
- Trust. They want to learn from trustworthy peers and experts, and the transparent, highly visible nature of LinkedIn makes it easier to trust that you are who you say you are.
- Efficiency. They want to find information quickly. With more than 300 million members, 2 million groups, B2B’s greatest publishing platform and a fairly decent search mechanism, LinkedIn is an unbeatable resource for busy buyers to get information, opinions and answers quickly.
- Relevance. They want a relevant context to connect with vendors, and buyers report that LinkedIn surfaces insights, information, and opinions that are important to their needs.
- Access. They are looking for access to a broader network of peers and experts to help them answer their questions and solve their problems. And that is exactly what LinkedIn provides.
So how do you take advantage of this?
4 keys to engaging prospects on LinkedIn
The best advice I can give sales people about engaging prospects on LinkedIn is this: Don’t act like a sales person. Act like an expert – someone who successfully helps others solve problems.
Key #1: Establish yourself as an authority.
Start by redoing your LinkedIn profile. Forget what the LinkedIn profile wizard guides you to do. You want a sales tool, not an online resume. Successful LinkedIn prospect engagement starts with a profile that makes buyers want to connect with you. Use your profile to emphasize the results and benefits you can provide the prospect. Give examples as proof. Show potential buyers you know how to help them.
Key #2: Build a strong, relevant personal network.
LinkedIn is a place to meet people. Reach out constantly to connect with prospects, customers, influencers, other experts and anyone else who can help you help your buyers.
Being connected is the beginning of one-to-one engagement. With each additional connection you also expand your network to include their connections, which vastly increases the amount of potential exposure you get.
Key #3: Be visible.
The good thing about LinkedIn is that it has so many active members thinking and talking about business – more than anyplace else on earth. The flip side is that you’re one among millions – literally. To rise above the inevitable noise and get prospects’ attention, you need to be where they are looking – not only in their inboxes but also in LinkedIn groups and on the Pulse publishing platform.
Step #4: Help before you ask.
One of the biggest complaints buyers make about sales people on LinkedIn is how quickly – and thoughtlessly – many jump on a new connection with a request for a phone call. Don’t be one of those people. Very few, if any, busy prospects are going to respond well to such an approach.
Instead, take the time to get to know your prospect, have a clue about what’s bothering them and prove you have something of value to offer. Only after you’ve done that should you go for the demo call.
Now get going
To be the most productive on LinkedIn, sales people must prove they can help buyers solve their problems. In many cases, the actions that work on LinkedIn coincide nicely with the selling system you use outside of LinkedIn; so it won’t be that much of a stretch. In other cases, you’ll have to change your MO as noted above.
You can learn more about how to use LinkedIn to your advantage by downloading our free report: 12 Costly Mistakes Tech Companies are Making on LinkedIn and What to Do About it.