The classic sales Catch 22: quotas are shooting up while the B2B buying process is getting more complex, and more people are involved in the buying decision. Sales won’t make their numbers unless they’re in front of the customer closing deals; and they can’t get to the table without an enormous amount of time-consuming front end and on-going effort, which takes an incredible amount of time. Time that isn’t spent in front of the customer.

Nowhere is this more frustrating than when dealing with new accounts or entering an unknown or new market. If you’re feeling the stress, this article is for you.

 

LinkedIn is a fast track to new account relationships

 

Whether your sales people are new to the company, new to the territory or new to the account, they need to establish broad and deep relationships quickly. Often the rep doesn’t even know who the players are.

With over 300 million members, nearly all of them business people, it’s a good bet most of your prospects can be found on LinkedIn. Here are four ways to use that massive network to broaden your account access.

 

1. Identify potential decision-makers

Multiple 3rd party studies have concluded that the decision to purchase a complex product or service now involves from 5 to as many as 20 people. The powerful search functionality in LinkedIn makes it easy to quickly identify those people who are in the roles that are likely to be involved.

And, guess what. According to G2Crowd’s latest sales intelligence study, LinkedIn’s database is now more accurate than other information sources. Which makes sense when you think about it. Most of us are in charge of our own profiles and it’s in our best interest to keep them as up-to-date and accurate as possible.

 

2. Get to buyers earlier in the relationship

Everyone knows that cold calls and emails are not an effective way for quota-carrying sales people to get to busy buyers. Reaching out on LinkedIn might surprise you in its effectiveness. Send a well-crafted invitation to a prospect on LinkedIn and you have better than 50-50 chance that invitation will be accepted, even if the prospect is still at the “unaware” stage.

Even if prospects don’t immediately accept the invitation, there are plenty of opportunities to be visible to them (details coming up). Done right, these tactics will have some prospects making the first move.

 

3. Plant the seeds of a relationship

As face-to-face sales people have known forever – buyers buy from people they know, like and trust; and that’s one of the major reasons LinkedIn is so effective.

LinkedIn provides a platform for sales people to become visible and familiar to the buyer. LinkedIn groups, the Pulse content platform and status updates all provide good exposure. The more prospects see of the sales person, within reason, the better they feel they know them.

These same tactics let reps showcase their knowledge and ability to help prospects solve problems and realize tangible results. Doing this increases their likeability.

As sales people become visible and likeable, buyers soon trust them enough to take the conversation offline.

 

4. Keep the plates in the air

Unfortunately, sales opportunities don’t jump from “hello” to “yes, I’d love to see your demo” very often. In between there is a lot of time for prospects to forget reps while they’re connecting with others in their company and buyers at other accounts.

Instead of sending emails that probably don’t get read, sale people can use LinkedIn messages to stay in touch with information of interest or value to your prospects. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator makes it possible to watch what your prospects say and do on LinkedIn and react accordingly.

 

How to get started

 

There are plenty of articles, e-books, regular books and online courses that cover the ins and outs of working on LinkedIn. You’ll find some webinars in the LinkedIn Help Center. (Note: you’ll have to be logged into LinkedIn to access this.)

But that’s just the mechanics. It’s the strategy you apply that makes the difference between whoo-hoo and hohum. My advice is to think of LinkedIn as just another – albeit powerful – method for reaching, engaging and building your prospect relationships. Whatever sales process you and your company already use can be applied successfully to LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn as an opportunity to turn “seller and buyer” into “subject matter expert and interested party”.

 

Sounds like a lot of work?

To be sure, this is no 30-minute-a-day deal. And most bosses want to see their sales people out of the office and in front of potential customers. That’s where our Intelligent Prospecting program comes in handy. We do much of the work for you. If you’re interested, contact me to find out how it works.