Tuesday, December 16, 2008

LinkedIn Sales Tips

I'm a member of RainToday.com and also on LinkedIn.com. Are you?

11 LinkedIn Suggestions for Sales Professionals

By Jason Alba

Editor's Note: This article is an advanced excerpt from the forthcoming second edition of Jason Alba's book, I'm on LinkedIn – Now What???.

Sales professionals can use LinkedIn to increase their network, learn about prospects, do research for sales opportunities, and communicate with decision makers. Here are eleven suggestions for sales professionals to optimize LinkedIn:

  1. If your profile isn't complete, I might not trust who you are when you reach out to me. Flesh it out with relevant information that helps me learn about you, and maybe even trust you.

  2. Search is your friend. List some keywords your target segment would have in their profile, including position/role, company, industry, interests, associations, etc. Go into the Advanced People Search page and do various searches using advanced search strings. Get Shally's Cheatsheet so you get the best out of LinkedIn's search functions.

  3. Grow your network shamelessly. Okay, I mean that tongue-in-cheek, as I won't tell you to blindly add people to your network. But if you want to use LinkedIn for sales, it will make sense to have a very large network. I'm not talking hundreds of first-degree contacts, I'm talking thousands. Don't agree with me? Move on to #4.

  4. Grow your network strategically. Do you sell stuff in one industry? You should amass contacts from that industry. Don't worry about the title. A receptionist in your target industry might have excellent contacts, don't you think?

    Also target contacts from adjacent industries, as they should have contacts in your target industry. Your growth strategy could also include certain types of professionals (accountants and CFO's, for example), or professionals in a certain geography, if your target audience is geographically based.

  5. Ask for introductions from your connections. When you do searches, make sure to include your first-degree contacts as you reach out to prospective contacts. As you do this you'll put your brand and messaging top-of-mind with your first-degree contacts, and as they agree to help you you'll strengthen your relationship with them. Make sure to nurture individual relationships so you don't just take-take-take in the relationship.

  6. Fill in downtime when you are on the road. When you get on the road and have time for a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or other meeting, go into LinkedIn and do a mile radius search. Use the keywords to narrow your potential meetings down to the right people, whether you narrow by job title, etc.

    Consider hosting a LinkedIn get-together and inviting as many LinkedIn people as you can for dinner. Search Yahoo Groups to see if there is an active Group (Cincinnati, Chicago, etc. have active groups), and promote the dinner there.

  7. Ask questions your target audience would be interested in. As they read the question, or at least your profile, they should know you are in sales, so don't try to hide that. Be genuine, and ask questions that they either can answer or would want to know the answers to.

    You want to be known as a thought leader, and/or a subject matter expert, and/or a connector in their space, and asking questions regularly can help increase brand awareness for you and your company.

  8. Answer questions your target audience would be interested in. Sometimes it might be easier to do this, since you don't have to think of new questions on a regular basis. Think about how others will perceive you based on your answer. Answer comprehensively, kindly, and with expertise. Share information and recommend other experts, including your clients and prospects. Get questions asked in Answers via RSS so you learn about opportunities to chime in without even logging in to LinkedIn.

  9. Join Groups where your audience is, or where their contacts are. Participate in Group Discussions, but more importantly, browse through Group members to look for contacts to add to your network and communicate with. Send Group Members Inmail messages with clear, concise messaging—focus on the relationship, but let them know why you want to connect and what you have in mind.

  10. Set up the RSS feed so you get Network Updates delivered to you as soon as possible. Reach out to your Contacts as they have news, congratulating them on accomplishments, asking them about changes, commenting on new connections, etc. Use the Network Updates as an opportunity to reconnect and further brand yourself.

  11. Consider advertising on LinkedIn. Their new advertising feature gives you the ability to choose certain types of LinkedIn users. It's comparatively expensive, but the ads go in front of a demographic that is supposedly above average in regard to income, professional status, and decision-making power.

LinkedIn is a great tool—but just like the power tool in your garage, it's useless until you learn how it works, and then actually put it to use!

Jason Alba is the job seeker and networking advocate. He is the designer of the personal job search tool, JibberJobber.com, which helps professionals manage career and job search activities the same way a salesman manages prospects and customer data. You can reach Jason at jason@jibberjobber.com.

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