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How To Sell Using LinkedIn

Sep 23, 2021
Author: collin stewart

Social selling is gaining popularity at a breakneck pace which is great because it allows sellers to be more personal and forge real connections with their customers. But it also poses challenges. You need a new set of skills to convert connections to conversations, your LinkedIn presence and profile need to be optimized, you need to create content and build a following instead of just sending 1 to 1 messages, and you need to find a way to help your audience sell for you. Brynne Tillman, the LinkedIn Whisperer and CEO of Social Sales Link, joined us on a recent episode of the Predictable Revenue Podcast to share her expertise. 

WHY LINKEDIN IS THE BEST TOOL FOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT 

Because LinkedIn was, once upon a time, primarily a job seeking and recruiting tool, anyone who has changed jobs in the last 15 years is on it. As a result, LinkedIn has the vastest volume of data out of all the business development tools and data providers available. 

Secondly, LinkedIn has the most up-to-date data. When you go out and purchase a list from somewhere, that company has various methods of trying to ensure the data they provide is accurate. Some companies have call centers reaching out to people on their lists every hour or every working day. Others are scraping data from email signatures, websites, and anywhere else they can find it. But it’s a race against time as people change jobs, get promoted, change their phone numbers, and companies are acquired, merged, and shut down. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is self-updated. People actually want their most up-to-date and accurate information when it comes to their location, title, and company to be on LinkedIn. 

Finally, LinkedIn’s search functions outmatch all others on the market. Even the free version of LinkedIn has several specific filters to help you hone your search in on your ICP and buyer personas and search through your 1st-degree connections. 

But, according to Brynne, LinkedIn’s most impressive and underrated feature is the ability to search your 2nd-degree connections. If you’ve done a great job at nurturing your network, providing value, and becoming a trusted thought leader, you can gain access to those 2nd-degree connections with a high level of credibility through warm introductions, referrals, and permission to name drop.

TOP 3 LINKEDIN MISTAKES & HOW TO FIX THEM

1. The “Connect & Pitch”

We’ve all been victims of this tactless sales strategy. Heck, a lot of us have even been its worst perpetrators. The Connect & Pitch is, as the name suggests, when the first message a person sends after connecting with a prospect is about themselves, their company, their solution, and, worst of all, asking for a meeting. Brynne explains that this is a form of bait and switch, especially when the connection request note mentions nothing about the sender’s ulterior motives. LinkedIn is a social network above all, so interactions on the platform are more similar to social interactions than those over email or cold call, for instance. Imagine you’re not trying to converse over LinkedIn, but you’re trying to start a conversation at a networking event. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and immediately rattle off everything your business can do.

Solution:

Social selling is about being a resource, providing insights, and being of value to your connections. The sale will come when the time is right. You need to slow down your outreach to speed up the outcome. Take the time to personalize your outreach. Spray and pray won’t work on LinkedIn. As Bob Berg said, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.” So you need to be authentic and gain your prospect’s trust. 

The first thing you should do when you’ve connected with someone is to do a little “social listening,” as Brynne calls it. Look at your prospect’s profile, their activity, the content they’re sharing and engaging with. Then, when you understand how – approach them on their terms. Try this as a first message: 

“Sarah, thanks so much for accepting my connection request. I noticed you engaged on {X thought leader}’s post about their podcast. I love that podcast! Did you see the one with {guest}? I’d love to share the link if you’re interested.”

Engaging someone about some influencer’s content is a normal way to start a conversation. If you were attending a keynote at a conference, you’d likely meet like-minded people in the audience and could easily start a conversation. Just make sure that the content you choose to bring up is related to what you do in some way so that, when the time comes, you can shift the conversation over to you.

Once you’ve engaged them about this content they’re clearly interested in over 2-3 messages, you can ask permission to send over your own content. Say:

“I’m not sure if you’re interested in {business issue/business function/what you help with}, but I’ve got some free resources I’d be happy to share if you are.”

Asking permission to send makes sure you’re never engaging your prospect in a bait and switch. It also creates a degree of FOMO (fear of missing out). If you were to just send them over some content, they’d have it and likely not click on it. If you don’t send it right away, the only way for them to get it is to respond. 

2. The “Connect & Forget”

Those of you reading this blog post right now. How many connections do you have on LinkedIn? 500? 5,000? How many of those connections have you actually engaged with? Salespeople (or people in any role using LinkedIn as a business development tool) are notorious for sending out their connection requests and then losing track of who has accepted. Brynne likens it to collecting business cards, sticking a rubber band around them, and then putting them in the corner of your desk, never to be looked at again.

Solution:

The solution to this oh-so-prevalent issue is to go back to your list of connections, export them, take inventory, and identify clients, prospects, and referral partners with whom you want to have conversations.

Then, drum up some engagement. Brynne has a great strategy for this. Come up with a question that your prospects would be curious to know the answer to and create a poll on LinkedIn. Copy the link to your poll, then shoot a message to someone you want to engage with. Send them a video message where you say:

“Hey Sarah, I just published a poll on {compelling topic} and I’d love your one click vote. Once the poll closes you’ll get the results so you’ll see where you benchmark with your peers!” 

Include the link to the poll and send your message. The poll will embed directly into your message so they can vote without leaving the chat. 

This takes about 30 seconds per prospect, start to finish. So, if you identify 20 people from your list to reach out to, it will take you under 10 minutes. Reading this, you might think to yourself, “I could connect with a lot more than 20 people in 10 minutes using automation,” and you’d be right. But you won’t create the authentic relationship you need to potentially convert those 20 people. 

Brynne typically sees a 50% vote rate on the poll she sends in the chat. Then, when the poll closes, she has insights to bring back to her prospects and conversations that are already warm. She sends this message a couple of weeks after the one before:

“Thanks for voting on my poll on {compelling topic}. I know you voted {xyz} – if you’re interested I’ve got additional resources I’d love to send you on this. Let me know and I’ll send you a link!”

You can repurpose the message above for a connection request, too. The majority of the people who vote on your poll won’t be your 1st-degree connections but, if they’re within your ICP, they’re certainly worth engaging as well. Send them a connection request with the note:

“Hey {first name}, thanks for voting on my poll on {compelling topic}. I know you voted {xyz} – I’ve got additional resources I’d love to send you on this, let’s connect and if you’re interested I’ll send you a link!”

Again, the conversation is warm because this person already engaged with you on your poll (which was interesting to them). With all connections on LinkedIn, we need to bring enough value to the plate, stir up curiosity, and get them to think differently about the way they’re currently doing business. Only then do you earn the right to start a conversation. 

3. Random Acts of Social 

As usual, with anything we do in life or business, when the input is random the results are random. If you’re using LinkedIn as a business development tool and you don’t have a process or cadence around it, you can’t expect anything repeatable or predictable to come out of it.

Solution:

Brynne’s A Day in the Life of a Social Seller ebook (found at socialsaleslink.com/dayinthelife) explains all the activities you can do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis on LinkedIn. It includes an excel spreadsheet to help you stay organized. 

One thing in particular that Brynne recommends you do every day is check who viewed your profile. If you’re not doing this every day, you’re missing opportunities. It only takes 3-5 minutes to check through those who have viewed your profile and identify whether they’re your target audience. If they aren’t, so be it. You’ll check back tomorrow. If they are, great! You’ll reach out and start a conversation following the strategies above. Brynne sourced her first big corporate deal this way.

BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR LINKEDIN

Brynne remembers when, in 1992, she was asked to start using email in her sales job. Called “cc mail” at the time, Brynne recalls feeling like email was an albatross that had been laid across her desk, and she was almost in tears describing to her boss how busy she already was and how she couldn’t possibly manage an email account and hit her sales target too. We’re in 1992 with the adoption of social selling. A few people are doing it really well, some are just figuring it out, but most don’t know how to use it effectively. But, in 3-5 years, it will be a part of selling that we take for granted. 

One of the reasons that keeping up with LinkedIn can feel so unmanageable is because it’s tough to keep track of conversations. Brynne recommends that you track all your LinkedIn activity in your existing CRM, or consider getting a social selling specific CRM like Nimble

LINKEDIN PROFILE MAKEOVER

You need to convert your LinkedIn profile from a resume to a resource. Your prospects don’t care about your awards, education, and how long you’ve been with your company. They don’t even care what your company does and how it can help them until you’ve earned their trust and respect. 

Position your about section like a blog post. Start off with an enticing description of the problem your customers face. Then provide insights that resonate with them and inspire curiosity. These insights should come in the form of tips, tricks, and strategies that are vendor agnostic – they should be able to go away and implement them immediately without buying from you. That’s real value. Only after all that do you have the right to pitch and say what you do and how you help. You can also include links to great resources in your featured section. 

In your experience section, don’t just talk about your job. Talk about your why. People do business with people, so create an opportunity for human connection. But make sure it’s in the experience section, not your about section (which shows up higher on your LinkedIn profile) because, as Simon Sinek says, people don’t want to know your why until you’re meaningful to them.

LEVERAGING 1st DEGREE CONNECTIONS

Method 1: Searching your 1sts

In any version of LinkedIn, paid or free, you can search your connections. Type a name of one of your 1st-degree connections that you know relatively well and are pretty sure would be a referral for you. You’ll then be able to see who they’re connected to and narrow down that search using other filters until you end up with a list of people connected to that person that you want to reach out to. Send your 1st this message:

“Hey {first name}. I happened to notice you’re connected to quite a few people that I’m going to be reaching out to in the next couple of weeks. Before I do, would you mind jumping on a quick 10 minute call and sharing your insights?” 

On a zoom call, run them through the list of people you’ve identified and ask them what they think. You’ll likely narrow down that list to people this person a) knows well enough to make a referral and b) thinks it makes sense for you to reach out to. You can then ask your 1st for outright introductions or you can ask them, “when I reach out to them next week, is it okay if I mention we chatted and you thought these would be good people for me to talk to?”

Then you can send a connection message to the prospect saying:

“John – Sarah Hicks and I were chatting today and your name came up in our conversation.  She thought it made sense for me to reach out and introduce myself, let’s connect and I’ll loop you in on what we were talking about.”

Once you’ve connected:

“John, thanks for connecting with me. Based on Sarah’s recommendation I’d love to jump on a quick call and share a little insight around {business issue}. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send over my calendar.”

Approximately half of these will convert to a call.

Method 2: Searching your 2nds

You can also do the inverse of the above method and start by searching your 2nd-degree connections, filtering them into a list that fits your ICP, then seeing who your shared connections are. This method will have a lower response rate as your shared connections aren’t guaranteed to be people who you know will likely refer you. That’s okay, you can still give it a shot, but just make sure that when you reach out you call out the elephant in the room. That might look something like this:

“John, not sure if you recall but we connected on Linkedin back in October of 2015. I hope you don’t mind but the reason I’m reaching out is that you’re connected to Sarah who I’m going to be reaching out to in the next couple of weeks. How well do you know him?”

If you’re wondering how on earth Brynne knows when she connected with each and every one of her 1st-degree connections, you can check it in the person’s contact information in LinkedIn Sales Navigator.  Mentioning this fact feels hyper-personalized and often flattering.

If your 1st says they know your prospect well, you can respond:

“Would you be open to a 3 min call to share a bit of insight before I reach out to him?” 

If they don’t have time for a call you can say: 

“This is the reason I’m reaching out to Fred – do you think it makes sense?” 

Then you can repeat the steps from method 1.

CONCLUSION: 

LinkedIn and social selling, in general, are still underused methods. Though they’re gaining traction, a lot of salespeople are bringing their phone and email habits onto the social networking platform where they are infinitely less effective. According to Brynne, social selling requires a total shift in mindset away from pushing for the conversation or the sale and towards relationship building, providing value, and sharing insights. By following her methods for correcting the top 3 LinkedIn mistakes, upping your profile game, and leveraging your 1st degree LinkedIn connections, you’ll be in 2025 while your peers and competitors are stuck in 2021.

EDITOR’S NOTE: 

 More on LinkedIn strategies that convert: How to turn engaging activity on LinkedIn into prospects and personalize at scale with Sarah Hicks

How to turn 100 LinkedIn profiles into 10 meetings with Tom Abbott 

Cynthia Barnes webinars

And on social selling in general:

How to Find New Customers on LinkedIn: 3 Easy Steps

Building a Network and a Personal Brand that You Can Keep with You for Life

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