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How to use LinkedIn to drive leads

In the past, we’ve spent time talking about the value of social marketing, how to engage your audience, and how to track ROI on those efforts. In 2013, social selling will prove just as essential.

What is social selling?

Social selling is all about extending what you do as a salesperson on a daily basis into the social media world. That means building a community, making connections, sharing valuable and relevant content, and doing all this in a way that demonstrates you as the thought leader in your space. Social selling isn’t shouting “call me for a quote” on LinkedIn. Instead, through your interesting articles and thoughtful InMail messages, your audience will naturally go to you for advice and their business.

Here are four easy steps to boost your social selling efforts on LinkedIn:

1. Build your community

You’ve heard this many times before, of course, but make sure you have the following fields filled out on your LinkedIn profile:

  • Summary: Create a rich summary of your background. Don’t just tell your audience what you did, tell them why you did it. People will be interested in your career path and the lessons you learned along the way.

  • Photo: Upload a recent professional headshot. Don’t use stock images or vacation photos. This photo should represent what you look like when you arrive in a sales meeting.

  • Background: Fill out your educational and professional background as well as many fields as you can.

The next step is to find your audience. Search for groups by your industry, alumni groups, and for your own company page. Don’t just passively join, join the conversation. Respond to threads, answer questions, and emerge as the group thought leader. If there aren’t any active topics in the group, start one yourself.

LinkedIn makes it really easy for you to find new connections as well; they provide recommendations in the right column of “People You May Know.” If you know them, connect! It can’t hurt to have too many connections in LinkediIn. The more people in your LinkedIn professional network, the more people that will see your status updates and have the opportunity to engage with you and your business.

2. Listen for social signals

Maybe you’re tired of seeing a thousand kitten and baby pictures posted to social networks. Some of these seemingly pointless postings, however, indicate significant life events that you should be aware of as a business owner. What’s important to your connections could be important to your business.

If you see life events such as a job change, city change, promotion, new baby, new home, or marriage, these are important events in your connections’ lives that require significant financial decisions. For example, your connection could be wanting to create a will now that the baby is born or maybe they need to join investments after they get married. These are the kinds of social signals you should be monitoring.

Tip: To engage about a life change, simply reach out and say, “Hi Mike, congratulations on the promotion! I’m so glad that all of your hard work has paid off at Company X. Just wanted to say hello and congrats!” This isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a reminder pitch. Maybe you’re a financial advisor, but Mike already knows that, so your job is simply to remind him that you’re still there and care about him and his career.

3. Be a trusted source

Why do car salespeople have a bad reputation? It’s because they are known for being pushy with their sales pitch. You don’t have to be that person to be successful. In fact, don’t be that person on social media! Nobody wants to hear “call me for a quote”. Why should they call you for a quote versus the other thousands of insurance agents in the United States?

Show your contacts why they should call you by being a thought leader:

  • Be the resource:  Share valuable, relevant content with your audience.

  • Offer help: Look for connections’ questions  on LinkedIn and answer them. Follow up to make sure they got what they needed.

  • Practice critical thinking: Have you ever posted an article without reading the entire thing? That’s not a good habit. Read the article and, instead of posting a summary or the title of the article, share what you think about the article. Do you agree? Do you respectfully disagree? It’s okay to share your opinion as long as you’re not offending others and explain why you’ve to come to your conclusion. Your followers will appreciate your leadership and authenticity.

Tip: Next time you’re on LinkedIn, post an article along with your thoughts about it. By sharing this information, your connections will value your opinion and come to you for advice. Remember, it’s not about actually selling products via social media, it’s also about being the resource that people trust.

4. Maintain relationships with your customers

Remember rolodexes? If you wanted to call a contact, you used to flip through your rolodex and pick up the phone. Why not do this with LinkedIn?
If you’re looking for a way to retain customers or just keep in touch with your current connections, try my “Russian Rolodex” tip. Once a week, I visit my Connections page on LinkedIn (my virtual rolodex) and move my cursor down the list with my eyes closed. After a random amount of time, I click on a name and open my eyes to see the person I’m going to reconnect with today. I either give them a call to say hello or simply send them a message via LinkedIn.
If you choose someone you haven’t spoken to in a very long time, click on their profile and try to learn about recent changes in their life. Did they get a new job? Are they in the same city? When I follow up with them, I just comment that I was thinking about them, looked through their profile, and saw that they had just moved jobs. “How are you enjoying Firm Y now?” It’s a great way to randomly reconnect with people to retain those relationships and keep you top of mind.