advanced-social-selling

Advanced Social Selling: How to Use LinkedIn to Hack the Growth of Your Business

 

In the last years, I’ve been using LinkedIn as a tool to meet people that could help me grow professionally. Yet never thought of it as a social selling tool. That is also because as a former financial analyst I wasn’t focused on sales, lead generation or digital marketing. Yet for more than a year, I’ve been using advanced social selling tactics through LinkedIn. In fact, as a Business Developer for WordLift I’ve spent time and resources (a lot of trial and errors) to master this tool that turned out to be the most powerful to hack the growth of the startup, I’m helping scale up.

In this article, I want to show you what tactics I’ve been using but also how to use LinkedIn as your primary social selling tool.

What is Social Selling? 

LinkedIn defines it as:

Instead, hubspot.com defines Social Selling in 100 words as:

Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.

Some argue how social selling is reinventing cold calling and bringing that to another level. Truth is whatever you want to call it, LinkedIn is an excellent tool to build relationships with key players in your industry. From those relationships, business opportunities might or might not arise.

Therefore, that is my first social selling tip: don’t focus on the sale at first but only about creating a conversation. 

Be ready to accept that conversation might not turn out into a business relationship. In fact, although in sales many terms such as lead generation, or prospecting are useful to create a consistent process it is essential to realize that on the other hand, you have people that have a business objective which comes before yours.

Thus, social selling tip number two: think about how you can help the other person how to achieve his/her business objective

Once clarified those two aspects you’re ready to start. By keeping in mind that LinkedIn is just a tool for others. However, the LinkedIn team could create a business-driven platform where people are primed to think entrepreneurially. It might sound trivial, yet that is what makes LinkedIn so compelling, I argue. In fact, if you go on Facebook and start a business conversation a person might get offended “how dare you, PM me about business?!”

On the other hand, LinkedIn is the perfect environment and context to start business conversations openly. People are primed to think business on LinkedIn compared to any other social media platform. That is also why LinkedIn is so tailored for social selling.

In other words, my social selling tips number three is: don’t be scared to start business conversations as soon as you’re providing value

I know that “providing value” might seem too generic. But it really depends on a few factors. For instance, in my case, as I’m a Business Developer for a startup that offers a tool for SEO and content marketing I found content creation a great lever to start a business relationship. In fact, my principle is: content first, money then. 

However, this works for me and in my industry. Would this work anywhere else? Not sure. On the other hand, I find content powerful enough to be leveraged in any other industry too. For instance, let’s say you work in a very traditional industry like real estate commercial development. You also have a company blog that talks about real estate. Why not use the blog to interview and therefore create critical strategic relationships with players in that industry? That is not going to guarantee more profits, yet in the worst case scenario, you will have great content for your blog, a new acquaintance (we abuse too much of the word “friend” over the internet, but friendship takes years and effort to cultivate) and a potential future business partner!

Why social selling on LinkedIn is important:  Social selling vs. traditional selling

Social Selling on LinkedIn is based on four pillars:

  1. Create a professional brand
  2. Focus on the right prospects
  3. Engage with insights
  4. Build trusted relationships

Social selling is just another way to grow your network and business. In my experience, I found that some other traditional tactics, like cold calling, have become bothering to most people. There is no data to back it up as this is my personal experience. In short, some people might be extremely good at that, that is not my case. In fact, as a Business Developer, I tried several tactics to bring new leads. When I used cold calling, I found that people were, in any case, told me to send the information over email.

In short, cold calling not only has become for me superfluous but it actually added steps to my sales process.

Using LinkedIn for social selling means to learn how to connect with the right people. In fact, when you start using LinkedIn you’ll need to expand your network by inviting people to join. When connecting you will need to have clear in mind who do you want to talk to. Is it the CEO? Is it the CMO? Or the Editor in Chief? Those searches will help you clarify who is your best interlocutor.

LinkedIn-social-selling

To determine that I’d look at three things:

  • Is my tool service solving an actual problem for the person in this role?
  • Has this person the ability to influence decisions internally?
  • Does this person manage a budget?
  • If so, is this budget in line with my business objectives?

Some of those questions will help you clarify who the person within an organization you need to talk to is.

Also, LinkedIn has managed to create an engaged audience ready to comment and interact with you. For instance, a few people have become influencers thanks to LinkedIn publishing and by just posting short content or videos on LinkedIn.

Lately, I also started to experiment with that, and in some cases, the reach of a post can be very powerful. Indeed, a short post can reach thousands of people:

LinkedIn-Feed

That helps you to establish your personal branding beyond the company or organization you manage, represent or work for.

Where can you start with social selling on LinkedIn?

Make your profile rock!

The first step is to optimize your profile. Over time once you’ve done it right you’ll see the “All-Star” badge on it:

LinkedIn-profile

Don’t confuse the symbol with personal recognition. That All-Star badge is only an indicator that your profile is optimised to be found through LinkedIn search.

Make sure to optimise your profile to get found by the people in your industry that can become business partners.

Follow these six tips to have an impressive LinkedIn profile:

The six suggestions are summarised below:

  • Professional picture: here professional also depends on the context. For instance, since I work now in digital marketing I don’t wear the suit and tie anymore. However, I did have an old picture with suit when I worked in the financial industry
  • Use a proper headline: I see many kinds of headlines on LinkedIn, but I like to keep it simple. For instance, I have “Business Developer at WordLift and Creator of FourWeekMBA.com” which professionally are the two things that describe me best
  • “what I can do for you oriented profile summary”: don’t use buzz words, or talk only about you but what problems you help to solve on a daily basis
  • Work Experience: short and sweet
  • show off your recommendations: One way is to ask people you’ve been working together for sincere feedback on LinkedIn
  • Put your contact details: that might seem trivial but many people make it too hard to be contacted on LinkedIn

Once you have followed those tips and set up your profile, you can see where you’re at with LinkedIn Social Selling Index.

How to calculate your Social Selling Index (SSI)?

LinkedIn Social Selling Index is a synthetic score from 1 up to 100 that tells you where you’re at regarding professional branding, network, and influence.

As any synthetic rating, you don’t want to take it literally, yet it is an excellent proxy to track the advancement of your LinkedIn profile over time.

You can check your Social Selling Index from here:

social-selling-index

For instance, in the last year, I’ve been working on my profile, and I was able to bring my Social Selling Index to 72 out of 100.

social-selling-index

Compared to other people in my industry my profile ranks in the top 1% and on the top 10% for my network.

social-selling-index

To put things in context sales professionals in the Marketing and Advertising have an average Social Selling Index (SSI) of 25.

Once again, this is only a synthetic indicator. Which means having your Social Selling Index as high won’t bring you any sale to the door. That just means that you’re ready now to present your professional brand in the best way possible. Nothing more, nothing less. However, if you want to increase your Social Selling Index see next.

How to increase your LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI)?

To improve your Social Selling Index, you have to develop four areas:

    • Establish a professional brand

    • Find the right people

    • Engage with insights

    • Build relationships

Top google chrome extensions for social selling on LinkedIn

To maximize and power up your LinkedIn capabilities, there are a few Google Chrome Extensions which over time I found very useful.

Snovio for email capturing

Working on a single channel is not effective. Therefore, when you visit someone’s profile on LinkedIn, it is also a good idea to get his/her email for the future. Many people don’t use LinkedIn much and contacting them through email can be way more efficient.

Snovio is a must-have tool to make this process of email capturing straightforward.

Rapportive to connect on LinkedIn through your mail inbox

Another Google Chrome extension I can’t live without is Rapportive. That is an extension that allows you to communicate with anyone when opening an email from your inbox.

For more Google Chrome extension not related to LinkedIn read this:

12 Best Google Chrome Extensions for Business Professionals, Online Marketers and Digital Entrepreneurs

Conclusion

LinkedIn is an awesome tool for social selling. Remember the three tips we saw at the beginning:

  1. Don’t focus on the sale at first but only about creating a conversation. 
  2. Think about how you can help the other person how to achieve his/her business objective
  3. Don’t be scared to start business conversations as soon as you’re providing value

Additional steps to take to get going with Social Selling with LinkedIn is to complete your profile, improve your social selling index by posting relevant insights, connecting with people you share professional interests, use LinkedIn publishing to build a strong professional brand. Engage with other top experts in your industry to create trust!

After all the objective is clear: build as many relationships as possible in the shortest time and with the minimum effort.

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Creator of FourWeekMBA.com | Head of Business Development at WordLift.io | International MBA

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