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Sales Solutions
LinkedIn Strategies and Tactics vol 9, issue #1
January, 2012

Most of us know that LinkedIn is one of the more popular business-oriented social media sites. And many of us use it to varying degrees. Considering that it has over 100 million members in over 200 countries, and had 33.9 million unique visitors in June, it behooves all of us to be on it.

Yet in conversations with friends and colleagues, it's become clear that their familiarity with and use of it is about as great as my familiarity and use of Twitter - which is to say, not much. So in this issue, I present a handful of easy-to-implement things you can do to make LinkedIn a powerful tool in your prospecting arsenal.

To begin, make yourself as attractive as possible. Just as in the off-line world, people want to associate and do business with people the trust and like. That means establishing your credibility. Start by creating a compelling profile. A compelling profile on Linkedin has two elements: your professional competence and your character. On LinkedIn, there are five ways for you to convey your professional competence:

  1. Your Professional "Headline". This should not be your title; use it to highlight how you want visitors to perceive you.
  2. Your Summary - Greater detail supporting your headline
  3. Your Experience and Accomplishments - Don't just list where you worked. List what you accomplished while you were there.
  4. Your Skills (via the Skills feature)
  5. What have you written, recorded, etc. (via the Publications feature).

People want to associate with not only talented people, but with people of good character. One way to convey your good character is to solicit recommendations from people with whom you have worked. Such recommendations typically mention not only the hard facts of what you did from a business perspective (as a provider, customer, employee, or boss), but also the "soft" aspects of how you conducted yourself. Another subtle way to convey your strength of character is to list any volunteer work you may be doing, or have done. As with the publications, above, you can do this here.

Now that you've created an attractive profile for yourself, take a moment to create awareness of your company and make its offerings attractive. You can create awareness of your company by simply sharing updates about it with your connections. If you don't mind investing a little money, you can use LinkedIn advertising to attract prospective customers. To demonstrate what your company offers, and its value proposition, use the LinkedIn apps SlideShare and Google Presentations.

Let's turn now to some strategies and tactics you can use to create sales opportunities.

Most everyone knows that LinkedIn can be used to get a warm introduction to a prospect by asking 1st degree connections for one. That's a no-brainer (though be sure to find out from your contact if it's a strong enough connection; just as some of your connections are not that strong, so too may the connection between your contact and the target). But how can you reach the much larger universe of people to whom you do not have access through a connection?

For starters, you can always send a message to targets with whom you share a group. For 3rd degree connections with whom you don't share a group, LinkedIn provides paid subscribers a way to try to reach them, called InMail. If the target accepts InMail (not all do), you simply send one much like you'd send an ordinary message. If you have a Basic subscription and don't want to pay for a premium one, or if you have a premium subscription but have exhausted your supply of InMails (you receive a monthly allotment), one trick you can use to reach 3rd degree targets is to temporarily join a group the target is in, then send a message as a fellow group member (be sure to leave the group after sending the message, because you have a maximum of 50 groups that you can join, and you'll find yourself using them up pretty quickly if you don't).

Another LinkedIn prospecting strategy is to join groups to which you suspect your target contacts belong, and contribute to group discussions. You'll get to know who the "players" are, will be able to contribute your own ideas - which help you not only become known among them but which enhance your credibility. In addition, you should answer questions posed in the groups to which you belong. This adds to your credibility by subtly conveying both your knowledge and willingness to help others.

Lastly, if you have a Basic subscription, you've no doubt noticed that your search results yield many contacts whose titles only are provided - not their names. With paid subscriptions, all searches return the individuals' names. Also, additional, useful filters - such as seniority, company size, and Fortune 1000 (not to mention a host of other capabilities) - become available to help you refine your targeting.

Remember, the same principles that apply in off-line networking apply to LinkedIn and any other online network: Paying it forward and not just calling for favors when you need them builds credibility and trust, which in turn leads to more sales.

Good Selling!

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