(This blog is longer than most, but one of my favorite ever – Read on! – Ken)
LinkedIn is the greatest source of business to business (B2B) sales intelligence and research data for the average sales professional ever invented. This kind of tool has never existed before. LinkedIn let’s you connect with people and see their network of connections. Once you understand that you can only see relationships that are 2 levels deep it gets much easier to use and understand.
I just came from training a great team at Veracity Networks, a local internet, voice, and tv provider in Utah and long-time customer of ours. We talked about all the ways that LinkedIn can help in B2B prospecting. I also promised on my last webinar that I would make a list of 20 ways to use LinkedIn, well I got carried away.
Here is one thing you can do for every day of the month.
1- First, use LinkedIn to get in to a new account. I remember when I wanted to get into the inside sales department at a company just up the street by the name of Novell. I looked up the company, found an old friend of mine that works there named Morgan Spencer, contacted him, and asked for a referral.
Now he works at Concierge Communications, so maybe I should see if he can refer me again. Anyway, it worked and took just a few minutes. That was my first productive use of LinkedIn years ago.
2- Follow your customers companies. That means you should be connected through LinkedIn to ALL OF YOUR CUSTOMERS! That seems like a no brainer, but very few companies do that. We recommend that your CEO, VP Sales, VP Support, etc. reach out with the welcome pack to each new customer and connect. Then ping them now and again to ask “how are things are coming?” Follow each of your customers companies in LinkedIn.
3- Make sure you complete your profile, keep it fresh, and set it up correctly so you have credibility. Complete the profile! That means 100%. Salespeople never take the time to finish and this hurts them.
4- Use a good close-up picture that stands out. Our company uses black and white short-cropped head shots that are sort of cool. Why black and white? We stand out. Nobody else on the page is black and white. I like to zig when everyone else chooses to zag. (Sorry you can’t use this one, everyone else has to stay with color pictures.)
5- Grab your name before someone else does! Make sure that your public profile is shortened to contain just your name, ie: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenkrogue. If you leave this to LinkedIn it will have lots of crazy random letters and numbers and looks like a mess and is hard to link to. Write a compelling introduction to you and your company so people know what you do! If your company is hiring, mention it like our VP Sales did, it works!
6- Have a point person at your company. LinkedIn works by letting you connect to people 2 levels deep. It is a good idea to have at least one person in the company who reaches out to lots of connections. If everyone else at the company is connected to them, they act like a “window” with great connections for everyone else. I’m connected to over 2300 people, and through me, all of my sales reps have a connection that is far more broad than their own.
7- Connect to your employees. Spend time and teach your colleagues and employees the value of using LinkedIn as a team. By designating a “point person” as mentioned above, make sure that person is connected to every single employee. Do it from day one in the onboarding process for all new hires.
8- Connect to your customers. Who in the B2B world is more important than your customers? I like to use Tags to connect to and classify my customers as part of my LinkedIn network. Why? I care deeply about my customers. They are like the kinds of prospects I want to also become my customers. Be getting to know them well, I can connect to others just like them. I can find the groups they are part of. I can ask for referrals or recommendations that will really have impact (if I have earned it.)
9- Connect to your prospects. We ask our salespeople to connect to all of their prospects right after the first contact attempt. Do they always do it? The smart ones do. Why have them connect? Increases rate of building a relationship. LinkedIn increases response to communications by 300% versus email.
10 – Do a 3×3 analysis of your prospects. My friend Steve Richard from Vorsight, outsourcers in inside sales training, taught me this. Take 3 minutes before calling a prospect to find 3 things you have in common to talk with them about. LinkedIn is great for a resume, company, college sports or alma maters, common trade groups perspective, Facebook for hobbies, sports, etc.
11- Join relevant groups. One of my favorite LinkedIn Groups is Inside Sales Experts that was originally formed by Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group. When I first joined it there were about 8000 members, now there are over 14,000 members, all inside sales professionals. I think there are more members in this group than all others combined about inside sales. I have met dozens of people who I now call friends just by joining the conversations that are going on.
Trish’s only rule? No SPAM or self promotion allowed.
12- Find and join local LinkedIn groups. Go to the Groups search window at the top right and type in your home city and/or home state to find groups close by to you. Now look for industries that you want to prospect into. These groups usually have quarterly or annual meetings. I love the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals – Salt Lake City Chapter. Change my city to your city in the search and go join today!
13- Make your wedding and funeral list and connect in LinkedIn. This is an old prospecting technique with a new twist. I am asked all the time by new sales reps what is the first thing they should do when they get hired. I tell them to make their wedding list (if they are young, and their funeral list if they are old.) What is that? The 250 people you know well that you would invite to your wedding or that your family would invite to your funeral. I’m told that wedding planners and funeral directors estimate the average wedding or funeral at 250 attendees if they don’t know how many are coming. Imagine if you linked to 250 people who care about you, wouldn’t they be the best place to start prospecting and looking for introductions, recommendations, and referrals?
14- Respond first to email, then by LinkedIn. This is a way to make connections with interesting people and valuable people. Whenever someone emails you that would be a valuable connection to make, simply respond by email and mention in the email that you will be connecting by LinkedIn. Then reach out and connect. Remind them you just emailed them. LinkedIn penalizes you if you try to connect to too many people who reject because they don’t know your or don’t remember who you are.
15- When you go to trade shows connect with LinkedIn. My favorite task after going to a trade show is to take time that night back at the hotel and reach out by email then connect with LinkedIn. I also have my team help me reach out to everyone that comes by our booth at trade shows. Remind them of the “common experience” you had together at the trade show when you reach out by LinkedIn so they remember you and don’t reject you.
16- Follow your prospect Companies. Use the “Follow Company” feature and follow the target prospect companies you have. This ties you in to news about them and you can see connections you already have to their employee base.
17- Offer value to your LinkedIn Connections. Interact occasionally with your LinkedIn connections and build relationships with them. Offer things of value to them: information, training, good books, ideas, tips, tricks, best practices, and best of all, referrals. My friend Paul Allen, the founder of Infobases, Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com, and FamilyLink.com told me about one of his favorite books called Love is the Killer App, that teaches this very thing. I reach out about every six months to my LinkedIn connections in Utah and share my latest seminar with them for free. I probably have 70-80 people come. I do the same with webinars nationally. Warning: Don’t try and sell them something, it’s a turnoff. Just offer great content. If they want to buy something from you, they will seek you out.
18- Kill two birds with one stone. By linking Twitter with the “share an update” window on your main page in LinkedIn you can put in one message that is shared with both systems. This takes advantage of the Signal feature on LinkedIn which is a lot like the “Wall” on Facebook. It’s a way to see the latest news about your connections, but I like to filter it down or it’s just overload.
19- Connect a Widget on your Blog. I also have a twitter widget on my WordPress blog that allows me to update LinkedIn, which updates Twitter, which updates my blog. Pretty cool!
20- Share your blog on LinkedIn. There are ways to go the other direction by putting the most recent articles on your blog in a section on your LinkedIn page. I love the WordPress widget for LinkedIn which puts my three most recent blog articles on my LinkedIn page.
21. Use Tags to categorize your customers from prospects, friends, etc. As your Connections begins to grow it is wise to use the Tags feature on LinkedIn to create categories for your Contacts. This lets you slice and dice your LinkedIn network for all kinds of communication purposes.
Tags are found in the Contacts section of Linked in and are absolutely invaluable for more advanced methods of using LinkedIn for prospecting.
I use Tags to categorize partners, friends, association members, customers, etc.
This takes some time and I’m just getting started in effectively using the Tags feature.
22. Use Events in LinkedIn to promote real or virtual events. One of the things I try to do to offer value to all my friends on LinkedIn and to keep in touch with them is to offer free webinars or seminars on topics I’m familiar with around inside sales and lead management. I have found that the Events feature of LinkedIn is especially powerful in allowing me to post the important information, invite my connections, and post attendees so they can interact and network amongst themselves also. We do this every quarter for the AA-ISP in Salt Lake City. I never use these events to sell, but only to network, educate, and raise awareness for the inside sales industry. Sale introductions have a way of taking care of themselves.
23. Use the 3 free backlinks in LinkedIn for Google juice! I wrote an article years ago about the SEO value of LinkedIn. We have 85 employees. Imagine if each of them used all three links to drive keywords for InsideSales.com, hmmmmm.
24. Look for LinkedIn Events Corresponding to all Trade Shows! NOTE – LINKEDIN JUST KILLED LINKEDIN EVENTS – This is one of my favorite tips for using LinkedIn for B2B prospecting. My friend Jay Weintraub, the founder of LeadsCon, was one of the first to really use LinkedIn to promote his trade show.
Now it is a standard for hundreds of people to add his events to their calendar. Well, when they do, they are open to you to go out and introduce yourself and invite them to come meet you at your booth.
Notice the link with 194 other people attending the same event you are going to. That gives you 194 people you can introduce yourself to BEFORE THE EVENT BEGINS!.
My favorite rule for events is to schedule enough appointments before the event begins to pay for the event. LinkedIn helped us invite over 600 people to come visit us last year at Dreamforce 2011.
The power of the LinkedIn Events can help you do this all by itself if you start a few weeks ahead of time.
25. Share that you are attending LinkedIn Events. NOTE – LINKEDIN JUST KILLED LINKEDIN EVENTS! – Remember I have linked my LinkedIn to my Twitter. So when I share in LinkedIn, it goes out to my 2800+ followers of Twitter (by the way, if you choose to follow me, I try to send out tips, best practices, and research weekly.) I like to help promote all of the events I go to, speak at, sponsor, and exhibit so that it helps all of us.
26. Freely give recommendations to co-workers, colleagues, former employers, authors, etc. Don’t wait for people to ask. Make a personal goal to reach out and recommend one person a week. If someone does something special, tell them. Business is crazy, take time to show gratitude and respect. Show the love!
27. Ask for recommendations from co-workers, colleagues, and former employers. This is an obvious practice and is a great way to “prime the pump” of getting lots of recommendations in your LinkedIn profile. Once you have lots of honest and frank recommendations from those closest to you then I like to move to asking for recommendations from customers. I love to recommend people.
28. Ask for customer recommendations using LinkedIn. I admin at first this looks very hard to accomplish, but it is actually a good practice to get into. It works best when you ask for this early in the process as a measure of how well you do. I also do this if a prospect is asking for additional pricing discounts or negotiating terms aggressively. I say, “Well, with this discount I’m giving you, I’m going to need to make up for it by selling more clients (smile), would be willing to recommend me in a format like LinkedIn if I have earned it?”
29. Ask for customer referrals using LinkedIn. I live by referrals. I tell my prospects that “one of the best ways I grade myself on how well I do is whether or not you are willing to recommend me to other people just like yourself when we are done.” I set this expectation up early and remind them once or twice during the sales process. The big problem is getting people to think of 3-4 good referrals. Quite often I need to prompt them with ideas. Well, recently I’ve been using LinkedIn. Before I ask for referrals I go look at their LinkedIn network and find several accounts I would like my teams to get into. Then it is easy to say “To make it easy for you to help me grow my business with your recommendations, I’ve already found a few people you know that I would greatly appreciate an introduction to.” Then you can use the normal LinkedIn process, I still like a live phone introduction though, as it is stronger. But the LinkedIn process is better then me calling them on my own.
30. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations, and comments from blog readers! Ok, if you liked this article, especially if it helped you generate a lead or make a sale, I want something in return. I want a recommendation on my LinkedIn, a reference to this article, or a comment with Linked tips, ways to use LinkedIn, or best practices I haven’t mentioned for B2B prospecting.
Now for one thing NOT TO DO!
31. Don’t send sales or marketing messages by LinkedIn. This is another word for SPAM! Overzealous marketers ruined the telephone, faxing, and email by sending SPAM. Just don’t do it. If someone sends SPAM to me I try to let them know that only rookie salespeople do that in LinkedIn.
It’s like urinating in the public swimming pool, it ruins the swim for everyone. It’s a mistake we should only make once. I just wish we had a dye that turned their LinkedIn page red for a week when somebody uses LinkedIn to brazenly pitch their product!
Top 30 Articles on www.KenKrogue.com (with total views) and a Summary of Ken’s Forbes Articles
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A Complete Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes Articles, Including his newly updated “Definition of Inside Sales” and his #1 on all of Forbes (and most controversial) article “The Death of SEO”