Social networks have become some of the most powerful tools available for relationship management in the modern economy, and LinkedIn.com is the site that offers the most valuable business functions. Many have used it to find jobs, but it can be just as valuable when looking for new leads in sales.
Similar to Facebook in its core concept, LinkedIn provides business professionals with opportunities to expand their professional networks and find ways to get introduced to the people who can propel their careers forward. People routinely search LinkedIn for people who have the connections they need, such as potential employers and future clients. Having a complete profile, including current position, work experience, and other major aspects of one’s professional life, can help potential customers find you and build confidence in your brand.
Step 1: Completing Your LinkedIn Profile – How To Get Noticed
Though a profile can easily be optimized to gain the attention of potential sales leads, the most important steps in creating a good LinkedIn profile are the most basic. Start with a profile picture that conveys the professional image you want to portray. Your picture should inspire confidence, so find something that puts your best foot forward. Similarly, you’ll want a headline that draws the sort of attention you’re looking for. Pick a few major keywords that you think potential clients would search for. If your business sells vehicle locks, for instance, try a headline containing phrases like “Automotive Security” and “Car Entry Devices.” These two steps will put your profile well on its way to attracting exactly the sort of attention you want.
Once you have that attention and some basic confidence from your readers, you want to convince them that you’ve got the right skills and expertise to help them. LinkedIn offers a feature called endorsements, which allow clients, coworkers, and other connections to vouch for a user’s skills and experience. Getting even a few endorsements can go a long way in establishing credibility for a profile. If you can’t get endorsements, try highlighting recent volunteer work or professional accomplishments. If you work in a field like writing, video editing, or design, add some samples of your work to your summary.
You can also use search engine optimization techniques to make yourself more visible on LinkedIn. Pick a few keywords related to your field that you would like to associate with your profile, as well as some projects or clients you have dealt with in the past. Use these to add current or past positions, using the keywords as the title and clients or projects as company names. By using this method, you can highlight key successes in your professional history and make the LinkedIn search algorithm much more likely to find you than many of your peers. Once you do all this, using LinkedIn for lead generation will become much easier, and in some cases, automatic.
Step 2: Connecting With Clients and Businesses – How To Expand Your Network
After you finish optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you can go on to get connected with others through several venues. The first is through sharing on LinkedIn, which involves providing links to information relevant to your industry. You can also use LinkedIn Answers, a service through which LinkedIn members provide advice and information regarding their industry expertise. LinkedIn groups let you get in contact with those within your industry as well as related fields. You can also use the service to directly connect with people within your network.
Sharing on LinkedIn will primarily help you shore up your relationships with those with whom you have already connected. If you see an interesting article on something related to your industry or field, you can share it with your connections through LinkedIn. This will not only indicate your expertise and familiarity with your field, but will also remind your connections of you and your business whenever you share something.
For building new connections, though, LinkedIn Answers can be a better option. Answering questions about your industry or profession will help you build goodwill with a variety of potential clients, and those you help will in turn be more likely to do business with you later. Even if this doesn’t provide you with any lead generation on its own, it can still help you expand your professional network and lead to further sales down the line. Those you help may know a third party who needs exactly the product or service you provide.
LinkedIn Groups offer a more focused approach that will connect you with those in your field easily. These groups provide a space in which people interested in a particular industry can talk, trade advice, and build connections. The opportunities for lead management and generation in a LinkedIn Group are extensive, and as with LinkedIn Answers, you can also position yourself as an expert in your field.
Don’t neglect your existing connections on LinkedIn, either. The site allows you to connect other professionals to your profile in a manner similar to becoming friends on Facebook. By directly connecting with those you already know in the field, or those who belong to the same LinkedIn Groups, you give yourself another platform through which you can contact existing leads and move those relationships to the next level. Direct connections should be personal and specific; many LinkedIn users will only respond to connection requests that seem personal and legitimate. Connections can provide you with valuable credibility through endorsements and recommendations, so don’t neglect this core feature of LinkedIn.
Once you build a network of connections on LinkedIn, start using them to generate new leads. Once you identify potential leads, you can also see who in your network has already established a connection with them. From there, simply asking for an introduction can get you in contact with them. While this method involves more scouting than a mass email and a more personalized approach, it also gives you much more control over the initial impression you make with each individual potential lead.
Step 3: Premium and Paid Advantages – How To Extend Your Reach Further
LinkedIn offers even more tools for those who aren’t afraid to spend a little money to get their messages out there. The first and foremost among these advantages is LinkedIn’s advertising program, which offers options unique to the LinkedIn service. Those who regularly make news releases or articles available through their profiles can make use of the LinkedIn Sponsored Updates program. For those who want to take a heavily personalized approach to relationship management, a LinkedIn Premium account offers the InMail system, making it even easier to contact anyone who uses the site.
Unlike advertisements on Facebook or other sites, LinkedIn ads can reach only the sections of the site that most need them. Because much of any LinkedIn user’s personal and professional information can be found on the site, LinkedIn provides stellar targeting options. Reaching individuals with particular job titles, duties, and even employers has never been easier. Because of the role of LinkedIn in client relationships and employment seeking, profiles also tend to have more up-to-date information on users’ professional lives than profiles on sites like Twitter or Facebook, making it an even stronger advertising platform.
Sponsored updates provide content through the usual LinkedIn formats such as news posts. These updates operate under similar principles to LinkedIn advertisements, reaching the potential clients most likely to be able to act on news and information. These posts will also forward potential leads to your profile or your company’s page, which is a great way to increase their familiarity with your brand before reaching out to them with business opportunities.
InMail options can only be accessed by LinkedIn Premium members, but both conventional InMail and sponsored messages can reach more potential readers than conventional emails. Unlike normal email providers, InMail guarantees a potential client will see your InMail message. These messages don’t come cheap, however. Regular InMails cost $10 to send, so use these to reach out to high-value potential clients. If you want an even more exclusive audience, consider a sponsored InMail campaign. These campaigns can reach relatively large numbers of potential clients, but can be expensive for small firms. Contact LinkedIn for a quote if such a campaign fits your lead generation needs and style.
What do you think?
LinkedIn is an extremely efficient way to reach potential leads. But don’t overdo it: some research suggests that the number of meaningful relationships we can sustain at any time is about 150, so it’s not optimal to take a shotgun approach and contact everyone who seems relevant all the time. How will you maintain personal email relationships with thousands of people?
If you find yourself hungry for more information on hunting down leads after learning about LinkedIn, you should also try these 11 tips to improve your lead management process. And of course, if you’ve used LinkedIn as a robust platform for developing new leads and keep old contacts warm, let us know what works best for you (and what doesn’t, too) in the comments.