It’s no secret that LinkedIn is the top professional social networking site — of its 562 million users worldwide, 61 million are senior-level influencers and 40 million hold decision-making positions.
Sellers who have mastered LinkedIn create 45% more opportunities per quarter, are 51% more likely to make quota, and outsell 78% of their peers.
Those are some impressive stats, yet LinkedIn is put on the back burner by many CEOs. Why? It may be a problem of perception.
“What I hear time and time again is that CEOs’ feelings about LinkedIn are based on the messages they receive from sales people who are trying to sell them something through the platform,” says John Asher, CEO at ASHER Strategies. “They don’t want their own sales people using LinkedIn to prospect because they don’t like being on the receiving end of those messages.”
But it’s important that CEOs understand that just because they are besieged by sales people who are using LinkedIn ineffectively doesn’t mean it’s not worth using as a tool for their own teams. People get spammed all the time, but it doesn’t mean you stop using email. Instead, you need to make sure you and your team are using LinkedIn the right way.
I recently spoke with John at length about this topic. As a top-rated Vistage speaker, he has a unique perspective on CEOs — he speaks to more than 2,000 CEOs and decision makers each year.
4 Selling Strategies on LinkedIn
In keynotes and in his book Close Deals Faster, John teaches elite salespeople to use ten universal sales skills and take advantage of 15 shortcuts, four of which are specifically focused on LinkedIn.
1. Use Sales Navigator for Prospecting
John teaches salespeople to focus on top prospects and uses LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator to identify who those prospects should be. (Sales Navigator is the version of LinkedIn designed for salespeople, with powerful search and relationship-building capabilities.)
Here’s how John and his team use this tool every day to connect with more targeted leads:
First, they do a search for VP of sales. They set the search parameters for location (within a 50-mile radius of DC), industry (across six different industries they target), and company size (200–500 employees). That gives them a short list to use as a starting point. After viewing each individual’s profile, they create a list of those worth pursuing, which might be half the size of the original list. That list is then reviewed by a senior staff member and culled further. They then reach out and connect to each individual. The ones who engage are given to the ASHER sales team as leads.
2. Do Your Research
Did you know that when you meet someone new, if you can get them talking about their passion and the things that excite them, it can release more serotonin than that rush that comes with a new romance or closing a big deal?
John recommends using LinkedIn to conduct smart, thorough research on your prospects, so you can more easily start a conversation, get them feeling good about talking to you and move them towards a sale.
“I was researching a prospective client recently and found 47 bits of information that we had in common,” says Asher. “We’re both engineers, have MBAs, are CEOs who run international businesses. We each have three daughters, and we like Belgian beer, soccer, and golf.”
While you don’t typically want to use personal information to build business rapport, technical and work-related topics are smart ways to build a connection. “So, I asked about how his Vistage group was going,” John says. “That initial question led to a 20-minute conversation, and I made the sale in our first official meeting.”
3. Get an Inside Coach
When LinkedIn was originally founded in 2003, the goal was to see if the Internet could reduce the six degrees of separation between people — and it did. In fact, the consensus is that now everyone on earth is within four degrees of each other.
The takeaway? It’s easier than ever before to connect with people who can provide insights into the accounts you are working on and how they operate. These inside coaches work within the organization you’re prospecting, and they can provide you with advice on their goals, initiatives and work culture to help you close the deal.
To make a sale successfully, Asher says, there are a few different buyers you’ll likely come across:
- User Buyer – the person who will be using the solution you’re selling
- Economic Buyer – the person who actually signs off on the sale
- Technical Buyer – the person who can ultimately say no
You can use LinkedIn to map the company’s organizational chart, see who reports to whom, who has what title, and make educated guesses about who the different buyers are. “The most important buyer is the inside coach — the person who knows, likes, trusts, and supports you, and wants you to get the business,” states Asher. “If the inside coach is also the user buyer, that’s as good as it gets.”
4. Build Rapport
When a salesperson truly understands what makes the customer tick and pitches to them in a way that matches the client’s energy and interests, the client is more inclined to sign on the dotted line. In other words, by building rapport and approaching sales in a personal way, you’ll significantly shorten the back-and-forth time of the traditional sales cycle.
For example, let’s say one of your co-workers comes to you with a referral. Before you meet, you use LinkedIn to do some research on their business, looking specifically for projects, accomplishments, or stand-out elements of their personal brand. “This allows you to open up your conversation with a compliment,” says John. “Mention a video on their website. Bring them something like a book that shows your shared interests.”
From there, ask questions. “Instead of opening with a slide deck all about your solution, say, ‘It looks like you have a great company here. How did you get started?’” John suggests. “When you do that, you’re tapping into neuroscience biases, and more likely to build a meaningful relationship and make a sale.”
As John puts it, LinkedIn is a “7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year” networking event with limitless opportunities for optimizing sales, and when CEOs appreciate how LinkedIn works, they’re immediately excited about what is possible for their sales team.
“Gone are the days of cold-call meetings,” he says. “When you come into a meeting with more knowledge and more confidence, you’re much more likely to close a deal. LinkedIn helps you do that.”
See How It’s Done
After interviewing John, I did a 15-minute video that shows how to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to accomplish the four steps in his process:
Hope the video was useful!
Can We Help?
We offer personal branding and social media coaching for executives. We can help your sales executives tell a compelling story online, giving them strong LinkedIn profiles that help customers appreciate your value proposition and get excited about working with you, then show them how to use LinkedIn effectively to generate leads, build relationships, and get more referrals. We also offer done-for-you services.
To talk about what you would like to accomplish, schedule a free 15-minute call. We will share some ideas and you can see if our approach will work for you.