27 LinkedIn Tips: LinkedIn Best Practices For Entrepreneurs
LinkedIn may be the best source of sales intelligence on the planet for finding and reaching out to a prospective customer.
This is definitely the month of LinkedIn with my fellow columnist George Anders‘ Forbes cover story telling the latest in the LinkedIn story. And when you are done here, Susan Adams, a Forbes Staff expert on LinkedIn, gives you four more tips and here is a link to 31 LinkedIn Tips for B2B Prospecting.
From our perspective in the inside sales industry, we have found LinkedIn has become one of the leading tools inside sales reps use to connect to and meet qualified prospects.
In fact, we get so many requests for tips on how to use LinkedIn efficiently, we’ve compiled a sales LinkedIn eBook with 42 tips (some the same as listed below, but some new ideas, too) on how to use LinkedIn for sales intelligence.
Here is what works:
1- Use CEO clout through LinkedIn to close deals: Dave Elkington, our CEO, just shared a great technique he learned from Josh James, of Omniture/Adobe fame. Often the CEO or sales executive can reach out to prospective clients and resolve last-minute issues holding up signing a sales agreement. They can push it over the edge. (And I’m writing this on the last day of the quarter. Any of you in sales knows the pressure to finish out a quarter with great results.)
LinkedIn helps reach out quickly.
2- Grab your names: If you haven’t already done this, get on LinkedIn and grab your name and your company name. Edit the URL on your profile so it reads with your actual name like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenkrogue. If you leave what LinkedIn automatically does for you there will be lots of extra numbers and characters which confuse people.
3- Complete your profile: Nothing screams “Rookie” like an unfinished profile. Take the time and get it done, both for yourself and your company. There are a few other essentials to getting started. A new book called The LinkedIn Essentials by Asia Bird is helpful, as is the eBook How to Use LinkedIn for Business by Hubspot.
4- Connect to your warm market: If you can’t figure out who to connect with, start with friends, colleagues, and family. The average wedding planner knows that any given person knows about 250 people to invite to a wedding. Make your wedding list. If you are an old timer, make your funeral list.
5- Use LinkedIn to follow up after other communications: Don’t make the mistake of trying to connect with lots people you don’t know. LinkedIn will warn you, and then shut you down if too many people don’t respond to your connection request. Whenever you receive an email, business card, or leave a voicemail; put a “PS” that you are going to also connect by LinkedIn right at the end. Then people make the connection as someone they know and approve your connection request.
I also recommend that you change the standard connection request message that LinkedIn puts in to something you write that is more personal.
6- Select your “Doorway” people: LinkedIn lets you see two levels deep of connections for free (and more with the premium version – highly recommended). I’m a Doorway person in my company because I connect to nearly 3000 sales people, managers, and executives. If all my sales reps are connected to me, when I connect to people in companies, they can see them also.
7- Teach LinkedIn strategy and tactics to your employees: Get your people together and coordinate your efforts and strategies. Years ago, my business partner Dave Elkington, started a company-wide Friday morning meeting where we constantly share new approaches and ideas with each other as part of our culture. We even started a Social Media group of super users who really push the envelope.
8- Expand your LinkedIn reach with Twitter: There is a little checkbox at the bottom of your “Share an update” box that copies everything you share with your Connections to all of your Twitter followers.
9- Use your “3 Free Backlinks” with all employees: Google uses backlinks to drive search engine results. Every LinkedIn account has a place for 3 Free Backlinks, and LinkedIn leaves these links open to indexing by Google. We have 110 employees, times 3, that’s 330 potential backlinks to drive your website up the search engine results list, hmmmmm.
10- Freely give and receive recommendations: The Internet is a world of views, likes, shares, and comments. But best of all is a heart-felt recommendation, which you can do on LinkedIn. Nothing boosts morale, loyalty, and friendship, like an unsolicited recommendation. Try it. And don’t be afraid to ask for it from co-workers, friends, and even customers.
11- Define your offensive sales strategy: As an old football coach, I know you need both offense and defense. Offense on LinkedIn is sales, marketing, and recruiting. Defense is preventing your best employees from being recruited away and your customers stolen by the competition. Everything you learn to do here and elsewhere, recruiters and your competition are learning as well. Keep that in mind when accepting invitations to “connect”.
13- Teach 3×3 analysis to all inside sales people: Before your sales reps make a call to a prospect, have them spend 3 minutes and find 3 things on LinkedIn to talk about. It’s much more compelling than talking about the weather. Steve Richard of Vorsight shares this LinkedIn technique with clients.
14- “Test and Invest” in premium services: I have tested the value of Premium Services on LinkedIn (the packages that cost money for Sales, Recruiting, and Job Seekers.) We have found it to be one of the lowest cost, highest return values for lead generation.
15- Use InMail strategically: InMail is a great service LinkedIn provides where they guarantee a response through a request for introduction, or they give you a credit to use another InMail.
I recently interviewed an industry training consultant by the name of Jamie Shanks, of Sales for Life who uses LinkedIn InMail to generate leads for himself and clients for about $20 a lead. He gets a 12% contact to meeting ratio on the first attempt with an increase to a 20% rate with a multi-contact approach.
In a world where Google Adwords leads often cost well over $100 (speaking from experience), LinkedIn is proving to be highly effective.
16- Knock response rates out of the park through LinkedIn: At InsideSales.com we constantly test different media through which to send messages to prospects, in addition to testing the content of the messages themselves. In terms of response rates, emails range between .1% and .3%. The exact same message sent by LinkedIn in our early in-house tests responded 300% better. Recent tests are much better (but I have to keep a few aces up my sleeve.)
17- Have sales reps join industry and local LinkedIn Groups: The old days of lunch clubs and breakfast networking groups are being replaced by online groups. I wrote a while back about Trish Bertuzzi, the Founder and CEO of The Bridge Group, in Boston. She formed a LinkedIn industry group called Inside Sales Experts. When I first joined there were 8,000 members. I checked today and there are 17,755. I don’t know anywhere else on the planet where that many inside sales professionals congregate. Over the years I have now met hundreds of them and I count them as friends. I got involved in their discussions and made friends and acquaintances.
Trish’s only rule? No self-promotion.
18- Use advanced search to target specific titles and industries: Besides Groups, you can search for the exact title of people and industry of companies that fit your perfect target prospect. The Premium service lets you see many more profiles when you search, and it provides more powerful filters to search by. The Premium service pays for itself in saved labor costs alone.
19- Follow your customers: Using the LinkedIn company accounts feature, post your own company information, but also follow other companies. Follow your customers. LinkedIn ties you into news feeds. It helps you meet the right people to offer a better experience.
20- Follow your prospects: Information and sales intelligence often provide “trigger events” that help you know when your prospects may be expanding or growing and thereby needing more of what you sell.
21- Use “Tags” to categorize your connections: Tags are like Circles on Google+. They are categories you can use to organize your Contacts or Connections. Add Tags in the Contacts section of LinkedIn. I use them to differentiate friends, partners, prospects, large prospects, customers, students, press, etc.
22- Use LinkedIn in your trade show strategy: [KEN’S NOTE: LINKEDIN HAS KILLED LINKEDIN EVENTS!] LinkedIn Events can be invaluable to promote your own events and to gain more value from events you will be attending. We have a rule at InsideSales.com never to go to a trade show unless we can set enough appointments before the show starts to pay for the entire show. Shows like Dreamforce by salesforce.com, LeadsCon are exceptional at this.
The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) is just starting to find success with this.
LinkedIn Events list hundreds or thousands of attendees that you can reach out to and arrange meetings with prior to the show.
23- Ask for referrals through LinkedIn: Salespeople all know that the best way to do business is with referrals. The problem is people can seldom think of someone to refer you to. Now you can spend a few moments in their LinkedIn Contact list and find just the right people you want to be referred to. Ask each contact for the referral connection and give the specific names of the contacts you have in mind.
24- Set up your defense: In an earlier article I have warned that all of these great tools can also be used against you.
25- Manage recruiter connections carefully: If you are a Doorway in your company, be careful who you connect to.
26- Manage competitor connections carefully: Ditto!
27- Never SPAM! Don’t send out mass sales messages by LinkedIn. This is another word for SPAM. Marketers zealously overused direct mail, the phone, fax, predictive dialer, and email by sending SPAM and driving people nuts. If someone does that to me I actually respond and let them know that only rookie salespeople do that in LinkedIn.
Just don’t do it.