When I am running sales conferences and sales training sessions I often recommend that salespeople and business owners get themselves signed up to LinkedIn. Not surprisingly I get asked many questions about exactly what LinkedIn is and how people can use it to maintain their sales networks, network for new clients, improve their presence & positioning, and so on…
I started to write an article on how to use LinkedIn to make more sales and build your business and then I remembered my friend Jan Wallen who has made getting the most out of LinkedIn one of her main focuses so I asked her if she would be prepared to be interviewed for GavinIngham.com. The resulting interview, as you can see, is jam-packed full of quality information so enjoy it and make sure that you check out her book, Mastering LinkedIn in 7 Days or Less.
1. Everyone has heard of LinkedIn now, though short of calling it a “network” I think few people could really say what it is! If you were to describe it in a few sentences, what would you say LinkedIn is?
LinkedIn is part of social networking, and the best way to describe it is an online network for business. It’s the premier online network for business people, whether you’re working in a corporation, mid-sized company or you’re a business owner. More and more corporate people are going to LinkedIn to find Experts to hire them for consulting, coaching and speaking engagements. So you want to be on LinkedIn with a compelling LinkedIn Profile, so that these people find you when they do a search on LinkedIn. And then when they find your LinkedIn Profile, they scan it, see what they’re looking for, and can’t wait to connect with you and hire you and your company.
2. What does LinkedIn do for people? How can people benefit from being on Linked in?
LinkedIn makes it easy to find clients, find a job, and build your brand and become the recognized Expert. It’s also easy to use, once you know the basics.
LinkedIn makes it easy to find your decision-maker. You can look up people in a specific position in a company in the industry that you’re clients are in. You can do advanced searches that find those companies and people in a specific geographic area, for example. In fact, it’s much easier than using a mailing list. When you buy a mailing list, you almost know it’s out-of-date because people move around so much and no-one updates the list. So you must clean it up before you use it, or hire someone to do that, and add to your cost of sales. In LinkedIn and you’re looking for a Vice President at a specific company, you know exactly who is in that position.
LinkedIn also saves a tremendous amount of time when you’re in sales or a business owner. You can research the company and your decision-maker, and connect with them before you make your initial sales call. To do this, you search for Companies. Once you find the company you’re looking for, you see information and statistics about that company, business news about it, people who work there who are in your network, and more. When you search for a specific person or find the Vice President of Sales for an Information Technology company, you know something about them after you read their LinkedIn Profile. You can see things in common to talk about to break the ice when you make your first call. Perhaps you went to the same university, or grew up in the same area. With a mailing list or research on the Internet, you’re calling “cold”, not knowing about them, so it can be awkward.
A very valuable section of LinkedIn that many people don’t know about is called Answers. Here you can ask or answer questions that help you do your work, and position you as an Expert. People ask questions in a number of categories. You can answer the question, and others on LinkedIn see your answers. When you answer a number of questions on a regular basis, they’ll start to recognize your name, and think of you as an Expert. So when they’re looking for an Expert, you’ll come to mind.
3. There are many different social networks out there, and I seem to get invited to a new one every week. How is LinkedIn different? How do I know which one(s) to choose to be on?
LinkedIn is different from many other social networks because it’s specifically for business. LinkedIn members work in corporations, mid-sized companies and are business owners. And a primary reason they’re on LinkedIn is to connect with other business people and build their business. You can also find a job on LinkedIn, both by using their job board and by searching for hiring managers and networking with people in your network.
4. I am a salesperson or a business owner. How can I use LinkedIn to help me to grow my business?
LinkedIn streamlines your sales process. First of all, know your target audience well. Know your decision-maker’s job title, industry their company is in, and the size of their company. For example, if your target audience is Vice Presidents of Sales in Information Technology companies, you can search to find Vice Presidents of Sales in Information Technology companies.
- Spend 15-20 minutes a day on LinkedIn finding people to connect with, finding your decision-makers, and researching companies and the LinkedIn Profiles of your decision-maker.
- Join Groups in LinkedIn. Groups can be professional organizations, networking organizations, alumni or corporate organization. They’re similar to groups you’d join to go to meetings in your city or area. There’s a Groups Directory that lists the Groups in LinkedIn. Search to find the best ones for your business. Remember the networking principle to “go where the fish are”. That is, join groups where your decision-makers are, not groups where you’ll find more business owners. There’s more about this in my book, “Mastering LinkedIn in 7 Days or Less” (www.LinkedInWorks.com to find out more).
5. What are the 5 most powerful things that LinkedIn can do for me?
If you’re a Salesperson or Business Owner:
- Be sure your LinkedIn Profile shows clearly what your company does for their clients. Show the results you get for them, and how things are different for them as a result of working for them.
- Streamline your sales process by researching the companies and people in LinkedIn. You’ll find the exact person you’re looking for, and know something about them and their company before you make your first sales call.
- Connect with people you know and network with them on a regular basis. Make a commitment to be on LinkedIn 15-20 minutes a day. Be sure you stay on their radar screen.
- Write Recommendations for people you know and have worked with. Offer to write a Recommendation as soon as you connect. They’ll often offer to write one for you in return.
- Make it a habit to request Recommendations from your clients.
For a Job Searcher:
- Be sure your LinkedIn Profile shows clearly what you can do for the company that hires you. Show the results you got for your previous employers, the approach you take in solving challenges and doing what you do, and how things have been different for companies you worked with as a result of your working for them.
- Streamline your job search researching the companies and people in LinkedIn. You’ll find the exact person you’re looking for, and know something about them and their company before you make your first sales call.
- Use LinkedIn in addition to other tools and methods for your job search. Connect with people you know and network with them on a regular basis. Make a commitment to be on LinkedIn 15-20 minutes a day. Be sure you stay on their radar screen. With LinkedIn you can let your network know that you’re looking for a new position and ask them to help you find a new position.
- Write Recommendations for people you know and have worked with. Offer to write a Recommendation as soon as you connect. They’ll often offer to write one for you in return.
- Make it a habit to request Recommendations from people you’ve worked with. Tell the person you’re asking to write a Recommendation that mentions specific points (ones that area appropriate for the position you’re looking for).
6. How should I write my Profile? (formal, informal?) And what are the main things that I should have in my Profile?
Your LinkedIn Profile is your presence on LinkedIn. You can’t do anything in LinkedIn until your Profile is up. It’s like your resume and your own personal Web page in addition to the Web sites you may have.
People do searches in LinkedIn when they’re looking for products and services, for top talent to fill positions, for jobs, and for answers to questions they have. You’ll look for these same things when you search LinkedIn. And search engines search your Profile when it’s completed.
When someone looks at your Profile, they’ll decide whether to connect with you, hire you as an employee or for your services based on what they see there. Make it a good first impression, and make it compelling so that they contact you.
For specific strategies and tips for creating your Profile so that you’re found on LinkedIn, and your Profile shows them that you’re the best person to connect with, send an e-mail to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put Profile Tips in the Subject line. I’ll send you an article I wrote with insider secrets on creating your LinkedIn Profile.
7. Is there any LinkedIn etiquette that I should be aware of?
Good question. Yes, there is appropriate protocol and etiquette to know about. LinkedIn members must abide by the Terms of Service (available on the LinkedIn Website). Briefly, you must not gather names, e-mails and contact information and “spam” them or send mailings or such to LinkedIn members. Respect the members and communicate the way they want to communicate. We have other social networks in our lives such as church, clubs and associations and networking groups. In the same way you don’t go up to someone for the first time and introduce yourself and immediately say, “Hi, I’m John Smith. I sell XXX product. Do you want to buy some?”, you don’t do that on LinkedIn either.
Connect with someone you know or want to know, and get to know them, their work and their business. Keep in touch in ways where you’re not selling something every time you contact them. Understand about their work, business and goals, and find ways to help them achieve their goals. Look for people you can refer to them.
Choose the networking philosophy that works best for you. There are two philosophies for networking: Quality and Quantity. Quality networking is where you know everyone in your network, or know they come from a trusted source such as a group or referral. Quantity is self-explanatory. Quantity networkers want to have as many contacts as possible. It reminds me of people who go to a Chamber meeting and collect as many business cards as possible, without taking time to introduce themselves or understand anything about the other person. Recruiters have large networks, because it serves their business well. You’ll see LION sometimes on a LinkedIn Profile. That means that they are LinkedIn Open Networkers, and want many many contacts.
8. Who should I invite to connect with me? And people invite me to connect on LinkedIn. Should I accept all of them? How do I know who to connect with?
This is a question that my clients ask me all the time. LinkedIn says to connect only with people you know. That’s good to a point. When you’re looking for a job or for clients, you don’t know them yet. Look for and add people to you network who can help you reach your goals, and are committed to really networking.
Look for people at companies you worked for, even years ago. And people you went to school with. Connect with someone who went to the same school, even if it wasn’t at the same time you went. You have that in common, and it’s a good way to break the ice and start a conversation and networking relationship.
If your networking philosophy is building a Quality network, you probably won’t accept every invitation to connect. Connect with people where you have things in common, and can help each other reach your goals, find a job and build your business.
When someone invites you to connect, you can Accept, Decline or say “I don’t know this person”. You can also send a message to them. If you get an invitation from someone you don’t know, don’t use “I don’t know this person”. LinkedIn looks at this as potentially being “spam”, and when a person gets 5 of these notifications, they can be thrown out of LinkedIn and not allowed back in.
Here’s what I do: Because you don’t know someone yet when you’re looking for a job or for clients, and may want to connect, I send a message to them saying that I’m intrigued by their invitation, and ask them how they found me and what did they see in my LinkedIn Profile that indicated that we’d be a good network connection. I usually get a response back, and then decide if it makes sense to connect or not.
9. I know most people who join LinkedIn join up and then forget all about it. What should I be doing regularly on LinkedIn if I want to gain real benefit from it?
You’re right. Most people join LinkedIn and then don’t do anything with it. That’s the way I started with LinkedIn, too. Until someone gave me a mini-tutorial, and I could really start to use it. That’s why I decided to write my book, “Mastering LinkedIn in 7 Days or Less” because there are so many people who joined and don’t use it, and who want easy day-by-day steps.
The first thing to do is to create your LinkedIn Profile and upload your photo. Then start asking people you worked with and clients for Recommendations.
Then spend 15-20 minutes a day or every few days on LinkedIn finding people you used to work with and people you went to school with. Invite them to connect, and offer to write a Recommendation for them. It’s a wonderful way to network, and often they’ll offer to write one in return for you.
If you’re a salesperson or business owner, start looking for people who are your decision-makers. Know their job titles, industry and company names. Search for them on LinkedIn. Read their Profile and decide if you want to connect or not. Connect and introduce yourself to some of them. Don’t make your first message or two a sales pitch. Get to know them – their challenges, trends they see, how they’re approaching industry challenges, how the economy or season is affecting them, and similar topics. This can take patience. It’s worth it because it pays off.
If you’re conducting a job search, start looking for people who can hire you. Know their job titles, industry and company names. Search for them on LinkedIn. Make a list of companies that you want to work in, and look them up in LinkedIn. Read the newspapers and check the Internet news. Google Alerts are a great way to keep up on companies. If you don’t know about them, send an e-mail to me at: email@example.com and put Google Alerts in the Subject line. When you find someone appropriate, read their Profile and decide if you want to connect or not. Connect and introduce yourself to some of them. Don’t make your first message or two a job pitch. Get to know them – their challenges, trends they see, how they’re approaching industry challenges, how the economy or season is affecting them, and similar topics. This can take patience. It’s worth it because it pays off.
When you use LinkedIn regularly, you’ll start to do it more quickly. You can be successful with only 15-20 minute every day or every few days. If you’re starting a business, a big marketing effort or starting a business, you’ll want to spend more time to build momentum. You don’t have to be on the computer all the time.
10. What are LinkedIn Success Stories that people have had on LinkedIn? What new business successes have sales and business people had on LinkedIn?
There are great Success Stories about how people use LinkedIn. And they’re using it in ways you never thought of. Here are several of these from my book:
- LinkedIn is international, too. Find connections that can help you and where you can help them with their international goals. I’ve already made connections where they found me on LinkedIn from England, Hungary, India and South Africa, and we’re continuing to network. I’ll be actively pursuing this, and will give you an update on results and advice if you send me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put International in the Subject line.
- Updating your network on your new business model, and as a result, getting calls and clients. A colleague of mine who has a consulting business decided to change his business model. He wanted to work with clients on longer-term projects and have a greater impact on their top line and sales. He updated his LinkedIn Profile, and wrote a message to the people in his network that gave them an update on what he was doing now. He described the change he’d made in his business model, and mentioned the types of clients and projects he was looking for. He sent this update out to his network, and within a week, he received 5 calls from potential clients.
- Establishing your status as an Expert. LinkedIn gives us the platform to show off our expertise, and be recognized as an Expert in the Answers area, where you can ask or answer questions. You’ll build your visibility, and people will see your answers and your name and see you as an Expert. Go to Answers at the top of your screen on LinkedIn, and click on Answers. Browse categories and questions to be sure what you want to ask has not already been asked. Then ask your question. Or answer questions in a way that shows that you’re knowledgeable in that area.
- If you’re changing your career or industry, find a mentor, do research and find someone in that industry that can answer your questions. Set up informational interviews to find out what it’s really like to work in that new area, and if you really want to make the change. Clarify your expectations of what’s involved… And here’s an extra tip for you – because I believe in Lagniappe, a New Orleans custom that means “a little bit extra”. It started in New Orleans when the baker in New Orleans gave you an extra bun when you ordered a dozen. And I’ve adopted it and made it a part of my business practice. So you always get extra insider secrets and tips.
- Find Experts and speakers for your programs and events. When you host meetings or events, go to LinkedIn to find Experts and speakers in your local area. You have a ready community of experts to choose from – all at your fingertips.
So thanks to Jan for those amazing tips and make sure that you check out her book, Mastering LinkedIn in 7 Days or Less. Hit comments below and share how you use LinkedIn to win more business and of successes that you have had. Until next time, happy selling.