Are you generating new leads and clients on LinkedIn each month?
Are you able to clearly demonstrate tangible ROI from your current social selling efforts?
If you answered no to either of these questions, then you may be missing one or more of the essential elements to effective social selling on LinkedIn.
Regardless of whether you're just starting out with the platform, or if you've been active for a while, four critical elements will determine whether your efforts succeed, or fail miserably. Even neglecting just one of them could dramatically reduce the effectiveness to generate new leads and clients on LinkedIn.
The four essential LinkedIn social selling elements are:
- Personal Branding
- Lead Generation
- Content Marketing
In this post, I'll dive into each element more deeply, in order to prevent you from making mistakes that'll not only reduce your social selling effectiveness, but could damage your credibility and destroy trust – the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Element 1: Create a strong personal brand with a professional LinkedIn profile
We live in a digital age. Over 5.135 billion people now use a mobile phone, while more than 3.196 billion people are active social media users. If you're among them, then you already have a personal brand, which is consciously or subconsciously being evaluated by every person you interact with on social channels, whether you realize it or not.
It's fair to say, then, that your personal brand is critical, particularly if some of those people are clients, partners or prospects. And if you're using LinkedIn, especially for the purposes of lead generation, then you can be sure that those decision makers are viewing and judging your profile.
So what does your LinkedIn profile communicate about you when they land on it?
Does it tell visitors that you're professional, competent and trustworthy, or is it an incomplete shell, outdated or unprofessional looking? If it's the latter, then you're severely hampering your chances of connecting and building a professional relationship with these people.
And equally as important as having a professional profile, you also need a profile that's client-focused, so that it resonates with these same people (particularly your ideal prospects) when they land on it. You want them to know that they're in the right place when they encounter your digital presence.
With this in mind, there are three things your personal brand - and particularly your LinkedIn profile - must do:
1. Build Authority and Credibility
Your LinkedIn profile needs to effectively build your credibility, and position your authority on your topic. Highlight within your profile anything that showcases your expertise.
2. Describe How You Solve Your Prospects’ Problems
Demonstrate how you solve the problem/s your prospects are facing. No one cares about your business - they're focused on their specific challenges and problems. Be the solution they're looking for by ensuring the 'how' is described in your profile.
3. Increase Trust and Engagement
The ultimate goal of your LinkedIn profile (personal brand) is to develop and increase trust, and inspire prospects to connect and engage with you. What you communicate here plays a key role in this process.
Element 2: Personalize everything - and I mean everything
The digital revolution has changed the way we buy in every process - from teenagers looking for trendy new clothes to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies looking for service solutions. In response, this has also changed the way companies sell, most notably in the form of increased personalization. Giants such as Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are all providing increasingly personalized experiences online, based on your usage habits, and your personal preferences.
The result of these larger companies tailoring their services and presentation in this way is that it becomes the norm - as more businesses provide improved, individualized service, the general population starts to expect the same everywhere, which is why progressive small and medium-sized businesses are now also looking to customize the ways in which they engage with their customers.
With this focus on personalization, gone are the days of copying and pasting templated messages. Your prospects can see through this a mile away, and will hit delete just as fast.
Even if you're selling to a company, you're first and foremost building a relationship with an individual, and that individual has specific needs and challenges. Connecting with them on a personal level is becoming a necessity, and the ever-evolving methods of data collection enable such at a scale previously unthinkable.
Well-researched personalization on LinkedIn is especially critical in your first message - the connection request. You have 300 characters (not words) to give them a reason to accept your connection request, and the reason you give them must be framed from their perspective, not yours.
And even after your connection request is accepted, you still need to continue putting in effort to create a unique and personalized experience for them with each message you send. Display your commitment to providing value by only sending your connections messages and content that are of importance to them.
As noted, companies of all sizes, and across all industries, are discovering the need to make personalization a critical part of their present and future. You'd do well to cater to the same.
Element 3: Create a lead generation process to have conversations and build relationships
To be successful at social selling on LinkedIn, you also need to have a well laid-out lead generation process, which includes a specific list of activities that you're committed to undertaking on a consistent basis.
It's a proven fact that businesses grow 5x faster with a written plan, but in creating such a plan, you also need to know what each specific social selling activity is, and why it's essential to the broader process. There are so many things you could do, but many of them are time-wasters and don’t produce a positive ROI
To help with this, I created a formula I call 'The LINK Method'. The LINK Method will help turn LinkedIn into a predictable source of new leads and clients for you, and consists of the highest leveraging activities you can do on LinkedIn to generate new clients.
Te process includes these critical five steps:
- Find prospects
- Make first contact
- Engage in dialogue
- Build relationship
- Move conversation offline
Step 1: Find Prospects
There are two highly effective ways to prospect on LinkedIn. The first is by doing a targeted search for prospects using the Advanced Search function, and the second is by leveraging your network to gain introductions.
Step 2: Make First Contact
After you've located your potential prospects, you need to make first contact. This process starts with your initial connection request. It must be personalized - give people a reason they should connect with you. What you put in your connection request message will largely determine your overall success, if your connection requests aren’t accepted, you're wasting your time.
Step 3: Engage in Dialogue
You need to establish rapport, and start a dialogue with your new connections, so that you can begin to build a relationship with them. You do this by following up with a personalized message. I call this the welcome message. And if someone sends a message to you after accepting your request, keep the conversation going.
Step 4: Build Relationship
The process of building relationships isn’t limited to just one message after you connect with a prospect. You’ll want to send additional messages to continue the momentum, get to know them better and provide value to them.
Watch for trigger events and use those as an opportunity to start conversations and build relationships.
Step 5: Move Conversation Offline
Finally, you need to move the conversation and the relationship to the next level - offline. No relationship with a potential prospect should be kept solely on LinkedIn, or on any online platform for that matter.
If you've established a rapport, begun to build trust, and provided value to your prospect, many of them will be willing to have an offline conversation with you - be it via a phone call, a video call meeting, or even an in-person meet-up. To be successful at this, you need to follow all the preceding steps, and earn the right for that offline conversation.
Element 4: Build authority, credibility, and trust through content marketing
It's a fundamental truth that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. To accomplish this, you need to build relationships based on trust, and establish your authority on your topic.
But it's harder to gain trust in the digital world, where you don’t get the chance to meet someone eye to eye. For that reason, you need to find digital ways to help prospects get to know, like, and trust you.
So, just how do you prove your expertise and help your prospects?
Through the ACT of content marketing - which over time will increase Authority, Credibility, and Trust.
Content marketing is creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a defined target audience, with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
The content you share can be your original content or curated content. Curating content is sharing content created by others that would be of value to your target audience.
Content Marketing Can Come in Many Formats
Content can take many forms. It can be written, audio, video, or visual.
Examples of the different types of content you could create include:
- Written content - Blog posts, articles, guest blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, reports, case studies, emails, surveys, etc.
- Audio content - Podcasts, interviews, expert interviews, Q&A sessions, FAQs, etc.
- Video content - How to’s, product demos, testimonials, Q&A sessions, webinars, live streams, vlogs, etc. Visual content - Infographics, images, SlideShare presentations, charts, graphs, quotes, checklists, etc.
To be successful with content marketing, you need to understand your potential prospects problems. Your goal in using content is to educate them on the solution(s) to solve their problem or challenge. Content is education-based marketing - the keyword here being 'education'.
Your success will also depend on the quality of the content you're sharing - you need to ensure that everything you share is high-value from the perspective of your ideal client. Remember, too, that what you consider high-value and what they believe is high-value may be different.
High-value content which inspires engagement should be:
- Solutions based
- Timely and relevant
- Engaging and/or entertaining
There’s no better, or faster, way to build your authority than through creating and sharing high-value content.
Summing Up Effective Social Selling on LinkedIn
Social selling on LinkedIn provides unlimited opportunities for you to generate more leads, clients, and sales for your business – but only if you include all the elements necessary to ensure that you put your best foot forward, connect in a personal way with potential prospects, establish authority, credibility and trust with helpful content and are pulling all your efforts together in a proven, well laid out lead generation process.
Skip just one of these essential elements, and you'll severely hamper your results, and perhaps even damage your credibility. Above all else, the most important thing you can do to succeed at social selling is to educate yourself (and your team) on the most effective strategies and best practices.
A version of this post was first published on the Top Dog Social Media blog.