In case you hadn't noticed, there's a whole lot happening over on LinkedIn right now.
From a new, freelance marketplace to the ongoing, furious debate about whether or not the world's largest "professional" network is becoming too much like Facebook, there's plenty to ponder.
And if, like me, you're mainly interested in using LinkedIn to generate business, all of this is good news.
Long story short, LinkedIn's improving by leaps and bounds, particularly in its ability to facilitate business deals between its 433 million members.
Here are six specific, proven steps that I've seen work time and again in studying how to sell your products and services over on LinkedIn.
1. Create a Client-Facing Profile
This is the most important - and overlooked - step in the entire process.
To summarize: Instead of having a profile page that reads like an online résumé, you need to talk about the unique value and benefit you, your product and/or your service provides to your ideal clients and customers.
2. Target and Engage Your Ideal Prospects
One of the most under-utilized features on all of LinkedIn is the site's built-in search engine.
With access to 433 million professionals in 200+ countries, LinkedIn has enough data on you and me to make the NSA blush.
With a few keystrokes, you can immediately build a prospect list which is both hyper-targeted by job title, industry type and/or location, along with adding in "personal" markers, like where someone went to college or even what his or her non-work interests/hobbies are.
3. Create Content
You can't go fishing without bait, and you can't market or sell your products, services - or even yourself (for a potential job opportunity or to a recruiter) - without content.
The good news is that it's easier than ever to create and share all sorts of original content.
LinkedIn makes it easy to embed podcasts, videos, images, sound clips and more both on your profile page and inside of blogs on the platform.
The best type of content should "reverse-engineer" the type of product/service you want to sell by demonstrating your expertise in a given niche or area of your industry.
4. Add a CTA
If you've done all the work to craft a great piece of content, top it off with a killer headline and then publish it on LinkedIn - and don't forget to give prospects an easy way to take the net step and engage you further.
Follow these tips to build in a lead-generating Call To Action (CTA) for each piece of content you create and share on LinkedIn.
5. Build in Sales Funnels
As you build out a thriving network of targeted prospects and connections on LinkedIn, it's critical that you both organize your connections and put a sales funnel in place to ensure you maximize your interactions and efforts on the platform.
It's also critical to recognize and engage with the inbound, warm leads and opportunities that arise every time you're active on LinkedIn.
Remember, timing is everything.
6. Earn the Ask
This is perhaps the most important step of all.
It's a lesson my business coach taught me a few years ago, and it's made a huge difference in my ability to close deals as a result.
Here it is: Your "ask" must be in direct proportion to the amount of trust you've earned with the prospect up to that point.
That's why Steps 1-3 in this post are critical - they help you build the "Know, Like and Trust" factors that are key to any business or professional relationship.
The more value you give someone, the more helpful and useful you are, the more "right" you have to ask for time on the phone, or a free consultation, or make a sales offer.