By now, B2B sales reps are more accustomed to using social media as part of their daily selling practices. In fact, 90% of top performing salespeople now use social media as part of their strategy (source).

But, just because sales reps have finally come to accept social selling, doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing it correctly.  The truth is, successful social selling isn’t something a rep can just wing; it takes a strategic approach and proper training.

In a few of our recent posts, we’ve worked to ease this process by providing you with the B2B sales rep’s guides to Twitter and Facebook. Today, we take on LinkedIn—the preferred platform for B2B sales reps.

The Promise of LinkedIn for B2B Sales

Unlike Twitter and Facebook where interactions are often personal, LinkedIn was actually built to facilitate professional conversations. This type of atmosphere makes for a very natural social selling experience. Still not convinced? These points will convert you into a believer:

Your prospects are already using LinkedIn: Boasting nearly 500 million users (source), the chances your target audience are already on LinkedIn are pretty great. In fact, one recent report indicates that 62% of businesses are on LinkedIn (source).

Direct access to decision makers: LinkedIn cuts down on prospecting time, putting you in full view of leaders and decision-makers in other organizations. They’re accessible, and they’re on the lookout for promising new opportunities. 74% of B2B decision makers utilize LinkedIn for business purposes (source).

LinkedIn strengthens professional relationships: LinkedIn’s professional environment facilitates communication between prospects and vendors—because people trust the platform. In fact, 75% of B2B decision makers use LinkedIn to engage with their peers (source).

LinkedIn is the best network for B2B lead generation: A recent study determined LinkedIn is 277% more effective at lead generation than both Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, traffic originating from LinkedIn is significantly more likely to convert than traffic from other social platforms (source).

Decision makers value LinkedIn content: According to one recent report, 40% of B2B decision makers say LinkedIn is important for research and evaluation (source). Users will often turn to LinkedIn for answers to questions, product recommendations, and more. Share valuable content to organically build trust and establish a positive relationship with prospects.

The promise of LinkedIn as a social selling tool is undeniable. However, if you aren’t using the platform effectively, you won’t see the results you hope for. Continue reading for the B2B sales rep’s guide to LinkedIn.

1.    Build a solid foundation

According to a recent report, 49% of buyers research vendors through their LinkedIn profile, and 50% will avoid sales professionals with incomplete profiles (source). That being said, it’s vital that you take the time to optimize your LinkedIn profile before reaching out to prospects.

Here are a few pointers for developing an effective LinkedIn profile.

Profile Picture: Your prospects want to put a face to the name, so don’t skip out on the profile pic! Be sure to utilize a clear, high-quality image of yourself for your profile picture – dress sharp, and don’t forget to smile! Research indicates that a friendly and professional profile picture helps social sellers achieve a 40% higher InMail response rate (source).

Headline: Craft a short description of yourself that highlights your best qualities as a sales rep. Don’t be afraid to brag a little bit; if you have certain areas of expertise, be sure to focus on them. This is your first opportunity to establish trust with your prospects, so don’t skimp out. Headline content can also contribute to search results; include relevant keywords and topics in your copy to improve the chances of a prospect locating on your page.

Include useful information: Make it easy for prospects to reach you for more information. Clearly highlight any useful contact information they may need such as your email address and phone number. Also, don’t be afraid to include links to your business’s site or other content that may prove useful to an interested prospect. Finding more information on your business, product, or service shouldn’t be a hassle!

Summary: Your summary should be short, sweet and engaging – essentially, you want prospects to get a feel for what it would be like working with you. Focus on your career highlights, but don’t let your summary read too much like a resume. Also, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine! Your prospects will appreciate the authenticity.

2.    Build up your LinkedIn network

Once your profile is optimized, it’s time to make connections. Find and connect with coworkers, influencers, schoolmates, and of course, potential prospects. Utilize LinkedIn’s search capabilities to identify the professionals that matter most to your business practices. Search results can be easily filtered in three ways: By industry, company, and location.

Identify which profiles contribute meaningful content that relates to the field or industry in which you operate. This will ensure that your feed is consistently filled with content that is easy and natural for you to engage with – In other words, easily opens the door to more relevant conversations.

Don’t just focus on singular contacts, it’s also important to join groups, product message boards, and communities within the platform. Doing so is an easy way to have targeted discussions within your buyer demographic.

Keep in mind, building your connections isn’t a one and done step; it needs to be a consistent effort in order to achieve results. Spend a few minutes each day looking for relevant profiles to follow and connect with.

For more targeted prospecting, research browser integrations like ReachOut—which allows you direct access to contact information within a LinkedIn profile.

3.    Establish a consistent and strategic LinkedIn content strategy

One common mistake made by many sales reps is to immediately message a prospect a sales pitch once they’ve accepted your connection request. Don’t do this! Flooding your prospects inbox is not only intrusive, but it also destroys any trust you’ve built with them! To drive results, you need to first focus on building a relationship with these individuals.

One simple strategy is to share valuable content. For optimal results, share content that is not only relevant, but useful to your prospects – content that speaks to their pain points or problems, and ultimately, provides them some assistance.

Additionally, it’s important to establish a healthy mix of branded content and curated content – or content created by other individuals/organizations. Curated content can prove to not only bolster the reach of your posts, but can also establish more trust with your followers.

Be consistent with your posting schedule, but don’t share too much. Test out different post paces to determine a cadence that works to your advantage.

4.    Listen in to gather insight

Social listening – or the practice of finding and listening to your prospects social conversations – can provide a treasure trove of valuable information regarding your target audience, which can be used to optimize nearly every aspect of the buyer’s journey. Be sure to carry over this practice into your LinkedIn strategy.

Identify relevant conversations and provide your input when appropriate. This engagement can not only provide you with even more valuable insight into your target audience but effectively demonstrates your vested interest in the prospect, paving the way for a positive relationship.

5.    Analyze your efforts and scale success

Probably the greatest highlight of utilizing LinkedIn in your social selling endeavors is the platforms Social Selling Index (SSI) system – a system that tells users whether or not their social selling efforts are paying off.

This unique system measures how effective a user’s social selling skills are by analyzing their ability to establish their professional brand, find the right people, engage with them, and build relationships.

Four factors impact your social selling index:

  • The amount of content you share
  • The number of connections you have with your target audience
  • How often you click on insights on your feed
  • How much you interact with others

These specific measurements allow a sales rep to evaluate, adjust and optimize their social selling practices to scale success – a feature that no other social platform currently offers. Although this is part of a paid subscription, it’s often worth it if you have the budget.

The Bottom Line: Your B2B LinkedIn Strategy

With the right strategy in place, an open mind, and a healthy dose of effort, LinkedIn is an extremely valuable tool in your social selling endeavors. In fact, top social sellers on LinkedIn can increase their sales opportunities by up to 45% (source). Be sure to keep these tips and tricks in mind for optimal results.

For more information about social media and sales prospecting, contact ZoomInfo today.

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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