Can You Use LinkedIn to Create Sales?

Would you use a free tool to generate leads and sales if it took less than 30 minutes a day?

I work mostly with large companies and known brands, so it was interesting for me when I recently had several conversations with owners of various small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), including family members and friends, about their sales processes.

For the most part, the sales cycle was described as long and expensive relative to sale value and the size of the company.  Marketing more often than not ranged from print ads in trade journals to cold calling.  Sometimes we get so close to the business, or to certain parts of the business, we forget that not everyone sees what we see.  So, it was as an afterthought that I asked whether anyone was active on LinkedIn.  None were active.  There were various reasons for this, ranging from technophobia to a scoffing at social media in general.  There was also a generational divide, and a belief amongst the boomer owners that because their peers weren’t using this network that there was no value.

I understand that new technology is a pain, and that it takes time away from other things, particularly during the first phases.  But if you use a personal computer, you can figure out a social network.  And, while your peers may or may not be members, you will be surprised to learn potential customers that make buying decisions are.

So, surprisingly, there are a lot of strong companies out there owned and managed by clever folks that for various reasons have not adopted social media for business purposes, be they SMEs or larger companies that typically lag.  To them, I say there is no downside to joining LinkedIn.  In fact, as showing up is nine tenths of success, or whatever that saying is, doing the basics on social networks can have a profound effect on your business.

What impact?  Lead generation.  And, a warm – not cold – relationship with decision makers which can lead to them championing your bid.  So, why not build your pipeline and gain a competitive advantage?

Try it actively for six months.  Track all the leads generated by your network and also your hit rate.  Given LinkedIn is free, and the only cost is your time (which you need to manage effectively – a separate issue), your net return numbers will be through the roof.

How? Follow the basic protocols.  Think about how you are approaching people.  These are social networks, and you need to be social.  The social networks are like cocktail parties.  If you are going to introduce yourself to someone, it’s better to have a mutual friend make the introduction.  If you don’t have one, it’s going to be hit or miss.  That’s just the way it is.  However, as you network, chances are you will find a mutual friend.  It’s simple math.

So, some good tips to follow:

  1. Create a compelling profile – know what you are trying to achieve, and build your profile around that objective.  Be brief.  Provide contact information.  Don’t embellish.
  2. Build your network – connect with others that can help you achieve your objectives.  Import your email contacts, but personalize each invitation.  Quantity is not quality.  Do you like spam?  They don’t either.
  3. Get the most from your network – ask and answer questions.  Recommend and introduce colleagues.  Learn, create and engage.  Develop a relationship before you ask for something.
  4. Manage your social network – join groups, be active, don’t be lazy.  But don’t waste time, either.

There is some secret sauce – tell me what works for you?  Can LinkedIn drive sales?  Can you sell through social platforms?

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