I often think about the sales meeting where a sales manager first suggested using the telephone to sell. I’m sure there were a bunch of reactions to the thought: One person probably yelled out that you have to talk to prospects face-to-face if you want to have success and the phone would never work in sales. A few people in the back of the room probably whispered to each other about how confusing phones were. And still another person probably stopped paying attention because they thought, “Well, none of my customers have telephones.”
I’m sure that there was a bunch of resistance and confusion. And then the telephone settled in to become a key piece of our communication with prospects and customers. These days, we’re in the middle of that same process when it comes to using online communication these days.
You’ve probably read a few of the headlines about the world of social selling lately. About what it is, what it isn’t, why it’s changing the world of sales… or why it’s a complete waste of time. It can seem overwhelming, and you might be a bit gun shy. That would be totally understandable.
But at it’s core, social selling is simply taking the new tools that we have available to us and using them to make our existing interaction and relationships better. The professionals that are finding ways to integrate these new platforms are seeing huge benefits. But where should you begin? How do you fit it into your already hectic schedule?
I’ve been working with networking and social media from its birth, and I’ve found the best platform to start with is LinkedIn. With over 400 million global users, and 3.7 billion member pageviews in Q4 of 2015, it’s becoming a ubiquitous part of our business world. But that doesn’t mean that everyone knows the best way to approach it.
Here are 7 ways to make LinkedIn a valuable part of your daily work:
- Understand that social selling is here to stay. No matter what people call it, the genie is out of the bottle. The platforms, apps, and tools will continue to evolve, but they aren’t going to go away, so you might as well embrace them. The saying “if you dislike change, you’ll hate obsolescence even more” is very applicable.
- Don’t look at LinkedIn as something else on your to-do list, instead look at it as a way to do your to-do list. You already have an overflowing task list. If you think that online activities are just giving you something more to do, you’re never going to get to them. Instead, look at it as a way to get your existing task list done.
- Create a solid LinkedIn profile… yesterday. Even if you never want to post or engage online, your contacts are looking at you on LinkedIn. Are they seeing what you want them to see? At a minimum, share a good professional photo, create an informative headline, and use the summary to communicate who your customers are and how you serve them.
- Put a few 10-minute social media “blocks” into your weekly calendar. It’s easy to be overwhelmed (and put off) by the massive amounts of activity and information online. Schedule a dedicated time 3 times a week where you will post updates and respond to others. You don’t have to spend a lot of time online if you are consistent.
- Use LinkedIn before meetings. Just like your contacts are viewing your profile, get in the habit of looking at their LinkedIn presence before you have a meeting with them. Spend 90 seconds reading through their profile and viewing their recent activity. Look for connections, similarities, or conversation topics. Use this as a way to have better and deeper conversations faster.
- Use the “social” elements of social media. When one of your contacts posts on LinkedIn, they are sharing information that they think is important. It’s a great chance to engage with them. Don’t go overboard, but comment on or “like” posts that resonate with you. It’s a great way to re-start a conversation with someone in your network.
- Share product- or service-specific material 20% of the time. If talk about what you sell all of the time, your LinkedIn connections will tune you out. Approximately 80% of your posts should be focused on broader industry topics and trends that you find relevant. Think about having an offline conversation – you probably won’t spend most of the time focused on the latest stats from your sales brochures.
The goal here is to harness the power of LinkedIn and social selling. It doesn’t replace any of your current interactions, rather it enhances them. Don’t expect to accomplish this overnight. Rather, look at creating sustainable habits that use these tools to support your existing business efforts.