All too often, people treat LinkedIn as just another social platform. It’s not. It’s far from it. Why? Because some things simply shouldn’t crossover from business to pleasure or vice-versa: You shouldn’t employ your friends; you shouldn’t drink at work; you shouldn’t talk business at a party. But most of all, you should never use LinkedIn like Facebook.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article called ‘How Salespeople Should be Using Social Media’. You can read it here. It was my most successful article yet by a mile, and I’m certain the reason is that, while many know how to use social platforms, few know how to use them well.
I thought that I’d follow up with another article, this time going a bit more in-depth on how to use the only social platform that wears a suit and tie to work everyday- LinkedIn. Many salespeople are now using LinkedIn for sales purposes. But how many are actually succeeding?
No matter your job title, your social presence should be treated seriously if you want to be treated that way as a professional. That’s not to say that you have to be boring and uncharismatic, but there are some basic things that you should be paying attention to.
1. Make a map
99% of your prospects, from senior management to lower level employees, log into LinkedIn weekly, daily and, in most cases, hourly. Having 500+ connections won’t do you any good unless you’ve mapped them out, though.
Back in 2011, the platform launched a free service called InMaps, which you can find here. It will draw out a map of your connections by making associations from all of the information on their profiles. Why is this useful? The map accurately shows you your reach in each of the industries that you’re connected to and interested in.
If you are a marketer or salesperson trying to find leads through LinkedIn, you need to be connected to the key decision makers in a sector, and this doesn’t just mean the CEOs. Sales and marketing are all about one thing: influencing peoples’ decision-making process. By mapping out your connections, you will know where, how and on whom to apply pressure to get the attention that you desire.
Do any areas of the map look light in contacts? If you’re trying to sell to a specific industry or find a career in one, this map shows you exactly which areas of your reach you need to strengthen, and you can do that by…
2. Finding strong connections
There are a few ways you can strengthen your connections map once you’ve identified the areas that you think are weak. Let’s say for example that I fancy myself as the next Don Draper and want to find a job in the advertising industry. I’ll find a connection that currently works in Adland, jump on their profile and have a look at their accolades, skills and interests. I can then search LinkedIn for people based on these things to find new connections.
Let’s take this a step further. I’ve noticed that they all have a skill that I don’t, such as Creative Strategy. I can now click on that skill, and LinkedIn will run a search for me. Here’s the clever part: filtering the results by people will show me everyone within one connection who has this skill, sorted by number of endorsements. From here, I can connect with people, ask for their expert advice on the subject and learn whilst putting myself out there. You’ll find that more often than not, people are willing to help- they’ll be flattered you think of them as an expert. (Insert cheesy Spiderman quote about power and responsibility here.)
3. Make use of LinkedIn’s ‘InMail’ service
If you have any experience in sales, you know that it’s easier to setup a lunch date with the Queen than it is to get hold of some of your prospect’s key decision makers. These are the people whose time is of the highest value, and, as a result, have at least one pesky gatekeeper on guard at all times, each armed with a book of never-ending excuses, lies and reasons that you can’t be put through.
With LinkedIn’s InMail service though, you can send an email without having previously introduced yourself. This means that, with a little well-placed charm, you’ll be able to beat any gatekeeper with those magic words: ‘they’re expecting my call’.
LinkedIn says that their InMail service makes it 30 times more likely that you will get a response than by cold calling. The service is available to paid LinkedIn accounts only, but if used correctly, the return on your investment will be colossal. The entry-level business accounts get 3 InMails a month, but the good news is that no response means LinkedIn refund that InMail to your account, meaning you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
4. Presentation is key
I’ve heard it said that the clothes make the man, and I’m certain that the LinkedIn profile makes the businessman too. I have a connection whose bio says: “I consider professionalism to be of utmost importance in everything that I do”. On the contrary to that statement, a picture of their cat can be found among their recent updates. She isn’t even in the picture, it’s just the cat, in it’s basket, asleep, with the caption reading ‘My kitty :)’.
Here’s a suggested rule of thumb: don’t say or do anything on LinkedIn that you wouldn’t say or do in a meeting with a potential client. It’s ok to have a laugh and a joke. In fact, do! It will help you to seem approachable, make a connection and, overall, be a better businessman or woman. But at no point would you pull pictures of your new cat out of your wallet to show the prospect. That would just be weird.
Think about it this way: If you want to associate yourself with great prospects and potential places of work, then your profile should be something that the prospects and employers would want to be associated with as well. Your photo should be the first thing to represent this, as it’s the first thing a new visitor will look at, so save the selfies, duckfaces and pictures with friends for Snapchat and Instagram. Make sure it’s you, looking happy, professional, or a combination of the two.
Get strong recommendations where possible to boost your reputation, display your up-to-date contact details, and please, for the love of Shakespeare, check your spelling.
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