Using LinkedIn to create leads and sales is a must in today’s marketplace. There are no excuses for small businesses to not be on LinkedIn. It is the place where businesses get together to socialise, network and most importantly, to do business. In a recent survey over 20% of all levels of management using LinkedIn were using it for networking purposes. Where once it might have been seen as a time-suck, LinkedIn is now a bone fide platform to network and find new business in the Middle East and elsewhere.
So if you’ve not been on before, here are a few handy hints for using LinkedIn for your sales and marketing strategy this year.
Create a profile
Unbelievably many small businesses still don’t have a profile on LinkedIn. Some of their staff may have a profile of their own, but without all the company being linked together on the site, you are missing out. Not only can you look at other people’s profiles, they can look at yours. For a small company this means you have to have a company profile with your staff and with their profiles. Anyone who looks at this will see you are a transparent and a real company – i.e. someone they can do business with.
Make sure your company profile is complete and gives a call to action in it. This could simple be a ‘give us a call on…’ or ‘visit our website’.
Just as in life you have to get out and about and talk to people. Socialising on LinkedIn means finding groups where your prospects are hanging out. So, for example, if you are selling swimming pools you may want to find contacts in hotel chains. The best place to find those people is in hotel groups. Don’t forget to be visible within your own business niche as well.
There is a free version of LinkedIn, which for many people is the ideal starting point. But once you’ve got past the learning curve the only way to really understand how you can make good connections on LinkedIn is with paid membership. Paid membership for LinkedIn gives you more in-depth search capabilities and allows you directly mail someone.
This is the big tool for most sales people on LinkedIn. It can be difficult to get your prospect to take your call or read a standard email. But on LinkedIn an InMail is delivered straight to their mailbox in LinkedIn. They may still not read it, that is true, but it gives you an edge you’d otherwise not have.
Build your connections
Creating sales opportunities through LinkedIn means creating connections. You can start with family and friends to ease yourself in gently. Then get serious by looking at your prospective clients websites and seeing if they have a LinkedIn button on their site. If they do then use it!
But also think about your offline activities. When you meet someone at a business event it is usually acceptable to connect with them afterwards on LinkedIn.
The best way, and the most laborious way is to search for companies and people you want to make a connection with.
Target your searches
LinkedIn is a brilliant way to find exactly the person you need to talk to in a business. If you know the name of the company, a quick search in LinkedIn will most likely bring the company LinkedIn page up – with a list of who works for them. This means you can see instantly which person is most likely to be the one you need to talk to. As an advanced member you can also see the full profiles of people you don’t yet know.
Don’t be too pushy
Nobody likes a pushy sales person whether they are at a conference at Dubai’s World Trade Centre, or meeting with them in their office. So keep it personable and don’t do the hard sell. Use your common sense, or rather your sales sense here. Don’t do the hard sales push with a LinkedIn connection when you know more work needs to be done first.
Getting a Dubai company LinkedIn page up and running, or your personal profile working harder for you, is a quick process that can boost your own credibility as well as that of your business.
Founded in 2002, LinkedIn has developed a reputation for being the social media networking site for professionals. Unlike YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, this is a space devoted to building up relationships for business, not friendships (although that does happen, it is never as relaxed).
Which is why if you are not on there, you need to get your skates on. I’d hazard that most, if not all, of your contemporaries already have a basic account. With over 150 million users in over 200 countries, that’s a lot of business you could be missing out on.
A LinkedIn profile is nothing like your Facebook profile. This is the place where you tell people what is on your resume or CV, not where you spent your birthday party. And ensuring your profile gets seen is a matter of learning how to network online in a similar way that you’d network in real life. The only difference is that people can find out almost instantly what you’ve done in your career.
Making your profile work harder for you will require spending a bit of time on the site every week. There are some simple ways of boosting your profile:
Get your profile up to date – Every time you move job, learn a new skill, attend a seminar, or win an award, make sure you update your information. Remember, recruitment consultants use LinkedIn to find quality job candidates all the time. If you are looking for a new position, spend as much time polishing your LinkedIn profile as you would on your CV.
Ask for a recommendation – This is really important if you are a business or a freelancer. Ask people you’ve worked for, clients and partners to post a recommendation on your page. It allows visitors to see that you not only have the skills they are looking for, other people like what you do as well.
Join in discussions – There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn, talking about a wide range of topics, some of which will be relevant to your industry. Join the ones you are most interested in, or are most relevant to your company, and get talking on the topics and start some of your own. Showing you have an authoritative voice will benefit your company and your personal standing in the LinkedIn community.
Utilize the space – Don’t just give a short resume of yourself or your business. When people arrive on your business page on LinkedIn, they want to find out about your company, so give them all the information you want them to have. On your personal LinkedIn page, use the Summary section to really sell yourself and your abilities.
If you are going to use a piece of software like Hootesuite to send out messages to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, at the same time, just keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional space and talk like you would in the office, and not how you’d chat with friends during downtime in Dubai Marina!