10 Ways You Can Make LinkedIn a More Powerful Prospecting Tool

Just having a LinkedIn profile doesn’t mean you’re “on LinkedIn.” You have to actively and regularly be visible, add value, and engage with people

by Will Milano

It’s pretty much a given in today’s world that if you’re in a sales role, particularly in B2B sales or a complex selling environment, then you need to be on LinkedIn. Unlike many other social networks, LinkedIn is a professional platform that’s designed for business. It’s also the most-used social media platform by Fortune 500 companies, with 61 million senior-level influencers and 40 million decision-makers among its users.

But just having a LinkedIn profile doesn’t mean you’re “on LinkedIn.” The leads and deals aren’t going to start pouring in. ‘Being there’ is important. Any potential customers will check you and your company out there. But being there isn’t nearly enough. You have to actively and regularly use the network, be visible, add value, engage with people and, you know, be social. Not being active (or having an incomplete or dated profile), like it or not, sends a message too.

And yet, salespeople over the years have often told me they’re worried that they’ll seem too intrusive or that they’ll be interrupting their clients or prospects by engaging with them on LinkedIn. And honestly, if you’re using LinkedIn to shill products and promote yourself or your services 24/7, then that’s true: No one goes there to be bombarded with that. But when you use LinkedIn the way it was intended — as a social network for starting conversations, building relationships, and offering valuable insights and solutions to people’s problems — then it can become an instrumental part of your prospecting and sales toolkit.

Here are 10 tips for getting more benefit out of LinkedIn while giving your network something actionable they can do to make their jobs easier:

  1. Get the conversation going: Salespeople can struggle with what to do with all that thought leadership and content the marketing department creates. This is a great place to share it, with a personal comment or two highlighting key insights or tips. Just as important, join the conversation on others’ posts. Add your thoughts (don’t push your products!), share and simply “like” a post, which will automatically put it into your news feeds. You can literally get in front of your entire network- and beyond- with a couple keystrokes.
  2. Be picky about what content you share: In addition to not posting advertisements for your products, stay away from late-stage content like testimonials or case studies. Focus on early stage or top-of-the-funnel content like blogs, brief video clips, podcasts, infographics and research.
  3. Get your own words out: Have some original thoughts to share? Work with your marketing team to create a blog on the topic. Or write it as an original post on LinkedIn. Or both.
  4. But don’t make it all about you: As a rule of thumb, use a ratio around 4:1, sharing four pieces of third-party content for every one piece authored by you or your company. Be insightful about your industry, not just your company. You should also share relevant pieces your colleagues have authored. It helps show the array of expertise and ‘horsepower’ behind your firm and gets prospects to think of your brand beyond just one person.
  5. Stimulate others’ thinking: Pose questions with the content that you post to invite comments and discussion. And don’t be afraid to be a little provocative or contrarian. Bring a new angle to an old subject so you don’t end up as yet another voice in the echo chamber. Those people who are liking, sharing or replying? Some of them just might be prospects (even if they’re former or existing clients). Their digital body language is telling you that you struck a chord with them.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes: If you want to be seen as an insightful, consultative salesperson to your clients, then start showing that’s what you are to people beyond your clients. Think about their needs, their struggles. Find and share content that could help alleviate those problems or just bring new thinking or appreciation for the difficulties they face.
  7. Be human: No one wants to engage with a sterile bot. Share stories or recent experiences, even those that didn’t work out so well. Congratulate clients for their successes. When you show humility and vulnerability, you engage people on an emotional level.
  8. Go digital: Your website (assuming it’s any good) should be your #1 resource on social media and as a prospecting tool. Stop dusting off years-old PDFs and sending attachments, which will likely go right into spam folders. Instead, send them to your website, including places where they can subscribe to receive content from you. That will keep you top-of-mind so that you’ll be on the short list when they have an issue they need help with.
  9. Slide into their DMs: Reconnect with old clients by sending them something directly that you think might be of interest to them. Don’t ask them for a call or meeting or mention your latest product. Just say, “I saw this and thought of you. I know this is probably something you’re wrestling with. Hope all is well.” Leave it at that. You’ll be surprised how many replies you get, and the new light people might start to see you in.
  10. Make it a habit: Consistency matters, and there’s no excuse not to do it. Five minutes here, ten minutes there — it adds up. Carve out ten or 15 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example. Whatever works and whatever you can stick to. Just 20 minutes a week on social media will probably put you ahead of 90% of the salespeople out there.

Remember: Just being there doesn’t count. Are you being social? Are you adding value? Be part of the community and be active; otherwise you may as well not be there at all.