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How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Sales Leads

LinkedIn Corp. is known as “the world’s largest professional network with over 120 million members and rapidly growing.”  It’s no wonder the company, when it went public in May 2011, experienced the largest stock market valuation for a USA internet-based business since 2004 when Google went public.

The professional networking opportunities that are presented by the use of LinkedIn are self-evident and undeniable.  How do you harness the potential of this incredibly popular social media site to generate a maximum number of highly-targeted leads for your business?

Before You Begin
Use common sense by being polite and not “spamming” on LikedIn.  It is helpful to review the company’s policies.  The terms in the user agreement include very implicit language about not sending unsolicited advertising, “junk mail,” promotional materials, “pyramid schemes,” “chain letters,” and all other types of solicitation.  Don’t do it!  Use LinkedIn for networking properly, as outlined below.

Using the Numbers Game to Your Advantage
It is understood in the business world that, for those companies with an excellent, well-packaged product or service, sales is essentially a “numbers game.”  You can actually use the numbers to your advantage by building a base of hot leads using LinkedIn.  Follow that up with conversion optimization techniques – and you will have sales potential pouring in and soon your revenue will be soaring.

Start by Building up Your First Degree Connections Base
Your network is only as large and expansive as that of your connections.  Send LinkedIn invites to everyone you know personally and professionally.  Even those outside your industry may be connected to someone within your industry via LinkedIn, so do not overlook anyone.

If you have someone’s email address, simply send them an “invitation to connect.”  One trick to building up first degree connections is to post mailing list sign ups or by utilizing other opt-in email address list generation methods.

Try to avoid emailing the same person more than once or twice with a LinkedIn invitation.  This prevents LinkedIn from being marked as spam by those who receive invitations.  Too many invitations marked as spam and LinkedIn’s reputation is jeopardized, so be considerate.

Foster and Maintain Relationships with First Degree Connections
Reach out to those within your first degree connection base from time to time.  Offer them something useful or simply strike up conversation.  Become familiar with those who are in their contact lists as well, with a keen eye open for any potential customers in your 2nd level of connections.

There are two core reasons to nurture your first degree connections:

  1. They may not remain a connection if you do not interact, or interact in a displeasing way.
  2. They may introduce you to 2nd degree connections (which may then become 1st degree connections) by virtue of your solid relationship with the initial direct connection.

Expanding Your Network via LinkedIn Company Search
One of the most powerful tools you can use on LinkedIn is Company Search.  This is a phenomenal vehicle for networking with likeminded professionals, potential B2C and B2B leads.  You can search using criteria such as industry, size, and location.

The attribute that really makes this search function shine is the ability to find companies that are connected to you either directly (1st connection) or those that are part of your extended network (2nd and 3rd connections).

Use Communication to Turn Connections into Relationships
Building relationships is what professional networking and customer loyalty are all about.  Simply being “connected” is no better than having your product “exist” on the shelf in a store full of other products.  Sure, you may happen to be noticed, but not if you are not actively driving customers to that shelf.

In the analogy of LinkedIn, the prospect of driving connections to become true comrades demands communication.  Communicate with your 1st level (direct) connection using status updates, event invites, “InMails” and “Introductions.”  The “Request an Introduction” feature is a way to communicate with 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

Sticking to the “Soft Sell”
Remember that LinkedIn is a networking site, not a marketplace.  Once you have established a large number of first degree connections, open a dialog about what you do using status updates, or casually bringing up your product or service in the context of relevant conversations.

For harder sells, you may consider establishing supplemental communication outside of LinkedIn to avoid tarnishing your professional reputation on LinkedIn – and to preserve the integrity of your account.

Jared Pomranky

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