There are a few things that I believe are relatively true about Employee Benefit Adviser readers and the social and professional networking site called LinkedIn:

• You have a LinkedIn account
• When you get an invitation to connect, you generally click the “accept” button and move on to other things
• You have no real idea why you have a LinkedIn account, you just do it because you’re supposed to
• You have several hundred connections but almost none of those people are clients
• If you post news or statements at all, it is because you think that LinkedIn is about inbound marketing

I want you to know that LinkedIn is the most powerful marketing tool ever made available to salespeople. The best way to understand LinkedIn is to think of it as the online equivalent of a really good networking group, but in actuality it is so much more.
LinkedIn is about creating business relationships and then using those relationships to expand your network by getting introduced to potential clients. But to succeed at using LinkedIn to grow your business, you have to change your mindset and approach to this new-age technology.

My first bit of advice on LinkedIn is to begin connecting with each of your clients. Yes, I really mean this.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to success on this medium is the fear of connecting with those clients. Almost every agent who I talk to about this matter says almost the same thing: “Mel, I have so many connections with my fellow agents that I am afraid that they will see my client list and then go after my clients.” I can assure you, that cannot and will not occur.

Consider this scenario:
You are a benefit client of Jim Smith. I call you and explain that I am a benefit consultant and Jim is a mutual connection and I would like to stop by and introduce myself to you and tell you a little about what I do. Clearly, I’m trying to go on a prospecting mission.  
Here is the question, stepping back: As the benefit client, what would you think of me?
More than likely, as a client, you would think that I have no integrity and would never meet with me, let alone do business with me. On the other hand, if your client was willing to meet with a competitor, it’s likely you would have lost that client soon anyway.

My second piece of advice is to begin connecting with every prospect who you talk with, regardless of whether they meet with you or not.
Connecting with your prospects on LinkedIn is incredibly easy. I make a habit of asking every prospect I talk with if they have a LinkedIn account.
If they do, I ask for a business card because it generally contains their email address, which is a requirement for sending an invitation to connect to someone with whom you do not have a prior relationship.
If I attend a networking event where there has been an exchange of business cards, I search for profiles on LinkedIn and then send an invitation to connect.
Where a “nice to have met you” email may get lost, a LinkedIn invitation cuts through the clutter. Stay tuned for the second installment of my LinkedIn coaching in next month’s issue.

Schlesinger is a social selling strategist with a focus on helping group insurance agents thrive in today’s marketplace. Reach him at mel@socialproofmarketing or (336) 525-6357.

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