Regaining sales dominance via social selling on LinkedIn

With access to every conceivable kind of information literally at their fingertips, today’s buyers sometimes seem poised to make salespeople extinct. It has certainly reduced the amount of influence that benefits advisers wield over buying decisions.

This makes it a matter of urgency to recapture that influence through the research and decision-making process. Advisers need to make themselves visible and accessible to buyers by relating to them and the issues they’re struggling with.

Remember, employers wouldn’t be out looking for new solutions if they were completely satisfied with what they currently have. This is your opportunity to show them how you can be a valuable resource.

Create an attractive online presence

Start with a strong profile on LinkedIn. This is one of the first sites buyers go to look up potential professionals. It’s the default business search engine because it’s so easily accessible and popular among professionals.

LinkedIn has done extensive research on how online interactions impact the sales process. They call it “social selling,” which simply means that salespeople are active in social media channels and use it as a way to connect with prospective clients.

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The LinkedIn Corp. logo is displayed on the screens of an Apple Inc. iPhone 6 and a laptop in this arranged photograph taken in London, U.K., on Friday, May, 15, 2015. Facebook Inc. reached a deal with New York Times Co. and eight other media outlets to post stories directly to the social network's mobile news feeds, as publishers strive for new ways to expand their reach. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The objectives of social selling are to build brand awareness, build personal relationships, and earn your client’s confidence and trust through regular interaction that is educational, relevant, and useful.

LinkedIn has developed a Social Selling Index (SSI) to measure activities that drive the behaviors they know lead to increased sales results. You can find your own SSI by logging on the site and going to LinkedIn Business Solutions (the easiest way is to Google “LinkedIn SSI” — you must be logged in to LinkedIn for it to analyze your activity and return your score.) Click on “Get your score free.” Then you’ll see an aggregate score and four behavioral scores that make up the aggregate.

Let’s look at these four behaviors, what drives them and why they’re important for social selling.

Establishing a professional brand

On LinkedIn, this means having a completely filled-in profile complete with a photo, work experience and contact information. In a larger sense, this is important because buyers like engaging with those they feel they know in some way. It’s important to give potential buyers a glimpse at who you are, what you’ve done, and how you could potentially be of service to them.

Engaging with insights

LinkedIn encourages you to share your ideas and insights with your network. This can be done through written updates, sharing articles, posting videos or PDF files that resonate with your audience. It’s your opportunity to focus completely on your buyers and what they want. They want to hear from you as a salesperson, but they also want education and insights that can help them perform better in their jobs and drive improved results.

Finding the right people

Networking means seeking out new connections. You can do this in two primary ways using the LinkedIn search tools: look up people you know, and search for people who fit your criteria. This is important because the wider your network, the more opportunity you create for yourself with more points of contact and more opportunities for referrals and introductions.

Building relationships

This entails making multiple connections within a single organization. This is important because decisions are made by multiple people in an organization – the decision-makers and the decision-influencers. You should be connected to all of them to effectively influence the sales process and buying decision.

To do this, there is a formula to keep in mind: The quality of your insights plus the frequency with which you share them works to build trust with your audience.

Buyers are looking for solutions to their challenges. Regain influence over the sales and buying process by making yourself easily accessible and visible online. Generously share ideas to help employers find those answers and you’ll be surprised at how you can be seen as a go-to resource.

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