Unlike other networks, LinkedIn provides a unique feature especially valuable to people in sales and marketing: You can choose exactly who’s in your audience.

That’s what LinkedIn expert and consultant Nathanial Bibby, CEO of the Bibby Consulting Group, loves most about the platform. The ability to groom your network means you’ll build connections who actually need what you’re selling.

“[Customers] are on LinkedIn; it’s just about approaching them the right way,” Nathanial says. “If you’re looking to build relationships in business, it’s a very effective tool if you know how to use it properly.”

Nathanial joined an episode of Cold Email Outreach with Jeremy & Jack to share tips on how to use LinkedIn to generate B2B leads and start conversations with the right buyers.

Anyone who’s selling to professionals can put his advice to use to start, grow or improve your LinkedIn presence.

What is the right way to approach people on social media?

Connecting with people on LinkedIn is a little like going to a cocktail party — you can’t just start a conversation with a sales pitch.

A connection on social media has to be balanced, like any social connection. Think about what you can offer the other person, not just what’s in it for you if you can get them talking.

Open a conversation by establishing common ground through your connection request — mention people in your network, where you went to school or the community you serve, for example.

In your follow up to thank them for connecting, instead of telling them who you are and what you offer, ask them about their goals and struggles.

Don’t offer them your solution until they’ve told you they have the type of problem you solve.

To get to that point in the conversation, keep your focus on them. What are their business objectives? What’s holding them back? If they confirm they face the kinds of problems you solve, only then should you turn the conversation to selling, explaining the ways you’ve helped people like them in the past.

This is just as important for using your time wisely as it is for respecting theirs.

Asking these questions before you start selling helps you identify whether they’re actually the right person to do business with and saves you from wasting time selling to people who don’t have the problems you solve.

Let your profile speak for you

Unlike cold-calling or cold email, on social media, you don’t have to tell people who you are or what you do. When you request to connect or send them a message, they’ll look at your profile to find out who you are.

Your profile should show them how you help people like them.

Nathanial says that means it shouldn’t look just like a resume.  “Has anybody ever bought anything because somebody handed them their CV?” he asks.

Here are 3 tips for beefing up the most important components of your profile:

  • Headline: Most people list their job title as their headline (the blurb that shows up just below your name), but you can be more descriptive and explain who you serve and the results you help them achieve.

  • Profile picture: The photo is where our eyes go first, so make a good first impression with a professional photograph that stands out and conveys your personality.

  • Background image: The banner image at the top of your profile is a good place to show social proof and boost your credibility. Add a brand image, a shot of you speaking or teaching, or a certification. If you’re relatively new and don’t have that kind of cred yet, aim for familiarity here, with a shot of the city you serve, for example.

5 Steps to up your LinkedIn game

Once your profile is in good shape, here are some additional tips for improving your presence on LinkedIn and making more meaningful connections.

1. Be intentional with network growth

There’s no benefit to growing your network by connecting indiscriminately. Instead, define your target audience, and focus on growing within that niche.

A more targeted network means the content you post is more relevant to your connections. That encourages more engagement, which gets the content in front of more people.

2. Focus on 2nd-degree connections

Ensure relevant connections by growing your network through second-degree connections — people your connections are connected to.

The more mutual connections you have when you send someone a connection request, the more likely they’ll be to accept your request. Your mutual connections also give you a common ground to start a conversation.

3. Use advanced search for targeting

Searching for people in a particular industry or a certain role in a company? Go beyond the broad search bar at the top of LinkedIn, and tap “people” to add some parameters to your search.

Isolate for second-degree connections, job title, location, company, and more to find relevant prospects.

Your search results might be limited at first, because you have fewer connections, but they’ll grow as your network grows.

4. Don’t automate communication

Lots of salespeople use tools to automatically send messages on LinkedIn, but Nathanial advises against it. Instead, he’s developed a process to delegate some of that communication, so he can stay on top of it while personalizing every interaction.

Rather than sending automated messages to keep up with new connections, simply turn on mobile notifications for accepted requests.

5. Focus on connections, not sales

Don’t spend your effort trying to get sales conversations going in InMail. Instead, focus on forming real connections through the network. Create engaging content, and engage with others’.

Use the platform to showcase your expertise, and prospects will know to turn to you when they need the solutions you provide.

Is LinkedIn content worth your time?

Creating content on LinkedIn is all about adding value for your audience. If it’s not useful and engaging for them, it won’t help you develop business relationships and make sales.

If you decide to devote time to creating content for the platform, keep the focus on adding value for the audience — not on getting likes and comments. You can gain tons of followers and develop hacks to get likes and comments, but it’s all a waste of time if it doesn’t get you more business.

“You could have 30,000 followers on LinkedIn,” Nathanial says, “and you could get 500 likes every post, and you could not be able to pay your rent.”

If instead you build a targeted network and share relevant content, you’ll develop trust and authority and pave the way for valuable relationships that go beyond the platform.

How to come up with ideas for content

To figure out what kind of content will be valuable to your target audience, ask them.

Sit down with a friend, business partner or client, and find out which questions they want to be answered. You can also search forums like Quora to see what kinds of questions people are asking about topics related to your business.

Write a post or record a video sharing your answer to the most popular questions.

Making that content engaging is all about the emotions you can trigger — not about telling your audience “comment below” or “share.” Pay attention to how your audience reacts to content, and you’ll learn over time how to elicit organic engagement.

Where to go from LinkedIn

You might be tempted to push a conversation from LinkedIn into emails because that’s where you’re used to selling. But doing that, Nathanial points out, “you’re going from a high converting platform to a lower converting platform.”

When a prospect is ready to continue the conversation, don’t waste time adding extra steps. Set up a phone call right from LinkedIn, and take the conversation offline to keep it moving forward.

You might have to ask for their email address to book an appointment or send a calendar invite. But don’t add that extra step just to market to them on a different platform. You’ve already got their attention, so move toward a stronger connection, not a weaker one!


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