When I first joined LinkedIn in July of 2003 (60 days after it launched), I just about fell out of my chair because I realized that LinkedIn is the world’s largest, real-time, current, and accurate Rolodex. With it, you can create, nurture, and deepen business relationships—which leads to sales and endless referrals.

The key to using LinkedIn for your social selling efforts is developing Know-Like-Trust (KLT) relationships—something most salespeople don’t have plans for. Ask 100 salespeople for their clearly defined strategy for developing KLT relationships, and you’ll most likely hear an eagle screech in the distance. A tumbleweed will roll by. Crickets. The irony is that it’s extremely simple. Dale Carnegie said it many years ago in How to Win Friends and Influence People: take a sincere interest in people. The key word here being “sincere.”

How can you make the best use of LinkedIn to develop KLT relationships and improve your social selling? Here are few suggestions:

Have a Strong Profile Page

Like our parents told us when we were kids, we have only one chance to make a good first impression. You can be fully committed to being a “value generator” and adding as much value as you can to others, but if your LinkedIn profile doesn’t clearly reflect your professionalism, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. You wouldn’t go on a sales call in ripped shorts, a Metallica T-shirt with a coffee stain on it, and bed head, would you? So, invest some time optimizing your LinkedIn profile:

  • Get a nice, smiling headshot.
  • Put up a background picture that reflects your industry, a personal/professional interest, your company website, etc.
  • Use the maximum space available in your headline to grab peoples’ attention.
  • List all of your contact information, including email address, phone number, business address, and links to your company’s website in your Contact Info.
  • Use keywords in your Summary and Experience. Doing that will rank you higher in LinkedIn search results.
  • Add some media to your Summary and Experience, such as white papers, case studies, articles you’ve written, and even video.
  • Get Recommendations from clients, current and former colleagues, and bosses. This is called Social Proof. When people see you have a proven track record of under-promising and over-delivering, your sale is already half made.
  • Have a link in your email signature to your LinkedIn profile.

Take Advantage of LinkedIn’s Search Feature

LinkedIn provides the sales professional with a goldmine of information regarding prospects, clients, networking partners, and strategic alliances. By using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search feature, you can identify the people you’d like to do business with—with laser-like focus—something we couldn’t have dreamed of not that many years ago. You can search based on geography, job title, industry, current company, previous company, seniority level, company employee size, college attended, personal interests (golf, fishing, gourmet cooking, etc.)—almost anything.

Plus, you can save search parameters so that LinkedIn emails you when someone who matches that profile joins LinkedIn or if a connection modifies his profile.

For the savvy social selling professional, LinkedIn is a 24/7/365 lead generation machine. So, set up your search filters, click save, and go live your business and personal life while LinkedIn works for you.

Research Prospects

When you identify the people you’d like to do business with, take a few minutes to dig into their LinkedIn profile. On that page, they’re telling you everything you need to know to get in the door. This isn’t about sucking up or being a brown-noser; it’s about taking a sincere interest in people. Identify where they went to school, what professional achievements they’re proud of, common interests, etc. Then craft a simple, personal approach that shows you’ve done your homework.

Other tips for connecting with prospects:

  • Let LinkedIn’s Introduction feature show you who you already know who may be able to open the door for you.
  • Use LinkedIn’s new Tag and Reminder features to systematize your communications.

LinkedIn is the professional salesperson’s best friend. Strategically investing 30 minutes every morning on LinkedIn can transform your sales career. Those words aren’t hype. LinkedIn is a game changer. Big time.

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