I was delighted to take part in business development company UMi’s ‘Table Talk’ webinar titled: ‘How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Business and Personal Brand’ recently. You can watch below as I was interviewed by UMi host Pascal Fintoni and benefit from the following valuable key takeaways!

LinkedIn’s ISN’T a Job Searching Platform or Selling Platform, It’s…

…a huge OPPORTUNITY, particularly for anyone in business development and marketing, to create an influence that is part of the step in the journey to the conversation that will lead to a business opportunity. The days have gone where selling in its traditional form exists, you can’t knock on somebody’s door and you can’t pick up the telephone very easily (although some people make claims that that is a good strategy, but, in my mind, when you have two successes out of 100 calls, you have to think, how many people have you upset on that journey? 98 potentially!

When used correctly in a gentle, measured and planned way, LinkedIn can improve your personal brand and help you build relationships with people who can influence your future opportunities.

LinkedIn ISN’T the End of the Selling Journey, It’s…

…a STEP along the relationship-building journey.

People are too eager to think of LinkedIn as a place where they can sell and it’s simply not that. Instead, it’s a place to build trust in your personal brand and create the confidence in an audience who will be watching you (the algorithms sort that out) and getting to a point where, when they need what you have/what you can offer, you’re the natural go-to person for that product or service.

So, LinkedIn is not a place to make Connections so that the next thing you can do is sell to them. Avoid:

“Thanks for Connecting can I tell you about my new two-for-one offer?” or “Please read my latest blog post?” or “Have you seen the latest page on our website?”

That’s too quick in the process. Rather, get the LinkedIn Connection in such a way that you’re building trust 1% by 1%. Initially, always reply back to that Connection request:

“Thank you, I look forward to being a Connection and sharing things around our industry sector” [or whatever commonality you have with that person, you might be in networking groups together, you might be in the same industry, you might be in the same location]. “I look forward to seeing you around.”

That’s it. At that point in time, that’s as far as that relationship should go. Any further than that and you’re too much in someone’s face and the minute you turn on that sales feature of yourself, if the timing’s not right, if the place isn’t right, if the moment’s not right, you’re actually going to damage that process, not enhance it, by pushing that sales button.

LinkedIn is not a place to sell. What happens is you build a relationship, you build a dialogue and you build trust and at a certain point in time, the endeavour is to find the moment where the situation is right and say:

“Hey, it’s been great having you as a LinkedIn Connection, thanks for sharing some of my content and commenting, I really enjoyed some of the things you’ve shared. It seems to me like we have a lot of in common, do you have time for a virtual coffee?”

“What’s a virtual coffee, Nigel?”
 
“I just love to know my Connections, I value my Connections, I value my network and it seems like we might be able to help each other. I feel we could have 10 minutes on the phone to say hello.”
 
“Oh, that sounds nice”.

There’s no intention in that 10 minutes for me to pitch to them, it’s literally to get to know them. Very rarely is that invitation to have a conversation turned down because that’s what humans do, and most people say, “Yeah, that’s nice we put a date in the diary.”

A leading question I find is useful in that kind of environment is:

“What challenges are you facing right now?”

If you think there’s an opportunity there for you to help then there’s an opportunity to say:

“Funnily enough, I’ve experienced similar situations like that myself I find this was an answer to that problem.”

Very quickly you’ll find the synergy and the relationship works. Sometimes you have chemistry with people sometimes you don’t but a lot of the time in that conversation good things come out of it:

“Hey, this has been super. I think we’ve got a lot in common. Let’s meet for a real coffee.”

You’ve predetermined that a meeting between you is going to be valuable and it’s a human thing. You’re never going to do business with somebody you’ve not spoken to in a business-to-business environment so it’s a ladder or engagement that starts with a LinkedIn Connection or even a Follow, it doesn’t have to be a connection, it’s just taking an interest in somebody that’s in your target market.

Why Having a LinkedIn Strategy is Vital

The above example exchange isn’t a random thing that one does on LinkedIn, you don’t engage with every conversation that’s going on. It’s about being mindful of what it is that you’re about and finding conversations with people that are interested in what you’re interested in. Therefore, part of your strategy would be being aware of what it is you’re trying to achieve on LinkedIn, what success looks like and what a good client looks like. So often when you ask somebody that question, they reply “well, anybody”. It’s not anybody, it’s a somebody and that somebody will have a certain characteristic, they’ll have a certain job title, they’ll be in a certain location, a certain industry sector, they might even be of a certain age demographic or have certain qualifications, they’ll be many features that a target customer will have which means you need to be targeting very carefully that category of prospect customer and existing customers and then your conversation and engagement needs to be very tight within the area that you’re interested in.

I know what’s going on in the world politically at the moment. Am I interested? Hugely, but would I share it on LinkedIn? No way! It’s not my specialty, I’m not a politician. So, there are many times I feel like getting engaged in the conversations I think, actually that’s not serving my interests particularly well.

The Power of LinkedIn Algorithms

It’s critical to understand what it is that interests you as the LinkedIn algorithm effectively sorts that out for you, which is one of the brilliant things about LinkedIn – if you’ve got a strategy and you work within the confines of that strategy, LinkedIn almost does the rest. It wants to give you content, it wants to keep you on the platform, it wants to keep you interested and help you get value out of LinkedIn so it uses the data you’re sharing via content you’re engaging with and what you’re interested in to basically provide you with more of the same.

Equally, the people who you’re trying to attract are also interested in similar topics and, therefore the LinkedIn algorithms are serving your content to people who you might be Connected to but beautifully it’s sending the same content to people who are second and third-degree removed from you but who are also interested in the same content. So here the power of LinkedIn is exponential. Your message, your data, your engagement has the opportunity to reach a vast audience and, when done correctly, it will reach the audience you’re trying to attract, and, when the timing is right for them to want you and our services, you’ll be there!

I think we are inverting the sales process here – the aim is not to be knocking on doors asking prospectives for anything, you’re simply being there and providing knowledge, wisdom, and expertise. You’re trying to demonstrate you’re a human being, you’re a nice guy (or lady!), and at the end of it, the audience will find you and they will approach you at a time that is right for them. This is all typically very difficult for a salesperson or anyone in lead generation – they want to be hitting the phone, they want to be making the calls, they want to be sending out the emails and actually I think there’s a slow nature of change of how digital influence can change how we think about what the best channels to use are. I’m not saying those channels are not right in the appropriate place but there’s a new way of generating business and LinkedIn, for those who get it, is highly successful or doing that. I have so many stories of really incredible outcomes that show this is possible!

These insights are just from the first 15 minutes of the video. For more insights, watch the rest!

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