In the past decade, a lot has changed about prospecting. Merchant services leads primarily came from cold calls, drop-ins and networking events. Those old-school tactics can still be useful, but times have changed. In our increasingly digital world, sales professionals must also take their efforts online.
In fact, 75% of B2B buyers use social media to make buying decisions, and 50% turn to LinkedIn as a trusted source. (SOURCE)
Tapping into this social selling process requires a new approach to prospecting. To start, you’ll need to take a hard look at your LinkedIn profile to ensure it’s making the grade. Then, invest time into really understanding how to fully use the platform to find connections and start conversations.
Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of LinkedIn so you can give your prospecting efforts a modern edge and connect with merchant services leads.
- Increase Your Chances of Being Found
To get the most out of any sales effort, it helps to have a plan. LinkedIn is no different. Spend some time devising a keyword strategy for the site. For what words do you want to be found in search results? How would your ideal merchant look for you?
Once you have a list of 5 to 10 words and phrases, use them throughout your profile. Pepper them into your summary and experience, and use them when you share status updates and other content. Incorporate them naturally into your wording (avoid “keyword stuffing”). Here are my 4 easy steps to improve your LinkedIn first impression.
An easy way to make a good first impression is to make the most of your headline. That’s the pithy statement that appears with your name, photo and location in search results. It may be the only chance you have to make an impression on a prospect, so it’s critical to get your message across here.
Most people simply use their job title, but there’s more you can do. Craft a short tagline or elevator pitch that says what you do, for what type of client, and the benefit it provides. Making this subtle change can help you stand out from everyone else in the search results.
Finally, getting someone to click on your name is only Step 1. Next, you want them to read your profile and feel compelled to contact you. The Summary section, which appears just below the headline, may determine whether they read on or leave your page.
Again, you want to clearly communicate what you do and how it helps your merchants. And this is another area for your targeted keywords (you can add them as a list of specialties if you prefer), which will help you move up in search results.
- Share Valuable Content
Too many sales professionals still treat LinkedIn like an online resume. Their work history and education are current, but not much else. An updated profile is great, but to really gain traction (and merchant services leads) from the site, you need more than a static page
To show up in people’s feeds and establish yourself as a trusted expert, you need to share content.
First, regularly post status updates. (It’s easy to schedule these in bulk using a free social media planning tool like Hootsuite.) Try for at least one a day; two to four a day is ideal. Gretchen Woods on our team shared her tips for posting to LinkedIn recently, which has some good info about how long the posts should be and what times are best to post.
Second, it’s also important to publish long-form content on LinkedIn. You can accomplish this in a couple of ways.
- Upload PowerPoint, PDF and Keynote presentations into Slideshare, which is LinkedIn’s slide-hosting service.
- Write original articles of interest to your industry using LinkedIn’s publishing platform called Pulse.
Share information that’s useful to your ideal customer and that showcases your knowledge. This goes a long way in establishing you as a trusted resource. Also, sharing content on a regular basis tells LinkedIn you’re active on the site (and its algorithm will reward you by displaying you in more search results).
Create a posting schedule and promote your posts in groups (see the next point for more information). Over time, your views, likes and followers will increase, as will your connection requests and opportunities to reach new prospects.
- Find and Make More Connections
The people who have the greatest success with LinkedIn also tend to be the ones with the greatest number of connections. The more connections you’ll have, the more you’ll show up in search results and in users’ feeds.
Every time you meet someone, either in person or online, make it a priority to connect with them on the site.
Also, use the advanced search function to find prospects with whom you’d like to connect. You can target your search by keyword, job title, company, location, even by shared interests like alma mater or charitable activity.
Once you find a number of leads, you can connect with them on LinkedIn if you’re allowed, or find shared connections to ask for a referral. A word of warning: LinkedIn limits how many searches a non-paying user can make before blocking search access.
(A Premium Business account is about $50 a month and provides unlimited searching, allows you to see who’s viewed your profile and gives you 15 messages to people with whom you’re not connected.)
Another way to make connections on LinkedIn is using groups. There are more than 2 million groups on the site, and you can join up to 100 (find groups under the “Interests” tab at the top of your LinkedIn page). It’s good to be in a mix of groups for both your peers and your ideal clients.
Set aside time (at least once a week) to visit each group and browse the new conversations. Participate in a meaningful way by adding insights, asking questions, or sharing resources. After you’ve been an active member for a while, it’s okay to occasionally share your own content or discuss your services (check the group rules first, of course).
The goal with LinkedIn groups is to learn from your peers, to help your prospects and to slowly establish yourself as a reliable expert. It’s a long game, but it can pay dividends.
- Start Conversations
When you make a new connection, it can be tempting to immediately send them a message about your amazing service and how you can help them. But that would be a mistake.
People buy from people they trust. They also buy from people whom they feel understand their problems and can solve them. If you want to up your “know-like-and-trust-factor,” don’t rush the sale. Instead, ,write your first message that’s all about the other person.
Look over their profile and find something of interest. Perhaps you went to the same college or maybe you loved an article they shared. Mention it as your ice breaker and then ask about them and their business. When they reply, chances are good they will reciprocate and ask about you. Now you have an open invitation to talk about your offering.
This approach creates real conversation and keeps you from coming across as a pushy salesperson.
One more tip about LinkedIn messaging. Very often, we only message when we are the one asking for a connection. But don’t overlook the importance of reaching out to people who connect with you.
Send a short note to anyone who connects with you. Thank them for the request and reference something interesting from their profile. And since they reached out first, it’s also okay to then briefly mention what you do and ask if they want to learn more.
- Move Your Conversations Offline
The goal of LinkedIn isn’t to make sales. It’s to establish a personal brand, find merchant services leads and create relationships with prospects. It’s great to use the site to start valuable conversations, but the goal should be to eventually take those talks offline.
Once there is a back-and-forth between you and a prospect, ask them for a call or in-person meeting. If you’ve been personable, helpful and have provided value up to this point, the buyer will likely trust you enough to agree to the next step.
Social selling is the future. If you’re not using LinkedIn for prospecting, you could be missing out on a great way to grow your pipeline. LinkedIn won’t make sales for you, but it can give you a competitive advantage.