By Rick Grant
In the business-to-business sales world, people do business with people they know. An existing relationship is critical for shortening the sales cycle and closing the deal. In the past, professional sales people would invest months to get to know their prospects. Today, knowing all you can about your prospect is just as important as ever, perhaps even more so with all of the competition in most industries. Fortunately, social media tools have made it much easier to get to know the people we want to work with.
Over the past few years, online social media destinations like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn have built huge followings. MySpace and Facebook both started out catering to college students and still do, but they have both increased their audiences. MySpace has found success in promoting musical groups, while Facebook has become the leader in social media for the mainstream.
LinkedIn, which started out as an online contact management tool for businesspeople, has grown into a destination in its own right, allowing users to share much more than just their contact information.
Today, a free LinkedIn account will allow an executive to post a detailed personal profile that acts like an online resume. Executives can promote themselves by answering questions or participating in groups. They can recommend others and be recommended themselves. They can also link their LinkedIn profile to their blog, their travel information and more.
Many companies are investing in a professional LinkedIn account in order to send messages to prospects they are not yet connected to and to get access to advanced functionality.
For the professional salespeople, LinkedIn is a wonderful tool. Here are some tips to making it work for you.
1) Start out by searching for the company by name to see if they have a company page and a list of key executives.
2) If you have a contact at the company or the company has a page, go through the executives to identify the person most likely to make or approve a purchase and read any parts of their profiles that are public.
3) When you click through to an executive’s profile, you can see how you are connected to them. If you are close enough, send them an invitation to join your network. If not, find out who is between you and ask them for an introduction.
4) When you’ve isolated the executive you’ll be selling to, make sure you connect with him/her and learn all you can about his/her background.
5) Make an invitation to connect with you a part of every sales presentation. The more people you are connected to in your industry, the easier it will be to contact the people who can buy your product or service.
6) Don’t abuse LinkedIn connections with too much contact. Treat every one as a valuable asset and treat them with care and respect. The dividends will surprise you.
Rick Grant, principal of RGA-Rick Grant & Associates in Jim Thorpe, has been a writer and journalist for over 25 years. Prior to launching RGA, he founded Texell Interactive Media, a production company delivering electronic audio and video content for Web-based marketing. Before that, he spent more than a decade as one of the nation’s leading financial industry-focused journalists. He writes features for National Mortgage News and is a columnist for HousingWire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.