LinkedIn

As LinkedIn gives sales professionals direct access to targeted decision-makers and influencers, it can and should be one of the most powerful tools in your sales arsenal. However, many sales professionals complain that they are not getting an ROI from their LinkedIn efforts. Yes, these reps will make many connections, but they’ll gripe that very few of these result in leads and/or sales.

That’s because most salespeople are using LinkedIn wrong. More likely than not, they’re making at least one of the following five mistakes, and they’re losing sales as a result. Read on to discover what your sellers should not be doing when seeking out prospects on LinkedIn—and what to do instead.

LinkedIn Offense #1: Scraping for unverified leads

In one LinkedIn group I belong to, the CEO of a tech business development firm mentioned he uses software that scrolls through LinkedIn and extracts the contact information of people who represent his ideal target market. He then transports the information with one click of the mouse to his Salesforce CRM, which his sales team then can use to send personal emails introducing his services. Sounds good—at least, in theory—right?

This is “cold emailing”—that is, contacting these people out of the blue—and it doesn’t work very well.

By using this approach, the salesperson forces prospects into his funnel instead of taking the time to build and maintain relationships with key decision-makers by providing valuable content that would entice these prospects to opt in for more information. The prospects that tech CEO is entering into his database are not even marketing qualified, as they have not shown any interest or need.

Read: 5 Ways to Make LinkedIn Work for Your Business

LinkedIn Offense #2: Trying to sell too soon

Once a connection is made on LinkedIn—or once a prospect joins a LinkedIn community—many sales executives immediately message them with a quick description of their products and/or solutions. These reps then suggest a phone call to discuss how their company can help their new connection. Most of the time, these messages are ignored. In fact, one sales executive recently told me that he might get two responses for every 150 of these emails he sends.

Prospects on LinkedIn don’t want to be sold to overtly. In fact, a recent LinkedIn report for the technology industry shows that 75% of IT buyers would be willing to connect with a vendor, but are hesitant to do so because they don’t want to be inundated with marketing and sales pitches. What they want is to be educated. They want relevant content that will help them with their challenges so they can make smarter business decisions. So don’t be so quick to send your pitch. Focus first on establishing a relationship and demonstrating your thought leadership and relevance. Then, and only then, think about moving prospects down your sales funnel.

LinkedIn Offense #3: Flooding your feed with context-free links

Many sales executives are taking advantage of LinkedIn groups, not only as a prospecting tool but also as a way to get wide exposure to targeted audiences by sharing content. But there’s a right and a wrong way to do this.

One of my clients, the CEO of a software firm for the recruiting industry, had been instructing his sales team to post content on LinkedIn at least three or four times a week—sometimes more. But they were generating very little traffic (or leads) from LinkedIn.

From The Archives: 7 Bad Sales Habits You Need to Stamp Out

The sales team was not creating relevant, thought-provoking discussions that had context or stand-alone value. They were simply sharing the first couple lines of the blog post and a link. There was no engagement, no debate, no “what do you think about Issue X?” questions. As a result, their links were getting lost in the deluge of newsfeed-like posts, press releases and promotional content.

By creating real conversations and sharing valuable insights before posting any links to content, this CEO earned the right to his prospects’ attention. By taking this approach, we increased traffic to linked content by 3,620% in six weeks.

LinkedIn Offense #4: Burying your own content

Many social-media experts tell you to share other people’s content 80% of the time and your own content 20% of the time. On LinkedIn, I think that ratio should be reversed. Most sales executives are so focused on curating and sharing other people’s content that they become known as a resource. Prospects don’t invest in resources; they invest in thought leaders. Think of it this way: LinkedIn gives you the ability to put your content directly in front of key decision-makers—yet, you’re sharing industry news and other people’s content instead? When you do share links to content (as mentioned above, there are effective and ineffective ways to do this), make sure it’s mostly your own case studies, white papers and other forms of thought leadership. When my clients have done this, they’ve experienced exponentially more engagement in their content from prospects.

LinkedIn Offense #5: Relying too much on gated content

As I’ve mentioned, your prospects on LinkedIn want a value-added relationship with potential vendors that provides information that can help them with their businesses. But it’s crucial to note that they don’t want to jump through hoops and break down gates to get that information. They want free access to that valuable content.

As a marketer, I know the importance of landing pages and getting prospects to sign up for white papers, webinars and other offerings. But you need to prove to decision-makers that entering this “next stage” of the relationship will be worth their while. Gated content has a purpose; but if you’re using it all the time, you’re going to repel people who already want to know what you have to say.

Read: The 3 Costliest Mistakes in B2B Marketing

Now that you know what doesn’t work on LinkedIn, you can fix your actions. Then, watch as you start generating more leads and sales.

Kristina Jaramillo is a recognized social-media expert and founder of GetLinkedInHelp.com, which helps sales executives within technology companies, professional service firms and SMEs generate more leads and sales using LinkedIn. Her free LinkedIn training modules are available here.

Do you think LinkedIn is an effective sales tool? What sales behaviours on the site really drive you nuts? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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