Recently, I was shocked to discover the following seminar on EventBrite:
For whatever reason, the organizer of this event is charging participants almost $200 to learn about LinkedIn and how they can win sales prospects by using this business networking platform. Seriously?! Well, for just the price of a few minutes of your time, I can tell you how LinkedIn can help you find your own sales prospects- and win them. At least, I can tell you how I have used LinkedIn to land clients; recently, after making a concerted effort on LinkedIn, I gained three clients in just one month!
LinkedIn works like a big virtual Rolodex, keeping track of all your business contacts and their information. However, unlike a standard Rolodex, LinkedIn also immediately informs you whom your contacts are connected with. These connections-to-connections are invaluable when you are trying to reach a potential client or hiring manager and need someone to help you out. Remember that, in the world of business, it’s not just what you know; it’s also who knows you. However, that’s just the start of why LinkedIn is so useful for doing business. Here are three additional reasons:
- Credibility. On LinkedIn, you can post your resume, website(s), work history/projects and even your personal “mission statement”. You can also solicit and receive recommendations from your coworkers, bosses, employees and clients. Having this information out there improves your credibility and chance of being approached for work. You also save yourself a lot of time and effort when sending out job query “teasers” by referring potential hiring managers/clients to your LinkedIn profile.
- Information. LinkedIn is a great sales prospect research tool if you know what you are looking for (more on that later). For example, you can track down and locate the name and information of the company hiring manager to whom you are about to send your resume. This sure beats addressing your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Mam” or the God-awful “To Whom It May Concern”. It also helps you better focus your job inquiry; for instance, if you discover that a hiring manager has posted several discussions about the importance of SEO, you can highlight your own SEO accomplishments in your resume. Finally, you can “spy” on people and find out who has recently viewed your profile; this is useful if you’re sending out a lot of resumes and trying to gauge who might be contacting you soon.
- Networks. Many companies have an established presence on LinkedIn and use it to post corporate news including job opportunities. Many of these announcements are fed in from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Such announcements give you some really golden opportunities to post comments (that are strategically linked to your work) and make yourself known to these companies. Likewise, by joining LinkedIn groups that are within your area of expertise, you have the opportunity to lead and/or contribute to discussions where hiring managers/potential clients may be hanging out.
My personal experience with LinkedIn
I’ve had a LinkedIn account for years but never really utilized it until I became a full-time freelance writer about a year ago. Since then, I’ve used LinkedIn almost obsessively. Aside from updating my work profile, I now use LinkedIn to find potential clients.
When I was trying to win additional corporate/business clients last October, I used a scouting technique where I’d locate companies that were making at least $5-$10 million in annual revenue and thus could afford to hire me. However, I would steer clear of companies that made over $10 million because these places usually had their own hired team of writers. I would then find one or more of that company’s marketing personnel (writing typically falls into the marketing category) and pitch them directly through LinkedIn’s InMail function (a valuable and limited resource that allows you to email someone on LinkedIn regardless of whether you are connected to that person or not).
To make the pitch meaningful, I would research the company’s objectives and study its website. If something was lacking on the company’s website or amiss in the business, I made sure to mention that problem and suggest a way that I could solve it. Taking this approach with just three companies, I immediately landed one as a client last October.
I also found corporate clients by following companies on LinkedIn. This way, I received notice of any job openings and how much interest they were generating. If a potential job caught my eye, I tried to track down the person who would most likely be receiving my resume. Again, due to my profession, this involved scoping out the marketing department. Although I wasn’t always right on target, I knew I was making a fairly accurate estimate that my selected individual would at least peruse my file during the hiring process.
Because my query was always directed at a real live person, I did usually see him/her checking out my profile on LinkedIn. In the month of October, I sent out 6-7 official cover letters with resumes to potential clients. I later noticed that three of the queried companies had been checking out my LinkedIn profile; of those three, I won one as a long-term client.
My last client “win” in October was actually one of my LinkedIn contacts whom I occasionally see at another in-town networking event. I didn’t directly market my services to this person because I didn’t want to create any sales pressure (for this reason alone, I never make cold calls). What I did do, however, was make sure that this person knew what I did for a living and that my LinkedIn account showed several work examples in her niche field. I also checked my LinkedIn account from time to time to see if this individual was perchance looking at my profile. Indeed, she was. One day, this person approached me and asked what I would charge per hour for some website/proofreading work. After some negotiating, I won my third client.
Getting started with LinkedIn
You don’t have to be a tech-savvy geek to know your way around LinkedIn; the platform offers helpful tips on how to get started and will even help you “flesh-out” your profile by prompting you to fill in provided sections. Every time you return to your account, you can add one more detail or job description. Even if you have only 10 minutes, you can do a lot to tailor your profile. Once you’re comfortable with how you appear on “paper”, it’s time to start networking and asking your newfound contacts to recommend you. If you get stumped or want to take the next step, check out some community centers or colleges; many groups offer free tutorials on using this platform. Or just ask me. Good luck!