Any professional salesperson will tell you that in sales, success boils down to selling strategy.
In competitive sales environments, the person that wins the sale isn't always the one with the best product – it's often the one who has invested the most time and effort in his selling approach.
Social media is playing a more important role than ever in selling strategy. Companies are using social media and even mobile technology to forge connections with their customers. These days, it's not unusual for sales-driven organizations leverage social media to encourage existing customers to promote their products to other consumers.
That's essentially what LinkedIn accomplishes. The intelligent use of a LinkedIn account can help you recruit other business professionals to actively promote your company, your products, and yourself. A direct, go-for-the-close sales strategy won't be welcomed on LinkedIn – you'll need to take a more subtle approach. And that begins by selling yourself to other businesspeople.
Expanding Your Network Through Invitations
Before you can begin to network for business on LinkedIn, you need to build a solid base of LinkedIn connections. As your connections increase, so do the number of business opportunities that will cross your path. The way to expand your connections is through invitations – but it's not as simple as blanketing the system with random invitations to connect. When you exceed a certain threshold of invitations to people who don't know you, LinkedIn requires you to provide new contacts' email address before you can extend an invitation.
- Connecting with Existing Contacts. The easiest people to connect with those who are already in your circle of influence. These are people with whom you have a solid working or personal relationship. Just attach a short note to the invitation and you should have no problem adding them to your LinkedIn network. The advantage is that each time you add an existing contact to your network, you have the potential to connect with all of their contacts as well.
- Connecting with Soft Contacts. Soft contacts are people with whom you have a passing acquaintance. To connect with these individuals, your invitation needs to establish a common point of reference, e.g. a common friend. An even better approach is to identify one of your connections who is connected with the soft contact, and ask them to provide a LinkedIn introduction.
- Connecting with Total Strangers. Connecting with complete strangers on LinkedIn isn't impossible, but it's tricky. Your invitation needs to include a personal note that is upfront about the fact that they don't know you and establishes a valid reason for wanting to establish a connection. It doesn't hurt to throw in a legitimate complement, but try not to suck up to them too much – LinkedIn users can smell a shallow sales strategy from a mile away.