Social selling – how to sell on LinkedIn?

March 1 2021

Social selling
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Selling on LinkedIn is one of the most difficult challenges for companies. Many owners and managers know that this is a popular and important business channel, but there are still questions on how to sell on LinkedIn? The answer – you have to be active and reliable.

What is social selling, anyway?

It’s selling by being active within a given internet community. In this case, on the most popular website for business. It’s maintaining and increasing the range of business contacts that impact the opinion, reliability, and positioning of the business on a market.

According to LinkedIn’s own report, 80% of B2B leads come from this channel alone. You can be skeptical about this data, but you can’t miss tens of thousands of new accounts that are made every single day. Social selling is an important element of the sales strategy for major brands all over the world. We can say that about IBM, Dell, Microsoft, or HP. Others are getting familiar with it and will soon join the party. The world’s biggest CRM systems are already integrated or will soon integrate their solutions with the LinkedIn platform.

If so, is social selling only for established companies and big corporations? Not at all. LinkedIn is a fantastic advertising site and database for big firms. For smaller organizations, it’s a great brand-building tool and an enormous resource for generating leads. Selling through LinkedIn is often based on content marketing and the right strategy (see below). It’s also based on finding the right people in other companies to direct email correspondence. LinkedIn is a very versatile platform. On one hand, it offers you the ability to showcase your company and its products or services. On the other hand, you can reach people who want to buy them.

The Social Selling Index – the key to portal’s lock

You can achieve it with the Social Selling Index (SSI). It’s a free tool from LinkedIn that shows the potential for a sale. Within bounds of a portal, of course. SSI shows how your activities on this website can translate into sales contacts. The portal uses the scale from 1 to 100, and then displays four kinds of activities:

  • building a professional image
  • gaining valuable contacts
  • expanding relationships
  • sharing the knowledge

Every one of them is necessary to create, maintain, and expand the professional selling profile on the page.

How to check the Social Selling Index?

You can check your SSI at every moment by going here.

But social selling is not something disposable. I call it the business rule of COF – create, optimize, and forget. Gaining clients through LinkedIn requires the mindset ready for relationship development, domain knowledge that you can share with other people, and regularity.

Building a professional image – this what kicks of sales on LinkedIn

At first, LinkedIn was a service full of job advertisements and a space for more or less professionally made CVs. These times are long-time gone and for good. Now the portal is a place to make business contacts, showcasing knowledge, and building an image. How to do that effectively?

Write articles and put them on your private or the company’s profile. The more substantial and valuable they will be, the better. LinkedIn’s algorithms like when people show their domain authority. Try not to link to the external sources, do that in the comments instead. This is the place to redirect traffic to your website.

Create slides, ebooks, and similar formats. That way you will differentiate the format portfolio and show that yourself or your company, can find itself on different planes, at least marketing-wise.

Exactly – an important footnote. The number of active company owners is still low on this portal. They still don’t trust LinkedIn enough or don’t know how to effectively use it. They don’t know the rules, don’t know what to publish and how frequently, and so on. It’s a major mistake because LinkedIn and its algorithms prefer just that. Being active, frequent, and systematic.

Many owners and managers are worried that a large number of publications and comments posted for other articles are going to irritate contacts on LinkedIn’s list. Sometimes it does happen but with people that don’t see the value in the portal itself or can’t find themselves in it. Don’t worry that prompts about new articles and comments will annoy somebody. One can always limit or entirely turn them off. On the other hand, if you will serve quality content and knowledge, then generating leads will become easier. That way you will create domain authority – you will show competence.

Getting quality contacts

With whom you can make contact? After all, social selling is based on expanding the list of interesting contacts. Creating a network interested in what you have to say will increase the range of your messaging. Some people don’t have to necessarily buy products you’re selling. They will, however, recognize your domain authority and like the post, comment on the issue, share with friends. This is what increasing the range looks like. Sales on LinkedIn are based not only on potential clients but also on people interested in the quality of your messaging.

And now a paragraph about inviting people. There is still a large group of “specialists”, sending invites only to sell something. When they acquire a positive reaction and become a part of someone’s network, the selling process begins. Usually with and an immediate and aggressive note about the product. I heavily advise against this method. It often ends with not only ignoring the message but also blocking your profile entirely. Remember that LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index is a measurement of not what you’re selling and to whom but how. LinkedIn’s community values knowledge, professionalism, and personal class.

Selling on LinkedIn through relationship building

LinkedIn is mainly a social channel, hence the social selling phenomenon. LinkedIn allows selling via content creation but for the most part, it’s also about engaging in conversations and relations with other people. If can happen in various ways:

  • by liking, commenting, and sharing posts and articles, and other materials (slides, ebooks, infographics, etc.)
  • participating in internet surveys and market research
  • asking others about their opinion on a given subject

It’s the last one that’s especially interesting. It’s the option that managers are afraid of, completely unnecessary. People are often amazed by this issue and think that by asking we show our incompetence. In reality, it’s an excuse for starting a conversation but also for attracting interesting people that can turn into contacts or business occasions down the road

Don’t give up if sales won’t skyrocket in a heartbeat. It’s a slow burn, that’s how it works. Social selling is a marathon, not a sprint. Here you build a position, an authority, convince people of your worth and then show them possibilities of cooperation. It’s like content marketing; its fruits show up at a later date. To profit, later you have to invest first.

Selling on LinkedIn by sharing the knowledge

It’s another and very important apprehension. Company owners and managers are afraid that by writing about products and their production methods (techniques, color schemes, design process) they will lose competitive advantage. The list I have mentioned above is of course only exemplary but it’s fair to say it’s representative for this group of people.

In reality, the truth is different. Even in B2B marketing, there’s a need to know what a business partner is up to and what he thinks. How does he design products, what impact the price, how he works on the market’s response to the product. If you want to sell anything on LinkedIn, make sure others will perceive you as an expert. Being open to sharing your knowledge and effective content marketing on the portal impacts the range for your messaging. It also has a direct impact on sales.

How to sell on LinkedIn?

First and foremost, don’t be aggressive. Don’t contact people via the internal messaging system right after they accept your invitation or invite you themselves. Thank them for the possibility to make an interesting contact, but don’t sell. The real sell takes knowledge and finesse. 

The Social Selling Index is a basic knowledge source on what is the strength of your profile and it’s the first step. If the indicator is close to 100 (in the real world, it’s over 70/100) it’s really good. If it’s below that threshold, there’s room for improvement. 

The second step requires thought on how your profile should look like and what exactly should be on it. What to put the emphasis on? There’s a difference between a personal and a company’s profile. Good practice requires that key people in the organization (CEO, managers, departments’ leaders, other most important employees) have their profiles and use them actively. You won’t get the right results by making people create profiles, you have to convince them by showing the worth of LinkedIn. The benefits to the company’s image and sales.

The third step is the regular usage of LinkedIn and the active building of the brand. The personal and company’s brand, that is. Both complement each other and this is what it’s all about.

O Autorze

Jarosław Ścislak

Pracowałem nad brandingiem, rebrandingiem, skalowaniem biznesu i strategiami contentowymi dla wielu firm. Tworzyłem strategie marketingowe, contentowe, budowałem od zera działy marketingu, szkoliłem juniorów. Mogę skutecznie pomóc. Poprzez tworzenie kluczowych procesów i integrację ich w jeden ekosystem sprawię, że Twoja firma będzie pracowała dla Ciebie, a nie na odwrót. Część usług które widzisz w mojej ofercie (np. rozwój sklepów e-commerce w opozycji do platform e-commerce) wprowadziłem na rynek jako pierwszy w Polsce.