Is there a correct way to use LinkedIn?
Recently, I participated in a thought provoking discussion in our own LinkedIn Group, the crux of the debate was, is LinkedIn a sales tool? Two group members, in particular, had strong and opposing views concerning this topic and interestingly, both were in some level of agreement also.
The debate really ignited with one member suggested that '2015 will be the year of Social Selling not Content Marketing.', to which the other responded; 'LinkedIn is to be used to "keep front of mind" with people who already know you, like suspects, prospects, clients, lapsed clients and introducers, it is not a tool to get business from people that don't know you. LinkedIn is a relationship building tool and not a sales tool!'
As I watched this discussion unfold, I began to consider both sides of this debate and
I got to thinking how, since 2009, I have successfully applied LinkedIn to building an International business from scratch - surely I do sell on LinkedIn? The reality is this, I have found that; LinkedIn is definitely a sales tool, it's also a marketing platform, as well as a conversational, relationship building centre and more. The only difference between these different uses, is the outcome, which will always be aligned to the users' personal reasons for being on LinkedIn in the first place.
LinkedIn as a sales tool
Yes, I do believe that LinkedIn is a sales tool. If we consider the verb 'to sell', its meaning can be defined as 1. 'to exchange (something) for money; 2. to make (something) available to be bought; 3. to be able to be bought for a particular price.
My view is that LinkedIn deals with scenario 2, much more than 1 or 3. By making something available to be bought, such as Payroll services, you first have to identify someone who might want that service. If your LinkedIn profile clearly demonstrates how your service will benefit that individual and you gently nurture the relationship, through good content marketing, they will, in time, come to know you like you and trust you - only then do you have the potential for Points 1 & 3 to happen. At this point, a warmly nurtured prospect is far more likely to be receptive to receiving a call or a piece of direct mail from you (the sale).
LinkedIn is also a marketing platform
One definition of the term marketing is 'the activities that are involved in making people aware of a company's products, making sure that the products are available to be bought.' Once again, your LinkedIn profile needs to demonstrate the services and the expertise you have to offer. Then, through relevant, interesting and consistent content sharing, you, once more, build know, like and trust with your potential purchaser until the moment that they, themselves, are in the market to purchase your services.
3 + 1 golden rules
You see, when you add it all up, LinkedIn is not just one thing, it's all things to all men (and women of course). However, for it to work well for you, you must apply these 3 golden rules:
- Connect with those who you can be of value to and who might be of value to you
- Nurture your relationship with these connections by sharing relevant content regularly and by engaging with them in dialogue (on and offline)
- Know what your end goal (a sales meeting) is with these connections and have, in place, a strategy that leads to this goal
Whatever LinkedIn is to you; a sales tool, a marketing platform or a networking arena, remember one final golden rule - it's about building know, like and trust with those you connect with, only then can a profitable business outcome be achieved.