by Moritz Spangenberg

LinkedIn is a gold mine, especially for B2B companies. If done right, the platform allows you generate loads of demand and a never-ending stream of qualified leads and new clients. Nowadays you can find nearly every professional on LinkedIn. That is why it is the perfect place for every B2B startup to market and sell their products and services. Yet, many startups and established companies are falling short on putting in place a sustainable marketing and sales strategy as well as a repeatable process for generating revenue from LinkedIn.

Let’s be honest, it looks tempting to do cold outreach to strangers with the hope to land a sale. It does not cost you a lot of effort to send connection invites or InMail’s to hundreds of people on LinkedIn each week. You search for a decision maker in your target market, write a text, copy/paste, voilà, you are one step closer to your sales target. Right? It has a good return on invest right? Well, while the price is not very high, the conversion rates are super low. And, let’s be honest, the market is sick of it! I would even go so far and argue that you are risking to harm your brand if you continue with cold mass mailing today. Decision makers as well as other professionals are receiving hundreds of irrelevant messages each month. Hello, my name is X, since you are a super Executive Y, you should try out Z. Stop. This is not social selling!

Social selling is about developing and leveraging social relationships to build collaborations. Social selling builds on establishing trust and relationships with prospects during the process. According to LinkedIn, Social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than their peers. But how can startups and other businesses harness the power of social selling. I want to provide you with a simplified, yet highly beneficial and valuable guidance on how you can generate a never-ending stream of demand for your products or services from LinkedIn.

Prerequisite: Create a trusted professional brand

Before you want to go out to market and sell your product or services, make sure you have a personal (and company brand) that people trust in place. On LinkedIn, personal brands (=personal profiles) are much more important than company brands (=company pages). Why is that? Well, personal profiles have up to ten times more first degree connection than a company page has followers. Ten times, that is huge! The reason for that is, that people prefer to interact with people, and not with logos. Plus, company pages are super limited on communication and engagement, they cannot send direct messages or like and comment on any content on the platform. Therefore, let us focus on the personal profile solely for the matter of this article. If you review your personal profile, you want to think about it as landing page. Have a good picture in place (well-centred headshot), work with suitable colours in the background. Have a clear message around what you are offering and the value you provide to others. Make sure to offer social proof (skills, recommendations) to your visitors and embed a clear Call-to-Action to make clear that leads can contact you for certain matters. The details matter, optimize your profile from top to bottom, including your about section and working experience.

Social selling playbooks

Since you have a personal profile on LinkedIn by now, that your customers like to visit, it is time to start with social selling. Here are five essential pillars that are the groundwork for your social selling playbooks. By using elements of those pillars and tweaking them, you will be able to generate demand and leads for your business.

Targeting and understanding
Let us assume, that you have a well-defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Search for those customers in your target market on LinkedIn. You want to know who they are, what they read on LinkedIn, what content do they like, what conversations do they start and engage with on LinkedIn and what content do they publish themselves. Your objective is to understand what content they are interested in. Example: Your ICP is an Innovation Manager in the financial services industry in the DACH region, in companies with company headcount of 201-1,000 and they like content that talks about leveraging the power of external innovation.

Content game
We assume that by now you know what content your ICP on LinkedIn is interested in. From that, you want to define a content strategy and start your content game. Example: Write one article per month about external innovation and post fives time a week about how you solve problems around innovation for businesses in your target market. If your content is relevant enough and your breath is long enough, people will engage with your content (likes, comments). This is the perfect conversation starter. Start conversations with those people and talk about their problems. Build relationships. Be social. Remember it is called SOCIAL selling for a reason. If you have built up trust, chances are, that they will turn to you to solve their issues sooner or later or refer to someone that is in need.

Content collaboration
This is a magic pill. This is a tactic that enables you to build relationships and sell to nearly anyone on LinkedIn, not matter the brand or size of the company. This tactic builds on the fact that many people, especially executives, like to be heard and like to be seen. Within the group of executives that are active on LinkedIn, there is a high share of extroverts, people that like to shine and be on stage. You are the one that is offering the stage to them. You are offering them to collaborate on content for the matter of building a relationship until there is a time to pitch your product or services. Example: Invite five innovation managers (your ICP) to speak at an event that is about trends and insights around innovation in the financial services industry. Spend time with them during the preparation of the event, the discussion during the event and make sure to market and promote it effectively.

Time to pitch
You are spending some time with your ICP. Now it is up to you to decide when it is a good time to pitch your product or services. Ideally your customer turns to you by themselves, but it is valid to give it a push if that does not happen. Choose the time for your sales pitch wisely. You do not want to be perceived as super salesy after you have put in a lot of effort before, right? Tailor your offering, give it a personal touch and make your pitch. It is ok when you are not landing a deal right away. You have build a relationship and if there is a good fit, the time for a collaboration will come.