The delightful Phil Byrne of Positive Sparks recently interviewed me for his
excellent Digital Sparks podcast.
The article below is based upon the interview. At the bottom of the article, you can find the link to the podcast and have a listen too. It was fun to record!
Q: Sarah, tell us who you are and what you do?
Hi Phil, regarded as “The LinkedIn Lead Generation Expert,” I equip global businesses, right through to solopreneurs, to leverage LinkedIn to affordably grow their businesses.
This involves how to find the right prospects on LinkedIn, connect with them, relationship build, right through to appointment-setting.
Q: How did you get into LinkedIn marketing specifically? What path brought you here?
That’s such a good question. It all began back in 2007 when I was running the marketing agency I founded in 2002.
A number of my agency clients were asking about LinkedIn and what they should be doing with it.
At that time, LinkedIn wasn’t a powerful platform (unlike today!), so I recommended only that they had a presence by setting up a personal account and a company page.
I kept a watching brief and began to notice that LinkedIn was really beginning to change.
It offered more functionality and more professionals were joining.
BUT when I spoke to my marketing agency clients again and recommended they started doing more with LinkedIn, they said, “Yes Sarah, but do what?”
They didn’t know how to leverage it, which remains a problem for many of LinkedIn’s members today.
500+ million are LinkedIn members, each with hundreds or 1000s of connections, but for the vast majority, they are merely what I term ‘connection collectors’.
How many are deriving real leads and business from it? Very few.
The reason? People don’t know the platform and how to leverage their connections and monetise their network.
That is where I come in.
A qualified marketer, I specialise in sale psychology, which I blend with a deep and wide knowledge of the LinkedIn platform.
In 2009, as part my marketing agency, Boost Business Growth, I created an additional offer that was solely dedicated to leveraging LinkedIn to affordably grow your business.
Q: Why do you believe LinkedIn is so important for B2B sales?
LinkedIn a vital part now of the whole business-to-business marketing mix, regardless of if you’re a sole trader or a blue chip.
Since Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016, it’s been changing, and for the better in my view.
It’s far more interesting and interactive. As a result, frequency and dwell rates have boomed.
Let me share more facts with you:
- There are more decision makers on LinkedIn than Facebook or Twitter
- It’s 277% more effective at lead generation than Facebook
- 74% of today’s B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase
- 25,000,000 LinkedIn profiles are viewed everyday.
One of the astounding facts is that 57% of all buying decisions are already made before any sales rep is involved.
So, if you love or loathe them, social media and LinkedIn, are here to stay.
I was speaking at a conference this morning and I asked the delegates, “How many of you knowingly have won work directly via LinkedIn?’
There were quite a few who said that they hadn’t as they didn’t know how to leverage their network.
What I shared with them is this:
“Even if you haven’t knowingly won business on LinkedIn yet, what I’d like you to consider is what work you’ve unknowingly lost because you haven’t optimised and leveraged LinkedIn.”
Your competitors are on LinkedIn; your audience, your customers, your prospects, your employees, your candidates too.
They are using LinkedIn and they are making decisions about you on a 24-hr basis, without you necessarily knowing and even while you’re sleeping.
Whether your business is off or online, LinkedIn gives a sense of getting up close and personal very quickly with you and your brand.
With a membership of 550 million users in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn enables you to target your ideal prospect within 10 miles of a postal zip code.
With LinkedIn you access phenomenal pinpointing as well depth and breadth of reach.
Q: How did you find your first sales via LinkedIn for your business? How has LinkedIn changed since?
Originally I saw a niche for equipping people to use LinkedIn, so I started to offer LinkedIn workshops.
The workshops had a dual purpose. To:
- Equip participants with essential knowledge on how to navigate LinkedIn from a social selling viewpoint
- Ask one question within the workshop that I knew would create demand for my marketing agency’s services.
After reading this, you may well want to know the ONE QUESTION?!
Well, it related to completing the LinkedIn headline in your personal profile.
It’s the field below your photograph at the top of your profile.
Most LinkedIn members unwittingly make the mistake of only adding their job title and employer, instead of the value of their offer and keywords.
The question I would ask in my LinkedIn workshop was this: could you answer in 5 words or less any of the following:
- What is the value of your offer?
- Why should someone use you rather than your competitor?
- What is the essence of your offer, or your differentiator?”
From years of experience running a marketing agency, I knew that, despite wanting to, the majority wouldn’t clearly answer these questions.
The result? It would create opportunities in my marketing business, to produce, for example, a brand blueprint.
The plan worked beautifully.
The workshops equipped participants with practical knowledge, was an excellent intro to my approach and a good indicator if we’d be a good fit to work together in the future.
So that’s how the first sale started.
Building upon the success of the in-person interactive workshops, I now offer a range of services, all with a core focus on making LinkedIn work for you.
The services span these options:
- Me equipping you to leverage LinkedIn yourself
- LinkedIn Done for You
- A blend of both of the above.
The five services are as follows:
- LinkedIn Lead Generation Done for You – delivers prospects to your inbox daily
- LinkedIn Strategy – so that you have a route map for how to use the platform
- LinkedIn Interactive – in-person workshops booked by organisations
- LinkedIn Power Hour – a 1:1 online 60 minutes with me that delivers immediate insight
- LinkedIn Profile Optimisation – makes your personal brand sing and shine.
Q. What has changed or stayed the same on LinkedIn? And why should that matter?
One of my earlier offerings, was an e-learning course on how to use LinkedIn for business growth which sold more than 3,000 memberships.
The reason I stopped offering it was that the rate of change within LinkedIn became so rapid that the material was defunct the minute I made it!
So I would say to anyone considering online course about LinkedIn, or in fact social media or digital marketing in general, to check when it was created.
If it hasn’t been created/updated in the last 3 months, then it’s out of date.
This is why the LinkedIn training I offer now is live, either online or in person, and is bang up to the minute.
Another significant change for me happened a few years ago when I was running one of my popular LinkedIn workshops.
I met a wonderful guy called Chris Williams, who offers goal setting and goal getting workshops.
Based in Birmingham in the UK, Chris said to me, “Sarah, I love the idea of what you’re proposing on this workshop, but I don’t want to do it. Can you do it for me?”
Now, you and I know, that when marketing, we either spend time or money or both.
There is no shortcut.
Chris had very wisely recognised the value of his time.
It equally applies for sole traders as much as, for example, a large business with a marketing department and an inside sales team.
It’s for any businessperson or organisation who realises the value of time, focus and productivity.
In the words of Sir John Harvey Jones, “Only doing what you can do.”
After Chris lit this spark, I started to create a ‘done for you’ service, which has been a game changer for my clients and myself.
We now optimise our clients’ LinkedIn personal profiles for them and offer a connectivity outreach, relationship-building and appointment-setting service.
The service is called Prospect Booster.
Prospect Booster frees people to get the results without spending the time on it.
It also does away with the, let’s face it, boredom of manual drudgery.
Who wants to sit there doing a repetitive click, invite to connect, paste text and so on?
Within the workshops, coaching and strategy days I offer, clients choose whether they want to grow their connections manually or if they prefer a ‘done for you’ service.
Prospect Booster isn’t right for everyone. For some, the manual route is better.
For instance, if they have a niche audience of let’s say, 50 prospects.
Most businesses, however, have a vastly larger potential audience. For them, Prospect Booster is ideal.
Q: What tips would you give to a new B2B company starting out promoting their services via LinkedIn?
Be realistic about the time you have available.
I would also refer to something I touched on very early on, and that is to have a clear proposition.
Without this, it doesn’t matter how well you do on LinkedIn, in terms of reach.
If your proposition isn’t compelling, no one is going to buy from you anyway.
Define your audience for your LinkedIn activity.
Who is your audience?
Who is going to be the face of the company on LinkedIn? And why should the audience listen?
An excellent formula to use is:
- Why you?
- Why me/us?
- Why this?
- Why now?
While you can run ads on LinkedIn, and sponsored LinkedIn company updates all have a place, a more effective strategy is the connectivity route.
Your #1 connections have opportunities to see your status updates, and you can message them within LinkedIn.
Once somebody is your connection (like being a friend on Facebook), you can export their data if you wish.
In case you didn’t already know, LinkedIn is a GDPR-exempt platform because its members have signed up to receive messages through it.
We’ve all been going through the GDPR nightmare recently. If your list hasn’t signed up to a GDPR compliant email list, within LinkedIn, you can still message contacts.
I wrote a blog recently on the ‘8 Benefits of Connectivity as a Strategy on LinkedIn’ relating to the ethos that ‘birds that fly together buy together’.
Of course, as soon as you connect with your target network, it brings all of those other Marketing Directors, Sales Directors, HR Directors, Managing Directors and whoever else you want to target, clustering around you.
Finally, it’s important to create your company page on LinkedIn so that you secure that domain, especially if there are other companies with a similar name.
Q: Many people find going from the first contact to customer difficult, how can we do this via LinkedIn?
I agree, it’s something that many struggle with.
Even those with thousands of connections may ask themselves: “I’ve got all of these connections but how many of them are actually buying from me?”
To overcome this, the first question to ask yourself is, “How can I be valuable and of service to my LinkedIn connections so that they’ll want to engage with me?”
For example, with myself, I publish articles and regular status updates that provide information and expertise that will fill my audience’s knowledge gaps.
The content I publish on LinkedIn relates to the platform itself, as well as social selling, B2B lead generation, digital marketing, sales psychology and marketing best practice.
If you’re not already doing so, you might want to create an editorial calendar so you can think about topics on which you can share updates and articles.
I follow an 80/20 rule: 80% of my content is purely added value non-commercial content, and 20% will be more commercial.
While I might use my LinkedIn account to promote a new service, the majority of the material is purely to add value to my audience and demonstrate expertise.
Remember, it’s always better to show rather than tell.
Another point I’d like to make is that generally speaking, when you invite someone to connect, and they do, resist the urge to sell.
Selling straight off the bat is like a slap in the face when you haven’t yet created a relationship where they know, like, and trust you.
After all, if they don’t know, like, and trust you, they won’t buy from you anyway.
After you’ve connected, the first ‘give forward’ messages you send should have a lightness of touch, add value and position you as the thought leader in your field.
You can offer an appointment in a certain way and not as an overt ‘sell’.
An exception to this rule is if you want to use LinkedIn for a referral marketing campaign.
In this instance, a direct ask as the first message after connecting is fine as long as you convey the benefit to the referrer you’re contacting.
Another top tip is to use an appointment scheduler link, such as timetrade, acuity, schedule once.
Especially those under the age of 40 like using the scheduling links, rather than just calling you or exchanging more messages to book an appointment.
So in summary, the answer to your question:
- Understand who your audience is and who you are to them
- Know where their knowledge gaps are pertinent to your offer, and how you can solve problems in their role
- Ensure you’re connected to your audience so they can see your updates, and you can send them messages within LinkedIn, which also go to their registered email address – this means it’s irrelevant if they visit LinkedIn or not
- Send five messages within LinkedIn that deliver value to your audience and then you can start to ask for an online meeting or a call by suggesting that they might find a meeting or chat with you beneficial.
Bear in mind whether you want to do the DIY route or whether you want it done for you. Ask yourself:
- How much time do you have to message and connect with hundreds or thousands of prospects?
- And how much expertise in knowing what messages convert a LinkedIn connection to an appointment?
Q: Given your great tips here, where do most companies go wrong on LinkedIn?
I’ve recently written a piece called ‘Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail’ precisely on this topic!
I ask you to cast your mind back to when you left home this morning.
As you left the house, did you walk out of the door without knowing your destination and how you were going to travel there, on foot, by car, by bike?
I’m sure you did have an idea when you left the house this morning where you were going and how you going to get there, and it’s the same with your LinkedIn activity.
LinkedIn, along with platforms like Facebook, are vast, powerful tools.
They need a wealth of knowledge and expertise applied; otherwise you waste time going round in circles while burning valuable opportunities.
It’s pretty much a certainty that at least one of your competitors WILL have this knowledge and will be swiping business from under you with it.
Q: How long should we spend each week on our sales, Sarah?
When I work with companies on their sales strategy, it starts with two fundamental questions:
- Value – what is the lifetime value of your prospect? How much is that potential customer worth to you/going to spend with you in total? The higher the value, the more time and outlay it is going to take to get them in per client.
- Volume – how many of those customers do you need to make your business a success?
The answers to these two questions determine the amount of time you spend.
Q: What tools can you recommend to help us?
Well, first of all, I recommend LinkedIn’s mobile app. When you’re stood waiting for the kettle to boil, it’s easy to check what people have posted and read what messages you have!
Also, there is Sales Navigator, which is a sales platform that you buy within LinkedIn.
While the Sales Navigator app has limited functionality, it’s still worth downloading. The app is free, but you’ll need to pay for the Sales Navigator upgrade.
There is also the LinkedIn jobs app, which is useful for anyone seeking work.
Of course, I have to mention what we offer, which is Prospect Booster. This is my Lead Generation Done for You service where we do the ‘heavy lifting’ for you.
So that you don’t have to, we:
- Optimise your LinkedIn profile and presence so that you’re found by those seeking what you offer
- Connect you to your ideal prospects and guarantee you’ll get between 250 and 500 of those in your pipeline every month
- Relationship-build and can send appointment-setting messages for you.
Prospect Booster is proving popular with organisations that market to other businesses and want to enjoy the reach LinkedIn delivers, without having to do the hard manual work.
Q: Where can we find you online?
You’re welcome to connect with me via LinkedIn.
There’s also the opportunity to win a free 1:1 with me.
Q: Sarah, any final message?
Yes, invest in getting real insight on how to take fewest actions to give you the biggest gains on LinkedIn.
And happy linking!
Listen to the Podcast with Sarah and Phil!
Love the idea of LinkedIn Done For You? Watch the animated 🎬 about Prospect Booster.