From the LinkedIn briefings and training courses I run it’s amazing how little most people know about what can be achieved through LinkedIn.
For some people, a little is sufficient. For others they can really benefit from using the full range of LinkedIn capability.
However, there isn’t some magic switch, and to access the full range means building progressively through successive levels.
I’ve developed the LinkedIn Ladder or Roadmap graphic below to help people like you to identify where you are now, where you could aim for, the benefits obtainable at each level, and the behaviour that goes with it.
The LinkedIn Ladder (or Roadmap) helps you to Connect LinkedIn with Sales
There are essentially THREE elements that the Ladder considers:
- Your LinkedIn Profile and Personal Brand
- Your network of connections and how you build relationships
- How you leverage your profile and network to attract, find and create new sales conversations.
I hope it provides some clarity and helps you to see how you can improve the way you use LinkedIn and optimise your efforts by:
- Assessing where you and your team are now, based on your LinkedIn personal profiles, contact networks and LinkedIn activity
- Identifying which level you’d like to get to, based on your role, and the outcomes you seek, your customer relationships and your sales goals
- Helping you to plan the steps you need to take, and the progress you need to make, and the time needed to make and sustain those steps
- Providing a means to monitor and review progress of you and your team, and identify potential improvements.
If you’d like to discuss this please do get in touch with me, Mark Stonham at Wurlwind.
The FIVE levels on the Wurlwind LinkedIn Ladder
There is actually a sixth level, the first being people who haven’t yet registered with LinkedIn, but for those who have here’s a quick tour guide.
As you read through, consider where you are, and also where your team members and colleagues are, and where you would like to get to.
Level 1 – Basic LinkedIn Profile – potentially damaging for lead generation and sales
A high percentage of LinkedIn profiles are still at this stage. The LinkedIn account was created and the current role was added. Maybe there were good intentions to return to add more details. But for whatever reason the profile has been neglected. On the one hand there are missed opportunities for business owners and professionals at this level. On the other hand a neglected profile might well have a detrimental and negative impact, on you, and on the company you work for. It’s surprising how little it takes to be passed over and not contacted, if for example you’re trying to call prospects and you want them to return your call.
Level 2 – Professional LinkedIn Profile – eg. for Account Managers & Fee Earning Specialists
Adding a good photo, updating all the contact details, completing details about each work position, education etc. makes the profile look much more professional. This might take a couple of hours, so is something that can be done in an evening or over the weekend. This is perhaps equivalent of having your CV online. Activity at this level is about connecting with the people you already know offline, with colleagues, customers, business partners who you deal with regularly. If you’re an account manager with no new-business responsibility this level may be adequate, for now. Connect with your customers and keep in touch regularly offline and online, and share valuable content with them.
Level 3 – Engaging LinkedIn Profile – eg. for New Business Sales and Consultants and Business Owners
Getting to level 3 takes more thought, but pays greater dividends. It’s about shifting your focus from ‘About me’ to ‘About the value I deliver’. It’s about starting to show your knowledge of and experience in your customers markets. Let me illustrate the difference. Profiles of sales people I review are frequently focused on results achieved for their employer – how they hit targets, over-achieved and so on. That has little value for customers and prospects. It might even be harmful when trying to secure a meeting. Including examples of problems solved, benefits delivered and impacts made on previous customers businesses has far more impact. It shows your expertise and that you have value to offer, in exchange for time with a prospect. It also helps them realise they will need to spend less time bringing you up to speed with their sector and their business.
You’ll find tips to help you think about your personal brand and profile here.
If your role is new business then this should be the minimum level to aim at. By including and optimising keywords in your profile you are more likely to be found by prospects. By including benefits delivered you are more likely to win some time with key people, for example for that initial phone call. You’re also in a stronger position to connect with people through LinkedIn discussion groups and use that as a lead generation opportunity, to start conversations with people who could become customers or introducers.
Level 4 – Social LinkedIn Profile – eg. for Business Owners developing Business by Referral
This refers to being socially engaged – in a professional sense. It’s equivalent to finding common ground with people in person through your respective backgrounds, life experiences, even hobbies and interests. It’s a way to move beyond the formality, and build emotional connections through shared interests, values, concerns etc. If you took a client out for a drink what sort of mix of topics would you discuss? What part of your life would you also feel comfortable chatting about? In moderation, that side exists on social media and even in LinkedIn. However, moving swiftly and seamlessly through to sales conversations is essential. One technique is to mentioning 3-5 trigger events that previous prospects were going through that led to them becoming a customer.
Having developed an engaging profile, and a larger network, it’s worth committing time to reap the benefits. Keeping on-top of who’s viewing your profile, emails, invites, and notifications from discussions you’re part of is pretty essential. Groups can be a rich source of new sales conversations, so it’s worth investing time in them. Using LinkedIn as a social prospecting system does take time commitment, of perhaps an hour a day, but for new business with high value clients this can be a lot more effective than alternatives. If you attend business network meetings you’ll know it’s useful to take a referral strategy, seeing who people can introduce you to, rather than trying to sell directly to the room. This approach on LinkedIn is very effective too, as you are develop work of mouth marketing and lead generation.
How to create a Success Community
If you run or work for a larger business, consider the benefit if your head of customer services or your delivery team were operating at this Social level, individually, or through your LinkedIn Company Page or your own discussion group.
Their ability to identify and share tips on how to use your product better, how to implement and get to the value and payback more quickly and to answer questions in public will pay huge dividends. The content shared here will be valuable to many people such as:
- to your sales team directly, keeping them up-to-date with news and stories to share in phone conversations, meetings and presentations
- for them to share with customers and prospects online, either by Liking and Commenting, or by sending specific links to individual contacts
- for your referral circle, introducers, channel partners and of course your customers, keeping you front-of mind again with stories and tips to share
- and of course to your customers, to keep them engaged with what you are doing and how to gain more benefit
- and then your prospects, who will see not just the information and engagement but also the success community that you have created.
Getting to this level will take some planning, change, investment and time. However, do you think it could really accelerate your marketing and sales?
Check out the Wurlwind Social Selling Framework for an outline of a structured approach to achieve this.
Level 5 – LinkedIn Influencer Profile – eg. for CEOs, MDs and Senior Solution Specialists
This level is more applicable for business owners and sales directors, rather than members of a sales team. It does take a certain mindset, methodology and commitment to become a thought-leader, to provide insight and educational content, and to be very publicly visible. Being geared up to handle inquiries in volume and being able to deliver in scale means that the resource commitment to LinkedIn and other social media and lead generation activity can be translated into significantly greater revenue for you, your team and your business.
There is also a benefit in developing what I call a community mindset and co-operation culture, where customers, partners, staff in other departments etc. contribute to creating and sharing content. For example, it might be customers or customer services who are adding hints and tips about how to get the most from your product to your LinkedIn Company Page or discussion group.
With the right proposition, community and content the percentage of inbound leads should increase handsomely, and allow outbound lead generation to diminish. Progressing prospects through the sales funnel is still necessary, although having structured customer journeys in place, using tools such as marketing automation, can result in a steady stream of well qualified warm leads.
LinkedIn Ladder – and the benefits of moving towards Social Selling
LinkedIn is creating opportunities for sales leaders and business owners to move their marketing and sales to another level.
If you’re wondering whether time spent using LinkedIn is worthwhile, or whether training is a good investment, these are the benefits to weigh-up.
- Increasing reach – for vendors (and buyers) to engage in business outside their traditional geographic area
- Increasing choice – to find customers (or suppliers) who might not previously have been considered
- Moving towards ‘perfect knowledge’ – being able to research businesses far more thoroughly than before
- Reducing risk – being able to verify the track record of individuals and businesses in ways that were not previously possible
- Reducing time – for those who want to, they can move more quickly, and reduce the elapsed time from need to solution
Meanwhile there are organisations who are changing their approach to Marketing and Sales in ways outlined here, in order to become much more competitive.
If you’d like further guidance to help you plan your LinkedIn journey and Connect LinkedIn with Sales then please get in touch with me, Mark Stonham, and let’s start a conversation.
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