LinkedIn has huge potential for specialists and leaders in the B2B market.
However it’s getting Tougher to Stand Out in LinkedIn, and to Get Results, especially with limited resources.
Maybe that’s what’s on your mind as you read this.
The LinkedWIN approach to LinkedIn Optimisation is a blueprint to help specialists and leaders to develop a solid platform for ongoing business success. It is about the long game, but also includes short ‘sprints’.
I’ve designed it specifically for independent consultants, employed sales people, managers, professionals and individuals who want new clients.
Fundamentally we all need to work with others, so we can add our value to what they do, to solve problems for/with them, to help them make money, save money or meet other objectives. And we can use LinkedIn to do this better.
The Challenges for Specialists and Leaders
The THREE issues that come up from my contacts and clients most often are around:
- How to STAND OUT – to communicate their specialism and expertise in a way that gets the attention of their intended audience effectively.
- How to FIND PROSPECTS – the best ways to identify, find and connect with people who they’d like as clients.
- How to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS – in a productive and effective way with limited time and resources when there are so many option, tasks, techniques and things to do.
Maybe you can recognise these issues yourself. These are not specifically challenges or goals just for LinkedIn. Recognising and addressing them goes to the core of what professional people need to do.
LinkedIn has created a Global Village
Apparently we’re only SIX STEPS away from anyone in the world.
So our clients, prospects can be closer to us.
However they may be closer to our competitors too.
What LinkedIn has done is to peel back a lot of the protection that existed when we couldn’t access near-perfect information. LinkedIn has rapidly accelerated the pace of change in buying and selling.
To adapt the phrase from Warren Buffet – “When the tide goes out we can see who is swimming naked”.
When potential buyers can check us out, and check out our competition, at the click of a mouse, those who are able to raise their game, and leverage the new tools, will have an advantage.
The good news is that we can turn these issues on their head in a way that enables us to meet ALL THREE challenges, as outlined 3 sections below.
There are many ways to leverage LinkedIn
You may have come across and read about other approaches to leverage LinkedIn.
- some focus on profile optimisation, to be found by buyers
- some focus on lead generation and promises of great results
- some emphasis the importance of relationship building
My approach – the LinkedWIN blueprint – combines all of these, and builds on them in a unique way – that I’ve designed with senior specialists in mind.
The attraction of a new tool
Buying has changed considerably over the past 2 decades, with the roll-out of The Internet (and Search) and then Social Media (and Reputation).
LinkedIn is a new tool. A powerful one it has to be admitted. But one that needs to be understood and used well. And also used in the right way.
And the biggest misunderstanding is the lack of CONTEXT. For example:
- A nail gun is a step up from a hammer.
- But it can be dangerous for the user, and others around.
- It needs to be used alongside other tools, like a saw and tape measure.
- There needs to be a design for what is to be built.
- And there needs to be a reason for building the thing in the first place.
A skilled carpenter will benefit from a nail gun, and know when and how to use it. Buying a nail gun will not turn a novice into an experienced professional.
You may have seen this in other situations. For example, the person with expensive new golf equipment who can’t hit a ball and doesn’t know the etiquette. Hence the phrase “All the gear, but no idea”.
And it’s similar with LinkedIn.
But, since you’ve read this far I guess you’re interested in how to get more from LinkedIn. In which case, I encourage you to continue.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool
Compared to 30+ years ago when I started my sales career, LinkedIn has made a huge difference towards creating the modern selling environment.
The challenges are not new.
But they are more pronounced in the modern, digital era.
- Buyers now have far more access to information.
- There are more tools and techniques available.
- Competitors can reach into new markets as barriers to entry reduce.
The main benefits of LinkedIn
I summarise them in 3 areas:
REACH – we can search for people across the globe with ease. And others (our potential buyers) can also search with ease.
SPEED – what used to take weeks and days can now be completed in hours and minutes. The clock speed of business has increased and the cycle time of activities and tasks has reduced.
REPUTATION – what was the limitation of word-of-mouth or the preserve of those with large budgets for PR and advertising is now available essentially to all, for free (apart from some time).
To unlock these LinkedIn benefits does take some understanding, and action. I’ll reveal the key elements below and in other ways.
However, as with the hammer, nail gun and carpenter analogy there are some fundamentals that need to be considered in order to leverage Linkedin effectively.
Are you swimming naked?
Many of my clients, experienced individuals, have previously, or still do, work in medium or large businesses. They have become a specialist at what they do. And they work as part of a team to deliver value to clients, or run their part of the business.
Some of them have business development as part or all of their role, as, for example:
- Managing Director, CEO, or other business leader role
- Sales Director, Head of Sales or other sales leader role
- Head of department, or a delivery role
- Senior Professional, Consultant or other essentially fee earning role
Whether you are still part of a business team, or have become independent (through choice or circumstances) you can hopefully identify with the main points I’m putting across in this article.
And the NAKED part of it:
- is your LinkedIn PROFILE weak, skeletal, or just a CV?
- is your NETWORK limited to people you’ve worked with and random requests?
- is your ACTIVITY on LinkedIn that of a ‘consumer’, passively reading the feed?
If so, is there any wonder you’re not getting much (if any) value from LinkedIn.
However, the issue is not with LinkedIn.
And in fairness it’s not entirely your fault.
The landscape has changed over 20 years.
Your role may well have changed.
A new perspective, and skills, and approach, is needed.
At this point some solution providers would include a Call to Action to an Offer Page and ask you to sign-up or at least give them your email address in order to find out what ‘The Big Reveal Answer’ is.
I’m not going to do that. I’m going to continue to add value here.
I hope and trust that you will understand why as you read on.
However, if you would like to contact me you can email me at email@example.com.
The LINKEDWIN CHALLENGER
So, to continue…
I’m a BIG FAN of the CHALLENGER SALE approach.
Key points of particular benefit:
- Challengers perform on par with other sales types in a good economy.
- However, in tough times Challengers outperform the other 4 types.
- And Challengers significantly outperform Relationship Builder sales types when times are tough.
You may not be a sales professional. However, whether you are a business leader, sales leader or independent consultant, the Challenger approach is very powerful, and can be adapted for people in other roles, who still have a business development responsibility.
Again, I could now signpost you to a sign-up, but I won’t, and I’ll continue to add value and outline the LinkedWIN approach to you.
How to STAND OUT on LinkedIn
Do you consider yourself to be unique? You should!
No-one else has your mix of:
- Work experience
- Market knowledge
So, how to find a way to convey that to the people who matter?
Don’t allow yourself to be bland, and me-too.
One way to do that is to BE A CHALLENGER
Not is a confrontational way.
But in a knowledgeable, confident, interesting, memorable way.
Turn your experience, market knowledge, perspective into INSIGHT.
Build that into everything you do with and for clients.
And then you will STAND OUT in a positive and professional way.
The benefits of STANDING OUT
There are many, including:
- people can see us more easily – especially useful if they are prospects
- we can attract enquiries from our ideal clients
- we can see further – to view global or senior contacts
- we can approach people we’d like to do business with
- we are easier to be introduced when we request
- we can reach higher – higher into prospect organisations.
- to start conversations with more significant people
- we are easier to refer to the right people at the right time
The LinkedWIN blueprint is designed to help individuals to STAND OUT for the long-term and also to create short term opportunities.
Again, some would put a Call-To-Action here to get your email address.
But not me. I’ll continue to add value.
As I suspect you would with your prospects.
The LinkedWIN GAIN blueprint – 4 steps to LinkedWIN
I’ve used my knowledge and experience to develop this 4 step approach to help experts and specialist to optimise LinkedIn and be more successful in finding new clients and growing their business.
I’ve been a LinkedIn and Social Selling specialist since 2011.
I have a Business Development background going back 35 years.
Many clients have already found this approach to be very helpful, easy to understand and apply. I hope you find it useful too.
As you read this, it may be helpful to visualise a 3-legged stool, where Goals is the platform and the other 3 elements are the legs.
The value of a stool is that we can stand on it, in order to be seen, and also to see further.
Here are the 4 steps:
The 1st element of the GAIN approach and the LinkedWIN Blueprint is Goals.
– you’ll know lots about the importance of goals. You’ll probably start by understanding your clients goals, and maybe help them to define them better. So too do I.
The story about Alice and the Cheshire Cat by Lewis Carol provides great insight for Experts and Specialists, and is an amusing and educational way to introduce these 4 steps to LinkedIn Mastery.
The encounter starts with Alice (the Client) asking – “Which way should I go from here?”
To which the Cheshire Cat (the Expert) replies – “That depends on where you want to get to.”
My approach is to look at Goals as 5 levels, or concentric rings.
I believe these provide clarity, granularity and power, especially when considering a time period or a project. Falling short in 1-2 areas is compensated by meeting or exceeding goals in other areas.
- Purpose – the central ring is about WHY. Why do you do what you do? And Why should people care. My Why is to Help People be more successful. This is refined by my Positioning – next.
- Position – this defines our market position. So for me it’s LinkedIn, Social Selling and Business Development for Individuals and teams.
- Sales Related Goals – this covers revenue, leads, calls, conversions etc.
- Assets – this includes reputation, network, content, processes, skills etc.
- Learnings – increasing knowledge and skills come under this category.
These are also aligned with building Trust, and the Trust Equation.
Goals are equivalent to the seat of the stool – or the platform to stand on.
Find out how to set realistic and achievable Goals for LinkedIn and Business Development here…
The following 3 elements are the 3 legs.
The 2nd area in the GAIN strategy is Activity.
When Alice replied that she didn’t much care where she went, as long as she got somewhere the Cheshire Cat replied: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
We all need to ‘walk’ in order to get somewhere, but we can also be smart about this.
- If we don’t ‘walk’ in LinkedIn we’re not going to achieve very much, if anything.
- And if we ‘walk’ on LinkedIn in the wrong direction we are likely to fail to make progress, nevermind get to where we intended, and it’s easy to get frustrated.
Results will be far more assured and predictable through LinkedIn if a structured plan is followed, generating results through a mix of outreach, referrals and enquiries.
Activity is needed to build relationships, develop sales opportunities, propose, close, deliver etc. This is the heart of Social Selling.
And underlying this is having a Relationship Strategy, at the Business Development level of our plans, including, for example:
- how we welcome and get to know new contacts
- how we introduce them to potentially beneficial ideas
- how we nurture those ideas into opportunities and into sales
- how we onboard new clients through those initial engagements
- how we nurture new clients to encourage loyalty, repeat purchases, referrals etc.
In my experience, most senior professionals and business leaders do this very informally, in an unstructured way, and at relatively low volumes.
For sure, a smaller number of deep relationships based on mutual trust are far better than a transactional ‘relationship’ around low-value sales.
The challenge for many new independent consultants and senior leaders is how to scale-up.
Find out how to Work LinkedIn to get far better results for your time here…
The 3rd element of the GAIN approach is Identity.
- at a basic level our Identity starts with our LinkedIn profile, but that’s just the first level as LinkedIn provides far more potential to establish a powerful identity as an expert,specialist, and go-to person.
- the content we share is an increasingly important part of our identity.
- our identify needs to be grounded on our personality, skills and experience
- it should also align with market opportunities
There is an art and science to developing an effective, optimised LinkedIn profile. And additional strategies and techniques available to support referrals, outreach and enquiries.
Find out how to Build a Powerful Position on LinkedIn here.
And finally, the 4th element of the GAIN pneumonic is Network
– it’s said that “Our net worth is a function of ourNetwork”. And increasingly it’s not what we know, or who we know,but who knows us, and what they know us for.
LinkedIn is a fantastic platform and community within which we can each develop and cultivate our network. I’ve identified specific groups of people who we should connect with and develop relationships with as experts and specialists in order that we can be more successful.
Find out how to develop a valuable Network on LinkedIn here:
The Benefit of the joined-up LinkedWIN approach
You may already be able to see that there is considerable benefit in a joined-up approach, but just to emphasis the point:
- Without clear GOALS it is difficult to make good decisions, especially where to allocate limited time and budget, and to review results and progress.
- Without ACTIVITY we won’t develop relationships as effectively, we won’t be delivering our true value to our network, and will be rewarded accordingly (which may be much less than we deserve).
- If our IDENTITY isn’t clear our Network contacts won’t know our value and our Activity efforts will not convert well.
- Without a solid NETWORK of relevant people our Profile and Posts will yield less, conversions will be less and we’ll have to Work much harder in the Activity area.
Does this make sense to you?
Do you think it’s relevant, applicable and potentially valuable for you in the short, medium or long-term?
If so then do get in touch and let’s explore how I can help you to be more successful in achieving what you desire for your career or business.
If you’ve found this article useful and would like to take things further I invite you to take action here:
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions and let’s ‘start a conversation’.
- Take the LinkedWIN Self-Assessment – identify what’s stopping you from achieving more
- Book an introductory call with Mark Stonham – ideally once you’ve done the Self-Assessment, let’s have an initial ’Discovery Call’ to explore how you can improve your LinkedIn and Business Development results
About Mark Stonham
My purpose or mission is to help experts and specialists to be more successful by helping specialists, people in trusted advisor roles and leaders to deliver more value to more clients.
I do this primarily by helping experts and specialists to improve their approach to Business Development, their Social Selling skills and their use of LinkedIn.
I work with self-employed independent consultants and coaches and also with business leaders and their teams in knowledge industries such as IT solutions, Agencies, Professional Services firms and similar.