LinkedIn offers an entire suite of features to make your job easier. It’s the Facebook of the professional world and a business developer’s dream. Follow these 6 steps to make the most of LinkedIn for B2B business development.
1. Maximize your profile.
It all starts with a tricked-out profile. You wouldn’t accept a Match.com request from someone without a photo or bio, would you? Much like the online dating world, you won’t get very far on LinkedIn without completing your personal profile.
Use a professional headshot with a neutral background (no after work happy hour pictures!) that communicates some personality. Be sure to fill out your profile completely with education, work experience, and a keyword-rich summary.
2. Make connections.
If you’re just getting started on LinkedIn, expand your network by connecting with friends, colleagues, vendors, prospects, classmates—anyone with whom you have had a professional relationship. Add a link to your e-mail signature to alert your e-mail contacts that you are on LinkedIn.
Tip: maximize your Gmail contacts with Rapportive, a Google extension that previews a contact’s LinkedIn profile inside your Gmail inbox.
After meeting someone new, immediately follow-up by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Be sure to include a personal note that mentions the context of your meeting.
Once you’ve made connections, engage with them! Connect by liking and commenting on updates, endorsing skills, congratulating on career advancements, and offering opinions on shared content. Engaging with your connections not only develops relationships, it raises your visibility with others in the network.
3. Share content.
Your personal LinkedIn profile should function as a mini company page. Post relevant company content such as news articles, blogs, and other PR pieces to show that your company is going places and that you are an ideal point of contact. By sharing and interacting with your company’s content, you are personalizing your engagement and adding value to your relationships. Be sure to regularly post your own professional updates as well.
4. Participate in groups.
Promote your organization’s expertise and leadership by finding relevant groups in your industry—or your clients’ industries—and participating in discussions and starting conversations on relevant topics. Groups can also boost your own professional development while building your reputation within the community. Watch your salesperson tone and don’t spend all of your time trying to sell, as group monitors are quick to expel members that are too sales-y.
5. Search to create prospect lists.
Start with the “People you may know” list. LinkedIn has recommended these people to you for a reason—find out who and what you have in common before you connect.
Creating a list of businesses to target is easy with LinkedIn’s advanced search filters. Search by location, industry, and company size to build a starting list of companies that match your ideal customer. Don’t be afraid to step up your search game with advanced search.
Once you’ve identified target organizations, locate their key decision makers. You may not find them on LinkedIn, but don’t panic! Venture beyond LinkedIn to the company’s website to identify contacts for purchasing or key managers. Another great resource? A Chamber of Commerce’s member list.
6. Send InMail.
When your list is in order, it’s time to say hello. If you are already connected to someone, sending a message on LinkedIn is free. If the recipient is not in your network, you have to pay to get in their inbox with an InMail (LinkedIn has bills to pay, too! Here’s their sales pitch). Don’t want to shell out the cash for an InMail? There’s always good old fashioned e-mail.
Your message should allude to connections you have in common or shared business interests. Add a personal note to the connection request. Finally, follow the prospect’s company page on LinkedIn to stay plugged in to news and to identify topics of conversation for your follow-up message.
B2B business development on LinkedIn comes down to making yourself and your company look good, using search tools to target businesses and employees who matter to you, and personalizing messages that will get your foot in the door.