Everyone is online nowadays. From the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to the janitor at your local high school.
They’re online for the same reasons you are: to be entertained, to engage with others, to source information, and to find solutions to their problems.
The best part about this is that everyone you want to sell to is online too. So this post is about how to engage with buyers and decision makers on these platforms.
A lot of the time, they can be found and identified on LinkedIn. So we’re going to focus on how you can leverage LinkedIn to sell successfully online.
But before we get into the nitty gritty of that, let’s discuss the first fundamental step of identifying decision makers.
Build an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
The first step to building your ICP is knowing who your Ideal Target Company is. If you don’t, learn here how to identify them.
Building your ideal customer profile is a little different, as it involves actually speaking to some of the people within your target customer base.
Here’s a simple 3-part formula you can follow.
Give them a name.
HubSpot likes to have a little fun with this process and they give clients the same name as their functions, for example, ‘Manager Aaron’ and ‘Executive Eric’. It’s a good idea to do a similar thing, as it really does help you keep track of people’s roles and functions throughout conversations.
Here is an example ICP to illustrate this point:
2. Figure out how they think.
Engage in a little bit of armchair psychology. Identify what challenges your ICP may be facing in their current roles.
This will help you identify their value drivers: the key elements that enable them to be successful in their current roles and what exactly they’re trying to achieve.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, people buy emotionally before they rationalize a purchase with data. This is a core business truth to consider when selling online, and you need to really empathize with the emotional pain they’re experiencing.
Are they falling short on hitting their revenue goals? Are they struggling with workplace efficiencies? Come up with a pain vs. gain solution, using what I call the Impact Matrix, and you’ll be halfway to making your sale or conversion.
3. Join their digital playground.
It’s not enough to recognise that everyone’s online nowadays, you also need to do some research into where they’re hanging out and with whom.
Do they rely on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other sources for news? Are they following any other thought leaders? What sort of social media updates do they post?
Asking these sorts of questions is going to help you find and engage the right buyers and decision makers for your business online. Here’s more on the concept of a digital playground.
Boost your LinkedIn profile
I already mentioned that LinkedIn is an invaluable platform for finding and engaging decision makers, and it’s worth covering how to make your profile as credible and customer-centric as possible.
You need to ensure that your profile is focused on the value that you provide to customers, not the sales or returns they can bring to you.
LinkedIn is the number one place for decision makers to look you up. I recently wrote a blog post about how to use LinkedIn to attract better prospects which expands on what I’m about to say here. Basically, there are five main things you need to focus on when boosting your profile.
- Photo. Make sure you have a professional-looking photo that aligns with the type of person they’d expect to meet if you were to walk into their office.
- Tagline. Create a tagline that relates not only to your official job title, but also to the ways in which you help customers. Your tagline is the first ‘brief’ people get to read on you when they visit your profile, so make sure it’s a catchy one.
- Summary. A great summary should tell visitors a bit about your professional trajectory and a bit about your personal goals. Focus on how both have impacted your success in sales and how you can positively impact the lives of your customers.
- Experience. Ensure your experience section is focused on the milestones you’ve helped your customers achieve by providing tailored solutions to their business problems. It shouldn’t be about how many times you crushed your quota — your ICPs don’t care about that! They just want to know that they’re front-and-centre in your mind, and that you care.
- Recommendations. This section really sticks in people’s minds and provides you with an opportunity to shine, so regularly ask your best customers for positive referrals and publish them.
Find your ICPs on LinkedIn
Now we get into the really fun stuff, where you leverage some of the work you did in identifying your ICP to conduct searches based on the firmographic and demographic information available about them online.
This will help you identify clear lists of prospects and decision makers who are in your niche and match the profile of others in your target customer base.
Save every search you use so that you can automatically receive alerts whenever new decision makers either enter or leave that particular cohort.
A great under-utilised part of LinkedIn is on the righthand side of each profile, and it’s called ‘People also viewed…’
This is invaluable because it uses an algorithm to show you similar people who you may have missed in your first search (the one you saved). It broadens your sweep, and in doing so, raises your stakes for success.
Engage with them via LinkedIn
There are two types of engagement in the online world: passive and active.
Engaging ICPs online is part of the so-called social selling landscape — I say so-called because selling is by nature a social pursuit, and always has been. But that’s beyond the point!
Social selling is now part of your selling formula, and while it will never replace the phone, it’s a solid avenue for you to explore via digital mediums that people use daily.
Let’s break down the types of passive engagement you can perform on LinkedIn.
- Following. When you follow your ICPs on LinkedIn, you get updates on all of their activity. What could be an easier way to stay up-to-date with everything they do?
- Commenting. When you comment on their posts, it not only shows that you care, but that you’re listening and can provide valuable insights.
- Endorsing. Tread carefully when it comes to endorsing, but if you feel confident that someone has certain skills and expertise, then endorse away — they will certainly appreciate it and potentially view you as a thought leader in that particular area.
- Liking. A quick and effective way to show you support and value the content someone puts out there is liking their posts — it’s the ultimate passive engagement technique that will help put you on their radar.
- Re-sharing. A pimped-up version of liking, re-sharing content demonstrates first of all that you have a network of interested people to re-share to, and second of all that you truly value the content they’re circulating.
Okay, so what about active forms of engagement?
There are two main types on LinkedIn.
- Connection request. Take the option LinkedIn provides to customise your connection request, rather than send the stock standard invitation. It’s a quick way to demonstrate that you have done a little research into them, what they do and what they stand for. It implies that you’ve got more to talk about, and that a connection will be of benefit to both of you. You don’t have to tell your life story in your first message — just make sure they know why you’re connecting and that it isn’t random or an accident.
- InMail. Stick with the ‘Three R’s’ format outlined in this post about how to write killer emails at scale. The proper structure of an outbound email consists of Relevance, Reward and Request. The structure of an InMail message should be no different. When composing one, remember to use your research to establish a point of relevance, provide a reward of some value, and ensure that you are also incorporating a request at the end of your message. This ‘RRR’ format will ensure that you’re taking a practical, customer-centric approach to all your active engagements.
So now that I’ve gone through all of this, you’re probably thinking that it sounds an awful lot like social selling. And it does, and it is.
LinkedIn is, after all, a social platform as well as a professional one, and the way we interact online is different to the way we interact in person or indeed over the phone.
For a lot of people, the thought of finding and engaging with decision makers online is a lot more intimidating than the activity itself actually is.
This can make us slow to take action, but salespeople have been getting introductions to prospects for hundreds of years, and while the medium may have changed, it’s changed in our favour.
The principles and processes for engagement above can actually amplify and speed up your chances of connecting with decision makers.
A well-kept online network is crucial to the modern salesperson, and getting sales meetings with decision makers is simply a matter of using your network.
Establish who they are by doing your research, understand the core concerns they may have in their current role, practice passive and active engagement, and most of all, know what your objective is.
That way, you’ll be able to inform and shape decisions yourself.