LinkedIn: Connections are for show relationships are for dough!
By richard masters, May 15 2013 10:55AM
Recent research has shown that although LinkedIn is widely regarded as the best social platform for new business development in the small businesses B2B sector. In fact a relatively few are successful- but those that are successful are very successful. So what is the key to success?
LinkedIn as a Business development platform
Research by organisations such as HubSpot over the last few years has established that LinkedIn is one of the most effective of the social platforms ( they prefer the term professional networking)- especially for small business in the B2B sector. The diagrams below illustrate these findings.
Furthermore, 2013 research by the Wall street journal and Vistage of small business CEO's has established that not only is LinkedIn the most frequently used platform, it also the one regarded as having the most potential for the future. This can be seen in the following diagram.
The Reality for Most business Users is different
The reality for most small businesses users does not accord with this rosy picture! They have spent time developing a 100% complete "All Star" profile, got hundreds of connections, joined lots of groups, created a company page, got references and endorsements galore- but still no new business!
So who is successful at Business Development on LinkedIn?
An insightful new piece of research by Jill Conrath "Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code" (free to download if you register), has gone a long way to explaining this conundrum. Some 3094 "sellers" (covering sales, entrepreneurs, consultancy, and management roles) were surveyed. The two diagrams below show the top level findings of the survey.
This shows clearly that only a small percentage of LinkedIn users are in fact very successful at generating leads. Furthermore, it shows that the most successful people have a distinctive characteristics:
-They view LinkedIn as strategic
-They invest a lot of time and effort into it
-They often invest in the additional features offered by the paid version.
What do they actually do differently?
Business development using linkedIn can be seen as a three stage process:
Stage1: Establishing a presence
Stage2: Identifying key prospects and leads
Stage3: Relationship development (lead nurturing)
It is in this third phase that successful users appear to be very different. In particular the following traits stand out:
1. They use linkedIn to develop personal contacts into relationships with the ultimate goal of achieving offline contact with them.
2. They use LinkedIn to extensively research prospects and organisation in greater depth before contact.
3. They actively engage in Groups they join and share resources and enter conversations. Less successful people join groups but simply "lurk"
4. They use the Advanced Search facility to identify leads and create prospect lists (including the advanced filters).
5. They use LinkedIn's InMail facility to contact and establish relationships
6. They use their first level contacts to get referrals
LinkedIn has seen this coming
LinkedIn is a pretty smart organisation and it has clearly seen this demand for relationship development coming and it has quietly introduced a number of new features to support these activities:
1. LinkedIn Business Premium. This is the basic upgrade for business development and offer three levels of additional features covering: InMail messages, Introductions, Open link capability and advanced search options.
2. LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This is a further premium options specifically for "sales pro's" which includes a number of additional features such as insights discovery and engagement. It also features the ability to directly interface with CRM systems such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
3. Upgraded LinkedIn Contacts. In a recent announcement a significant upgrade to the basic contact functionality was introduced which effectively introduces social CRM capabilities and will allow users to take a holistic view of interactions with connections
It's the dough not the show that matters
The conclusion from the above analysis are:
- LinkedIn can clearly be a successful vehicle for generating new business leads within the B2B sector.
- A "stamp collecting" approach to linkedIn with hundreds of connections, a weighty profile and prolific group memberships, are not the keys to success.
- The key to success would appear to be is to focus resources into using the facilities of linkedIn and basic sales techniques to develop in depth relationships with potential leads.
- linkedIn are progressively introducing new tools to assist with these more in depth business development activities
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Or Contact me : Richard Masters