Centers of influence (COIs) are instrumental in acquiring business from recommendations and referrals. Smart companies have utilized these initiatives to build and maintain business for many years. However, brilliant companies take it a step further, beyond the standard networking of contacts. We are talking social selling.
Connecting and partnering with COIs are crucial parts of building new client bases, and social media platforms play a major role. Here are ten clever steps to mobilize your COI social selling on LinkedIn.
#1: Polish up that profile. From your picture to your posts, your presence must shine. A professional headshot is the only way to go. Flesh out your title and responsibilities in an easy to read format, and share instances that will grab the reader. Double and triple check spelling and grammar.
#2: Join active groups. Your profile will languish in anonymity unless you start making connections. Simple group searches will point you in the right direction. Engage on posts and shares of the COIs you want to connect with . This would get you their immediate attention. What types of information would your COIs consider valuable? Find groups that correspond and join.
#3: Showcase your expertise. Once you join a group, read the posts and watch the main participants. These could be your COIs. When a topic arises that fits your wheelhouse, interject your knowledge and advice. Also like and comment on other posts. Engaging and posting, over time, gets you noticed and sets you up as the expert in your field.
#4. Comment and Share their LinkedIn articles. Everyone appreciates when others share their content. Choose one of your target's blog posts or white papers an share it on Linkedin and other social media channels. Always remember to tag them in the post, so they are sure to see it.
#5: Review their recent activities: Poke around and see what type of information you find. LinkedIn enables you to view a profile's recent activity. Once you go there, engage with the person's shares. This would send them a notification that you have liked or commented or shared their post or share. Alert: Don't engage on posts that they have liked or commented on because no notification reaches them, instead it reaches the person who wrote/ shared that post article.
#6: Send personalized LinkedIn connect requests: Reference a key point you saw on their profile or acknowledge a group you have in common. This builds a little familiarity so they will be more likely to connect with you.
#7: Continue engagement: Often people make the mistake of pitching people as soon as they connect. This is a strict NO if you want to do it right. The best approach is to continue engagement with your COIs on LinkedIn to develop online relationships.
#8: Establish relationships using a personal approach. A smart best practice is to engage 4 times before sending connect request, and engage 4 times before asking to meet. First ensconce yourself in a group, then strategically choose your targets. Take your time with this step, as moving too soon will turn the person off. Make certain you have shared a few interactions before making your move.
#9: Take advantage of InMail. Send a small amount of invitations to connect. If you have ever sent the generic LinkedIn connection, take a moment to berate yourself for this mistake. Seriously, create something personal and concise. Explain how you are in the same group and why it would be beneficial to connect. If the person takes you up on it, scour their profile and find a shared point of interest, and send an InMail asking for a casual meeting. InMail is a bit of a secret weapon, as it isn't bogged down like regular email with tons of noisy offers.
#10: Ask for meeting over coffee or lunch: Once you believe enough engagement has been done and the other person has been responsive to your engagement, request a meeting to discuss how your relationship could be mutually beneficial. Avoid "hard sell" language in the request and at the meeting. A gentler approach is required for these types of relationships.
Social selling is a virtual gold mine, and these tips are the picks and shovels that help you dig to success. They will empower you to build COI relationships that open doors you couldn't crack otherwise. A little work on the front end, along with a little maintenance, brings you exceptional rewards through social selling.