6 Tips to Augment Sales and Prospecting

While the days of a dedicated sales assistant are long past, tools like LinkedIn can augment our existing sales approaches.

We all know that LinkedIn is the social network for making professional connections, building networks and searching for jobs or candidates. It's a fantastic tool for those of us in the business world who want to see what our peers, competitors and friends are doing in their professional lives.
But the benefits and uses of LinkedIn certainly don't end there. While the days of a dedicated real-life sales assistant may be long past us, we do have tools like LinkedIn that can help augment our existing sales approaches to better improve our chances of connecting with the right people or closing that elusive deal.
And if you aren't already using LinkedIn, you may be at a disadvantage. According to the Sales Management Association, 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn at least once a week and spend an average of six hours per week on LinkedIn. In fact, 79% of salespeople using social media to sell outperformed those who weren't using social media.  A number of today's top insurance salespeople are increasingly using LinkedIn as a primary source of new leads and prospect connecting.
So how do they do it? What makes people using this simple social media channel so much more successful than those who stick to the traditional methods of phone calls, emails and in-person meetings? Aside from optimizing their profiles, which you can read more about in this blog post, here are six tips to really take advantage of the capabilities of LinkedIn to improve sales.
1. Put an End to Cold Calls
Let's face it-- most of us aren't big fans of cold calling. It can be at best awkward and at worst contentious. But with the amount of resources and background information available on LinkedIn about any given person, you can almost always find a little nugget of information on a person to break the ice or get some insight on what policy type may fit that person best. And since people are notified when others view their profile, many people will already recognize your name because they've seen it appear in their notifications.
2. Broaden Your Connections
Remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg's social media site is for engaging with friends and family members; LinkedIn is for professional life. There is certainly overlap--and sure, it's perfectly fine to connect with friends and family on LinkedIn, too, but first make sure to connect with all of your existing business contacts, coworkers and associates. Secondly, the site should be one of the first places you go after making a real-life sales connection because the more connections you have, the larger your network will be. Your first-level connections open avenues of contact with a wide range of second- and third-level contacts.
3. Bypass Email and Instead Try InMail
Getting anyone's contact information can be tough. Getting a business decision-maker's info? Next to impossible. But with LinkedIn's InMail feature, users have a direct line to contact prospects. LinkedIn estimates that an InMail is 30 times more likely to get a response than a cold call.  While users need to be connected to message each other for free, LinkedIn Pro accounts, which charge a fee, allow users to InMail a limited number of people each month (using credits) that they're not connected with. The real kicker is if someone responds to your InMail within 90 days, you get that credit back to use to InMail someone else.
4. Use the Advanced Search Capabilities
LinkedIn's searching feature is great, but its advanced search truly is the perfect tool for sales professionals. With the free version of LinkedIn, you can search people by company, location or title. With a paid account, you can distill even further by company size and leadership level to target those people making decisions on their enterprise's insurance needs. Try setting up a weekly search report using the titles most common among your current connections to find people you may be able to sell to whom you haven't met yet.
5. Keep Tabs on Clients, Companies and Competitors
Chances are you already have an open communication with your existing clients-- and that's great. But to use LinkedIn to bring in new sales, you should always keep track of those people and companies you're not working with currently to see what they're doing and discover if there are any recent changes to their employment or corporate status, which may provide a reason for a touch point. Additionally, keeping tabs on your competitors lets you use their disadvantages to your advantage, if you can point out those disadvantages during a sales pitch.
6. Leverage the "Who's Looked at Your Profile" Feature
While this feature may seem a bit creepy, it can really work to your benefit. Make sure to check out who has been viewing your profile. If you have a free account, you can see a limited number of people who have viewed your profile. The paid account gives you the entire list of those who have viewed your profile and do not have their own profiles set to anonymous. If a prospect has recently viewed your profile, it gives you an immediate excuse to connect. Take advantage of the opportunity by sending a message, offering insights or investigating how you can help.
While LinkedIn likely won't make the sale for you--though it would certainly be nice if it could--it is a valuable tool for supplementing your current sales approaches to deliver better relationships and more prospects and improve the way you talk about insurance products.

Mary Ann Cook

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Mary Ann Cook

Mary Ann Cook is senior vice president of knowledge resources for The Institutes in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The Institutes are the leader in delivering proven knowledge solutions that drive powerful business results for the risk management and property-casualty insurance industry.

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