Social Selling on LinkedIn: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Social Selling on LinkedIn: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

If there was one good thing about the 2020 pandemic it’s that it forced businesses to explore alternative lead generation and engagement channels like social media. 

And it was the perfect time to do so! The average daily time spent on social media reached 65 minutes in 2020 (compared to 56 minutes in 2019) while the number of social media users grew 10.5% by July 2020. 

Many of us (our team included) have jumped on the social selling bandwagon without a proper strategy or plan. As a result, few managed to last more than a couple of months or get any meaningful results from their efforts.

But those who did never looked back, enjoying the multiple benefits social media can offer to salespeople.

While our LinkedIn social selling efforts were on and off over the past couple of years, we’ve seen certain results and learned our share of lessons, which I would love to share with you in this post. But let’s start at the beginning and talk about social selling in general.

What is social selling (and why should you care)? 

Let’s start by clarifying what is social selling.

We at Reply define it as “a sales technique that relies on social media to find, connect with, engage, and nurture sales prospects.”

It’s the hybrid approach that combines traditional social media marketing and sales engagement tactics. In other words, this entails establishing your social media presence to reach more prospects organically, build trust as a thought leader, and develop personal relationships. That way, when it comes to the buying decision, you and your business will be the first thing that comes to the prospect’s mind.

Let’s make it clear: Social selling isn’t just mass-connecting with random users or posting sales pitches. That’s called spam.

Social selling requires a thought-out strategy and consistent, meaningful activity aimed at driving engagement rather than generating deals. So, when talking about the social sales process, we should keep in mind the following key steps:

  1. Establish a strong personal brand 
  2. Identify and connect with your target audience
  3. Engage with them offering real value to build trust
  4. Build meaningful, genuine relationships

Once you go through those stages, you will be able to reap the benefits of social selling.

The benefits salespeople can get from building their personal brands on social media

Social selling is a long game, so don’t expect the leads to come running to you after just one post on LinkedIn or Twitter. 

Yes, there might be exceptions. But in most cases, you will have to be regularly adding value, engaging with your audience, actively growing your network, for weeks if not months before you see the results. However, once those results come around, it will be worth every effort.

So what’s in it for you? Why should you consider investing your time in social sales? The key benefits of social selling for salespeople include:

  • Expanding your reach
  • Raising awareness
  • Gaining trust
  • Driving engagement
  • Building relationships

But what about the sales, you ask? Well, listed above are the key drivers for a modern B2B sales process. Once you accomplish that, you will be able to build a predictable pipeline and generate more revenue faster.

Learn more about personal branding on LinkedIn and social selling for SDRs from the experts – Dipak Vadera, Thibaut Souyris, Jan Benedikt Mundorf, and Filippo Piras.

Watch on-demand

Getting started with social selling on LinkedIn

Social selling is undoubtedly a worthwhile effort for any B2B sales professional. And LinkedIn is THE platform to focus on considering a huge business audience, according to the available social media stats.

Yet, starting from scratch might be intimidating. Let’s break down the best practices and figure out the action points to get the ball rolling.

I assume you already have a LinkedIn account (this is a must-have for any professional, let alone a sales professional). The next step is to make sure it stands out – in a good way – and has just enough information to give people an idea of who you are.

Starting from your photo and tagline and up to the interests, pay attention to every section of your LinkedIn profile, building out your personal brand. Give the prospects a reason to stick around and see what you have to offer. 

If you’re looking for specific action points, there’s a handy LinkedIn profile checklist from none other than their Senior Content Marketing Manager.

Once you’re all set, start building your presence by growing your network, engaging with them, and sharing content. 

If the first two steps are pretty clear, content creation often turns to be a major roadblock for most SDRs. Some will “outsource” this to the marketing team sacrificing their unique voice for pretty banners and catchy posts that carry no real value. Others will try to do it themselves and soon give up, unable to communicate their first-hand insights in an attractive, easily digested format.

As someone who’s witnessed both scenarios, I’m convinced that the perfect approach is somewhere in between. For example, you can come up with the posts on your own and ask for professional help to make your content more readable. Sometimes, your marketing colleagues might also pitch interesting ideas on what’s hot in your niche.

Just make sure you keep your own voice and style – something that makes your personal brand memorable and easy to recognize.

Writer’s block is another common problem you might face with social selling on LinkedIn. One way to fix it is to have a backlog of post topics to tap into whenever you’re low on inspiration. To get you started, there are some LinkedIn content ideas you could use:

  • Give a glimpse into your daily life, either personal or professional. Posting a selfie is a great way to put a face to the name and establish a personal connection with your audience. 
  • Share your struggles or celebrate your success. Nothing resonates more than that. 
  • Ask a question using a poll and then share the results (plus your opinion) with the audience.
  • Add a dash of humor every now and then with a relatable meme. “Professional” doesn’t mean boring!
  • Give a shout-out to your colleagues or peers for their achievements or milestones.
  • Repurpose content from other channels – blog posts, webinars, or podcasts you’ve been speaking at, etc. This is a great tactic that requires minimum effort and yields maximum output.
  • Curate content from other relevant and high-quality sources (this is a perfect way to extend your reach and give more value to your audience when you’re getting started).

Most importantly, always try to add value to the community – even if you have to go off topic. For example, here’s one of the top performing posts from our SDR team lead who decided to compile and share a directory of 6.700+ SaaS companies that are hiring to help fellow sales professionals affected by lay-offs.

Now that you know what to post about, let’s talk about the content types to share on LinkedIn and related best practices.

Like any other social media platform, LinkedIn has an algorithm to decide whether your post is worth being seen by thousands of people. Sadly, there are no obvious dos and don’ts that would give 100% guarantee. However, you can understand how it works by trying different content types and experimenting with various tactics.

This is where another LinkedIn expert, Richard van der Blom, weighs in with data-backed tips on sharing different types of content.

  • Document (uploaded pdf) – use between 4 and 11 slides, fewer than 60 words per slide, in square or vertical format.
  • 𝗣𝗼𝗹𝗹 – create weekly polls (<1,000 characters long) with just 2 answer options and make sure your question (and at least 1 of the answers) is a conversation starter.
  • Video – use native video, 20-26 seconds long, captioned, with an engaging thumbnail.
  • Multiple photos – up to 4 photos showing people are preferable.

If you’re only getting started with social selling on LinkedIn, simply being there, actively engaging with your audience is key. It’s as simple as this recipe shared by Jason Vana.

One more thing to keep in mind is that, as a sales development representative, you should probably get the team management’s buy-in. After all, your social activity will take a certain part of your working hours, so it’s important to be on the same page with your supervisor. 

A good manager should understand the importance of such an initiative and encourage and reward it in any way possible. If they don’t understand the importance of social selling, try to prove your point and change their mind (if that doesn’t work, I’d consider that a huge red flag and change the manager 😉).

Social selling tools to up your game

If you’ve already been active on LinkedIn for some time, but want to take it to a new level, start with checking your LinkedIn Social Selling Index. This is a handy free tool that “measures how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships. It is updated daily.” Here’s what it looks like.

This will give you an understanding of what you should focus on to strengthen your LinkedIn social selling efforts.

Another native LinkedIn feature you might want to use is the Creator Mode – a profile setting that offers additional tools and capabilities to help you create better content, grow your audience, and get more insights into your performance.

While it might seem that LinkedIn gives you everything you need to start building your presence, there are a few other social selling tools that might help down the road, including:

  • Sales Navigator – for prospect research and expanding your audience
  • Shield – LinkedIn analytics on steroids
  • Buffer – effortless (and free) content scheduling 
  • Reply – to automate engagement and outreach

Speaking of automation, a big no-no is the so-called “engagement pods.” These are the tools that let you join communities based on your target topics and take over your profile to automatically like and comment on the posts from other people in the group. 

Sounds tempting, right? Don’t be fooled: Hundreds of generic comments (like “great post!” and “thanks for sharing”) will not just give you a bad look, but can also result in getting your account banned for violating LinkedIn policies.

Level up your social selling activities with automated LinkedIn steps in Reply

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Sign in to your Reply account or create a new one for free to see how it works

7 ways to drive engagement on LinkedIn

As a marketing professional, I can assure you that “if you build it, they will come” isn’t a valid strategy for generating leads. The same goes for LinkedIn social selling. Simply posting content from a nice-looking profile isn’t enough to create any sales opportunities. You need to interact with your audience to create LinkedIn engagement. In this case, the “social” aspect of the process definitely outweighs the “selling” part. 

So let’s talk about how to increase engagement on LinkedIn for social selling. How do you go from sharing valuable content to direct communication with your prospects?

Here are the common types of touchpoints used in LinkedIn outreach:

  1. Profile view – the default initial step to create awareness and a good reason for email outreach.
  2. Connection request – the best next step to engage a prospect, just make sure to attach a personalized note. There’s also an option to follow a person instead (although this doesn’t offer the same visibility). 
  3. Content interactions (like/comment/share) – the perfect conversation starter and a must-have for building a connection and awareness with the audience.
  4. InMail – use it in case the prospect doesn’t accept your request or you don’t want to wait for that (and have spare money to burn).
  5. Direct message – the main goal of any social selling/outreach campaign. This is where you can actually get to business.
  6. Endorsing skills – the kind of touchpoint that is guaranteed to draw the prospect’s attention! Just don’t overuse it.
  7. Sending voice notes – a creative twist on the good old LinkedIn messaging to stand out from the crowd.

You can mix and match the listed steps (and add more touchpoints across other channels) as you see fit to create your unique sales engagement sequences.

For example, here’s the breakdown of a LinkedIn social selling play that Josh Barrows, an outstanding thought leader, has recently shared with his audience.

More ways LinkedIn can help you improve your outreach

But direct outreach and LinkedIn engagement aren’t the only ways to utilize the platform in your sales process. This is also a valuable source of data to fuel your prospecting efforts, for example:

  • Create targeted lists of relevant prospects based on certain criteria
  • Look up their contact data – emails, phone numbers, etc. – one by one or in bulk
  • Research additional info to personalize your messages

This is another prominent role automation can play in your LinkedIn outreach. Reply can help you automatically build prospect lists, enrich their data, and engage them at scale with personalized, tailored sequences. 

Find valid prospect emails in bulk on LinkedIn and instantly engage them with Reply’s Email Finder extension.

Get the extension

Key takeaways from selling with social media

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for sales on LinkedIn. Every single sales influencer on LinkedIn (btw, we’ve shared some influencers to follow among other resources for SDR leaders) has their own unique approach and style. This is what makes their personal brands powerful and effective.

And we’ve learned a few lessons that may be helpful to you as well.

  • Post regularly rather than often. During our “100 posts in 100 days” experiment, we’ve noticed a steady increase in engagement and followers after just a few weeks of daily posts.
  • Get off topic as long as you offer value. For example, speaking of a broader topic that you’re interested in doesn’t make you less of a sales professional. On the contrary, this can be a great way to extend your reach.
  • Sometimes, simply showing your face or sharing a laugh or two with your audience can have more impact than a data-backed, insightful post.
  • Use your voice to stand up for what you believe in (even if it might seem unprofessional). We’ve seen a major impact from our posts raising awareness about the war in Ukraine. Some of our team members even used this platform to run fundraisers for a good cause!

  • Engage first – post second. Many experts suggest leaving a few comments or likes before you publish your next post. This is an interesting approach to give an additional visibility boost to your content.
  • Extend your connections outside of LinkedIn. Establishing personal connections can only strengthen your brand. So whenever you’re attending an event or traveling to a different city or country, be sure to invite your audience to meet with you.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn offer plenty of opportunities to connect with your prospects, engage, and convert them. All you have to do is give it a shot and put some effort into it. 

The results might not be as prominent or prompt as with other approaches. But once you build your personal brand for social selling, you will get one of the most valuable assets – for you personally as well as any company you will be working with in the future. In this case, you can  take it with you!

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