Advantages

Case Study: Leveraging LinkedIn

Harnessing the power of this social media platform has taken one distributor’s sales sky-high.

The Pro

Name: Bill McCormick
Title: Owner/Account Executive
Company: Team Creative Connections, LLC (asi/341187), in Catskill, NY

Team Creative Connections is on track to harnessing $500,000 in sales by the end of 2017, its fourth full year in business. And McCormick, who drives most of the company’s revenue, does 95% of his prospecting and lead generation on LinkedIn. In fact, he’s spent a significant amount of time learning the ins and outs of the social network, and has found it such a valuable tool that it’s the first item he opens each morning, along with his email.

“The most important thing to remember is that using LinkedIn to prospect is a long haul,” he says. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a way to connect with people, but not everyone you connect with will become a customer, and that’s OK.”

McCormick has mastered the art of the soft sell via LinkedIn: he asks to connect with a fellow user based on their industry, company size and job title (such as vice president of sales & marketing, marketing director, CMO), cites a commonality in the request and then follows up with periodic valuable information, such as informative articles that he then posts to LinkedIn. It keeps him front-of-mind, so that when someone on the network has a need for promotional products, he’s likely to be one of the first people they think of.

“You can make connections, but then what do you do with them?” he says. “White papers and articles show your value. I’ll also drop off self-promos at their offices, which show that we’re unique, innovative, experienced and responsive.”

While McCormick always has LinkedIn open and running, he actively prospects on it about four hours a week. He uses Sales Navigator to refine searches, and then he receives alerts when someone with a certain title has joined the network. “I’ll find five to 10 people in an area and connect with them, then bring them a box of self-promos and a handwritten note thanking them for accepting my connection, and then follow up with an email,” he says. “Then I’ll ask them if we can schedule time, maybe 15 to 30 minutes, so I can introduce myself.”

But a word of warning: Never send a connection request without a personal note on why you’re sending it. Always personalize it with your reason for sending the request. “You can say, ‘Your profile came up, we have a common interest in marketing and I hope you’ll accept,’” says McCormick. “Then thank them and include a link to an article you wrote on something they might be interested in. You’re providing value, not selling anything. Don’t go right for the sale. And it goes both ways: I rarely just click accept without some kind of personal note; I always ask them for more information before accepting.”

By mining data in LinkedIn, McCormick can find all the information he needs to qualify a prospect and efficiently follow up with them, and then move vertically to other departments at that same company, often with a referral. McCormick says that from the end of May to the end of August this year, seven of the company’s top 25 clients came from LinkedIn and brought in almost $80,000 for the company. In all, prospecting on LinkedIn makes up 20% of its business.

“It’s a huge part of our sales cycle,” says McCormick. “It gets us in the door. It’s not about smarminess and charisma anymore. It’s about the value you provide.”

While a bit of research can be done with LinkedIn’s free version, McCormick uses the Sales Navigator service at $80 a month. Though some may balk at the cost, McCormick says he can’t afford not to have it. “I’ve met international clients I would never have connected with otherwise,” he says. “I like that there are paid versions now, because it means you have to have skin in the game.”

McCormick also pays for training with LinkedIn gurus Viveka von Rosen and Alice Heiman; the latter he met at an ASI Show in 2016 during an education session she hosted. When Heiman asked the group how many people consistently used the social platform, McCormick was the only one to answer in the affirmative.

“I knew I had something there,” he says. “LinkedIn gives me access to people I wouldn’t normally have access to. My next business is going to be training people to use it. No one else is doing this in my area.”

Takeaways:

  1. Be strategic about your connection requests.
  2. Follow up immediately with a thank you.
  3. Offer value to your connections, even if they’re not yet a hot lead.