A common misconception is that LinkedIn’s only good for recruiting and job hunting. While it may have started as a recruitment site for employers and job seekers, LinkedIn has evolved to become much more. Organizations of all sizes can leverage LinkedIn not only to recruit new talent but to generate leads and expand sales networks, establish industry expertise and leadership and build long-term brand affinity with core audiences. Their employees, especially sales teams, can use LinkedIn to generate inbound leads and nurture existing business relationships, network with partners and customers and, if empowered by their company, become powerful informal spokespeople.

“Since Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016, it’s grown to be a hub for professional development and networking as much as job hunting, with paid features like Sales Navigator aimed at business development professionals,” said Kramer McLuckie, Trilix’s digital communications manager. “Don’t overlook LinkedIn as a sales tool.”

Why Use LinkedIn?

Why not? Because LinkedIn’s still known primarily for recruiting and professional networking, its users are typically better connected to their career industries and are more engaged than users on other social platforms. About 40 percent of users log on to LinkedIn every day, spending an average of eight minutes on the site per session. That’s significantly longer than the average for Facebook and Instagram users.

“Having a purposeful, value-driven and accessible presence on LinkedIn is more important than ever right now,” said Jon Miller, Trilix’s director of client services. “LinkedIn is the new watercooler, coffee meeting and business lunch. Your prospects and customers are there. It’s where your employees are networking. People want to engage, and if you give them a compelling reason, good things can happen.”

Not only is LinkedIn a valuable place to reach business professionals, it’s also one of the best places to reach key decision makers in your industry. Social network connections can develop into important partnerships and sales opportunities, especially in the virtual-first climate of the pandemic. Up to 55 percent of business decision makers use LinkedIn to conduct passive and active research on potential vendors and business partners, and 79 percent of B2B marketers say that LinkedIn is an effective source of new leads. If you ignore LinkedIn, these critical sales leads are lost.

“LinkedIn is an effective tool to get a lay of the land, find like-minded professionals and look for partnership opportunities,” Jon said. “The way many people work has changed in 2020, and the value of LinkedIn has grown. The level of engagement is up, and the willingness to make introductions or facilitate discussions has increased.”

Launch your brand, grow your network

To take full advantage of LinkedIn’s sales and networking opportunities, you’ll need to publish content to your company page, but you’ll also need your customer-facing team members to promote themselves and your business with professionalism.

Encourage your employees to interact with your business’ page, employees of other businesses and anyone in your industry. This networking will allow for more sales opportunities by providing additional insight and communication channels to those who may be interested in what you’re selling. Doing so will allow those within your network to view you as a thought leader, and as a person they can turn to if they have any questions.

When it comes to individual profiles, build your personal profile as an extension of your company. Your page should include your current job title, professional profile and cover photos, an engaging headline and a summary of at least 40 words. It’s also critical to incorporate keywords throughout your profile to make it easier for others to find you and your company. Keywords should be related to your business or industry, and you also can include positive personal characteristics that peers may find desirable.

“Networking is more important than ever. It may look different than it did a year ago, but the effort is always rewarded,” Jon said. “The amount of time and effort people put into their personal LinkedIn brands is a good indication of how important the platform has become and how much activity is taking place.”

Because LinkedIn is a platform that encourages strong employee to employer ties and offers ample opportunities for your employees to openly speak on behalf of your company, employee posts should always be brand-conscious and straightforward. Follow general best practices for producing useful, relevant customer-centric content to your company page and ensure your sales team members are sharing it, especially in industry groups. Doing so gives company team members — especially high-level executives — the opportunity to build and more actively engage with their networks.

“Your LinkedIn profile is an extension of the professional brand that you may already have in your mind,” Kramer said. “It’s all about showing a prospective client why they should choose to engage with that professional or that business. It’s also about letting your entire network know about your work and your company. It’s a chance to authentically convey that you’re proud and excited about what you do, and that’s an appealing trait for prospective customers.”

Advertise on LinkedIn

Advertising on LinkedIn is a great way to facilitate sales with precision targeting. LinkedIn prides itself on connecting you to key decision makers and professionals who are more likely to engage with your business. While advertising on other social platforms like Facebook may help your organization connect with another audience subset, LinkedIn can help you reach and target a more professional and specialized audience. You can target users’ current employers, company size, alma mater, specific industries and LinkedIn groups. Plus, additional paid tools like Sales Navigator or InMail allow your team to search and network for new leads and track responses in a built-in CRM.

Growing businesses need to use every tool they can to reach their audience. Use LinkedIn to help grow your sales by setting up business and individual profiles consistent with your brand standards and use those pages to network with industry professionals. Good things will follow.