How to Use LinkedIn Groups to Increase Sales Leads
With LinkedIn claiming the top spot for social networking professionals, there’s a good chance you already access the social network regularly. But what you might be missing on LinkedIn could be the key to unlocking more business opportunities.
Allow me to explain. There’s been a lot of talk about the impact social media is having on business sales. And for good reason – last year, the total amount of sales that could be tracked to social networks hit $3.30 billion, up 26% from 2013’s $2.62 billion. A growing number of companies are realizing there’s more opportunity than ever to use social platforms as lead generation and prospecting tools. When it comes to LinkedIn, reports suggest that users who command a deeper understanding of the social network’s capabilities reap far greater benefits than those that still view LinkedIn primarily as a job search tool.
One of LinkedIn’s best features for driving new business leads and opportunities is LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn describes their Group feature as a “place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts.” Essentially, it’s an online community where you can connect with industry peers and like-minded professionals (read: prospects and leads).
Never tried Groups before? Here’s a quick guide to get you up and running so you can start prospecting and finding leads today. As a prerequisite, you should already have an active LinkedIn account. If you don’t, start here.
To start, let’s take Groups out for a spin. From the homepage, navigate to the search bar at the top and click on the tab directly to the left on it. Drag down to “Groups”, then, type in a subject you’re interested in (e.g., marketing, sales, baking, etc.). You might notice that when you do a search, LinkedIn also provides suggestions not only on “Groups” but in several other categories such as “Connections,” “Companies,” “Features” and “Skills.” Once you’ve used your keyword to narrow your search, find a group that best matches what you’re looking for.
Cast a Wide Net
Once you’ve selected your group, join it. You may have to request membership approval if it is a private group. While there’s no limit to the amount of groups you can join, the sweet spot for lead generation is to join groups that are outside your industry or function that might help you grow your business. If you’re a small (and growing) 3PL, for example, don’t just industry groups, expand your network by joining groups for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Commit to Building Your Network
Set aside some time each week to connect with five current or former business colleagues. LinkedIn makes it easy by providing suggestions based on your current connections and places of employment. More connections equal more opportunities for discussion about your company’s products and services.
Answer like a Pro
Use the Answers section within your groups as a place to showcase your expertise. Set a goal to answer at least two questions per week. After actively participating in a group for at least two weeks, start your own discussion within the group. Engaging industry peers in a rich dialogue is a great way to build trust and confidence among members of your new group. Turning your question and answering activity into leads is a long-term strategy, but one that can prove successful as people will begin to look at you as an expert and leader in your industry.
The key to generating leads via LinkedIn is consistency. Steady participation in your groups is the secret is to building relationships that will pay off in the end. Take some time to determine what’s working in your strategy and refocus your efforts as necessary, but always, always be consistent in your participation. In the end, it’s your activity that is going to set you apart from the competition and establish your expertise.
In a recent survey of sales professionals, most reported they were unfamiliar with LinkedIn’s full capabilities, but in the same survey, a little more than a third of respondents reported generating new business opportunities and revenue gains from their use of LinkedIn. It’s clear that the social network holds opportunity for those that recognize – and leverage – the network’s full capabilities.
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