As a modern salesperson, if you want insights into what buyers are doing and saying online, start growing your LinkedIn network.

Unfortunately, many sales reps are falling behind. Research shows that more than 50% of sales professionals still have fewer than 500 connections on LinkedIn. Approximately 25% maintain between 500-1000, while less than 20% have more than 1000 connections. Going just by the numbers, salespeople have a ways to go.

But the value of your first-degree LinkedIn connections you have doesn’t lie in their number. While the size and quality of your network matter (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), it’s more important that you use insights from your connections to nurture and engage them along their buyer’s journey, especially those that you want to serve and do business with.

What Do You Talk to Your Connections About?

Think of LinkedIn as a big social function. You’re there with 500 people you kind of know. There’s no point of attending if you don’t take the time to get to know your fellow attendees. But what do you say?

Many sales professionals (including me – I’ll often revert to good old-fashioned selling) will launch into sales pitches. I’m an addict; I can’t help it sometimes. Like you, I love what I do.

But the smarter thing to do is to talk about what’s important to these individuals. How do you determine those topics? It’s a pretty loud room, but by focusing on one group of individuals, you’re able to hone in on their conversations. You realize they’re talking about something you have knowledge about.

It’s time to step up to the plate.

How Do You Interact Online?

There are many tools that can provide you information about prospects and buyers. One free tool that’s particularly useful to salespeople is Newsle, a company that LinkedIn recently acquired. I’m a huge fan of Newsle because it helps me have targeted, relevant, and contextual conversations with my first-degree connections.

Imagine having your own personal assistant who scours the planet’s top news websites looking for news stories about your connections. In Newsle, this content feed is updated real-time and it can even be emailed to you in a digest form. Newsle keeps you informed of what’s going on and what matters to your prospects.

Here’s an example of an article Newsle curated for me:

newsle-

This company’s CEO is one of my LinkedIn connections and a prospect of mine. He may not be ready to buy right now, but I can use this information to do a whole host of things.

Here are five conversational starters I thought of approximately 30 seconds after I read this article.

I could:

  1. Congratulate him on raising venture capital (VC) funds to grow his business
  2. Provide insights into how growth-stage companies like his have invested in sales training to grow revenue and provide examples from our existing client base
  3. Let him know how one of our VC clients is advising companies in their portfolio to seek guidance from us to help grow sales
  4. Discuss changes happening in his industry
  5. Ask him how he plans to deploy these funds to help grow sales (something his investors will want to see!)

I couldn’t have begun to speak at this level if I didn’t have these insights.

The Bottom Line

The way I see it, modern sales has three components (all of which can include social selling):

  1. Insights selling
  2. Trigger event selling
  3. Referral selling

In the example above, Newsle provided me with the insights needed to practice insights and trigger event Selling.

To stand out to buyers, you need to start having targeted, relevant and contextual conversations. Newsle is a great way to gather insights that can help you start conversations with your first-degree connections. Don’t worry about the number of your connections yet – focus on nurturing and engaging those you’re already connected to.

Have you tried Newsle? What do you think of this approach? Tweet me @AmarSheth or connect with me on LinkedIn to share your thoughts.

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Originally published Nov 11, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Social Selling