Leveraging LinkedIn to Attract Business
I signed up for LinkedIn on November 22, 2006. Like most people in those early days, I was prompted to sign up by the many emailed invitations that I received from my network of connections who had joined the platform. Similar to Hotmail, LinkedIn had embraced the viral marketing tactics of emailed invitations. Like so many other early adopters, I saw the platform as an opportunity to post my resume online.
I believe I started out slowly in my use of LinkedIn. I mainly responded to connection requests from other people and spent very little time on the site itself. However, this changed in mid-2007.
Use it to Connect
In early 2007, I had jumped into the sales profession, joining an IT consulting boutique that was making a name for itself in PeopleSoft consulting. My job was to diversify the company by growing its network of consultants and landing new clients. Very quickly, I realized how LinkedIn could help me do both. I spent the next four or five years adding every person who I connected with on a professional basis as a connection on LinkedIn. Before meeting someone new, I looked him or her up on LinkedIn so that we could relate that much better. I took advantage of LinkedIn’s integration tools that would show profile information in applications such as Outlook and the CRM my company was using at the time.
My big breakthrough happened in 2009. That small IT consulting company landed a large, multi-year contract, and we needed people with specialized skill sets. Such people simply were not available in my home province, Newfoundland. I leveraged LinkedIn and found subject-matter experts around the world. I contacted them, began dialogues, and transitioned the relationships to phone calls and eventually visits to Newfoundland. LinkedIn facilitated this in a big way. The company grew exponentially during the next couple years.
In 2012 we decided it was time to grow the company geographically. I scheduled multiple business-development trips to other provinces. I spent hours on LinkedIn, looking up key individuals in the provinces I planned to visit. I sent inMail messages to those I wanted to meet. LinkedIn has facilitated hundreds if not thousands of coffee chats for me. Some have led to business. Virtually all have led to new connections.
In January 2013 the company was acquired by KPMG Canada. In the new firm, I lead business-development efforts for the Microsoft practice. Interestingly enough, the Microsoft practice originated with that boutique firm about a year prior to its acquisition, when two Microsoft MVPs used LinkedIn to contact me and form a relationship.
In mid-2014 I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of writing a book. During the next year, with the help of my writing coach, I spent many early mornings penning it. I wanted to share with entrepreneurs and new sales professionals the message that, with the right mind-set, they can embrace selling and become very effective at it. It’s Time to Sell: Cultivating the Sales Mind-Set, self-published in December 2015, has sold many thousands more copies than I ever expected.
A few months after I began writing the book, I began to research how to promote a book. I came to realize that without a platform doing so would be very difficult. I took notice of a few people I knew who were publishing articles on LinkedIn’s new publishing platform. I decided to jump on board. To date I have published just shy of one hundred articles and attracted a whole new network of thought leaders and influencers. I also have leveraged the SlideShare platform as another avenue for communicating my message. This article that Cheryl Snapp Conner wrote about me for Forbes provides some insight into how I leveraged LinkedIn to build my platform. My platform has expanded to include the It’s Time to Sell podcast. All thirty guests who have been on the podcast are connections that I made via LinkedIn.
Around the same time that I began publishing on LinkedIn, I embraced another new LinkedIn tool: Sales Navigator. I have used Sales Navigator to grow the company’s business. Basically, Sales Navigator brings together in one dashboard all of the LinkedIn connections research that I used to do manually. It also provides me with analytics and recommendations of new leads. I use Sales Navigator to stay up to date on key accounts, clients, and leads.
My use of Sales Navigator, in particular, leads to the reason that I am so excited about Microsoft’s potential acquisition of LinkedIn. Under its Dynamics brand, Microsoft has a powerful suite of enterprise applications. CRM is one of them. I see huge potential in the combination of Sales Navigator and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. How Microsoft and LinkedIn integrate those products will be interesting to see. Could this be the next chapter in my life on LinkedIn? Time will tell.