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It wasn’t that long ago that I thought of LinkedIn as the place where my on-line resume lived. Full stop. I’ve been in sales for over two decades and for the vast majority of that time I worked for companies that invested in marketing campaigns, programs, and events which generated leads.
Sometimes good leads, sometimes not-so-good leads, but leads none the less. My job was to chase them down and engage with them to see if and how we could help them. It all worked quite nicely until about 2014.
Suddenly leads stopped flowing. Then people stopped returning phone calls or even opening emails. Soon no one even answered their phone anymore, and finding their contact info began to get increasingly difficult. Now, I’m not opposed to cold calling, but with a $2M number strapped to my back and nothing but the phone book to help me find prospects, I was getting nervous.
It was around this time I started exploring ways to do my own “marketing,” out of necessity. I noticed LinkedIn allowed you to write articles, so I began writing brief one-page essays about the technology space I had worked in for many years. Some were about tips that worked in designing and building this or that type of system. Some were about the things you should never do when building this or that type of system. Some were about the common problems customers have struggled with and the approach we used to help them. In almost 30 years I had seen it all (the good, bad and the ugly) and I realized that people just might learn from my experiences. And apparently they did.
People started “liking” and sharing my articles. I took those as leads. Sometimes they worked out, sometimes they didn’t. But they were better than nothing. I began to read up on LinkedIn and Twitter and started to learn my way around them, awkwardly for a while…but I could see this was a means of reaching people. The same people who had stopped returning my phone calls.
In 2016 I happened to come upon a company who taught sales people how to use social media for business purposes and I took an on-line class with them. It was CRAZY! They taught me about cool ways to find the right kind of people to connect with; how to build relationships with people who may become prospects without ever meeting them or even speaking with them; where to find helpful content and how to share it with people who were likely to care; how to follow the movers and shakers and become the conduit for their wisdom to my own network (giving full credit to the authors of course); and generally how to raise my own visibility, value, and relevance to the very people I needed to work with in order to achieve my goals.
No longer was LinkedIn a place to park my resume on-line and update it when I felt I was ready to start looking for a new job. It was about ENGAGING with people who mattered to me professionally. It was about being able to provide them with legitimately helpful and valuable information they needed. It was about building relationships with people who someday may need what you sell, so the likelihood of them responding to my call or email went way up.
These were no longer leads. They were much better than that. They were relationships with people in my industry who really mattered, either as potential prospects, employers, mentors, or colleagues. It was like waking up and realizing you could now walk on the ceiling. It was a whole new way of working with people. I hadn’t realized that for a couple years all the folks I had been trying to reach were “talking” with the handful of folks who knew how to do this stuff already. There was no need to return my pesky calls. They were getting what they needed from the best of my competitors. Well, no more.
And you know what I’m realizing? That there are still lots and lots of folks who haven’t caught on to this yet, in fact MOST salespeople haven’t. These are senior, professional, smart, successful sales and marketing people. Many have an inkling that the answer to their inability to fill their pipeline has to do with social media. They just don’t know how to use it. So if you’re one of those, and you’re like I was, stumbling around trying to figure it out on your own, knock it off! Get a little help from folks who can show you how it’s done. Get back in the game.
I ended up going to work for that company that taught me how to leverage social media for business purposes. And now I’m helping to bring everyone else along with me, and I absolutely love it! Everybody wins! The customers, the sales folks, the companies they work for, etc. Now, by the time you meet your prospects face to face you’re probably already on their short list, and you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable ally and source of useful information. Much better than a couple years ago when you couldn’t seem to fill your sales funnel no matter what you did, right?
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