Like other areas of business, social media has also changed the way products and services are bought and sold. Today, buying decisions involve more people than ever before and on top of that, 90 percent of decision makers said they never respond to cold outreach. In order to be successful in a social selling environment you need an alternative approach.

Over the years, LinkedIn has become an incredibly valuable resource for businesses. And as selling becomes more social, sales teams are finding that relationship building is a much more effective approach than cold calls and emails. With more than 313 million registered professionals, LinkedIn has a wealth of information on the people and companies with whom you want to connect.

There are a number of ways in which LinkedIn is helping sales teams thrive in today’s buying environment, and the recently revamped Sales Navigator is perhaps the most valuable. Below you’ll find more information on the Sales Navigator and how it can be used to secure a positive return on investment, as well as additional tips on using LinkedIn for sales.

Focus on the Right People

Designed specifically for sales professionals, the new LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a standalone solution — with a separate login — that allows you to focus on the right people and companies, stay informed on key updates, and build trust with prospects and customers.

According to LinkedIn, 50 percent of buyers don’t respond to sales professionals when they aren’t the right person to contact about new business. Don’t let another pitch fall on deaf ears by “winging it.” Instead, use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to help you find the right prospects based on your preferences and historical saved leads.

You’ll also have access to tools like How You’re Connected, which lets you see and leverage existing relationships with prospects, and TeamLink, which locates colleagues who can introduce you to people at the account. Ditch the cold calls and focus on initiating warm conversations instead.

Let Your Profile Work for You

If interested, your prospects will undoubtedly look over your profile, so it’s important that you maintain a complete and professional space on LinkedIn. Make sure that all of your information is up to date and that you include current links to your company’s website and primary social channels.

Although you work for a company, using a photo of yourself instead of a logo makes you more tangible and creates a good impression. Remember, people prefer doing business with a real person, not an entity. Let your company pride shine in other areas of your profile, and stick to using a photo that represents who you are as a person as your profile picture.

Your profile should also include some high quality recommendations, especially from happy customers, and examples of your work. LinkedIn found that 86 percent of buyers would engage sales professionals if they provided insights of knowledge about the industry. So, consider adding some embedded media (such as SlideShare presentations) or links to thought-leadership articles and resources.

Avoid Obstacles With InMail

The average buying decision now involves 5.4 people, and these key decision makers can be a tough group to reach. What makes it even more challenging is that in many cases you need an introduction to directly reach people outside of your network. Fortunately, there’s a way around this digital gatekeeper with InMail.

InMail is LinkedIn’s internal email system and allows you to send an email to any LinkedIn member without requiring an introduction. LinkedIn noted that it has been shown to get higher response rates than cold calling or email. We should add that this messaging tool is only available on paid accounts, and the higher level the account you have, the more you get. You can compare account types to find an account that meets your needs.

To get the most out of your InMail message, use it as a conversation starter and not a deal closer. The goal here is to discuss and explore an opportunity, not seal the deal immediately. Additionally, choose words that reflect your personal voice, and give them a reason to reply by discussing their goals and needs rather than a hard pitch.

As we’ve now seen, social media is an important driver of online sales, and the integration of digital marketing and sales is more important than ever. Keeping these teams involved in each other’s work makes sure that you’ll have consistency in how your brand is being showcased in terms of content and style. Social selling is all about creating and fostering relationships, and there’s no better place to blend those two teams than on LinkedIn.

For more information about premium LinkedIn accounts or the new Sales Navigator, visit LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

[Image credit: Flazingo Photos]