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10 Ways to Generate More Leads and Referrals on LinkedIn

It's not hard--and may be the best 20 minutes you spend every day.
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Everyone seems to be on LinkedIn. So you are too. But are you actually generating leads and referrals?

Here's a blueprint for using LinkedIn to prospect more effectively from Sandler Training, a leading sales, management, and leadership training organization.

1. Prepare a digital version of your 30-Second Commercial and include that text in your LinkedIn profile. The main thing to remember about LinkedIn is this: It is a huge, never-ending, virtual networking event, and you have to be ready with the right response to, "What do you do?"

Your 30-second commercial is the answer to that question, as told from the point of view of a prospect in pain that eventually turned into your happy customer.

For instance: "We specialize in custom designed inventory management systems for manufacturing and distribution operations. We've been particularly successful with companies in the X, Y, and Z industries that are concerned about the costs associated with inaccurate inventory counts, unhappy with frequent paperwork bottlenecks that slow down the fulfillment process, or disappointed by the amount of time it takes to reconcile purchasing, invoicing, and shipping records. We've been able to create hand-in-glove inventory management systems that help our customers save time, attention, and money."

If something like this isn't on your LinkedIn profile you're at a competitive disadvantage.

2. Add connections to your network. If you invest a minute or so each working day clicking the "connect" button on the "People You May Know" list that LinkedIn posts in your feed you will broaden your network, and you will become known as someone who broadens the network, which is just as important.

Remember: Everyone you talk to about business or meet during the course of the business day is a potential LinkedIn connection.

3. Play fair. But only "connect" to people you actually know. LinkedIn will backfire on you if you pretend to know people you don't. (While we're at it, here are nine other mistakes people make on LinkedIn.)

Always ask for introductions to people you don't know.

4. Build out your lead list. Spend five minutes a day investigating the connections of your contacts to see whom you don't know personally but would like to meet. Make a note of those to whom you would like introductions. Start first with the "Recommendations," since those are most likely the strongest relationships of the LinkedIn user you are viewing.

Ask for the recommendations outside of your LinkedIn account via email or phone. You'll get a quicker answer. (And you'll get the chance to quickly reconnect with your connections.)

5. Follow your current clients and prospects. Spend another two minutes each day looking up your current clients and top prospects. Find out whether they have a company page. If they do, follow and monitor it.

6. Post an update. Spend 60 seconds each working day posting an "Update" to your LinkedIn network. Use the daily update to share a link to an article or a video that is relevant to your prospects and customers. Or use the "Pulse" (used to be known as "LinkedIn Today") feature on your LinkedIn dashboard.

Each time you post an update you get displayed on the feed of all the people with whom you are connected. But never sell when you post updates. Add value and share expertise instead.

7. Join groups. LinkedIn lets you connect with people who are in groups with you. Use this as a targeted way to add value to others, share insights, and build out your network with prospects. Invest five minutes a day on this. (Here are tips to find the best groups to join.)

8. Use LinkedIn to celebrate the accomplishments of others. When you come across a news story or post that offers good news about your client or prospect, or any key contact, share the news as a status update. Recognize the person with an "@" reply. That will ensure they receive notification of the mention. Spend a minute a day on this.

9. Write a recommendation. It is often difficult to secure LinkedIn recommendations, if only because it takes the writer time to log in, write, and post them.

Instead of waiting for someone to recommend you, devote five minutes a day to writing and posting (reality-based) recommendations for your customers and key contacts. Once your contact approves the text, the recommendation will show up on his/her LinkedIn account.

This will align you with your contact, serve as a permanent top-of-mind promotional piece for you and your organization, show your network that you work together, and make it much more likely that your contact will look for a way return the favor. That could be either a referral or a recommendation.

Often, it's both.

10. Stop. The key to success on LinkedIn is investing a little bit of time every working day--not six hours a day for a week straight, then nothing.

Do all of this regularly. The maximum total time investment should be 20 minutes a day, not including developing your 30-Second Commercial (which you should finish before you even log into LinkedIn.)

Invest that twenty minutes a day, consistently, for thirty straight working days, and you will start generating more prospects and referrals from LinkedIn.

Then... keep it up!

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 14, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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