I slumped onto our kitchen floor, shaking and crying.
I'd just been unexpectedly fired from the highest-paying job I'd ever had. To make matters worse, my wife and I had three young boys under the age of 5, and it was the height of the 2008-09 economic recession. (The unemployment rate had just jumped to over 9 percent, the highest it had been in almost 30 years.)
Less than five days later, thanks in large part to how I'd set up my LinkedIn profile, I had two new job offers.
I accepted one of them and started a new job where I actually made $15,000 more in base salary than I had at my previous job.
To recap: I got fired at the height of the 2008-09 recession. I turned to LinkedIn. I got two new job offers. I took a new job, got a $15K raise and never looked back. All in 5 days.
That was the first time I realized the true power of the world's largest social networking platform for professionals.
In 2012, I quit my day job and started my own company. In my first 90 days on my own, I generated six figures in revenue. All of it came from clients and customers I found and engaged with on LinkedIn.
To sum up: I've spent the past 48 months selling products and services (my own and those of my clients) on LinkedIn. Here are three key tricks I've learned to generate more sales leads, clients, and revenue using LinkedIn.
1. Make your profile client-facing.
I've talked about this before, but I'm going to keep repeating it until the day I die: Stop laying out your LinkedIn profile like a virtual résumé!
Instead, make it all about the immediate and unique value or benefit your product or service brings your ideal clients and customers. (I call it a "client-facing" LinkedIn profile.)
Use this fill-in-the-blank template to ensure your LinkedIn profile follows this approach.
If you're able to configure your profile in a way that makes it clear who you are, what type of product or service you provide, and how it will benefit your ideal customer as a result, sales are far easier to make on LinkedIn.
2. Go "big brother" on prospects.
Before I ever engage a prospect on LinkedIn, I take a few moments to scan his or her public profile page.
What you find there is often a gold mine of personal and professional information that ensures you get new relationships off to the right start.
I have countless stories of this particular tactic paying off in incredible ways--like the time I took 14 seconds to scan a prospect's LinkedIn profile, sent him a personalized invitation and follow-up message based on what I'd found, and, one phone call later, landed myself a $10,000 marketing contract.
I'm not using Jedi mind tricks, black hat tactics, or anything else. Rather, I'm tapping into the wealth of personal information available on someone's LinkedIn profile to break the ice and strike up a conversation that speaks directly to my prospect's professional (and personal!) interests, desires, and passions.
How often do you see a LinkedIn invitation or message do that?
3. Show and tell.
It should go without saying that in today's online marketplace, you have to earn the right to ask for someone's time and attention.
Gone are the days of simply asking for (and getting) someone's time on the telephone or a coffee meeting.
It's not even enough to say, "Well, I do XYZ, and I'd love to get you on the phone to see if I can help you out with ABC."
Rather, you need to first prove to that person you know what you're talking about.
Show people you're the real deal -- create and share the type of content, case studies, and client testimonials that leave no doubt you walk the walk.
LinkedIn makes it easy to embed everything from blogs and training videos to podcasts right on the platform. It even curates the most popular and well-liked content and status updates and exposes them to massive audiences you hadn't even dreamed of reaching.
Best of all, LinkedIn's detailed analytics show you each and every individual who is engaging with your content, giving you the ability to cultivate warm leads in a fast, efficient, and targeted manner.
LinkedIn, then and now.
It's hard to believe how much has changed since I spent that night sobbing on my kitchen floor during the great recession.
But more than anything else, I've emerged today knowing that we really do live in the single best time in all of history to build a powerful personal brand, land your dream job or even run your own business.
And, needless to say, LinkedIn is going to continue playing a huge role in all of it.