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INSIDER: LinkedIn for Business Development

June 1, 2013

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Susan Monaghan, MBA Candidate

Are you using LinkedIn most effectively to grow your business? With over 200 million members in over 200 different countries representing 2.6 million companies (including every Fortune 500 company), LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that can help real estate professionals build relationships and prospect for new clients.

LinkedIn for Business Development, a 2013 book by sales trainers Brynne Tillman and Lisa Peskin, will help sales professionals use LinkedIn to take their business to the next level. LinkedIn may seem like a basic online networking tool, but its robust features can help salespeople connect with potential clients more quickly, efficiently, and purposefully. Specifically, LinkedIn's resources can provide salespeople with a faster, better way to fill the pipeline with more targeted, pre-qualified leads.

THINK POINT #1: Maximize Your Profile

Did you know that if someone searches your name on Google, one of the first entries they see is your LinkedIn profile? A real estate professional's LinkedIn profile should briefly tell her "professional story" in a way that attracts viewers. To design a profile that optimizes your brand in a web search, Tillman and Peskin recommend that you first create a headline that establishes your credibility and sets you apart from your colleagues. For example, a powerful headline for a real estate agent might read: "Sarah Smith, Broker, Pinnacle Producer and a D Magazine Top Real Estate Agent for the past 7 years." Impressive headlines will stand out on Google searches and as users browse through LinkedIn, which will help you begin to reel-in potential clients to your business.

LinkedIn's summary section is also an important area to focus on. Just like the summary at the top of a resume, the summary section in your LinkedIn profile provides an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your experience, skills, and accomplishments. The authors encourage users to develop a story that conveys a unique value proposition. For example, a real estate professional might consider writing: "Russ established himself in the real estate industry following a long career in business sales and financial management. He is knowledgeable and enjoys staying current with the latest technologies and market trends to help his clients buy or sell their homes quickly. Customer service is Russ' top priority."

Content in the summary section is enhanced and supported through LinkedIn's recommendations and testimonial features. Users cannot provide their own recommendations and testimonials, but real estate agents might consider encouraging satisfied clients to provide a recommendation or a testimonial after a closing.

An effective recommendation might look something like this: "John is an incredible real estate agent and spent countless hours putting together the necessary resources to help my family relocate to our new home in the prestigious River Oaks neighborhood. For anyone looking for a quality, respected agent, I definitely recommend John." When prospective clients see recommendations that provide support for the qualities and characteristics outlined in your profile summary, your credibility is immediately enhanced.

Testimonials, like recommendations, can help your clients communicate their satisfaction with your work. When working with a pleased client, direct them to your LinkedIn profile to write a testimonial about your work. A testimonial might look something like this: "Patty is client-oriented, strategic in the way she approaches the sales process, and full of energy. During each of my house hunting trips, Patty always provided new insights and a clearer picture of how my feedback was refining my search process. Patty does not sleep until she finds you the perfect house!"

Did you know you can also upload videos to LinkedIn? Informative videos can help potential clients learn more about your work and provide a way to convey your passion for your business. Through a short video, users can share generic information, industry insights, and/or thought-provoking ideas to encourage prospects to contact you. Whether you use a large-scale production company or the simple webcam on your computer, be sure to take advantage of the video function as a unique lead-generating tool.

THINK POINT #2: Make New Connections

In addition to creating an effective profile that attracts prospective clients, Tillman and Peskin help users consider ways to use LinkedIn to proactively make new connections. LinkedIn's advanced search feature, designed to help users work smarter (and not harder) in the search process, allows users to filter through different industry or group categories as they search for new connections. Unlike traditional networking settings, a LinkedIn user can see a broad database of other users and identify prospects in a whole new way.

When you have identified someone you would like to connect with, first see if you know someone who is already connected to him/her. If you do, leverage the relationship that is already established and ask your connection to make an introduction for you. A warm introduction can yield a much stronger likelihood that the prospect will respond to you than if you tried to make the cold connection on your own. Asking for an introduction on LinkedIn opens up a whole new channel for potential clients, referral sources, or strategic alliances that can also help you gain additional client opportunities.

Once an introduction has been made, LinkedIn provides resources for building rapport and turning new connections into clients. First, make sure to read the prospect's LinkedIn summary. This can provide insight into his interests and reveal the activities or business ventures that are important to him. Looking through his mutual connections might also reveal common interests or experiences, as well as shared connections.

Also within the prospect's profile, you will find his skills section and a place that shares any awards and honors he may have earned. In becoming familiar with these sections, real estate professionals can determine how to engage and encourage potential clients in conversation, which can be a powerful tool for building rapport. The authors advise salespeople not to use LinkedIn just to "sell their stuff," but rather to engage clients in conversations about topics that are important to them. Your business can reap the rewards of due diligence if you take time to build your own profile and leverage the opportunity to make new connections with potential clients.

THINK POINT #3: Become a Business Connector

While many users engage in networking with a "what's in it for me" mentality, the authors advise that helping others is an equally important component of networking. Real estate agents can help others be successful by becoming a business connector, or using LinkedIn to create value for others. When you help others, others will be more likely to help you in return.

Business connectors can use LinkedIn to create value by building bridges between other users and sharing unique expertise. A real estate professional might consider sending a LinkedIn message to a new contact and offering to make an introduction on his behalf. Or an agent might consider posting a blog or writing a white paper with specific market knowledge. Either way, you are creating value for others.

Also consider creating and/or joining LinkedIn groups to become a business connector within your network. By sharing information, others will look to you for expertise and may be more likely to use or refer prospective clients to you. Discussions that occur within LinkedIn's group function can provide useful information for your business, and can open up new lines of communication and other opportunities with potential clients. Business connectors leverage LinkedIn's tools to help others, and in turn help themselves.

Conclusion

Authors Tillman and Peskin provide sales professionals with current best practices for leveraging resources and tools in LinkedIn to generate leads and build relationships with potential clients. By maximizing your profile, making new connections, and becoming a business connector, you can use LinkedIn to open up new doors for business development.

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Recommended Reading

Tillman, Brynne and Lisa Peskin (2013), LinkedIn for Business Development, San Bernardino, CA: Business Development University, LLC.

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About the Author

Susan Monaghan, MBA Candidate
Baylor University

Susan is a graduate student from Houston, Texas. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Vanderbilt University and her master's in elementary education from the University of Houston. Before coming to Baylor, she taught first grade in Highland Park ISD in Dallas, TX for eleven years. Susan is currently pursuing an MBA with plans to transition into a sales or consulting role.

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