Critical Elements to Effective Social Selling on LinkedIn

By Melonie Dodaro

Are you generating new leads and clients with social selling on LinkedIn each month? Are you able to clearly demonstrate a tangible ROI from your current social selling efforts?

If you answered no to either of these questions, then you may be missing one or more of the essential elements to effective social selling on LinkedIn.

Regardless of whether you are just starting out with social selling on LinkedIn or you have been doing it for a while, four critical elements will determine whether your efforts succeed, or fail miserably.

Even neglecting just one of them will dramatically reduce the effectiveness to generate new leads and clients on LinkedIn.

These four essential elements include: personal branding; personalization; lead Generation and content marketing.

Personal Branding

We live in a digital age. Over 5.135 billion people now use a mobile phone. In fact, of those over five billion smartphone users, more than 3.196 billion people are also social media users.

If you are among the over three billion social media users, then you already have a personal brand, which is consciously or subconsciously being evaluated by every person you interact with on social channels, whether you realize it or not.

I think it is fair to say that then, that your personal brand is critical, particularly if some of those people are clients, partners or prospects.

If you are using LinkedIn, especially for the purposes of lead generation, then you can be sure that those decision makers are viewing and judging your profile.

But what is your LinkedIn profile telling them when they land on it?

Does it tell them that you are professional, competent and trustworthy? Or is it an incomplete shell, outdated or unprofessional looking.

If it is the latter, then you are severely hampering any chance you have at connecting and building a professional relationship with these people.

And equally, as important as having a professional profile, you need a profile that is client-focused, so that it resonates with these same people (particularly your ideal prospects) when they land on it. You want them to know they are in the right place when they view your profile.

With this in mind, there are three things your personal brand (and LinkedIn profile) must do:

1. Build Authority and Credibility

Your LinkedIn profile must effectively build your credibility and position your authority on your topic. Highlight within your profile anything that showcases your expertise.

2. Describe How You Solve Your Prospects’ Problems

Demonstrate how you solve the problem your prospects have. No one cares about your business; they are focused on their specific challenges or problems. Be the solution they are looking for. Make sure that is described in your profile.

3. Increase Trust and Engagement

The ultimate goal of your LinkedIn profile (personal brand) is to develop and increase trust and inspire prospects to connect and engage with you.

With these three goals in mind, I have created this thorough resource for you on how to create an All-Star LinkedIn profile.

Personalize Everything

The importance of personal branding is not the only outcome of this new digital age.

This digital revolution has changed the way we buy—from teenagers looking for trendy new clothes to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies looking for service solutions. In response, this has also changed the way companies sell—most notably, personalization. Giants such as Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are all providing personalized content online.

As the general population continues to expect more and more personalization, small- and medium-sized businesses are customizing how they engage with their customers online as well.

With this focus on personalization, gone are the days of copying and pasting templated messages. Your prospects can see through this a mile away. They are hitting delete, removing you as a connection, or worse, marking you as spam.

Even if you are selling to a company, you are first and foremost building a relationship with an individual. That individual has specific needs and challenges and connecting with them on a personal level is necessary so that they know you care about their problem.

Your customers and prospects want to be heard, understood, remembered, and respected. Anything less than this will render you and your business obsolete. Your prospects will look for someone else who “gets” them.

Well-researched personalization is especially critical in your first message—the connection request—with your prospects. You have 300 characters (not words) to give them a reason to accept your connection request. And the reason you give them must be framed from their perspective, not yours.

Even after your connection request is accepted, you must continue putting in the effort to create a unique and personalized experience for them with each message you send. Display your commitment to providing value by only sending your connections messages and content that are of importance to them.

Companies of all sizes and across all industries are discovering the need to make personalization a critical part of their present and future.

Create Lead Generation

Having a professional personal brand and effectively using personalization is key to your success on LinkedIn but having a direct outreach to targeted prospects is the fastest, most reliable, and effective way to generate leads, and clients on LinkedIn.

To be successful at social selling on LinkedIn, you need to have a well laid out process that includes a specific list of activities that you commit to doing consistently.

It is a proven fact that businesses grow five times faster with a written plan. But in creating a written plan, you must know what the specific social selling activities are and why they are essential. There are so many things you could do, but many of them are time-wasters and don’t produce a positive ROI—return on investment or return on impact.

This is why I created my proprietary formula, The LINK Method™, which can turn LinkedIn into a predictable source of new leads and clients for you. The LINK Method™ consists of the highest leveraging activities you can do on LinkedIn to generate new clients, and includes these critical five steps: find prospects; make first contact; engage in dialogue; build relationship; move conversation offline.

Find Prospects

There are two highly effective ways to prospect on LinkedIn. The first is by doing a targeted search for prospects using the Advanced Search function, and the second is by leveraging your network to gain introductions.

Make First Contact

After you have located potential prospects, you need to make first contact. This process starts with your initial connection request. It must be personalized; give people a reason they should connect with you. What you put in your connection request message will largely determine your overall success, if your connection requests aren’t accepted, you are wasting your time.

Engage in Dialogue

You need to establish rapport and start a dialogue with your new connections, so you can begin to build a relationship with them. You do this by following up with a personalized message. I call this the welcome message. And if someone has sent a message to you after accepting your request, keep the conversation going.

Build Relationship

The process of building relationships isn’t limited to just one message after you connect with a prospect. You’ll want to send additional messages to continue the momentum, get to know them better and provide value to them.

Move Conversation Offline

Finally, you need to move the conversation and the relationship to the next level—offline. No relationship with a potential prospect should be kept solely on LinkedIn or on any online platform.

If you have established rapport, begun to build trust, and provided value to your prospect many of them will be willing to have an offline conversation with you—be it through a phone call, a video call meeting, or even an in-person meeting. To be successful at this, you need to follow all steps before this and earn the right for that offline conversation.

It is offline that you get to know your prospect, understand their challenges, and, when appropriate, offer your solution. It’s offline that you convert a prospect to a client.

Build Authority

It is a fundamental truth that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. To accomplish this, you need to build relationships based on trust and establish your authority on your topic.

But it is harder to gain trust in the digital world, where you don’t get the chance to meet someone eye to eye. For that reason, you need to find digital ways to help prospects get to know, like, and trust you.

So, just how do you prove your expertise and help your prospects?

Through the ACT of content marketing, which over time, will increase Authority, Credibility, and Trust.

Content marketing is creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a defined target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The content you share can be your original content or curated content. Curating content is sharing content created by others that would be of value to your target audience.

To be successful with content marketing, you need to understand your potential prospects problems. Your goal in using content is to educate them on the solution(s) to solve their problem or challenge. Content is education-based marketing. The keyword here is education.

Your success will also depend on the quality of the content you are sharing. You need to ensure that everything you share is high-value from the perspective of your ideal client. What you consider high-value and what they believe is high-value may be different.

Summing Up

Social selling on LinkedIn provides unlimited opportunities for you to generate more leads, clients, and sales for your business – but only if you include all the elements necessary to ensure that you put your best foot forward, connect in a personal way with potential prospects, establish authority, credibility and trust with helpful content and are pulling all your efforts together in a proven, well laid out lead generation process.

Skip just one of these essential elements, and you will severely hamper your results, perhaps even damage your credibility. Above all else, the most important thing you can do to succeed at social selling is to educate yourself (and your team) on the most effective strategies and best practices.

Melonie Dodaro is founder of Top Dog Social Media that helps brands and businesses, use social media marketing and social selling to boost visibility, attract new customers and increase revenue. Dodaro is also the author of ‘The LinkedIn Code’ and the recently-released ‘LinkedIn Unlocked’. To learn more visit