small business

By Gregg Schwartz

As of this writing, we’re almost to the end of 2017 – but even though social media tools have been around for several years, many B2B business owners and sales people still do not know how to use LinkedIn for marketing. It’s true – many of us are “on” LinkedIn, and we use it as a kind of online Rolodex to keep track of contacts and colleagues from previous jobs, but many B2B sales people and small business marketers still feel like they’re “faking it till they make it” on LinkedIn; they don’t know how to use LinkedIn in the most effective way, or why it’s important to their success.

LinkedIn is a big topic and there’s a lot to learn and what works for one business might not work for you – but here is one area where any B2B organization needs to focus more effort, starting today: you should get active on LinkedIn Groups to fuel your B2B marketing.

LinkedIn Groups are still one of the most underrated ways to spend time on LinkedIn in a way that drives your sales success.

Here are a few of the ways that LinkedIn Groups can help your sales:

Conduct Niche-focused Networking

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to very quickly hone in on exactly the right industry experts, industry peers, and industry prospects in whatever industry or category you serve or sell to. A quick perusal of LinkedIn will probably show you several groups that are related to your industry, your solution, or your customers’ needs – and if you don’t see any Groups that are relevant, you can start one of your own! For example, my company has started a LinkedIn Group for B2B sales and marketing professionals called “Manage Your Leads” which has more than 6,000 members.

And don’t worry about LinkedIn Groups just being another source of clutter and spam – many LinkedIn Groups require you to ask permission to join the Group, and they are very selective about which people and organizations can get involved. Every LinkedIn community wants to make sure that is limited to a circle of people who will really contribute and offer valuable expertise. So if you can get involved in LinkedIn Groups, you are likely to immediately be immersed in a discussion with people who are directly interested in your ideas, your solutions, and your thought leadership.

Do Company Research

LinkedIn Groups are an ideal way to do company research – because you can learn more about your target companies, find out who you know within the company, and see the latest ideas and conversation pieces shared by people from that company. There’s no better way to get acquainted with people at your prospects’ organizations and find out which target companies are the best fit for what you sell – you can strike up conversations on LinkedIn and start to build relationships before you ever pick up the phone to make a sale.

Find New Sales Leads

Of course, it doesn’t always happen immediately, but LinkedIn Groups can be a great source of new sales leads! You might discover that companies in your niche are openly posting about needs for new solutions or offering RFPs within your LinkedIn Groups, or you might see people who you would like to sell to who are posting about business issues and challenges that they’re facing. Use these conversations as a starting point to open a broader discussion that can lead to a sales appointment.

Get Ideas for New Sales Outreach

Another great aspect of LinkedIn Groups is that you get a chance to learn best practices and stay on top of the latest trends affecting your industry. Sometimes you can get the most out of LinkedIn just by using it as a “listening tool” to pick up on the latest market trends and business intelligence – you might see some posts on LinkedIn which give you new insights into how your competitors are operating, or what are some new hires happening at the big companies that you want to sell to, or which new mergers or acquisitions might drive new opportunities for you to sell solutions. LinkedIn Groups are a great way to follow the pulse of your market, like your own personal Business News section that is highly tailored to the people and companies that you most need to know about.

LinkedIn Groups are more than just a virtual office water cooler or a glorified trade show; they’re a way to directly connect with the smartest and most dynamic people in your industry while learning valuable details about the companies that you serve. Even if you don’t immediately find a trove of new business leads on LinkedIn, you can use these Groups to get smarter about your industry, get introduced to a bigger circle of influential people, and get savvier about which trends are driving your success. Hopefully you’ll find that the time you devote to LinkedIn Groups is always well spent, because it helps you keep learning and getting better as a sales person.

Gregg Schwartz is the Director of Sales at Strategic Sales and Marketing, an industry-founding lead generation company based in Connecticut. He helps B2B sales organizations generate major account B2B sales leads and improve their sales processes with consulting and training.