The modern buyer’s journey has changed in recent years. Statistics show that today’s buyers are digitally connected and self-educating. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, buyers complete 67 percent of their decision-making before contacting a sales rep. 

LinkedIn is the No. 1 social media platform for B2B sales, according to Omnicore, and with almost 600 million users it has become a prime place for prospecting, business development and social selling. Social selling is the process of leveraging online platforms (like LinkedIn) and tools to attract, teach and engage targeted buyers. In the promotional products sales world, our targeted buyers typically work in marketing, a field that uses LinkedIn heavily. Ninety-one percent of marketing executives list LinkedIn as the top place to find quality content. So, if your targeted buyer works in marketing, LinkedIn is the place to find them and engage with them.

To get the most from LinkedIn for your social selling, focus on these four steps:

  1. Establish a professional brand
  2. Find the right people
  3. Build relationships
  4. Engage with insights

These areas are tracked by LinkedIn on your Social Selling Index (SSI, see sidebar). 

Here are some ways you can see a quick increase in your SSI.

Establish A Professional Brand

Start by converting your LinkedIn profile from a resume to a resource. Your profile shouldn’t be about you—it should be about your prospective clients. 

To establish your professional brand, make sure your profile includes these:

  • Headline. Ditch the job title and tell people who you help and how you help them.

  • Summary. Use the 2,000-character allotment to write about the challenges your clients face and then share two to three insights about promotional products and offer solutions. Make sure you include a call-to-action, such as a calendar link to schedule a call. Lastly add your contact information to the summary along with links to any rich media you have (website, photos, product videos, articles, etc.).

  • Background banner. Create a banner image with your company logo, your web address and email.

  • Profile photo. Have a professional headshot taken for your profile page.



Find The Right People

This is the act of discovery—to identify who your prospective clients are and to find them on LinkedIn. Begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • What industries/business sectors are you currently serving or wanting to break into? For example, you may have strong ties in the college market but also may want to expand into health care.

  • What geographical area are you currently working in or looking to expand into? LinkedIn gives you the advantage of expanding into an area without having a storefront or a rep in that area.

  • What’s the ideal company size to do business with? Many people like to work with small businesses or solopreneurs, while others like companies with about 250 employees.

Once you’ve identified your prospects, don’t make the mistake many do on LinkedIn. Don’t start sending random connection requests and then, if they accept, try to sell them. When connecting with people on LinkedIn, context is very important. Find a reason to connect with them and if you can’t find a reason, then just “follow” them.

First, make sure you’re connected with the people you already know and do business with. Look at your client list. Are you connected with the decision makers at your top 10, 25 or 50 clients? Are you connected with the reps at your top suppliers? Are you connected with the people you have relationships with in your networking circles?

Next, check the connections you currently have and look for a way to re-engage with them, especially those who are prospective clients. One way to do this is by sharing an article you’ve written—such as a blog on the cost per impression of promotional items versus traditional advertising sources. Send the article to them via LinkedIn with a note. For example: “John, it’s been a while since we connected on LinkedIn. I hope you’re doing well. I thought I’d share this short article I wrote with some key insights on how promotional products compare to traditional advertising. I’d appreciate your feedback.”

This will have a double benefit: it will help you re-engage with John and provide insights that show you are more than a salesperson—you are a thought leader in promotional products. 

Build Relationships

Another mistake most people make on LinkedIn is connecting and forgetting. LinkedIn doesn’t have to be a huge time drainer. If you set a timer for five or 10 minutes each morning, you can accomplish a lot. Building relationships online happens over time, but you must start somewhere. Each morning, in the time frame you’ve allowed yourself, go onto LinkedIn with a few goals to accomplish. For example, set a goal for how many posts you’re going to like, comment on and share. Set a goal that once a week, or every other week, you’re going to write a post that shares insights into your industry. As you comment on other people’s posts, you’ll begin to build relationships with them and the more you share, the more you’ll be seen as an industry expert.

Engage With Insights

This step specifically has to do with the posts and articles you write on LinkedIn. By sharing content, you position yourself as a thought leader who adds value to each conversation. Consider this statistic from sales training company Corporate Visions, “74 percent of buyers choose the sales rep who was the first to add value and insight.”

In a world in which we’re bombarded by unsolicited emails and cold calls, it’s refreshing when a salesperson shares insight and offers value with no strings attached. LinkedIn is the perfect place for you to share the latest news from our industry.

A few ideas to consider are these:

  • Videos of new products—especially after a trade show or at key times of the year
  • Articles featuring a chart from PPAI® research
  • Supplier content on new products
  • Posting about the latest safety guidelines for promotional products

When this content is focused on education and providing value, rather then selling, it provides you with great follow-up content. You won’t have to send that email or message that says, “Hey Sue, I just wanted to check in and see if …” Rather, you can email Sue with a copy of an informative post you wrote, or better yet, send it to her on LinkedIn. Now you’re following up with something of value. In fact, according to LinkedIn, nearly 64 percent of B2B buyers report that they appreciate hearing from a salesperson who provides knowledge or insight about their business.

With more than 150 million LinkedIn users in the United States alone, LinkedIn needs to be part of your business development strategy moving forward. Most people who use LinkedIn are guilty of “random acts of social”—in other words, they lack a strategy and cadence to their activity on LinkedIn.

By focusing on your professional brand, the right people, building relationships and engaging with insight, your engagement, influence and network will grow, and you’ll be positioned to increase your connections, and more importantly, your bottom line.


Bill McCormick is co-owner of Catskill, New York-based distributor Team Creative Connections, which he and his wife, Sue, started in 2013. He quickly found the value of LinkedIn, first as a lead generator and then to increase sales. Since then, the couple attribute over $350,000 in sales to using LinkedIn as part of their sales cycle. McCormick is passionate about the power of LinkedIn and combining that with the power of promotional products to help distributors find leads and generate sales. He recently joined the team of Social Sales Link to help individuals and sales teams leverage the power of social selling to attract, teach and engage targeted buyers.