Here’s a sobering statistic. The average client-facing professional in the financial services industry achieves a score of 20 on LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI.)
The maximum score is 100.
As the name suggests, LinkedIn’s SSI measures the promotional competence of individuals, companies, and industries on LinkedIn. The score is based on 4 criteria – creating a professional brand, finding the right prospects, engaging with insights and building strong relationships – with each criteria being scored out of 25.
A score of 20 means that financial services professionals are either barely fulfilling the first criteria or, for those who have embraced LinkedIn as a selling platform, doing all four pretty badly.
The industry’s lack of competence in social selling in general, and LinkedIn selling in particular, is puzzling.
The social platform is used by people at all stages of their careers but most heavily by executives and business owners – the most attractive market for the financial services industry. Of course, the issues around compliance pose a unique set of industry challenges when selling socially, but these challenges have been largely overcome with the emergence of a number of automated software solutions.
Realising a tool has the potential to help you and your business is one thing – knowing how to use it is another. So here are 5 specific ways you can use LinkedIn to further your own business development goals, and those of your company.
1. Position Yourself To Be Found
The traditional business development model is that sellers find their buyers. But in our connected and information-rich world, 4 out of 5 buyers do their research online and ‘find’ their sellers.
Much of this ‘finding’ is happening on LinkedIn. The professional network’s own research estimates that 73% of ‘affluent investors’ are using LinkedIn to research investment decisions. This will be particularly true for affluent millennials and for tech executives and entrepreneurs, for whom social media is a key source of research and advice. These people expect you to be on LinkedIn.
But it’s not only about positioning yourself to be found by those searching on LinkedIn. By having a profile, you’re positioning yourself to be found on Google too. That is because both personal and corporate LinkedIn profiles rank highly for relevant organic searches.
No matter what your offline reputation, if you are not ‘positioning yourself to be found’ – online in general, and on LinkedIn in particular – you’re losing out on a massive swathe of potential business.
2. Building Your Personal (and Your Company’s) Brand
Being found is one thing, but you need to get to make a positive first impression on that new business prospect, and that’s about the quality of your profile.
People buy people, something which is particularly true in the financial services industry when so much business is secured on trust and individual reputation. Building a complete and engaging profile – a careful blend of adhering to your companies values whilst showcasing your own, unique traits – gives you a greater chance to make it on to your buyer’s ‘preferred’ list, and to go on to secure the business.
And it’s not just about your profile. For more complex institutional contracts in particular, the buyer will be researching much further. They will check out your company’s corporate profile but the focus of their attention will be on the LinkedIn profiles of your colleagues.
Your company’s online reputation is the sum of the individual LinkedIn profiles of all its employees. One weak link in that chain – particularly at a senior level – could mean that the initial contact from a new business prospect simply doesn’t happen.
3. Identifying Trigger Events
The key to successful business development is identifying and reacting to ‘trigger events’ – changes in a prospect’s circumstances that could trigger a change in financial planning needs. LinkedIn enables you to identify one of the most significant – a change of job.
A promotion or an additional directorship can mean more cash to invest, or a change in circumstances which could lead to new, or enhanced, insurances being required. A new role in a new location could mean the need to arrange a new mortgage.
Connecting to your clients on LinkedIn takes your ‘little black book’ online, with the advantage that it automatically updates as your clients and prospects update their profiles – including a change of role. LinkedIn also enables you to manage a much larger list of contacts than you could cope with offline. The more contacts you build up, the more new business opportunities you create for yourself.
You can keep up to date with your connections, and their changes in circumstances, simply by logging into your LinkedIn homepage on a regular basis.
4. Finding New Clients
LinkedIn has a powerful search tool that allows you to find new prospects who are either connected to your LinkedIn contacts directly, or by two degrees of separation. You can search by company, past companies worked for, industry, location, education and even non-profit interests.
So, for example, you can search for new business prospects on LinkedIn who are connected to an existing client of yours and either work at, or used to work at, the same company as them. Or you might find a prospect – who one of your clients is connected to – who went to the same school or university as you, a nice little ‘hook’ to get a new business conversation started.
Once you’ve found your prospects, the natural next step is to ask your client to affect an introduction – an introduction that’s more likely to be responded to in the positive due to the trusted source making it.
And the more clients you gain this way, the more new prospects you can find – as long as you connect to those new clients on LinkedIn.
5. Attracting New Clients
I made the point above that creating a fully populated LinkedIn profile positions you to be found by the new breed of investors. But you can be much more proactive than this.
By creating content and sharing it on the platform you can potentially win more business from your existing contacts, as well as triggering new opportunities amongst the wider LinkedIn audience beyond your own connections. This is all possible using the LinkedIn publishing platform.
LinkedIn offers a content creation and distribution tool which enables you to write your own articles on your area of expertise, and then distribute it to the people on LinkedIn who are most likely to be interested in it – creating new business leads.
Of course, creating your own content is time-consuming, so what you share doesn’t necessarily have to be created by you all the time. By sharing useful content – either relating to interesting financial products or about an industry you’re looking to target – you can still create leads. That content may well by seen by your own connections when they log in to their LinkedIn home pages and, if they like it and share it, it will be seen by their connections. This creates goodwill and keeps you front of mind – two factors which will make you the most likely first port of call when a relevant need arises.
In short, LinkedIn provides a wealth of opportunities for financial services professionals and the companies they work for.
And that paltry 20 out of 100 score I mentioned at the start of this piece? Well, that represents an opportunity. An opportunity to make better use of LinkedIn than your rivals and secure yourself some vital competitive advantage.
Because if you don’t, you can bet your professional reputation that someone else will.