With the recession continuing and bank loans ever harder to come by, even firms lacking a marketing or sales budget can attract new clients.
Straightened economic times may seem to constrain business opportunities – yet there are solutions around, and one is to get on LinkedIn. Not only is it (mostly) free but it enables you to make direct contact with your target audience. Described as the “Facebook for business people”, LinkedIn has over 100 million users in more than 200 countries, and it enables you to get introduced to new clients without having to make cold calls or advertise.
Friends in need
It all works on the principle that if we mix in the right circles, we are only two or three degrees away from the contacts we want to meet. Let’s say I’m a lawyer who is interested in doing business with accountants in Manchester. When I search for them on LinkedIn, I can also see which of my friends know these accountants and can then ask my friends to introduce me to them.
Not only are prospective clients more likely to meet me – they’re more likely to convert into business because they were introduced by a friend. The more connections you have, the more likely you are to be connected to potential clients. Growing your network means adding your work colleagues, your suppliers, your friends and your clients.
Sea change in attitudes
With shrinking sales or marketing budgets, there is more pressure on all employees to bring in more business, particularly at board level, where executives invariably have ties with decision makers at other companies. But this will require a sea change in corporate culture.
Before, new business development was always the work of account managers and sales reps. Suddenly partners and chief executives are finding themselves at networking meetings without being quite sure what to do. With this in mind, HR departments need to invest in proper sales training. If you want your employees to act as sales reps, you need to teach them how to network and how to sell. You also need to incentivise and reward staff who bring in new business.
Regardless of how strong your brand is, what sets you apart from your competitors is the ability of your staff to exploit their connections. To update the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know – and how you connect to them on LinkedIn.