The Definitive Guide to Social Selling on LinkedIn

Foreword: What is Social Selling?

Also, check out Orca's other products: Data Enrichment for your Contacts (Orbitly) and Hire remote software developers (Workbridge)

Let’s kick things off with a simple definition:

“Social selling is the art of connecting, engaging with, and nurturing leads through social media channels. Whether that’s on Twitter or LinkedIn, the primary goal is to create real-world sales opportunities by being active through these channels.”

So, why should you even bother paying attention to social selling? This next stat is a pretty good reason: according to LinkedIn, 78% of sales professionals who use social media outperform their peers who don’t.

If you’re still not convinced, here are three more reasons why social selling is advantageous:

Your leads are on Linkedin

LinkedIn has exploded in recent years. Users are more engaged than ever. Which includes your ideal clients. According to a study conducted by IDC, 75% of B2B executives use social media as part of the buying process.

So are your competitors

That’s right, if 78% of salespeople are already utilizing social selling, you can bet that includes your competitors. These statistics from eMarketer drive this point home:

Your competitors are already eating up the attention. Luckily, the rest of this guide will show you how to outperform them.

It leads to lifelong relationships

Relationships are the foundation of successful selling in 2018. By engaging with your leads on LinkedIn, you can add more value and build stronger relationships while boosting your sales teams’ credibility at the same time.

You know why social selling is important, and the benefits it will bring to you and your sales teams. Let’s dig into the seven-step process to becoming a social selling rockstar on LinkedIn.

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Ultimate Positioning

Your LinkedIn profile is the first thing your prospects will see.

Which is why you’ve got to optimize it.

Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s what your connections will judge you on
  • It will boost your credibility as an expert
  • It will convince your leads they are in safe hands
  • It’s the perfect vessel to boost social proof

Let’s break down each element of your profile and what they must include for ultimate optimization:

The Perfect Profile Picture

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

As humans, however, we do it all the time. Which is why your profile picture must be high-quality and professional looking.

But what does this actually mean? Let’s break it down:

Use the right expression

You want to appear warm and friendly to your prospects. The best way to do this is to “smile with your eyes.” Don’t put on a Cheshire-cat grin, but don’t come across too seriously either.

Linkedin profile picture of Jeff Deutsch, Head of Growth at VIPKID

Dress the part

Wear the clothes you’d usually wear in a work setting. Depending on your personality and target market, that might be a traditional shirt (or even suit), or perhaps something more casual. Allow your personality to shine through.

Linkedin profile picture of Romeo Man, Growth mentor and advisor

Take up 60% of the frame

Your profile picture is all about you. This means no landscape photos where you’re somewhere in the background.

Use a simple background

You don’t want the background setting to be too distracting. Make sure that you are the focal point.

Linkedin profile picture of Keron Brown, Managing Director at IngeniumIQ

Credibility Boosters for Killer First Impressions

Once you have a polished profile picture, it’s time to show your audience why they should pay attention to you.

To do this, you must quickly demonstrate that you’re a credible figure in your industry or subject matter.

Do this using these two LinkedIn profile elements:

  • Your header image
  • Your headline

For example, Matthew Howells-Barby, Director of Acquisition at HubSpot, uses a simple header image to illustrate his public speaking ability in front of a large crowd:

Linkedin profile of Matthew Barby, Director of Acquisition at Hubspot

Karola Karlson, Marketing Manager at Taxify, uses this space to showcase the publications she has contributed to:

Linkedin profile of Karola Karlson, Performance Marketing Manager at Taxify

Then there’s your headline. You can use this to show off your work experience, accomplishments, and, most importantly, how you help people.

This is exactly what SaaS marketing consultant Siddharth Bharath does. Instead of simply telling his prospects what he does, he shows how he helps them:

Write A Clear and Compelling Bio

The Linkedin bio section is where you can truly sell yourself.

Use this to expand upon your accomplishments, add more credibility boosters, and talk about how you help your clients.

Josh Fechter, founder of BAMF Media, is a great example of this:

Josh Fechter's Linkedin bio

He lists out the services he offers, as well as the companies he’s worked with.

What about an example from the SaaS world? Here’s how David Cancel, founder of Drift, positions his company’s value proposition:

David Cancel's Linkedin bio

Include this value proposition in both your bio and company description. It’s more likely to get read if a prospect scrolls past your header section.

Recommendations & Endorsements

Receiving recommendations from your peers are like testimonials for your LinkedIn profile. It shows that people vouch for you:

Authentic Linkedin recommendations and endorsements

In the example above, people talk about the value they received from working with Oli Gardner, founder of Unbounce. These people not only vouch for his expertise as a marketer, but his ability as a leader - something that will appeal to potential candidates.

To receive recommendations, you’ve got to give them first. People are more likely to write a glowing testimonial if you write one for them.

Start with those closest to you. These include colleagues, existing clients and friends within your industry. You should also endorse them for relevant skills:

Linkedin Skills and Endorsements to boost credibility and SSI

You should now have a LinkedIn profile that boosts your credibility and shows why you’re an expert in your space.

The next step is to add value to your audience.

Creating Content & Building Your Personal Brand

These days, there’s only one way to build lifelong business relationships: Deliver an insane amount of value upfront.

The best way to do this is through content. Content that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Content that helps people solve their specific problems. Here’s how you do it on LinkedIn:

Create Killer Owned Content

In 2018, I recommend that all salespeople start building their personal brand with owned content. This is content that you publish on your own blog or website. You can either do this on your company blog or your personal website.

For example, Tito Bohrt, CEO of AltiSales, created an in-depth guide on sales development for the Sales Hacker blog:

SalesHacker blog

By doing this, he boosted his own authority within his industry, while creating content for his ideal prospects at the same time.

The first challenge to doing this is coming up with topic ideas. As a salesperson, you’re in the best position to uncover content ideas.

You’re talking to prospects and clients on a daily basis. Keep an ear out for common complaints, questions, and challenges. What hurdles are your prospects trying to overcome?

Keep track of these challenges in a spreadsheet like so:

Next, you need to create the content itself. There are several formats you can use to frame your content, including:

  • How-to guides: Create an instructional guide on how to solve a problem step-by-step.
  • Case studies: Show how a client or someone from within your industry solved a problem.
  • Opinion pieces: Write about your thoughts on a certain area of expertise.
  • Proprietary research: Use owned data or research to create a unique piece of content.

Struggling to write this yourself? Interview subject matter experts from within your organization. These include senior decision makers, marketers, and product designers.

Interviewing these experts will help you fill in the gaps and create content that serves your prospects.

Publish Content on LinkedIn

Did you know LinkedIn has its own publishing platform? It allows anyone to post content and share it directly with their connections.

Now you know how to create killer “owned” content, you can re-publish it on LinkedIn.

To do this, click the “Write an article” button under the status text box at the top of the page:

how to create content on Linkedin

Then, you’ll need to create a header image. My favorite method of finding a relevant image is to head to Unsplash and search for relevant keyword:

Social selling pictures from Unsplash

The optimal size for header images is 1200 x 644 pixels. You can use a tool like Canva to upload your photo from Unsplash and resize it to perfection. Once you’ve uploaded your header image, simply copy and paste your existing content into the article:

You now have owned content published on LinkedIn to share with new connections.

Writing Engaging LinkedIn Posts

As well as LinkedIn articles, it’s also important to write posts that appear directly in the news feed.

Publishing native posts on a regular basis is the perfect way to nurture leads over time. Here’s an example from Aaron Orendorff, Editor in Chief at Shopify:

One of many examples of engaging Linkedin posts from Aaron Orendorff's

The results? Over 250 likes and 90 comments (so far):

Linkedin posts that add value result in higher post engagements

So, how do you create engaging posts like this? There are several formats you can adopt:

  • Stories where you’ve overcome tough hurdles
  • Stories of mistakes you made and how you fixed them
  • Stories from people you’ve met or interviewed
  • Short, instructional guides on new strategies, tricks and hacks

Stories are very popular on LinkedIn. They generate the most attention as it allows your audience to connect with you.

Let’s take a look at another example from Gaetano Nino DiNardi, VP Marketing at Sales Hacker:

Gaetana has over 8,959 followers on Linkedin
  • He hooks readers in with an attention-grabbing question. One that speaks to the pains of his main audience.
  • He then leads into a polarizing opinion on the nature of cold calling.
  • Instead of talking about what’s wrong, he then gets into the crux of the post: actionable advice on what to do instead.
  • He then wraps it up with a question to spark engagement with his audience.

This short post has generated over a hundred likes and dozens of comments. This engagement gets him extra exposure, as the connections of those who comment will also see the post.

You can also create engaging video content. For example, Quentin Allums uses LinkedIn video to spread his message and educate his audience on the power of storytelling:

Example of Linkedin video from Quentin

Creating content in this manner is simple. Simply stand in front of a camera (or iPhone), hit record, and talk about a topic that matters to your ideal clients.

Add subtitles to your video to capture mobile browsers. This engages users who can’t watch with the sound on, and has been proven to generate a higher engagement.

How to Find Red-Hot Prospects on LinkedIn

You now have an optimized profile and killer content that delivers value to your leads.

It’s time to go and find them.

Prospecting for the ideal customer on LinkedIn doesn’t have to be difficult. Luckily, LinkedIn provides tools that make it even easier.

Finding the Best Leads with Advanced Search

The first and most obvious tool is LinkedIn’s advanced search. With it, you can run searches on criteria like location, keywords and industry. To access advanced search, click the search button followed by the magnifying glass icon:

Access Linkedin advanced search

Click “All filters” along the top bar to access the advanced search:

Linkedin search filters

You’ll see a list of advanced filters to refine your search, like so:

Linkedin advanced filters to refine your search

For example, if you wanted to find prospects with a job title of “VP Marketing” who work for IT companies in the San Francisco area, your search would look something like this:

You can also use Boolean logic to construct better search queries. By using Boolean search, you’ll generate more refined results.

Here are five variables you can use in your Boolean search strings:

  • Quoted searches: You can use quotation marks if you want to find someone with a multi-word title or exact phrases. For example: “senior product manager.”
  • NOT searches: If you want to exclude a particular term, you can use an uppercase NOT immediately before the term. For example: programmer NOT manager.
  • OR searches: To see results that include one or more terms, separate the terms with an uppercase OR. For example: ceo OR “chief executive officer” OR founder OR cofounder.
  • AND searches: To get results that include two or more terms in a list, you can use the uppercase word AND as a separator. For example: manager AND director.
  • Parenthetical searches: To do a complex search, you can combine terms using parentheses. For example, if you want to find people who have “VP” in their profiles, but you want to exclude “assistant to VP” or SVPs, you can type: VP NOT(assistant OR SVP).

Linkedin Boolean search must be constructed in this order:

  • Quotes [“”]
  • Parentheses [()]
  • NOT
  • AND
  • OR

A few other things to note when running Linkedin Boolean searches:

  • LinkedIn search only supports standard quotation marks. Stop words such as “by”, “in”, “with” etc. are not used or recognized in a search.
  • The + and — operators are not officially supported by LinkedIn. Using AND in place of a + and NOT in place of a — makes a query much easier to read and guarantees that LinkedIn will handle the search correctly.
  • When using NOT, AND or OR operators, you must type them in uppercase letters.
  • LinkedIn does not support wildcard searches.
  • Boolean search will only work in the keyword word field.

Sophisticated Prospecting with Sales Navigator

If you have the budget, Sales Navigator is well worth investing in. With it, you can run advanced searches, get invaluable insights on your leads, and save your searches for later use.

Use these techniques to get the most out of sales navigator and supercharge your lead generation efforts:

Integrate with your CRM

You can bring your CRM data into Sales Navigator (and the other way around) thanks to LinkedIn’s various partnerships. Below is an example of how this looks in Salesforce:

No more tab-switching when looking for insights on your leads!

Advanced Filters in Sales Navigator

Sales Navigator ramps up the power of advanced search with more sophisticated filters. These filters include:

  • Years at current company
  • Years in current role
  • Years of experience
  • Company type
  • Seniority level
  • Keywords found in posted content


Using the TeamLink filter, you can find prospects that share an acquaintance with you. This includes both first- and second-degree connections.

Save your InMails

Some users have marked themselves as “Open Profiles.” These are people who want to be approached, meaning you don’t need to be connected with them (or use InMail’s) to send them a message.

Tag Prospects

Keep track of your leads by tagging them with their current status. This will help you keep track of several contacts within the same target account:

Keep track of leads by tagging prospects on Linkedin

Use “Shared Experiences”

This filter allows you to find leads who have something in common with you. This could be a place you lived, a company you both worked for, or a group you’ve both engaged with.

Once you’ve found the perfect criteria, click the “Create search alert” to save your search. You can then decide if you want to be alerted to new leads on a daily or weekly basis:

4 LinkedIn Prospecting Tricks

LinkedIn contains several features that can aid with prospecting. These are peppered around the platform and can help uncover new opportunities:

Look at competitor networks

Competitor customers often make the best prospect. These leads already see the value in the problem you solve. You just need to convince them whyyour
solution is better.

Unless they’ve opted to make it private, you can browse through other people’s connections. Look for the salespeople within your competitor’s organization and search through their network for potential prospects.

Look for the salespeople within your competitor’s organization and search through their network.

See who comments

People interacting with your leads posts are likely to be within your target market. Use Sales Navigator to monitor prospect content and identify those who engage with them.

The “People Also Viewed” sidebar

Head over to an existing prospect’s profile and look in the “People Also Viewed” sidebar. This contains similar profiles that may be worth reaching out to.

Send Free InMails

Did you know that you can message 2nd degree connections if you’re in the same group together? When you find a prospect, check out which groups they’re in and join one.

Then, browse the list of members in that group and find the prospect you wish to reach out to. Click the “Message” button and you’ll be able to message them without using InMails:

Message 2nd degree connections in groups for free

How to Engage & Build Trust with Your LinkedIn Leads

Once you’ve identified your ideal leads, you need to begin a relationship.

Due to LinkedIn’s explosive growth, people are constantly bombarded with sales messages on a daily basis.

If you want to stand out, you need to approach your engagement differently. As you’ve already started creating content that positions yourself as an expert, half the work is already done.

The next step is to execute intelligent outreach. Here’s how:

Step 1: Create Conversation Starters

Your connection request is the first point of contact you have with prospects.

Use these conversation starter scripts as a guide for reaching out to new connections. For example, in your connection request, you can reference a LinkedIn post or a piece of content they’ve shared:

“Hi [NAME], I loved your post on [TOPIC]. I agreed with your point about [THING]. I’d love to connect to stay up-to-date with your future posts.”

Here, we’re personalizing the connection request by referencing a post they’ve recently made. We’re then going the extra mile by stating exactly what we found useful about the post. Finally, it’s wrapped up by stating why we want to connect with them.

There are dozens of ways you can personalize your connection request, including:

  • A company you’ve both worked for/with
  • A group or skill you have in common
  • A mutual connection
  • Engagement on other channels (e.g. Twitter)
  • An upcoming event you’re both attending

It’s key you include a viable reason to connect that’s personalized to them. Here’s an example of what not to do:

“Hi [NAME], I’m looking to connect with other marketers and found your profile interesting.”

This includes no personalization and is far too generic. While it can work, your acceptance rate will drop significantly. Use a personalized approach to ensure your connection requests get accepted.

Sound like too much work? Don’t worry. You’ll learn how to automate this process in chapter six.

Step 2: The First Message

Once a connection accepts your request, it’s time to begin a conversation.

Remember all that content you created in chapter two? This is where it becomes fuel to light your lead generation on fire.

Wait a day or two after your connection request has been accepted. Then, send them a message including a piece of content you (or someone in your organization) has created. This can be an article or LinkedIn post.

When choosing content, pick a topic that matters to them. For example, if you’re messaging a CMO, you should send something strategic in nature. Tactical and how-to guides may not resonate as well.

Here’s an example message you can send:

“thnx for connecting! Just wanted to send this over, as I think it would be of interest. It’s an article on [TOPIC] that shows how CMOs in SaaS companies overcame [CHALLENGE]. Love to hear your thoughts!"

It’s simple, to the point, and most importantly, it’s specific to their needs.

Step 3: Move Them to The Pipeline

Once you’ve added value, it’s time to turn your prospects into sales leads.

To do this, it’s key you take the conversation away from LinkedIn. Whether that’s by driving them to a call, email thread, or landing page.

Create sales-driven scripts to help you guide prospects into the sales pipeline. Use these as frameworks to send to your prospects. Don’t copy-and-paste the same thing to each and every lead.

This is the perfect opportunity to send content lower down the funnel. This includes whitepapers, case studies, and eBooks. Here’s an example script you can adapt for your own use:

“I thought you might find this new [CASE STUDY] of interest. Enjoy :)"

From here, it’s important to follow up. Once you’ve sent this piece of content, it’s time to move into a sales conversation. Here’s an example script:

“What did you think of the write up? Any feedback? Thoughts?"

This moves the conversation into a sales context. From here, follow your usual sales process to nurture each lead.

Voila! You’ve turned an unknown LinkedIn connection into a real business opportunity.

Getting Key Insights on Leads, Competitors & Influencers

LinkedIn isn’t just a great lead generation tool.

It can also provide valuable insights on contacts at target accounts, thought leaders, and your competitors.

This approach is also useful for account-based marketing (ABM) efforts. LinkedIn provides a host of insights on contacts and companies you can use in all aspects of social selling. Here’s how.

1. Keeping Tabs on Your Leads

Nurturing leads is a long-game. LinkedIn can provide you with insights to help with your follow-up processes.

Use Sales Navigator to set up alerts on specific leads and target accounts. First, save the leads and accounts you want to monitor.

Set up alerts to monitor leads

This will display updates from these leads and accounts within your Sales Navigator news feed. You can then keep tabs without the clutter of the regular LinkedIn news feed.

Use this real-time insight to fuel your follow-up outreach.

Have they just been featured in a publication? Share the content.

Did they just secure a fresh round of funding? Email them and congratulate them.

2. Spy on Your Competitors

Company profiles provide several points of insight. This includes your competitors.This is publicly available information, so don’t worry - this form of “spying” is 100% white hat. Here are the specific ways you can do it:

See who they interact with

It’s likely you’re connected with someone who works for a competitor. Set your viewing setting to “anonymous,” check out their profile and see who they’re interacting with.

Analyze company pages

Companies advertising on LinkedIn must tie their account to a company page. You can use this to determine if a company is spending on LinkedIn ads.

For example, if a page has thousands of followers but a scattered posting schedule, it’s likely this audience was built from ads. Similarly, if some posts have significantly more comments and likes than others, it’s likely these posts were amplified using sponsored posts.

Be the audience

Want to see what ads your competitors are running? Amend parts of your profile to look like your competitor’s target audience. This can include job title (at a fictional company) and bio.

You’ll start to see competitor ads over time. When making these changes to your profile, make sure to check the “Share with network” setting to “Off:”

3. Research Target Influencers

Looking to make friends with thought leaders in your industry?

LinkedIn is the perfect place to find target influencers and research them. Finding influencers is simple. Search for a relevant keyword and then click on the “Content” tab:

On the results page, make sure the “Sort by” filter is sorted by “Relevance.” LinkedIn usually organizes results by how popular they are. And more engagement means more popularity:

Have a list of influencers you want to engage with? Great! Now you can use their profile to understand the topics that matter most to them and where they hang out online.

Look at the following profile areas to generate influencer insight:

Articles & Activity

Look at the articles they publish and posts they engage with. What do they write about? What kind of content do they comment on the most?


Where do they curre ntly work? This is useful, as it’s likely they’re publishing their own content on their company blog.

Skills & Endorsements

What areas of expertise do they focus on? These skills can fuel your outreach efforts.


This often includes third-party content they’ve published in other publications. Sharing and commenting on this content will help you get their attention.


If they’re active in certain groups, join them and contribute to the conversation. Find content and questions they share post to get on their radar.

This insight is invaluable when driving your influencer marketing efforts. It can fuel your outreach and show you which publications and communities they’re active in.

Get on these channels and contribute to their conversations. Comment on their content and share it to your own audience. This is how you warm up strategic influencer relationships.

Getting the Most out of Social Selling on Linkedin

You now have a complete system for generating, nurturing, and understanding your leads. The question is, how can you make this process more efficient?

Here’s how you can get the best use out of LinkedIn to reach more potential clients by harnessing automation.

Automate Repetitive Tasks on Linkedin

Although there are some sources that warn against using too much automation, as long as it is used correctly LinkedIn automation can be a powerful tool for you, your business and brand.

I highly recommend automating repetitive tasks like profile visits and connect requests. Time is limited, and you should not be wasting time running Linkedin engagements that do not require a human touch. Instead, you should be focusing your attention on creating good content or messaging leads, which by the way we think is the best way to do discovery call in the messaging era.

Remember, no one likes spam. Automate responsibly.

I’ll take this moment as an opportunity to introduce our own Linkedin automation tool, Orca.

Sequences and automating Linkedin engagements

Want to try it yourself? Download Orca and start your 7-day free trial.

Get Contextual Insights on Prospects

If you want more contextual insights on your prospects, we recommend checking out Crystal. This platform uses several data-points to show you how a contact prefers to communicate:

It also integrates with Gmail, helping you write more effective emails based on a prospect’s personality type. This helps you create messaging that resonates with each contact on an individual level.

Monitor Your Competition

If you sell software, then you should check out Datanyze. It lets you know when a target account stops using a competitor’s product or solution. Meaning you can reach out to them and strike while the iron is hot.

Your turn

Building an effective social selling system is all about adding value up front. Creating excellent content and positioning yourself on LinkedIn as an expert. This makes outreach far more effective.

Unlike cold email, prospects on LinkedIn want to be engaged with. Do this in a contextual manner using the tools and techniques we’ve shared here.

Now it’s your turn: how are you using LinkedIn to generate new sales opportunities? Share your ideas with us.