How much does it cost?
You can set up a LinkedIn profile for free. Nearly all the functionality is available to free accounts. The basic limitations are that you can only reach out to people you are directly connected to or who are only one degree removed (e.g. you share a friend in common).
With a so-called “premium” account, you can expand that to reach people who are father removed. You can also search larger numbers of people and generally get more.
Prices for LinkedIn premium accounts run as low as $20 per month but can go up to as much as $100 per month. The main difference is the degree of more you get. How many emails you can send, how many people are returned by a search, use of advanced search filters, how much information is available and how many degrees of separation are open to you.
Cultivating Relationships on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has two main features that can help you stay in touch with your contacts: groups and status updates.
Status updates are the easier of the two. When you first log in, you will see a Facebook-type “wall” with recent status updates from your contacts. At the top is a text box where you can write your own status updates. Naturally, anything you write will be seen on the walls of all your contacts.
So it’s a relatively easy matter to write tidbits that are useful, interesting, productive or inspiring. You can even just copy your daily tweets here, since they should meet all the same criteria. Do this daily and watch your influence grow.
LinkedIn groups require a bit more effort and time commitment. Just like groups on many other social networking sites, LinkedIn has groups for just about any topic imaginable. Simply because of the nature of the user base, most groups are dedicated to some industry or professional specialty.
Find groups that resonate with you and join them. Post messages participating in the discussions from time to time but beware of what a drain on your time it can be.
Above all else, always be positive, upbeat and productive. If you consistently give out useful information that is relevant to the group and to the topic being discussed, other members will notice and your influence will grow.
Most members of the groups you belong to will not be connected to you in any direct way. With consistent actions, some of them will want to connect with you or be more inclined to accept your invitations to connect with them.
Is it really worth it? Where are the sales?
LinkedIn isn’t so much about making sales as it is about making relationships. Some of those relationships could eventually turn into sales but that shouldn’t be viewed as the primary purpose.
One way that salesmen can leverage LinkedIn to make sales easier is by cultivating and leveraging relationships. If you’re going to call on a company, a quick search on LinkedIn could help you find a specific contact. If you share friends in common, it could turn a cold call into one in which your friend helps you cultivate an instant relationship.
All this for the cost of nothing. How can you beat that?
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