Generate Sales without a Budget – How bootstrapped startups and entrepreneurs leverage Social Selling on LinkedIn

Written by Moritz Spangenberg

May 11, 2022

As a bootstrapped startup, early-stage startup or entrepreneur budgets are tight and the aspiration for revenue is large. Luckily, LinkedIn is a gold mine for B2B companies. If done right, the platform allows you to generate loads of demand and generate a never-ending stream of qualified leads and new clients. Even without a marketing budget? Yes!

Nowadays you can find nearly every professional on LinkedIn. That is why it is the perfect place for every B2B startup and entrepreneur to market sell their products and services. Yet, many startups and established companies are failing in putting in place a sustainable marketing and sales strategy as well as a repeatable process for generating revenue from LinkedIn.

So how to generate sales without a budget on LinkedIn? Let’s be honest, it is tempting to do cold outreach to strangers with the hope to land a sale. It does not cost you a lot of effort to send connection invites or InMail’s to hundreds of people on LinkedIn each week. You can search for a decision-maker in your target market, write a short text, copy/paste, and voilà, you are one step closer to your sales target. Right? It has a good return on invest right?

Well, the price is not very high. But the conversion rates are super low. And, let’s be honest, the market is sick of it. I would even go so far as arguing that you are risking harming your brand if you continue with cold mass mailing today. Decision-makers as well as other professionals are receiving hundreds of irrelevant messages each month. Hello, my name is X, since you are a super Executive Y, you should try out Z. Stop. This is not social selling, is it?

Social selling is about developing and leveraging social relationships to build collaborations. Social selling builds on establishing trust and relationships with prospects during the process. Social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than their peers, according to LinkedIn. But how can startups and other businesses harness the power of social selling. I want to provide you with a simplified, yet highly beneficial and valuable guidance on how you can generate a never-ending stream of demand for your products or services from LinkedIn.

Before you start: Create a trusted professional brand – optimize personal profile and company page

Before you want to go out to market and sell your product or services, make sure you have a personal (and company brand) in place, that people trust. On LinkedIn, personal brands (=personal profiles) are much more important than company brands (=company pages). Why is that? Well, personal profiles have up to ten times more first degree connection than a company page has followers. Ten times, that is huge. The reason for that is, that people prefer to people, and not to logos. Plus, company pages are super limited on communication and engagement, they cannot send direct messages or like and comment on any content on the platform. Therefore, let us focus on the personal profile solely for the matter of this article. If you review your personal profile, you want to think about it as landing page. Have a good picture in place (well-centred headshot), work with suitable colours in the background. Have a clear message around what you are offering and the value you provide to others. Make sure to offer social proof (skills, recommendations) to your visitors and embed a clear Call-to-Action to make clear that leads can contact you for certain matters. The details matter, optimize your profile from top to bottom, including your about section and working experience. Think about it as a well-designed landing page.

Social selling playbooks: Two content playbooks

Since you have a personal profile on LinkedIn by now, that your customers like to visit, it is time to start with social selling. Here is one of my favorite playbooks that . By using elements of those pillars and tweaking them, you will be able to generate demand and leads for your business.

  1. First: Targeting and understanding

Let us assume, that you have a well-defined Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Search for those customers in your target market on LinkedIn. You want to know who they are, what they read on LinkedIn, what content do they like, what conversations do they start and engage with on LinkedIn and what content do they publish themselves. Your objective is to understand what content they are interested in. Example: Your ICP is an Innovation Manager in the financial services industry in the DACH region, in companies with company headcount of 201-1,000 and they like content that talks about leveraging the power of external innovation.

  1. Playbook 1: Content game

We assume that by now know what content your ICP on LinkedIn is interested in. From that, you want to define a content strategy and start your content game. Example: Write one article per month about external innovation and post fives time a week about how you solve problems around innovation for businesses in your target market. If your content is relevant enough, people will engage with your content (likes, comments). This is the perfect conversation starter. Start conversations with those people and talk about their problems. Build relationships. Be social. Remember it is called SOCIAL selling for a reason. If you have built up trust, chances are, that they will turn to you to solve their problems sooner or later or refer you to someone that is in need.

  1. Playbook 2: Content collaboration
    This is a magic pill. This is a tactic that enables you to build relationships and sell to nearly anyone on LinkedIn, not matter brand or size of the company. This tactic builds on the fact that many people, especially Executives, like to be heard and like to be seen. Within the group of Executives that are active on LinkedIn, there is a high share of extroverts, people that like to shine and be on stage. You are the one that is offering the stage to them. You are offering them to collaborate on content for the matter of building a relationship until there is a time to pitch your product or services. Example: Invite five innovation managers (your ICP) to speak at an event that is about trends and insights around innovation in the financial services industry. Spend time with them during the preparation of the event, the discussion during the event and make sure to market and promote it effectively.
  2. Now that you hate trust and attention: Time to pitch
    You are spending some time with your ICP. Now it is up to you to decide when it is a good time to pitch your product or services. Ideally, your customer turns to you by themselves, but it is valid to give it a push if that does not happen. Choose the time for your sales pitch wisely. You do not want to be perceived as super salesy after you have put in a lot of effort before, right? Tailor your offering, give it a personal touch and make your pitch. It is ok when you are not landing a deal right away. You have built a relationship and if there is a good fit, the time for collaboration will come.

Are you using social selling tactics, do you have feedback or want to share your experiences? We are regularly looking for experts to collaborate with. Send a DM to Moritz or to hello@unlocklinkedin.com