How to maximise the sales and marketing impact of LinkedIn - Lessons from IBM.


LinkedIn offers a powerful platform for communicating your value proposition and having meaningful one-to-one conversations with a focused pool of prospects. And the good news it’s at a fraction of the cost and particularly effective. One of the companies who have done this the best is IBM – apply these lessons and watch your sales grow.

2020 has made a total mess of traditional marketing and sales. It has become almost impossible to do any kind of meaningful lead generation. Traditional marketing is expensive and often ineffective, and e-mails and cold calls are going unanswered.

Tough times create opportunities for the brave. What it takes is an entrepreneurial spirit that allows you to be in touch with current trends and dramatically changing direction if required.

Spencer Johnson's classic "Who Moved My Cheese", describes four mice whose cheese one day suddenly disappears. Sniff and Scurry take off immediately and after a while find new cheese. Hem and Haw refuse to leave their station, desperately hoping their cheese will one day come back.

This is not the time to wait for things to return to normal – even before Covid-19, customers were limiting access to salespeople and preferring to do their own research online. Winning over new customers requires oodles of empathyclear sales messaging and clever use of technology.

The IBM experience

Imagine if you had 200 000 people all marketing on your behalf and communicating messages you have written for them. Let's assume those 200 000 people each have 200 contacts - you are theoretically reaching 40 000 000 people.

That's exactly how it happens at IBM:

  • As part of IBM's onboarding programme, you are provided with LinkedIn account, complete with a profile written for you(You also have a Twitter account provisioned for you.)

  • The marketing department (along with an army of consultants) then builds marketing resources specific to your role and the potential audience with whom you generally communicate.

  • Employees are given a publishing schedule and access to an intranet site which hosts all of the marketing material including posts, links, articles and videos.

  • IBM has a policy of "everyone sells" and so employees are provided with training on how to conduct social selling and part of their Key Performance Indicators is number of connections and engagements.

So what does this mean for you?

  • Before I wrote this article, I went (totally at random) to ten profiles of salespeople in various roles. Every single one spoke about what they do and the skills have they have (hardworking, passionate about sales, experienced account manager and accomplished negotiators.) Not one described the value they delivered to customers.

  • Although LinkedIn has a profile section that allows you to Feature posts, articles, links and media, this was not activated with all ten accounts. In fact only two had posted anything.

  • Only three had more than 500 accounts.

According to LinkedIn research, Social selling leaders create 45% more sales opportunities. If your company is not making full use of this incredible tool, you are missing out. And unless you invest in one of the Premium products, it is totally free.

Five things you can do to use LinkedIn to grow your sales

  1. Incentivise your staff to use LinkedIn as a sales and marketing tool and not for job-hunting. Start with anyone who is a sales role and extend from there.

  2. Invest in a specialist to help you write your profiles: Most LinkedIn training spends the majority of the time working on profiles. They are tricky to write and well worth the investment in getting a specialist to write them for you.

  3. Create focused campaigns: Salespeople need to spend their time prospecting, understanding needs and following up. Build a team from marketing, sales leadership and sales that can build value-based campaigns and other resources. Make these resources available in a central location and build a publishing plan to be followed. This ensures consistency.

  4. Provide high impact training and coaching: You are now free to train your sales team (and later others in the company) on how to use LinkedIn to generate new opportunities. Because you already have the profile written and well designed resources, you can spend the time on how to use the tool for maximum impact.

To thank you for making it to the end of this article, I would like to make an offer. At the Sales Institute we have developed an easy to use template on how to write an effective LinkedIn profile. Send me an email -, or leave me a message on LinkedIn and I will gladly send you the template as well as a video explaining it step by step. For the first 20 people who request it, I will even write your profile for you.

I like forward to sharing my passion for this remarkable tool with you.


Tim Keys