Today, more than 300 million people use LinkedIn. And when used effectively, it can be a valuable tool not only for talent acquisition, but lead generation, too. LinkedIn provides a real-time forum to share expertise, provide value and ultimately, build your own thought leadership reputation among your network.

So how can you offer advice, consultation or information that helps customers and prospects find solutions to their pain points or challenges? One way is to avoid being too sales-focused and instead think about “what’s in it for the customer.” Take a look at these five tips that can help build trust and reputation for you and your company at the same time:

Stay Up To Date

Join groups related to your industry and vertical markets to monitor conversations. Understand what’s happening regarding new technology, product innovations and current legislation – anything that’s relevant to your industry.

Speak Your Mind (But Do It Respectfully)linkedin-sales-funnel

Engage in relevant conversations via groups or your personal profile by asking questions and sharing information, then share examples that drive traffic back to your company’s website. It’s a great way to stand out, represent your company and build your credibility.

Understand Your Current Customers

Connect with your customers on LinkedIn. What information are they most interested in? Leverage what they’re currently sharing or talking about as a means to consult with them on new business opportunities.

Understand Your Prospect

LinkedIn is a great way to research more about your sales prospect including title, work history, connections and group affiliations. The last three items in this list should not be overlooked. Do you have any 1st degree or 2nd degree connections with your prospect? Do you share any of the same groups or interests? Answering these questions will help you engage in an initial conversation.

Leverage Your Connections

If one of your top sales prospects has a mutual connection with a current customer – don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for an introduction. Or, do you have a customer who’s singing your praises? Ask if they’ll share that experience with their connections, especially if there’s a tangible example that can drive people to your online environment – that’s a win-win scenario.

Have you already taken advantage of LinkedIn to develop a successful pipeline of prospects? What’s been successful for you?