How can inside salespeople generate some of their own leads? In the era of social media, one easy and highly effective way is to check out prospects on LinkedIn. Here are five specific ways to use LinkedIn to research prospects and win business.
- Use LinkedIn's Advanced Search filter to find ideal prospects. Users of the free version can sort LinkedIn according to filters such as title, company, location, industry, and LinkedIn relationship (i.e., 1st, 2nd, or Group member). Premium users can layer additional filters, such as company size, seniority, or function (e.g., marketing, human resources, or information technology). Want to find US-based vice presidents of marketing in financial services companies with more than 1,000 employees? There are more than 2,300 of them on LinkedIn.
- Once you've discovered a prospect, look for a common connection to ask for an introduction or just name drop. If you prefer to always be introduced, make sure you include the relationship filter "2nd Connections" in all your searches.
- If you don't have a common connection, then you'll need to scan the prospect's profile for some nugget upon which to base your outreach. Is your prospect new to the job and, therefore, possibly more open to new ideas? Do you both support the same volunteer or charitable organization? Scroll all the way down to see if an interest or school provides some rapport opportunity. I was teaching this process in a workshop the week after the National College Football Championship, and one participant randomly picked a prospect that he discovered graduated from Ohio State University (the national champs). Talk about a trigger event with emotional power.
- Discover what's important to your prospects. You can get tremendous insight if they post to LinkedIn or Twitter. Searching for them on Twitter is pretty easy. LinkedIn activities are hidden under the tiny black arrow near the top of the profile. Scroll over it to reveal a drop-down menu, and select the first option, "View recent activity," to see what's on your prospect's mind.
- Don't forget "People Also Viewed," which is located on the right-hand side of most LinkedIn profiles. It shows 10 people who usually fall into one of two categories:
- people at the same company who surround the profile person in the company organizational chart (valuable information for complex sales),
- people who have similar roles at different companies (a great way to fill your funnel with new prospects who might share similar issues you can help resolve).
With your research complete, you have a choice of communication methods. Which one you use depends on your style, the prospects you are trying to reach, available tools, and more. Here are comments on popular methods:
- Telephone: Talking is the richest method in terms of synchronous, two-way information flow. You can hear new information and tone in order to adjust on the fly. You can get phone numbers from apps such as SalesLoft, eGrabber, and Data.com, or call the main number on the company Website and ask to be connected.
- Email: Email can be a softer approach that lets recipients review information on their own time. It can include links to reports, videos, or other marketing information. Email addresses can be obtained from the vendors mentioned above or sometimes from a clever Internet search.
- LinkedIn InMail: One benefit of a Premium version of LinkedIn is that you get an allotment of InMail, LinkedIn's internal messaging system. Statistics show that these have higher open rates than traditional email. (Novelty factor?) Note that LinkedIn recently changed how it accounts for InMail by rewarding a credit when your InMail recipient replies to you.
- Group Message: Don't have the money for special apps or time to search the Internet for email addresses? Take advantage of a Group membership feature that allows you to send a message to a fellow Group member. This is one of many reasons to join the maximum of 50 LinkedIn groups.