Social media has revolutionized how we connect with one another. Just as Facebook has altered our social lives and interactions, so has LinkedIn in reshaping the business world. Perhaps the biggest changes can be seen in the areas of networking and prospecting.
You might be saying to yourself, that’s all well and good, but is there any real value in trying to work LinkedIn into my sales strategies? On top of that, what are the most effective ways to use LinkedIn for prospecting?
We have only to consider the sales process to find the answers.
For the first part of this series, we’ll take a look at how LinkedIn has revolutionized prospecting, which marks the beginning of the sales process and which can oftentimes be one of the most difficult steps.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of prospecting in B2B sales is that you have to navigate gatekeepers and the company to get to folks that make decisions. Add to this the sheer size of some of these businesses, and you can get overwhelmed by the amount of layers there are to dig through.
Between the increasing number of remote and employee locations by geography, niche title paths and growing technology, finding the right person gets complicated.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, prospecting on a national scale becomes even more difficult. You almost find yourself staring over state by state, as if each state branch of the company were its own independent business. It’s not uncommon for company employees in one state to have little to no knowledge of employees in another. This is even true with upper management.
You get the picture. It can be daunting.
That’s where LinkedIn has changed the game.
Gone are the days of unproductive cold calls in search of key contacts and decision makers. Much like the Greek myth of Theseus, LinkedIn gives us clues and threads to guide us out of the labyrinth, right to where we need to be (and who we need to speak with). It can even help us connect with those people digitally, accelerating the sales process.
But the most important aspect of all this is that LinkedIn brings us closer to pitching the right strategic solution to the right contact. This results in laser-focused communication and relationship building that saves both parties time and resources.
Here are some best practices to successfully use LinkedIn to prospect and provide value to clients:
Successful prospecting first starts with research, and there are three crucial pieces of information you’ll need to know to conduct an effective search on LinkedIn: the name of the company, the title of the decision maker, and the location of the decision maker. The first is obvious. The second two are easy enough to find and, oftentimes, speculate.
Do your research when it comes to title paths you want to target. Reference closed-won deals in your CRM to find company contacts you’ve worked with and their titles. It can get tricky when companies structure their roles differently or have nuanced titles. For instance, a director might be able to make decisions in a small-medium sized business, but a director in an enterprise organization might need the approval of a vice president.
You can resolve this with a little detective work. Research what you can about the company online. This includes their team webpage. Search company employees on LinkedIn. Take note of their titles, hierarchy and the company size. This can give you an idea of who makes decisions.
You need to know the location of the key contacts you’re trying to reach. This, too, can be a simplified process: find the company headquarters of the state or city you’re prospecting online. Make note of the address, particularly the zip code. Also, be sure to check out company contacts on LinkedIn. Oftentimes they’ll indicate the city and state they work out of. If they list a phone number, you can reference that as well—it’s another indicator of where they’re located, especially if they’re a remote employee.
Even then, it can be difficult when companies are structured by regions. You can solve this by speculating where regions might be managed, or you could contact an employee for clarification.
Once you have those three components, you’re ready to move forward and search.
2. Advanced Search
At the very top of your LinkedIn page, to the right of the search bar, there’s an advanced search function. Selecting this gives you the option to filter your searches by keywords, names, titles, companies, schools and locations.
Enter the three components of information you gathered and search. You’ve now narrowed your scope of prospects down to the key contacts you need to reach. If your results are lacking, a little trick is to play around with the job title and location filters. If you can’t find your main contact, refocus and try to identify key contacts who can help you reach decision makers.
What’s great about LinkedIn is that many professionals (including hard-to-reach executives) have a public profile. You’re tapping into a directory where everyone lists themselves, their responsibilities and their contact information. As long as you know what to look for and how to sift through connections, the result is a gold mine of prospects.
This has allowed me to pinpoint many key contacts in the public sector. For my role at Fineline (public-sector business development), I really need to connect with fellow business development folks. Fineline’s public-sector government solutions and certifications are of greatest value to them. Prospecting on LinkedIn allows me to find those contacts, which allows me to provide them with solutions specific to their needs and industries.
Check out our MAXIMUS case study to see some of the public-sector solutions we provide to the healthcare industry.
3. Work Backward
Sometimes the person you need to find has a private profile, and their information is hidden. Sometimes they don’t even have LinkedIn.
What’s important is that LinkedIn can provide you with a kind of road map to work from. At the very least, you can identify prospects that can help put you in touch with key contacts.
You can work backward from this. You can use your LinkedIn search to map the trajectory to the appropriate person you need to speak with, starting out at ground level and working your way up.
In fact, Fineline’s client service representatives monitor updates on LinkedIn to search for opportunities to help clients. When they see any updates that might indicate a need for print, they immediately study that need, seeing if Fineline might be a solution. If we are, they reach out and start communication. Our client service representatives have been able to help several clients by doing this—just one example of how the folks at Fineline use LinkedIn to support clients while staying true to our mantra: We will not ask for your business until we can improve it.
Like Theseus, the thread can help guide you out of the labyrinth.
Identifying prospects is the first step of building a relationship. The second is connecting. Stay tuned for the next part of our LinkedIn series: connecting and communication.