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Tips for Using LinkedIn for Prospecting

With “Sells” as my last name, it seems inevitable that I would make a career in sales.

I not only love sales, I love corporate B2B sales, even as the playing field has changed considerably during my career. When I started selling in the late 1980s in Los Angeles, we didn’t have cell phones. You had to pull over on the freeway, find a payphone, and keep a pocketful of quarters.

Now there are cell phones, the Internet, and social media platforms as tools of the trade. I often ask the 20-somethings in my training sessions to raise their hands if they’re on LinkedIn. Most raise their hands. When I ask how they use it for sales prospecting, I hear crickets and get blank stares.

Effective LinkedIn Prospecting

The key to using digital prospecting and in particular, prospecting on LinkedIn, is to not only be on it, but also to use it effectively as a professional sales tool. The following are some tips for effective LinkedIn prospecting strategy.

Profiles: Make sure your profile is professional, accurate, and complete. Choose your photograph carefully. If it’s a selfie, make sure it looks professional. Don’t use a party pic or cut yourself out of a group shot. Save pictures with your family, kids, and pets for Facebook.

Upgrades: Review the additional options available as a Premium member, which offer plans targeted to growing your network, unlocking sales opportunities, and both job hunting and hiring talent.

Sales Solutions: Become familiar with LinkedIn Sales Solutions, which includes a Sales Navigator, located under “Business Services” in the header bar. According to the website’s statistics, social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities, are 51% more likely to achieve quota, and are 80% more productive.

Resources: Download the free eBook, 7 Social Selling Tips to Drive Revenue and Crush Your Quota, from Koka Sexton of LinkedIn, available from the Sales Solutions page. And, a must-read for anyone in sales, in any industry, is Social Media for Salespeople: A Step-by-Step Guide to Increasing Your Leads & Sales, by Alice Myerhoff.

Research: Look at a wide range of profiles, including those of your customers, partners, suppliers, and competitors. This is what LinkedIn was made for: helping business people connect. You can link with people you know and then see who they know, which creates a rich pool of prospects. You can also see who has viewed your profile, helping you to gauge interest.

Introductions: Mine your LinkedIn network to find out who knows whom. If someone you know is connected to someone you want to meet, contact your colleague about being introduced. This can be done within LinkedIn or through a more personal phone call or external e-mail. Whatever the mode of contact, the basic message is the same: “I see you’re connected to the CIO at Apex Company. Would you be comfortable introducing me?”

Focus: Remember that LinkedIn is a social media platform that focuses on business. This is the place to share articles and ideas related to your professional life. For your personal life, use other social platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram or other popular sites.

When you’re in sales, the more you know about prospects, the easier it is to turn cold calls into warm ones. With tools like LinkedIn, the whole process of prospecting becomes even easier.

About the Author

Nancy Sells, a Senior Training Consultant with Richardson, helps take Richardson’s global clients in new directions, not only strategically but geographically, calling on her experiences working with Fortune 1000 companies around the globe while representing the world’s largest commercial news distribution service.“Selling is my passion.” With a successful career in sales and sales management spanning 20 years, Nancy’s focus became helping good salespeople become great salespeople. She also helps customer service teams in Call Centers and Inside Salespeople achieve greater efficiencies, and supports senior management leaders in their efforts to become change agents.

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