If you're in sales you're likely aware of what a fantastic sales aid LinkedIn can be. Lead generation is one of the most difficult elements of the sales cycle, and no one likes to cold call. More importantly, no one likes to be solicited and interrupted during their day by pesky sales people trying to sell them something they don't need. Enter LinkedIn as one of the most effective way to make first contact with a prospect without getting the door slammed in your face.
LinkedIn is far and away the most valuable social media platform for B2B sales, pretty much everyone you'd want to meet with has a profile. If you want to get better sales results beyond the self marketing opportunities present you'll need to work the tool a little and apply some sales skills.
Identify Your Prospect
The first step is figuring out who you want to meet with. This might seem simple at first, just go through your existing CRM contacts and work LinkedIn for anyone you can't get a hold of through other methods. Beyond that you'll have some work harder work to do, but it's also a big opportunity.
To identify new targets start by working the Groups. Join relevant groups in key industries, and participate in the conversation. Keep an eye out for members of influence that meet your target personas, you'll be surprised at how many new companies and key decision makers you come across. Send connection requests to those you share a conversation with, you'll likely see new connection notifications shortly after.
Tip: If you don't know the email address of your contact make a quick call to their office. When the gatekeeper refuses to let you through ask if you can send them some information instead. When you get permission you can follow up with an assumptive request for their email address, you'll get it 9 out of 10 times!
Do Your Research
You can learn a lot about your prospect online, especially from people's LinkedIn profiles. Read their profile carefully and see what you can come up with to help you relate. Shared groups are an obvious starting point, as is the college they attended, previous jobs, and associations.
Follow up by reading their recommendations and seeing who else they're connected to. Any shared connections could be worth a quick message to ask for more detail, the more you can find out about your prospect, their position, and their company the better.
Tip: One weakness of LinkedIn is their search functionality. To combat the inability to find the right person try using Google first. Googling your prospect's name will usually display their profile, for help with refining you search click here.
Ask For An Introduction
Anyone you share as a connection is a potential ally. Go through your shared connections and search for the most appropriate starting point. If you don't share any connections you might be in trouble, but you also might be able to connect with one of theirs. I've been surprised many times by someone they know that I've met with before and failed to connect with, it's another easy connection I should have had anyway.
Send your mutual connection a short message and check in on them. It's always good to start with other pleasantries and catch up a bit. Once you've traded a couple messages you should give them a call and tell them what you're trying to do. If they're a good connection they'll likely help you out, providing some additional insight you couldn't get from research and hopefully even an introduction.
Tip: You can also use the Get Introduced feature, which can be accessed via their profile. Just walk through the tool and it will prompt you to choose the best mutual connection and send them an introduction request. Be brief, be honest, and see what you can come up with.
Make Contact With A Private Message
Once you're connected and have done your research it's time to go in for the kill. Use the knowledge you've gained to craft a short private message to the prospect. Get to the point, don't write a novel. Tell them who you are, what you do, and ask them for ten minutes on the phone to talk about opportunities. Include a note of commonality as noted above if you can, anything you can do to keep it light and personable will give you a better chance at response.
Tip: The shorter the note the more effective it will most likely be.
LinkedIn can be a hugely valuable asset to your sales efforts, helping you warm up your sales call and market yourself to prospects in a unique manner. It allows you to cut down on your cold calls and spammy emails while adding to your options for first touch. As a marketing company with a sales background we've found this to be the most effective method of getting of meeting with hard to reach prospects. For more sales instruction check out our sales articles and for mastery of LinkedIn download our free handbook below.