Last week I discussed New Opportunities, New Hires with LinkedIn that discussed using LinkedIn to advance your career and for companies to find new employees. Todays conversation addresses using LinkedIn to prospect.
Most people use LinkedIn to connect to other business professionals that they know or meet while networking. It definitely can help put an additional degree of connectivity to these folks. But limiting your use to simply networking leaves a significant opportunity out of your monetization toolbox.
The tool that most people fail to take advantage of is the ability to prospect for potential opportunities. Let me be clear, prospecting is not sending sales messages to your direct connections. It’s not posting sales messages in groups. It’s simply identifying potential people or companies that could eventually become clients.
LinkedIn, like other social networking sites, are not great places to overtly sell your products and services. Can doing this work? Sure, but you’re more likely to turn people off than to turn them on. A better approach is to connect and engage in conversations so that people first get a chance to know and like you. Then you can begin converting the “like” into trust.
I recently received a message form someone stating that they had looked at my profile and read my blog. In the message they simply asked if they could follow up with a question. I said sure and then next communication was an offer for me to use their services.
Bad strategy. I’ll talk about how they could have approached things later.
The two ways you can prospect on LinkedIn are People and for Companies.
There are over 50 million people on LinkedIn, making it a significant source of information. You can use any number of variables to narrow your search down. Most financial planners make it a point to network with accountants. You could search accountants in your city, use keywords for specialties, and narrow it down to those in your network.
Once you have the list then you simply need to leverage LinkedIn to connect to them. Your only goal at this point should be to connect. Don’t try to explain in depth why you want to connect (I’m looking to partner with a accountant that I can share referrals with, etc., etc., etc.). Simply state that you’re a financial planner and looking to identify local resources that may be able to help your clients.
Remember at this point they don’t know you and can’t lie or trust you yet. Let the connection sit there for a couple of weeks. Than at some point pick up the phone and call your new connection to set up a time to meet for coffee or lunch. Now you have made a personal connection.
You can take this approach with potential referral partners, resource partners, and potential clients/ The key is to establish to electronic connection and then make it a personal connection.
There not much difference between prospecting for people or for companies. In both cases you’re simply leveraging the search function to identify potential prospects. The difference is that with companies you’re first identifying the company, than identifying the person that you can tap into to get into the company.
At SONARconnects we know that in order to get into a sales opportunity we need to connect with the person responsible for making marketing decisions. For some companies its the owner, for others its the marketing manager.
What the Companies section allows me to do is to begin my prospecting based on a industry or segment. One area that we work with is franchises, helping them leverage social media to build communities of people to engage in conversations with using social networking and social media. Using LinkedIn I can identify the companies that are on LinkedIn creating my prospecting list.
Then since on the companies page they list the employees who have LinkedIn accounts, I can identify individuals to target to get a foot in the door. I can start by looking for the owner or the marketing person, But what if these people aren’t listed?
I can still look at the individuals that are associated with the company and connect to them. Then once connected I leverage this to make a personal connection. In that meeting I hope to be able to learn who I need to speak with and then leverage this meeting into an introduction.
Its a slow process but that’s OK. I know that by taking my time I have an opportunity to make the right connections and ensure that when it comes time to make a pitch, its made to a decision maker.
If the decision maker is listed on the company profile then I can try to connect directly. Or I can look at their profile to see which groups they belong to and join some. this then gives me an opportunity to naturally engage in conversations over time within the group.
Ideally by the time that I seek a connection the person is already familiar with me.
LinkedIn is more than a place to connect to those you know. To monetize your efforts you need to proactively search out opportunities and make them happen. In Atlanta the best companies database is provided by a company called Businesswise. The only problem is that for an individual or small company they’re not exactly a low cost solution. LinkedIn provides a cost effective option.
If you’re not using LinkedIn to prospect you’re not taking advantage of 100% of the opportunities it can provide.
What are some of your success stories using LinkedIn to prospect?
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