linkedin-prospecting_0

How to Use LinkedIn to Make Connections with Qualified Prospects

linkedin prospecting

Are you looking for a systematic way for your sales team to generate qualified leads using social media? If so, you are not alone.

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of receiving an email from a guy named Doug, who’d read one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written.

Here’s what Doug wrote to me:

Hi Trent, and thank you for accepting my invitation.

How can you help? OMG, do you have a comfortable chair?

It may be best in a phone call. In brief, we are not on the same page (people at my own company) when it comes to social media.

When we push too many emails to the sales force and determine few even open the information, our solution is to send the information next day air because the emails are not being read. My bet is soon they will not open the next day air letters so we will change to carrier pigeons. Um, what about sending more valuable content? Nah, that can’t be it.

Our social media content does not get enough views so now they want to change the time of day to a optimal time. Argh! How about we send valuable content?

Your article was like a breath of fresh air, validation for what I have been saying.

I need to see how I can incorporate you, or your company, into a presentation.

I need to be upfront. At this time, the company is committed to another, outsourced social media company. In my opinion, our efforts have not been very social.

Call me when it works for you Trent.

The Solution to Doug’s Problem

Doug has the same problem that I, and every other sales guy has: how to make connections with qualified prospects in a way that doesn’t annoy the hell out of them.

In the rest of this post, I’m going to walk you through an ultra detailed LinkedIn prospecting plan that we have developed for our own sales team.

Ready?

Build a List of Qualified Suspects

The first step, and this requires a LinkedIn ‘Sales Executive’ premium account (costs $99/mo), is to build a list of suspects according to whatever criteria you choose.

One you are happy with the criteria, save the list and set it to send you daily updates. That way, whenever someone on LinkedIn meets your criteria, they will be automatically added to the list.

This is done is two steps.

Step 1: Build a List of Leads

This first step will allow you to quickly see how many companies match your criteria. As you are going to be doing personal outreach, I would suggest you keep your list to about 100 people at first.

lead generation

Step 2: Refine Your List

Once you have created the first list, you can now refine it in a number of ways. As you can see below, I have chosen to narrow this list to just people who are currently a CMO. Further down on the left (not shown in the screenshot, I can select additional search criteria.

As I said before, you are going to need a premium account to access the additional search criteria…plus without the premium account, you won’t be able to see the full name of each person, which, as you are going to see later in this post, is super important.

list linkedin builders

At this point, you ‘could’ start making connection requests, and if you think that is a good idea, please be sure and read this post before you do it!

Did you read the post? P-L-E-A-S-E don’t do what the idiots I wrote about in that post do. It’s just bad form.

How to Establish a Meaningful Connection

If you want to build meaningful relationships with your suspects, it’s going to take some time to do. There are definitely some things you can do to save time; however.

If you are looking to make meaningful personal and professional connections with people you don’t yet know you’ll need to develop a plan of action and some online navigation skills. – Laura Rubinstein

First, YOU want to be the one who handles all the interactions. What I’m about to describe is not something you should outsource to a virtual assistant (VA) in the Philippines. (I cover what you can use a VA for later in the post.)

Once you have determined that you actually want to connect with a person (by looking at their profile), there are a few things that will help you to make a good first impression.

Thing #1: Look at which LinkedIn groups they are a part of. You can see this list of groups down towards the bottom of their personal profile. Once you know which groups they are a part of, you can join these same groups and join in on the discussion.

Joining in on this discussion ‘might’ make you known to them. It also ‘might’ make you known to other potential prospects, too! Do NOT join a group and just start pasting links to your blog. LinkedIn is really cracking down on this. Plus, people will ignore you – if the group admin hasn’t already blocked you, that is.

If you can find a thread started by this person, or someone else, and you have something to add, do so. And, after you have made an intelligent comment, it is OK to share a link (in your comment) to one of your blog posts.

A LinkedIn Tip!

The other thing you can do when you are in a group with someone is email them using LinkedIn and you do not have to have a premium account to do this. LinkedIn does limit you to 15 message/month without a premium account.

If you are going to email someone, I suggest you do one of the following:

  • Ask their opinion on a piece of your content
  • Share content that you think will help them with a problem you KNOW they have
  • Share a case study for a company that you have worked with that is similar to their company

Thing #2: Most people who are active on LinkedIn will have a link to their website and their twitter profile. If they have a twitter account, why not follow them and re-tweet some of their content? If they have a blog, I suggest you share some of their content a few times (make sure you mention them in your tweet so they know you did this).

Once you have done this a few times, it’s perfectly acceptable to send them a connection request and then when/if they accept, there is nothing wrong with saying, “thanks for accepting my request. Our company helps our clients solve X problem. If it makes sense for us to talk, what does your calendar look like?

Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn Groups

The worst thing you can do is join the wrong group. If you are selling marketing services, chances are the groups that are focused on content marketing, etc…are all populated by other people selling marketing services…which isn’t going to do you any good at all.

You need to find out where your target audience hangs out, and the best way to do that is to look at your list of suspects and see which groups they are a part of.

So, with that said….The next worst thing you can do is to join a group and then immediately start sharing a series of self-promotional blog post links.

I have ‘tested’ this and can assure you it is a complete waste of time (yes, I was once a Linked-Idiot, too).

Once you join a new group, reach out to the group admin and ask, “what would you like to see more of in your group?”.

Do you think they might like to hear that from a new member? You bet they would.

Taking this approach will put you in their good books, and then, over time, they will likely let you share a good deal of your content in their group.

Once you are in the group, spend at least one week just reading and commenting on other people’s threads. During this time, you should also be making connection request and sending emails as I explained above.

The connections you make in a LinkedIn group not only expand your network, they enhance your authority and bring in new leads. Social Media Examiner

How much time should you spend on this? As much as you have! If you aren’t prospecting, what else are you doing to bring in business?

How to Save Time By Combining the Power of LinkedIn and Cold Email

For some of you, what I have just explained might be too much work, given the lifetime value of a client. If every client is worth $100K, great, but what if they are only worth $5K?

If that is the case, there is another approach that you can use instead of (or in addition to) the approach above.

I learned the approach I’m about to explain via a course on Mixergy (Mixergy has a LOT of awesome courses and it’s only $25/mo).

What I’m about to share with you is how I’m applying it to my business, and the wording of the emails I am going to share below will not be right for you.

With this approach, you start off with the same list of 100 companies that you think would be ideal customers.

Step 1: Identify the Key People

Remember how I said you were going to need to know the last names of all the people on LinkedIn? I’m about to explain why.

With this approach, you are going to email the person you think is likely to be the decision maker, the influencer, their boss, and their boss’s boss. So, if you happen to sell marketing services like I do, you are going to want to simultaneously email the marketing manager, the VP of Sales, the CMO, and the COO (or something like that).

Without LinkedIn premium, finding all these people will be a huge pain in the butt. With a premium account, it’s a piece of cake.

For example, it took me all of 10 seconds to determine that the key players at Rigid Industries were Dave Davis, Taylor Anderson, Jason Christiansen, and maybe Jim Heckman.

company-executives1

Once you know the names, getting the email addresses is also pretty darn easy.

How To Guess Anyone’s Email Address

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.

The important things you’ll need for running through this process:

  • Gmail account, if you don’t have one already
  • The Rapportive plugin from Rapportive.com to get rich contact information inside Gmail
  • The Google Doc spreadsheet at bit.ly/name2email

How to Craft a Compelling Email

In the Mixergy course I told you about before, you will learn how to figure out what to say in your email. For me, here’s what the email currently looks like.

Subject line: Appropriate person

I am writing in hopes of finding the appropriate person who handles online marketing. I also wrote Person x, Person y, and Person z in that pursuit. If it makes sense to talk, let me know how your calendar looks?

Groove Digital Marketing helps increase the revenue of {insert your target industry here} companies by using Inbound Marketing. Each month, we help our clients publish content that answers the questions their prospects are asking before they buy. Every blog post gives the reader a chance to download a piece of premium content by entering their contact information. The benefit to website visitors is they get helpful information. The benefit for our clients is they can increase website traffic and capture more qualified sales leads. Typical conversions are 1-3% of total website traffic. We provide our clients with detailed analytics so they can measure exactly which inbound marketing campaigns are providing the most qualified leads.

If you are the appropriate person to speak with, what does your calendar look like? If not, who do you recommend that I talk to?

Thanks,
Trent Dyrsmid
Director of Business Development
Groove Digital Marketing

To make this work, you must send the email above to each one of the key decision makers and name the others in it. Do NOT send just one email and cc everyone. That won’t work because everyone on the recipient list will just assume one of the other people is going to reply.

After you’ve sent this email, wait a few days and send them a reminder. If you still don’t hear anything back, wait another week and send this:

Subject: Permission to close your file

Name,

I’m writing to follow up on an email I sent two weeks ago. I just met with my business partner. We are in the process of closing files for the quarter. Typically, when I haven’t heard back from a customer after a few months, it means they are really busy or aren’t interested. If you aren’t interested, do I have permission to close your file?

If you are still interested, what do you recommend as the next step?

Thanks for your help.

Trent Dyrsmid
Director of Business Development
Groove Digital Marketing

Sound like a lot of work? It is, and because this part of the interaction is pretty straight forward, this is not work that YOU should be using your time to do.

Here’s What You Can Outsource

Earlier in this post, I promised you that there was a part of this prospecting that you could outsource to your virtual assistant.

The only parts that I would have them do for you are the following:

  1. Find the key players for each of your chosen 100 companies using your LinkedIn account
  2. Build a spreadsheet that lists the names and emails for all the key players for every company you are targeting
  3. Send the email template I’m about to share from your gmail account

If you don’t want to give them access to your own account, set up a new account for them and then, using the setting in gmail, allow that account to “send from” your account. That way, the from address will be the email that you use, but your virtual assistant will not have access to your inbox.

Final Thoughts

What I have outlined for you today is a LinkedIn prospecting strategy that leverages social media. This is not about getting likes or followers. This approach is intended to start conversations with qualified prospects.

While this will work as a stand-alone activity (just as cold calling did back in the day), it will work a LOT better if you have a well optimized LinkedIn presence (see mine for an example) and you are actively creating content on your blog that will be of interest to the people you are reaching out to.Linkedin Profile

In today’s world, people want to know who YOU are and what YOU are about before they invest any time talking to you. If you are  active on social media and blogging regularly, you are making it pretty easy for them to see that you are a thought leader.

If you aren’t, well…um….why not? Don’t you have anything to say?

If you are wondering what to write about, I’ve got some advice for you on that, too.

And finally, if you aren’t yet very familiar with how Inbound Marketing supports prospect efforts, I have written a post on that as well.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

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Thanks so much!

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Trent Dyrsmid

Right after being a husband and father, and riding dirt bikes, Trent's next love is digital marketing. He is the author of the Digital Marketing Handbook and spends most of his time helping his clients succeed.
4 replies
  1. Mark E.
    Mark E. says:

    Nice article and very helpful. I recommend you to use Aeroleads to if you want to find potential prospects through LinkedIn. Aeroleads lets you find people’s profile from LinkedIn and you can transfer them to get their contact info. The tool does not scrape for data but it searches the web for them in real time so it works more efficiently than buying for list with outdated data. Feel free to try the demo here: https://aeroleads.com/ you can signup to access more of the features and see how it works for you.

    Reply
  2. Alexandre
    Alexandre says:

    @trent as usual, this is a great post ! I have printed it all and started LinkedIn prospecting for my Sydney agency. Big fan of your BrightIdea.co podcasts too. Thanks for the help.

    Reply
  3. Sophia Rose
    Sophia Rose says:

    Newer insurance rep here, my broker pointed out a service called Zuumlead that was a big difference maker for me in making sure I respond to the new leads faster than other people who buy the same lead.

    Reply

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