How I Prospect Effectively Using LinkedIn

The road to better prospecting

First though, how not to prospect on LinkedIn.

  • Search and find a person who could be a prospect for your product or service.
  • Send them a connection request.
  • If they accept, pitch them.

This does not work for any one of multiple reasons:

  • You have not established your credibility as to why they should listen to you.
  • You have not established that they are really a candidate for your product or service.
  • You have not established if they are in the market for your product or service now.
  • And worst of all, everybody else is doing it.

Connect and pitch is a stale sales tactic that is considered spam. In many cases your prospect won’t even finish reading your message.

And now that you have established yourself as a crappy salesperson, you will not be welcomed again.

The second way people prospect on LinkedIn these days is:

  • Use an automated tool to do the search, make the connection request and send the followup message.

This does not work for all of the same reasons as method number 1, plus the following:

  • A lot of people will recognize that you are using automation in your messages, and decide they do not like being just another line on a spreadsheet.
  • And there is always the chance that LinkedIn will detect you are doing this, and ban you from using LinkedIn.

So what does work?

I have had success with a seven step process as follows:

1) Find prospects using an effective LinkedIn search

The key here is the word “effective.” Anyone can run a search for “Managers” in a certain geography, but adding nuance to the search by using all the filters that apply to your prospect – industry and job title are key ones – will yield much better results.

Better search results will yield fewer false positives and a better probability that you have the right people on your target list.

This takes very little effort, just a fundamental understanding of what filters are available and understanding when and how to apply them.

Now we head off the beaten path and into the woods. The next four of the following five steps are largely ignored by salespeople using LinkedIn. But if they did pay attention to them, my results suggest their sales would improve.

2) Research

As research takes time, most salespeople would rather leave it out. But I maintain that because research is largely ignored or avoided, it can be twice as effective. This is basic stuff – reading profiles, figuring who is who at the target company, and reading and analyzing the target’s company page and posting. Buried in these places are a ton of clues and information you can use in your outreach and your initial conversations with your prospect. Information that shows you respect them and their time and that you have done your homework on them.

3) Plan the outreach

Planning the outreach means not just blindly charging ahead with an InMail or a Connection Request. If I can see someone does not use LinkedIn that much, both of those methods are very low probability, regardless of how good my messaging is. What is my strategy then? Use email first then a connection request second? How about the other players at the target company? Do I have options for getting an introduction or a referral? Maybe I would have a higher probability with them for outreach on LinkedIn. The idea here is to map out my strategy: who to contact, in what order, using what means will likely be the most effective.

4) Engage

This is where the messaging, connection request, or email occurs. It will lean heavily on the research I have done and will follow my outreach plan. The message has one goal: arouse their curiosity enough that they will want to speak with me and learn more.

5) Establish credibility

This is the next thing I need to do once I have gotten a response. I need to establish my credibility with the person. In many cases I will have planted a seed in my outreach message that gives me a bit of credibility. But the bottom line here is that without credibility, this person will not be interested in speaking further.

6) Discovery and Sell

Yes, now. But not till I have completed steps one through five.

I have found that once I have my search results, I can send four or five fully researched, personalized outreach messages that establish my credibility in an hour. Sending four or five messages may not sound like much, but I get a 65% response rate to these types of messages. That means my prospecting generates an average of three conversations with prospects for every hour I put in. People that want to speak with me. This is a repeatable process that works.

You get out in direct relation to what you put in. You put in automation or lazy connect and pitch and you get lousy results. You put the time and effort in and you get outstanding results. Better process, better outcomes.

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Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month.