Optimizing Your Use Of LinkedIn Can Increase Your Sales By 5-10%

Some search tools are better than others.

I thought that headline would get your attention, but a 5-10% increase is actually a pretty modest expectation.

How good is LinkedIn as a prospect database for B2B? For starters, I think I can find ALL the prospects for almost any B2B company using LinkedIn. Let me use some real life examples to show you what I mean.

A few years ago I was working with an electronics manufacturer based in the northwest. I was telling them how good Linkedin was. They were sceptical. So I challenged them to test me. And they did. They asked me to find all the companies in their city involved in designing and building prototypes that used their type of electronics. I asked them some questions to get a handle on these target companies and then I went to work. The next day I sent them a list of eleven companies in their city. It matched their list. Exactly. They had compiled their list from years of building a network in their hometown. I compiled my list in two hours using LinkedIn from three thousand miles away.

I had another company tell me that they had “talked to every prospect in North America for their products, and they had exhausted all the possible prospect avenues.” Needless to say I thought their pants were on fire so I put it to the test. I told them I would compile a list of prospects for their products in the State of Arizona. They had a sales team in Arizona, so I thought this was fair. The next time we talked we compared lists. Their Arizona list had a little over sixty companies on it. Mine had a hundred and five. When they looked at my list there were lots of comments like “The rep said that company had moved!” and “I thought these guys were about to go out of business two years ago” but in the end they grudgingly admitted that there was a lot of  ground – and opportunities – that they were not covering in their own backyard. And when I mentioned in passing that I thought the total market for their products in North America was 17,000 prospect companies their jaws hit the floor. But as I like to say, LinkedIn is a database that updates itself and the database doesn’t lie.

Here is a final example: I was contracted by a company to find prospects for them. I was talking to their sales rep in Denver. I asked him if he had been to see a company that had a major presence in Denver.

“Yeah, I’ve been to see them.”

Me: “Which facility?”

“What do you mean which facility? They are in Aurora.”

Me: “I know. But they also have a small R&D group in Englewood.” And I told him what they were working on – it was on their LinkedIn profiles – and what appeared to be the division name so he could look them up online.

He called me the next day.

“You were right! I have lived here for twelve years and I have made sales calls on the company in Aurora for over half of that time. I never knew of this other group. They are a legit prospect. Thanks. And don’t tell my manager about this, okay?”

With respect to B2B, if you can articulate who you want to find, you can find them on LinkedIn. You can find virtually every prospect in your market. Now, to be fair, there are jobs where you know all your prospects – if you sell commercial jets, it’s not hard to figure out who all the airlines and cargo companies are. But for most of us, we don’t know who all of our prospective customers are and that’s where LinkedIn comes in.

If you’re in sales, you should always think of LinkedIn as a prospect database, first, second and third. Most companies should be able to find a lot more prospects just through intelligent use of LinkedIn search. But as I alluded to, search is only half the story. The second, and often overlooked part, is research.

I see this scenario play out over and over on LinkedIn: I will be working with someone and once we find a prospect, they get all excited about sending them an Email or an InMail and hitting them up, which usually fails, and they blame LinkedIn.

Well I am sorry, but if your painting didn’t turn out that well, it usually isn’t the paintbrush’s fault.

What these people miss is the opportunity to use LinkedIn for research. There is often a ton of information available on LinkedIn, really useful stuff they can use. They should be taking advantage of this including asking themselves:

What does that person’s profile say about them?

  • What do they emphasize and what do they de-emphasize?
  • What are their accomplishments?
  • Where else have they worked?
  • What is their career path like?
  • And in particular: What are they proud of? (for example, sometimes the way someone lists their skills on their profile – and in what order – can tell you a lot.)

We are looking to obtain information we can use in our outreach, and also in that important first conversation, whenever that does occur.

Is this overkill? Not if it works. And it does work.

But what if they have a “profile lite” – just headings for example? Easy. Look at their peers and look at…well, let me illustrate with another story.

I was interviewing for a contract job as a Sales Consultant about ten years ago and when I went for my interview they gave me a tour of the plant. After we got back from the tour I told them that based on what I had seen on the plant floor that I figured their sales were somewhere in the neighborhood of $22-24M a year. I could tell from their looks of semi-astonishment that I had scored pretty close to the mark. They could see I had a finely trained eye for manufacturing and operations.

Of course all my finely trained eye had done was research them on LinkedIn, where I found their recently departed ex-VP of Sales – and you should see this coming by now – and he listed as one of his accomplishments getting their sales up to…$23M a year.

So look at ex-employees too.

Your prospects are researching you and your company. Research them right back. I can’t tell you the number of times that LinkedIn profiles and people’s behavior on LinkedIn has given me or my clients the clues we needed to put together dynamite outreach messages.

Two other things: doing your research separates you from your competitors who just send a cookie cutter message, and it shows your prospect the respect they deserve.

So if you optimize your LinkedIn search skills and find more prospects, and you can use LinkedIn to research those prospects resulting in more effective outreach messages and more initial conversations, how can your sales not go up by five or ten percent?

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. And as you may have gathered from today’s newsletter, I make really, really good use of it.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the boilerplate) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

The Most Important Search Filter On LinkedIn

Here’s where I get in trouble, making a statement like that in my title, but hear me out on this one, I think I may be able to bring you around. 

The bad news is this search filter is in Sale Navigator. You can’t access it using free LinkedIn. The good news is that it is a very powerful one, especially in today’s volatile job market. 

For people searches, Sales Navigator has a couple dozen filters. Some are really important and get used in almost any search, things like keywords, title, and geography. Others are more subtle such as industry that can be used in some cases, but in those cases it can make a big difference. And some are pretty marginal, things like company type, or when the people you are searching for joined LinkedIn. 

With judicious use of all these filters you can find almost anybody, and even better, you can change the filters after you have done your search, effectively fine tuning it. 

But there is one special filter that can change the quality of your LinkedIn outreach. Notice that I say “the quality of your outreach” and not “the quality of your search” because this filter is only accessible after you have performed your initial people search. It is buried in an innocuous section on the left hand side of your search results screen.  

Notice that the search results pictured below originally yielded 8,000 people. What I will do next is apply the secret filter that is buried behind the “Spotlight” heading in the left hand column of my screen. 

The filter is “changed jobs in the past 90 days”. Here is what happened when I applied it to my search results – I got 78 results. 

There actually is another filter on Sales Navigator that selects people who have changed jobs, but it’s finest granularity is changed jobs within the past year. This one is within the last 90 days. 

Why is this important? 

New people are often open to new ideas. They often want to bring in fresh vendors. They are interested in putting their stamp on the new job. Which means opportunity for us. In the first pass of the search above I came up with eight thousand people. If these were prospects and I can see that seventy-eight of them in particular are new to their jobs, guess who I am reaching out to first? And because they are new I have something to use when I message them. 

Here’s an idea I use when I reach out to new people like this. I usually don’t ask them about some aspect of the new job because that’s an obvious question that everyone has already put to them in congratulating them on the new job. What I will do instead is ask about some aspect of the new job and how it is different from their last job. I have found people will open up on that topic. 

Take advantage of this information. 

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. But I was an early subscriber to Sales Navigator and have a grandfathered subscription with less InMails than most Sales Navigator Pro users have. But it’s still pretty awesome, and worth every penny. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/


How I Decide When To Use LinkedIn InMail 

Knocking on doors when no one is home? Not a recipe for success.

LinkedIn InMail gets a bad rap. “It’s all spam.” “No one answers InMails.” and so on. But I think a lot of that comes down to a poor understanding of what InMail really is and how it can be used.

LinkedIn InMail is an in-app alternative to email. That’s it. It’s just a tool. Saying it is better or worse than email is like saying a Phillips screwdriver is better than a Robertson screwdriver. They both have applications where one may be better suited than the other.

But because of the way LinkedIn works, there are instances and places where I much prefer InMail to email. Here are three aspects that I like about LinkedIn InMail and that play a role in my deciding when InMail could be more effective.

Closed system 

LinkedIn is a closed system where you have tacit permission to send messages to people you do not know. LinkedIn users can turn off InMail anytime they like to keep from receiving messages from people who they are not connected with. 

While I receive as much and likely more spammy crap InMails than other people, I have no problem with being sent and receiving InMails…it’s the spammy crap aspect I don’t like. 

The research capability 

One of the great aspects of LinkedIn and Sales Navigator is that you can research people and come up with clues as to how people fit in their organizations. 

When I am going to send someone an InMail, I am doing research in three places: that person’s LinkedIn profile, the profiles of his or her obvious company peers that I have found using Search in Sales Nav, and their LinkedIn company page. In all of these areas I am looking for information I may be able to use in my message. For example, I will see something on their company page such as their headcount is way up in the past year (or way down!). Either of those two extremes can give me guidance as to what to say in my message, talking about their growth or their need to watch their costs. 

These things don’t always jump out at you, but there is often something there you can use. 

While the information you glean about someone in your research can certainly be used in an email, I will prefer to use InMail where it makes sense, which brings us to…

The user who is more likely to respond

I have found that LinkedIn users who use LinkedIn a lot are more likely to be open to receiving a message from a stranger, which makes sense. So I wondered how I could identify those people and it turned out to be pretty easy. I just look for people with lots of connections  – which I can see on their profile – and even more so, I look for people that are active on LinkedIn – which I can also see through their profile.  

If I find someone with two thousand connections who shows up on LinkedIn once or twice a week and comments on posts or shares other people’s posts, I like the odds that if I send him or her a message that they will read it. But if I send a message to a LinkedIn user who has two hundred connections and doesn’t look like they have been on LinkedIn for months, well that person doesn’t “get” LinkedIn and my odds of them ever even seeing my message let alone responding to it are awful. 

This is my not so secret InMail weapon, in that it is kind of obvious when you think about it. I only send InMails to people that I think are likely to actually open and see my message. You sure can’t get clues like this as to whether someone is more disposed to opening your cold email message. 

My experience is that when I send outreach emails and outreach InMails, the InMails sent to active people on LinkedIn get a higher response rate (14% higher in a program for a client who used both, for example). And that makes the effort worthwhile. 

While finding people more disposed to opening and reading my InMail message is one thing, it all comes down to the quality of your message when they do read it. Writing really good outreach messages, regardless of whether you are using InMail, Email or writing on coconuts being delivered by African swallows is hard work. I have found that I can write four and sometimes five LinkedIn InMail outreach messages in an hour and while many people would balk at that level of time and effort invested I have found that my results merit that effort.