Getting An Unfair Advantage Using Prospect Research On LinkedIn

With a little research, obstacles like this disappear.


I wanted to talk today about what I do to prepare for calls…and especially how I use LinkedIn as a key part of that preparation.

As I write this, it’s very early on a Monday morning. I have two people to follow up with today who want to talk with me about my services.

The first case is a previous client I have worked with sporadically in the past. It would be easy for me to just assume he wants to hire me again, call him up and just wing it.

But…something has changed and he thinks he needs my help now so I am going to research him all over again. This involves the following:

  • I will go back over my notes from a couple years ago, see what his problem was, and see what we worked on together.
  • I will check his website, and in his case his blog, to see if there have been changes in his business or his services.
  • I will check his LinkedIn company page to see how it matches up with his website and to review all his recent activity.
  • I will check his LinkedIn profile to see what changes he has made in the past couple years since we last talked. A lot can change in that amount of time. Aside from the obvious current experience section, I will also look for new recommendations, what his skills reflect, the companies and people he is following and the groups he belongs to. All these are things I can do very quickly, but this info can also give me clues as to where he is right now.
  • Lastly, I will check his recent activity (if he has any) on LinkedIn. Is he posting? How often? What topics? Is he interacting with other people’s or company’s posts?

Best case scenario, I can figure out what his likely problems are, or may be, and I can prepare for him. Worst case scenario, I find a couple things to talk about with him.

This will take me fifteen or twenty minutes and it is time well invested for three reasons:

  1. It refreshes my knowledge of him, and the work we have done previously.
  2. It prepares me for what I might suggest to him. I may have ideas prompted by my research.
  3. And perhaps most importantly, it will show him the respect I have for him in preparing in this manner.

That fifteen or twenty minutes makes all the difference in tilting the playing field in my favour. Having the facts and a lot of ideas at my fingertips going into my discussion with him gives me a huge advantage in coming across as a credible resource who respects his time, takes an interest in what he is doing and wants to help him.

So that’s the prep for an individual. But what about a company? The morning I wrote this, one of my connections sent a message asking if he could share my contact info with his VP of Sales, so the VP could set up a call to discuss what I might be able to do to help them. (I would like to build the suspense here, but I must confess I am going to answer “yes”.)

  • I get calls like this from time to time, but even with this looking like a pretty good situation (after all they are initiating contact and asking to speak with me instead of the other way ‘round), I am going to research the heck out of that company. I will do all of the things I did with respect to my occasional client I discussed above, but will add four more pieces of research.

Here are the additional things I will look at:

  • I will see if they are active as a company on any other social media and if they are, how they are using those networks.
  • I will review the sales and marketing employees LinkedIn profiles, asking myself the critical question, “do they get LinkedIn?”
  • I will look for active users in other parts of the company. I will often find people who are active LinkedIn users where you normally wouldn’t expect them. (If you would like to see a great example of this yourself, go to LinkedIn and look up thom h. boehm who works for a company called Stanfield’s. Thom publishes posts on LinkedIn about his work maintaining knitting machines at the Stanfield’s underwear factory. He has over two thousand followers who love reading his posts. I am one of them.)
  • Lastly I will look to see if I have any connections who might know people at this company. I look to see if there are any company employees with a “2nd” beside their name.

Do I get push back from people about the amount of research I recommend? All the time. But say you were to land a new client this month. What would the value of that satisfied client be over the next five years? The truth is, putting an hour or two into this type of research pays. And a lot of that research comes courtesy of LinkedIn.

3 Ways You Can Use LinkedIn For Lead Generation (and 1 way you shouldn’t)


Here are four ways you can use LinkedIn for Lead Gen. The first three will all work, depending on your client’s strengths and weaknesses. The last one, well, we will burn that bridge when we come to it.

Publish and link

Publish content that leads people back to your website. On your website, in exchange for their email address, they get valuable content such as an e-book, case study, checklist etc. This is the “classic” lead generation system used all over in email newsletters, columns, you name it.

This tactic depends on the reach the company already has. A lot of people need to see your message.

Designate And Follow Leads Using Sales Navigator

You can use Sales Navigator on LinkedIn and designate people and companies as leads. You will then see those lead’s activities and can use them as a springboard to contact the prospects.

This one is hit and miss as it depends on the target companies or people being active on LinkedIn. The rule of thumb for internet use is 90/9/1. Ninety percent lurk, nine percent participate and one percent generate. So in general, if you have a thousand leads you are following on LinkedIn, only a small number of them will be active.

Find ’em yourself

You can go straight to using LinkedIn to identify prospects and reach out to them via email or LinkedIn, or both. This idea actually takes the lead gen out of it, but if you know who your prospective customers are, it is often a better idea to go hunt them down, than hope they drop by.

But most people don’t like using the “P” word (prospecting), or the “W” word (work), so they succumb to the siren call of….

Automated LinkedIn add-ons and systems

Very dangerous. This usually consists of automated software that sends messages or connection requests. Violates LinkedIn’s terms of agreement and people that get caught get their accounts closed and are banned from using LinkedIn.

I get asked multiple times every week: “what automation software do you recommend for” and then they ask about sending connection requests, or auto-commenting on posts, or sending messages. And I answer “none.” I don’t care how much time it may save you, I have good reasons why you shouldn’t use automation on LinkedIn.

Reason #1: Like most trendy tactics, it’s wearing thin

Remember a few years ago when saying happy birthday to each other on LinkedIn was a thing? And salespeople started piggybacking sales pitches onto their birthday greetings? And how that got old pretty quickly? Well automated everything is getting like that. People have seen it before.

Reason #2: Quite honestly, it can make you look stupid

And that is because by definition setting loose parameters to be able to use the software puts you in weird situations. I think most of us have received sales pitches from people trying to sell us the services that are hilariously unsuited to us and would be obvious to anyone who had taken the time to read our profiles.

I am a big believer that how you treat your prospects is a preview of how you will treat them as your customers. And automation screams “I have no time for personal attention, and this is all just a numbers game.” I find it telling that one of the big promotional tools used in selling automation is how much your time is worth and how you can save that time. Of course the flip side of that same coin is that your prospects do not deserve your time.

Reason #3: LinkedIn can close your account and ban you permanently

And they do. Two things you can’t do on LinkedIn is scrape data and have somebody else or automated software using your account. As automated software needs access to your account to get the data – from a search for example – and then to take control of your account to send the invitations or messages, automation breaks the user agreement for both of these.

And for anyone who thinks that the odds are so low they won’t get caught, I have one suggestion. If you habitually believe it is a good idea to go for a walk whenever a thunderstorm begins, because the odds of being hit by lightning are so low, then automation may be for you. But for the rest of us who just thought “the risk is not worth it” we will pass thanks.

The only people who truly profit from LinkedIn automation are the people selling it to you.

Stick to the first three methods I discussed above. Trade valuable content for email addresses, use Sales Navigator to follow people, or find and approach your prospects individually on LinkedIn.

The obligatory disclaimer: 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.

Want more like this? I publish three weekly email newsletters on LinkedIn for Sales, LinkedIn for Marketing and Advanced LinkedIn Strategies and Tactics. Each is typically a two or three minute read, free, and and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Your LinkedIn Company Page Going Nowhere? Here’s Why

Not getting any oomph out of your company page? Your Company Page content going nowhere and getting zero engagement?

There are two reasons for that. There’s the “what happens when you post” and the “what” you post.

There is a lot to unpack here, but I promise both parts are worth taking into consideration.

The first thing we need to cover is that LinkedIn does not really distribute company page content organically. Okay, what the heck does that mean? Well, when you post something on your personal account, LinkedIn will put it in front of a small percentage – like 5 to 8% – of your connections and followers and see how it does. If it does well, that is, if it gets lots of engagement, LinkedIn will distribute it further and so on.

So most people assume that LinkedIn does the same thing with company page content and most people would be wrong.

For all intents and purposes, LinkedIn does not distribute company page content at all. You’re on your own. If you follow any companies, when was the last time you were notified of what they had published? If you are like me, you can’t remember a single instance. Now would you be surprised if I told you LinkedIn had a bunch of cool tools for seeing the content of companies you follow? And that those tools are in Sales Navigator for only $70 or $80 bucks a month? And what type of Sales Navigator users follow company pages? People who either want to sell to your company or people that compete with your company. So the only people that can actually easily see all your company page content are people you are sure not writing that content for.

So if your company page content is not easily seen by your followers, what can you do about it? Well, the first thing you have to realize is that under these circumstances, your company page is more about establishing credibility than it is about increasing your reach. But there are a couple things you can do.

1) Enlist your company employees. Let your team know when you’re publishing. Get them to share or comment if – and this is important – they are regular LinkedIn users and have a decent sized network. When they share or comment, the company post will then get seen by a small portion of their networks. This can help with your reach.

(I think Liking is too easy and the effects are poor, so I recommend you avoid Liking your company page posts)

2) While enlisting company employees is obvious, no one thinks of this one: enlist your suppliers. Your suppliers have a vested interest in your company’s success, and there are two people at each of those suppliers who should be keen to help you out: the salesperson who is your main point of contact and their company page manager who is likely to be more sympathetic to your efforts than most people in your own company.

Okay that covers the “what happens”, so let’s turn to the “what” in what you should post on your company page.

My suspicion is that as with Facebook, LinkedIn is killing organic distribution of company posts to encourage companies to buy sponsored InMail or advertising. But that means that for the most part, people are not seeing your company’s content unless they actually search for and discover your company page – either through a company search, a hashtag search or a content search.

In each of those cases, your reader is discovering you for the first time. They have discovered you because they were searching LinkedIn and using it as a resource.

What are they looking for? Answers to their questions. They arrive at your company page and ask themselves, “I wonder if these people can help me with my problem?”

What are they not looking for? Someone trying to sell something to them.

So what does your company page and your content need to offer these people? Solutions. The benefits they will receive from working with you. If you can answer their questions they will want to talk with you. If you come across as just interested in selling them something, you won’t get very far.

When you offer people answers to their questions and information they can use, they will want to return to you Company Page.

When all you do is advertise, why would someone every want to come back a second time?

Having people see you as a resource is a good position to be in.

The obligatory disclaimer: 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.

Want more like this? I publish three weekly email newsletters on LinkedIn for Sales, LinkedIn for Marketing and Advanced LinkedIn Strategies and Tactics. Each is typically a two or three minute read, free, and and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: