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/

If You Aren’t Measuring Your Results, Maybe You Shouldn’t Be Doing It 

I see this all the time. Someone will tell me about their great habit of finding content to share on LinkedIn, or commenting on posts, or publishing posts, or participating in LinkedIn groups or any number of LinkedIn related activities. 

And I will ask them what their goals are in performing these activities. 

“To generate sales leads.”

“Great! How many leads have you generated, and how many do you expect to generate over what time period?” 

“Um…”

Exactly. They have an idea of what they would like to do, they are putting lots of work in, but they aren’t measuring the results coming out. Are their results commensurate with the effort they are putting in?

If you or your company are in this position, let me offer a couple suggestions, using my early days as a content creator on LinkedIn as an example (this was back before “creator” came with a capital “C”).

  • Have a specific goal in mind. 

Back when LinkedIn first granted publishing abilities to us users, I figured I could write content that would generate leads. I didn’t know if generating leads was possible, but I thought that if I posted regularly I would be able to devise a way of tracking the response to my content and turning that into a lead generation system. I figured if I could generate ten leads a month, I could convert one or two of them into steady customers. This was just my hypothesis though, and as writing content can be fairly time consuming, I was going to track and test everything I did.

Back in those days (six years ago), articles seemed like the best type of content to use, as I could write longer pieces if I wanted to, and there were more formatting options than with posts. So I started writing and publishing one LinkedIn article every week. 

  • Track what you are doing

Whenever I published an article, I measured everything – views, likes, comments, new connection invites, new followers, the number of people who visited my profile – you name it, I tracked it. Spreadsheet madness (and I hate spreadsheets).

  • Figure out what is meaningful

Over time, I came to understand that there were people buried in all these statistics that could be prospects. How did I find that out? By reaching out to them. I made a habit of reaching out to all of the people I could identify that interacted with my content who appeared to fit my ideal client profile and I sent them outreach messages. If they were amenable I would connect with them and see where things went from there. I found that people that fell within certain categories were more responsive than others – for example, I found I could get a response from upwards of seventy percent of the people that commented on one of my articles, but a less than fifty percent response rate from the people that liked my articles.

An unexpected benefit from all this outreach was I got pretty darn good at writing outreach messages.  

  • Apply what you have learned and narrow your focus

In my case, I set about developing a system that went after the commenters and followers that fit my client profile. By that time there were a lot of people publishing on LinkedIn talking about new features and changes to old features, so I tried to focus on writing content that was interesting and novel in the way I looked at using LinkedIn. This helped to gather followers and comments from the type of people I was looking for. 

Here’s the key to this whole endeavor: after a few months I found that I could predict pretty accurately how many leads I would generate from an article by late in the same day I published it. 

Note that the one thing that most people measure – views – is the one thing I discarded almost immediately as being worthless to me. I wanted to be able to contact people and I couldn’t tell who my specific viewers were.

How I personally use LinkedIn continues to evolve, both as the platform changes and my needs change. I am constantly experimenting – there are LinkedIn engagement metrics I still monitor every day, and I am tracking another idea with this Newsletter – and measuring the results of those experiments.

So that’s today’s message: there are multiple ways you can use LinkedIn. Once you have figured out what you think you can use LinkedIn to do, figure out how you are going to do it and especially how you are going to measure your results. And even when you find success, keep measuring to ensure you are on the right path. 

 

Embrace Your Inner Sherlock Holmes On LinkedIn

I have been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories since I read “The Adventure Of The Dancing Men” back in high school. In that short story, Holmes resolves the mystery behind what appear to be children’s drawings that start appearing in the garden of a client who retains him. What is obvious to Holmes – that the series of dancing figures are in fact messages – eludes everyone else involved.

In the short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes utters one of his most famous lines to Doctor Watson, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

That is the way most users are on LinkedIn. They take what’s presented to them at face value, and don’t think of what could be behind what’s happening or of the cause of what is happening. And this is a shame, because if people saw all the information presented to them and stopped to ask themselves what that meant they would make much better use of LinkedIn.

Let me illustrate what I mean with a couple examples.

A LinkedIn user goes to the profile of someone who is a prospective customer. He sees that the prospect has the right title, though no additional information about their current responsibilities is listed, just the title and years in that position. The same holds true for their previous jobs. The prospect has a couple hundred connections, a smattering of skills, and the other key sections of their profile filled out.

Using what little information he can glean from the user’s profile, our sales person sends the prospect an outreach message via InMail. He uses a solid message format that has been very successful in the past.

And receives no reply.

Does it take Sherlock Holmes to see that the prospect in question was a poor candidate for this approach? The low number of connections, the spartan profile, and the absence of activity all point to someone who places little value in LinkedIn and does not come around that often. How can a person who doesn’t show up see our salesperson’s outreach message?

The better approach would have been to try this person through an introduction if possible, or via email, with a direct LinkedIn message being the last resort.

Our LinkedIn user had all the evidence he needed to decide on this better approach. He saw but did not observe.

A second LinkedIn user is looking at a competitor’s LinkedIn Company Page.

She sees that the company in question is publishing to their Company Page on a regular basis. This competitor has many more followers than her company does. It appears obvious that regular publsihing to a Company Page leads to more followers.

Thus inspired that company pages do work for companies in her industry, she goes back to her company page and starts publishing posts about her company’s capabilities. But nothing much happens.

What our second user has done is seen that a company page can be a success, but not really examined her competitor’s Page to see why it was a success. Closer examination would have shown her that the competitive company is publishing content their prospective customers will find valuable – case studies, white papers, technical articles, how-to lists – and the competitor is publishing this type of content on a regular basis.

Our second user saw the regularity of the posting, but did not observe the type of posts being published.

When you see something on LinkedIn, ask yourself, what does this information really mean for me?

Look at the data that LinkedIn has presented you with. There is a lot more there than you would think, things like that little “2” beside someone’s name, meaning they are a second degree connection and you know someone they know, or that all of their activity is date stamped so you can infer when they are using LinkedIn and how often.

Taking an extra moment to look for these things will in the end save you time and you will use LinkedIn more effectively.

Wearing a deerstalker cap while doing so is optional.

And an update:

A couple months ago I published a newsletter where the subject was fake profiles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Trust and Safety people clamped down on several hundred fakes I identified, but as soon as they get rid of one batch another seems to spring up. One company that I am monitoring had 700 “employees” with LinkedIn profiles a month ago. They now have 1600. I am not sure LinkedIn is winning this battle.

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. I was going to write this disclaimer using the Dancing Men code, but after seing how long it would take, I decided some ideas are better off just left as ideas.

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/