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:

Helping The LinkedIn Algorithm Figure Out The Content You Want To See

(what we all imagine the algorithm looks like)

The LinkedIn algorithm decides what you see in your feed. So if you understand how it works, you can use that information to your advantage and guide LinkedIn to present more of the content you want to see.

While you can express interest in topics and influencers (they are under the “My Network” tab), a big part of what the algorithm does is look at your recent interactions. It looks at whose posts you are interacting with and what topics you are researching. Then LinkedIn interprets this data and predicts what you would like to see more of. This is where the algorithm is really smart and really dumb at the same time.

If the algorithm sees me commenting on your posts, and especially if we trade a bunch of comments back and forth on that post, the algorithm interprets that as a high interest level on my behalf with regards to your posting. So LinkedIn will show me more of your posts.

The algorithm is very wise.

But the algorithm also sees someone come along who hates your post, acts like a troll, and wants to argue with you and call you names. Because the algorithm just looks at the back and forth and does not understand what is actually being said, the algorithm interprets these comments as a high level of interest on the troll’s behalf and LinkedIn will now show the troll a lot more of your posts.

The algorithm is kind of dumb.

Oh, and I said “looks at your recent interactions” because I went away on vacation for a week and when I came back the algorithm had effectively forgotten everything about me. It had to “discover me” and build its database of who I liked all over again.

So how do we take advantage of this? Well, aside from not commenting on idiot posts, the idea would be to consider all your interactions with other people on LinkedIn as an interest gauge. Especially comments. There is evidence which suggests that comments are weighted heavily by the algorithm. When you comment on LinkedIn you are not just commenting on the post in question, you are telling LinkedIn, “More like this please.”

You will find evidence of this in your feed all the time. For example, you haven’t interacted with someone in months, but then you commented on one of their posts. Over the next week, it seems like every time that person does something on LinkedIn, it shows up in your homepage feed.

So when you make lots of comments on content from people you would like to see more of, your feed will get better as the algo does less guessing as to who’s content you want to see.

When you understand how LinkedIn interprets your actions, you can act accordingly and help guide the content you actually want to see to your feed.

Got an idea for something I should write about? I am Open Profile so you can send me a free message on LinkedIn.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for LinkedIn. The only business relationship I have with LinkedIn is sending them money every month for my Sales Navigator account.