I love LinkedIn. I strongly believe that it is the greatest thing to happen to the recruiting industry since the phone. Think about it - we now have immediate, FREE access to almost every professional in the country. We can learn about their career, find out what groups and associations they belong to, and even send them an email without knowing their email address.
For those of you that didn’t sell or recruit before 2004 (LinkedIn’s launch), you have no idea how valuable of a resource this is! Before LinkedIn took off and truly became a universal contact database, it would take you hours, days, even months to find the information you can now do with a quick search on LinkedIn. In fact, much of the information that is now readily available on profiles you would NEVER find out by prospecting.
So now the question becomes “how do we leverage this information?” I’m going to give you five simple tips that will help you get more out of LinkedIn and ultimately result in more sales. And who knows – maybe you’ll become good enough at utilizing LinkedIn where you don’t have to make as many of those fun cold calls.
Tip 1: Build your connections – No, seriously. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but unless you have at least 500 connections (preferably 1000 or more), you aren’t leveraging the full power of LinkedIn and frankly, the rest of these tips won’t work as well. You need to connect with EVERY PERSON YOU KNOW. Past and current clients, prospects you’ve talked with, friends, relatives, co-workers, suppliers, everyone. You never know where that next lead will come from. I recommend going through “People you may know” on LinkedIn once a day and reconnecting with people you probably forgot you even knew. And the more you do it, the better LinkedIn gets at finding people you know.
Tip 2: Max out your groups – Even with a free account, you can belong to up to 50 groups at a time. Belonging to groups provides multiple sales benefits. One, it improves your search results because it essentially treats all fellow group members as a connection. Two, it allows you to send messages to other group members without using an Inmail. Just do a search in the members section of the group, and in the search results click 'Send Message' for the prospect you wish to reach.
Tip 3: Leverage your connections – Once you’ve built up your connections, you’ll start to see that many of your prospects are now second level connections. Instead of cold-calling into these prospects, call up your mutual connection and ask for an introduction via email or coffee. Your odds of at least getting a courtesy phone call are significantly higher than if you tried to cold call that same prospect.
Tip 4: Connect with your prospects – I touched on this in tip 1, but its important enough to have its own tip. Every time you talk with a prospect through a cold call, networking event, email exchange, whatever, immediately send a connection invite through LinkedIn. This is your chance to get them into your network and stay in touch. Once you have them as a connection its pretty unlikely they’ll disconnect, so you’ll be able to keep track of them throughout promotions, job changes, and status updates. You can stay front of mind by posting regular status updates that show up on their home page. In 2012 I landed 3 new clients just because we were connected on LinkedIn and they saw one of my status updates. (Caution: don’t invite to connect if you have not talked with that person. Too many rejected invitations can result in your account being restricted or even suspended)
Tip 5: Save your searches – The advanced search is a fantastic prospecting tool (especially if you have a paid account), and it’s even more powerful when you save searches. First, create a search based on your prospects. Once you have the results you want, click on “Save Search”. Then sign up to receive emails whenever someone is added to the search. This enables you to effortlessly keep track of new hires, promotions, and changes within your prospects. A well-timed message (free through a group of course) or phone call to congratulate them can be a great way to start up a discussion and result in a new client.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. What other ways have you found to leverage LinkedIn with your sales activity? Share your success stories!