7 Ways to Prospect for New Customers With LinkedIn

social media how toDoes your company sell to other businesses?

Are you looking for leads?

There’s likely more new business for you on LinkedIn than you’re currently tapping.

LinkedIn now boasts 161 million members, including executives from each of the Fortune 500.

No matter the job title of your best prospects, you can find them on LinkedIn.

Here are seven ways to find new customers with LinkedIn.

#1: Develop Connections and Meet Second-Degree Connections

The people you’ve connected to directly on LinkedIn are called first-degree connections. This is your immediate network.

You can increase your network by clicking on “Add Connections” and giving LinkedIn temporary access to your email or by pasting your emails in.

add connections

Automatically access your email contacts temporarily to invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn, or add emails manually.

Below is an example of how your LinkedIn network can help your business:

Bill Waterhouse, a regional director for Technical Innovation, was the first person in the company to use LinkedIn. It paid off almost immediately.

Shortly after using his email contact database to grow LinkedIn connections, he was messaged on LinkedIn by someone he’d tried—and failed—to prospect before.

bill waterhouse

Bill Waterhouse of Technical Innovation caught a big fish with LinkedIn.

The person invited his response to a new RFP (request for proposal), which led to a $450,000 contract. Bill was only considered because he popped up on LinkedIn. One employee simply joining LinkedIn was a half-million-dollar payday for his company.

The warmer your first-degree connections are, the more you can do with them.

Here are some ways to progressively improve your LinkedIn connections:

  • Message them whenever you can (but don’t waste their time)
  • Ask them an expertise-request question via InMail
  • Create a LinkedIn Answers question and direct it to a number of the first-degree connections you want to develop relationships with
  • Connect with them and interact with them on Twitter
  • Meet up with them in person for lunch, coffee or drinks
  • Get close enough to friend them on Facebook

The people connected to your first-degree connections are your second-degree connections.

For example, you may have a coworker in human resources who is your first-degree connection on LinkedIn, and he or she has a first-degree connection that might make a good prospect. But because you have not directly connected with that prospect on LinkedIn, that person is a second-degree connection to you.

After you warm up first-degree connections, you can turn their second-degree connections into first-degree connections via introductions, or simply by emailing or phoning them and mentioning the first-degree connection.

Tip: You can get many people’s emails from Data.com.

#2: Watch the Newsfeed for Warm Relationships

Many people ignore the LinkedIn newsfeed in favor of other parts of the site, but you can filter the newsfeed to show only news from new connections.

First make sure you’re looking at the newsfeed by clicking on Home. Then look down until you see “All Updates” and choose “Connections” from the drop-down menu.

newsfeed connections

The connections view of your newsfeed reveals warm relationships.

If you see that one of your connections has just connected to someone you’d like to connect with, now is a good time to ask for an introduction!

The biggest problem with LinkedIn introductions is that sometimes the connections have gone cold. People connect with someone but have forgotten who they are a year later.

Many of us have LinkedIn connections like that (“Who IS this person?”). But fresh connections are top of mind, and their warmth can warm up your introduction as well.

Watching connections can also give you competitive intelligence.

If you see that someone in the same role as you at another company has connected with someone who looks like a good prospect for you, they might be pitching that person right now!

This might be a good time to introduce yourself via InMail (or you might have another first-degree connection who knows the prospect) and make sure the prospect knows about your services.

Conversely, this might be a reason not to connect with competitors on LinkedIn—it makes your new connections highly visible.

#3: Jump on Recommendations and Get Introduced

You can also filter the newsfeed by recommendations, although it’s a bit more manual. If someone just gave or received a recommendation, there’s a lot of positivity in that relationship and you have a better chance succeeding at an introduction to the person who made the recommendation.

Go to “More Views” and then the “Connection View” tab, and scroll to look for recommendations, or control-F to search the web page for “recommended.”

connections recommended

Recent recommendations are another way to find warm relationships.

If someone just gave or received a recommendation, there’s a lot of positivity in that relationship, and you have a better chance succeeding at an introduction to the person who made the recommendation.

introduction request

Ask for an introduction to the person who recommended your first-degree connection.

#4: Mine LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers for New Business

LinkedIn Groups and Answers are good places for you to find prospects and start relationships. Answer questions from people who are potential prospects—you can demonstrate your company’s relevance, value and expertise. It’s like a preliminary job interview.

You can also use LinkedIn Answers to ask questions that might draw prospects out of the woodwork. Ask them about their challenges, their frustrations and even what’s holding them back from pursuing the kind of solution you provide. Then start building a relationship with them.

answers

Create questions in LinkedIn Answers that boost your industry intelligence and drive business.

You can start a discussion in one of the LinkedIn Groups you’ve joined. Just be sure to be helpful, not salesy.

Focus on how you can add to the conversation. Don’t focus on your own company and its offerings. Remember that your profile has all that information in it. You can mention your company’s specialty, but it’s better to make that 10-20% of the content you share. Make sure the other 80-90% is about helping the other person solve his or her problems.

If your company hasn’t started its own LinkedIn Group, consider creating one.

A 2011 study by LeadFormix found that among LinkedIn visitors to websites, those who come from Groups and Ads are the most likely to fill out a lead form.

Get together with any marketers, social strategists, PR folks and salespeople who use LinkedIn as a marketing and sales tool, and brainstorm a topic that your company can “host” by creating a Group around it.

Think of it as a discussion board that exists virtually right outside your offices. The people who join and participate could be your future customers. And most importantly, the owner of a LinkedIn Group can email its members once a week. It’s as powerful as email marketing!

#5: Hunt for Prospects with Advanced Search

Advanced Search is one of the most exciting aspects of LinkedIn, but use it with care.

LinkedIn’s Advanced Search allows you to search LinkedIn for anyone, on many criteria, even if you don’t know them. You might need to request an introduction or send an InMail (if there’s cold-calling on LinkedIn, this is it).

advanced search options

These are just a few of the filters you can use with the Advanced People Search on LinkedIn.

When you start doing Advanced Searches, you’ll need to use your definition of what a high-quality lead is for you or your company:

  • Who are the buyers in the companies you sell to?
  • What’s their job title?
  • What’s their seniority level?
  • How big is their company?
  • Are they in specific industries?

For example, let’s say you sell solutions to CMOs in healthcare. This might lead you to select:

  • Industry: any health and medical industries
  • Seniority: higher seniority levels
  • Company size: between 200 and 5,000 people

This search gives me just 31 results. That’s pretty highly targeted prospecting! If I remove the health and medical, I get 805 people in my results.

search

Find people who meet your targeting criteria with Advanced People Search, and reach out to them.

It can take some trial and error to build a good search based on multiple criteria, so you’d better save all that effort. In the upper-right corner, click the green plus button to save your search.

As you build your search, watch the number of results and make sure you save your search before moving on to another activity.

Note: You get to choose from more criteria in Advanced Search (LinkedIn calls them “premium search filters”) if you subscribe monthly for a business account.

How do you know when you’ve narrowed down your search properly? Usually when the number of search results approximates the size of your real-world prospect list. There are a finite number of good prospects for your business.

In B2B, your target prospect list may include 500 or 5,000 or 50,000 companies, depending on many factors. If you sell copier paper, there are millions of prospects. Knowing that, now how many decision-makers are there in those target companies?

#6: Map the Target Company

If you’re following up on a lead from your company’s advertising or marketing campaigns, you may need to network your way through a company to find the “economic buyer” (final decision-maker) who will use the solution you’re selling and who might have influence over the purchasing decision.

You can go to the company’s LinkedIn page and take a look at its employees. What if you know one of them, or went to the same school?

Even if they aren’t the decision-maker you’re looking for, they might play a role as an advocate (what some sales professionals call a “coach”), give you information about corporate structure and recommend you deeper into the company.

Your advocate may only be a web designer (not your decision-maker), but maybe he goes to baseball games with the VP of marketing.

Network from the outside to the inside. The better relationship you can strike up with each person, the more likely you’ll get information or a recommendation closer to the economic buyer.

company pages

LinkedIn company pages show people who are in your network and who went to your alma mater. Leverage these relationships to fill your sales funnel.

You can also go to The Official Board if you’re targeting one of the 30,000 biggest corporations in the world.

#7: Reach Decision-Makers

First look at the LinkedIn company page and see which of the company’s employees you have as first-degree connections.

If you find people in the target company who are willing to help you, a positive conversation that demonstrates how you’ll help their company (and serve their interests) could lead to LinkedIn introductions to other folks in the company, or their phone numbers.

Even if you get the phone numbers directly from the last person you talked to, or from Data.com, you can use LinkedIn to look each person up and get to know a bit about them before calling.

You could get a formal LinkedIn introduction, and then call the next day.

Even if your new targets haven’t yet accepted your introduction or replied, if you have their phone numbers, you can call them and they’ll at least recognize you. You can also find employees in LinkedIn Groups. Strike up a conversation if they’ve posted.

These are just some strategies for prospecting on LinkedIn. Use these techniques or build on them to come up with your own innovative methods.

What do you think? How do you find prospects on LinkedIn? Have you used any techniques you would like to share with us? Please leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Brian Carter

Brian Carter is author of the books The Like Economy and LinkedIn For Business, Brian has been marketing online since 1999. He speaks, consults, and is VP of Marketing for Infinigraph. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.Zoomerang.com Jason Miller

    Hi Brian,

    Fantastic post! Really great tips and insights for turning Linkedin into a lead generation tool. 

    Jason Miller – Marketo

  • http://humanwebsite.com.my/ Kent

    Nothing new. The same way advice. I can get this advice at least 50 blogs. Sorry, information does overloaded with less differentiation.

  • Karen

    This was a terrific article. One of my goals was to increase my relationships and referrals through Linked In.  I will start with these tips!  Thank you!

  • Dyoung

    Great article…One of my goals  is to increase relationships with Meeting and Event Planners.  Great tips…thank you

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  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    Thanks @e4f36f565da141968ec258a54e14539e:disqus ! You can find a number of LinkedIn Groups for that audience. For example, here are three: 
    http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=60547
    http://www.linkedin.com/groups/iMeet-online-community-People-Who-82210
    http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=120929

    And you can also advertise to them based on job title.

  • http://www.radicalmustache.com/ Mikel Zaremba

    These are some really great tips here Brian!

    The only problem that I have with LinkedIn is that I have yet to receive one lead or job offer from there. So I guess I am concerned that time spent on this platform would be a waste.

    I’ll defiantly try some of your tips and see what happens.

  • Wendyhblomseth

    Thanks for this article.  You actually share some new fresh tips that I haven’t seen before. 
     

    Wendy

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  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    I hear ya @MikelZaremba:disqus You definitely have to have enough signal to stand out from the noise, and depending on your own bandwidth and support, you may allocate time and money elsewhere. The easiest place to start is to use LinkedIn to extend the distribution of content you’re already creating and marketing elsewhere (FB/Twitter/etc). I’ve found creating and growing my own group to be pretty easy as well- then you can moderate and control the quality of the content in that group. The sales prospecting is good industry research, too, whether it yields you a client or not.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/mdyoder Michael D. Yoder

    Good basics, @twitter-14212297:disqus . I’d add to #2 the use of LinkedIn Signal (you can find it under “News”). It’s a great way to sort your home page news feed for potential warm connections and leads. I’d also suggest that checking the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” section of LinkedIn on a regular basis. It can be a great source of warm leads/prospects.

  • Mgconslts

    Great post.  I have shared it on my Social Media Marketing Innovators group at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Social-Media-Marketing-Innovators-4551200?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr and elsewhere including lots of other groups.

  • http://www.facebook.com/niveen.khalifa.73 Niveen Khalifa

    Great information, Brian. I liked the Q&A section. But what “using linkedin” mean under categorize your question”? and is there a way to choose all?

  • http://www.tinakyei.com/ Tina Kyei

    Great post! Reaching decision makers by looking on the company’s page is a great tip. I would definitely consider it.

  • GregDetisi

    Extremely powerful for someone like myself.  I always have not taken Linked too seriously as a daily task.  I will be sure now armed with this power to take it to the next level.  Thanks for sharing such powerful info for us  . As an author also I will be using Linked In alot more from now on to leverage my work.  

    Thankyou kindly!

    Greg

  • http://brandyousocial.com/testimonials Megan

    Thanks for the visual guides – it really makes things a lot easier to understand.  I feel like I knew most of this should be done, but wasn’t necessarily sure how to do it.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/markvozzo Mark Vozzo

    Brian, this is one of the best posts I’ve read on how to leverage the power of LinkedIn for prospecting. Thanks for taking to time and effort to screengrab and highlight the key areas. It’s also great to see someone recommending the contacts crowdsourcing solution data.com.  Thanks for putting this article together, I’ll be sharing it with my followers.  Keep up the good work Brian. 
     

  • Jim Devitt

    great post, the one caution I would throw in … don’t just go on the groups and sell your stuff. That’s the quickest way to get thrown out of a group. Some of them are very strict about self promotion. Provide content for all to use and the ones that need you will come to you.

  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    True enough, thanks Michael!

  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    Thanks  @facebook-100004008647565:disqus! ”Using LinkedIn” would be any question you want to ask the community about how to, or how they use LinkedIn. If you mean choosing all categories, I don’t believe so- they’re trying to make the huge mass of thousands of questions asked per week manageable, and relevant to each person who might answer them.

  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    @google-9cff4e83b03adb0cdc550a11266236f8:disqus completely true! :-) Ironically, the worst thing about groups is social media professionals who don’t really belong in that group. There’s nothing wrong with listening, if they let you in, but let the group be the group. The primary purpose is to discuss, and to share useful resources. As soon as you start sharing your own writings or services, people get annoyed. If you are going to share something you wrote or created, make sure number one that it’s very useful and highly relevant to this particular group, and that such content is not foreign to that group’s norm. In other words, if they’re just discussing and no one is sharing blog posts, then sharing one of yours will look self-serving. Social Media pro’s aren’t the only offenders- HR people create huge numbers of jobs-related posts without regard to the normal functioning of the group. Sometimes the jobs aren’t totally relevant to the group they’re posted in. Again, the benefit of creating your own group is that you can moderate all this noise and keep your group valuable.

  • Victoria Ipri

    LinkedIn is not about sales. It’s about building and nurturing the relationships that may one day lead to sales. This is how sales success has always been achieved, since the first caveman set up a roadside stand selling firestarters. People do not buy from other people or companies they do not like, know, or trust. You must build credibility before you can sell anything.

    If you are not getting job offers or finding new business, first consider optimizing your profile. The LI search engine matches members’ queries to members’ profiles. If you want a job as VP of Marketing but your profile waxes poetic about your 20 years’ experience as a Mechanical Engineer, it simply isn’t going to happen.

    As you do this, pay close attention to the headline of your profile. The headline is a snapshot that should convey your professional value, whether or not a visitor chooses to read your entire history.

    Write your summary in 1st person; friendly, without going all Facebook on people. TELL people why you are a valuable connection. No resume regurgitations in 3rd person.

    And don’t forget to be obvious about how you’d like to be contacted…you are doing this to network, aren’t you? So why hide it? Provide a business email or phone # so visitors don’t have to hunt you down (because they won’t).

    Give the people what they want! And if you need help, drop me a note: http://www.linkedin.com/in/victoriaipri

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  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    @643f7cfe11acbe06a3d13a9b7e04e628:disqus , I agree with you, with one caveat: some people are salespeople, in their job title. While telling them not to sell certainly does make the point that it’s not a *hard* sale, not a “transactional” sale, we have plenty of “internal” (and “complex”) salespeople these days who have done relationship-selling since before Twitter and other social sites existed.
    What I recommend is a sales funnel, and relationship is certainly part of that funnel… LinkedIn relationships on the average are not as deep or familiar as on Facebook. Getting too familiar too fast on LinkedIn could seem weird to your prospect… and we don’t want non-salespeople to get the wrong message here- some people are really good at making friends but really really bad at asking for a sale- and that’s why they’re in marketing, not sales. 

    There is a difference between marketing, networking, and sales, and although networking is part of this, let’s be honest: salespeople are out to sell, trying to hide that can be deceptive and it isn’t too hard to see through. There are some sophisticated complex sales pro’s out there who understand all this and are able to network through relationships and sell effectively. So, yes, it’s a complex sale not a simple sales pitch, but we need to let salespeople remain authentic and make win-win sales.

  • http://www.larry-lewis.com/ Larry

    This is a great post, and will help me develop my understanding and then value from Linkedin. To this point this is one of my biggest weak areas

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-marketing-services Ayaz

    This is awesome post and great detailed information provided how to use linkdIn effectively, thanks for sharing great information :-)

  • Barb Smith

    One of the best compilations of suggestions I’ve had the pleasure of stumbling on … In combination, these 7 strategies are a powerful combination and a great way to get a lot of ROI out of your LinkedIn presence.

  • http://www.jtdabbagian.com/ James Dabbagian

    Be careful with #4 though. Some people like to call posters out on questions that they think are just meant to be fishing for prospects. 

  • http://briancarteryeah.com/ briancarter

    Ya, I’ve answered and asked- and I can tell you as a question-asker that it’s super annoying to see the same person give useless two-sentence answers on all my questions. They may also just be trying to game the Answers system. One of them is considered a top Answerer by LinkedIn, but their answers are almost completely useless. This kind of activity hurts your brand. You should only answer when you can give something useful to the asker, even if they never engage you for the services you sell.

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  • Peggy Glassman

    I recently started a
    digital marketing company.  I’ve had great success using LinkedIn in the
    past, but am having a LOT of trouble with my business page.  It is
    “under” my personal account – and when I go to import contacts – it
    is sending invite requests out – but under my personal account.  Also,
    when I go to “People you may know” – I don’t know any of them. Why
    wouldn’t they provide my personal contacts here?

    I don’t see any articles
    regarding making connections for business page. (And given the fact that I’m a
    digital marketing company – I can’t exactly ask in “Questions.”
     

    And – you can’t get
    someone on the phone at Linked in.  I really hope someone here can help me.  I
    need to be practicing what I preach and it’s hard when I keep running into
    these roadblocks!  Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide!!!
     :):)

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  • BobGrass

    Brian, have you heard of meetleads? I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like a free tool to generate leads online.

  • Tanya Harris

    Do you think its ok to send a message to someone who is connected with you on linkedin to introduce your services?

  • Eric White

    Great article! This is some really great advise and very easy to put into action.







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