Finding leads on LinkedIn – the practical approach

Let’s cut to the chase. You’ve heard stories of people supposedly finding business on LinkedIn.  You’re a little cynical, and you really don’t have time to waste. You signed up to LinkedIn some time ago and put up a profile with the most important and recent personal information, but you haven’t had much response. But if LinkedIn is really a good way to generate sales, you’d like to know how to make it happen.

People often have exaggerated expectations of digital marketing. I’ve had more than one client ask for a campaign “that will go viral” and there are plenty of people who’ll promise do that for them. But I’m not one of them. The chances of your campaign “going viral” are about the same as a singer getting a No.1 hit.  And by the same token, simply signing up to a social network isn’t going to lead to a flood of enquiries into your inbox either!

It’s relatively quick and easy to search for prospects on LinkedIn
What’s more, you get valuable information that makes this a far better bet than buying, begging or stealing a database. But there’s a bit of a leap from creating a list of prospects to turning them into leads.

Establish your credibility
First up, you don’t want to be an unknown quantity when you make contact with your prospects. It helps enormously if they already have a frame of reference, a reason to listen to what you have to say. So build trust and show evidence of your experience and expertise with a well-developed personal profile.

Take your personal network online
Give LinkedIn access to your email address book and connect with all of your existing clients and colleagues. It’s not just about creating an additional point of contact with the people you know; this also opens up the possibilities of getting introductions to prime prospects.

Get to grips with the search options
LinkedIn gives you a quick and easy search bar, where you can choose what you’d like to find. Of course you don’t have to filter, but if it’s prospects you’re looking for, it’s people you want.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.37.32 PM

Search by job title and you’ll get a list of all people with that title and a list of contacts you have in common. So when I searched for “Sushi Chef” under People, LinkedIn presented me with a list of 4800 sushi chefs. The only problem is that it might not be their current position, and they might live in Japan! The third name on the list was a sushi chef in her previous position, and the fourth and fifth are from the  USA and Azerbaijan – a little far from Durban to be prime prospects.

But look down the left hand margin and you’ll see it’s very simple to filter your search.

Sushi Chef

You can search by country, by city, by current company, industry – even by seniority level.  So if you’re looking to make contact with procurement managers in the pharmaceutical industry, you don’t have to clutter up your search results with people from the mining sector.

And while I don’t know any sushi chefs myself, the relationship tab tells me I know nine people who potentially could introduce me.  And a further 67 people belong to the same groups as me and might be able to help too.

Explore the Advanced Search option
The Advanced Search option includes a Lead Builder facility.  Simply fill in the blanks, deciding on the best key words to describe your prospect, the level of seniority of the people you’d like to engage as well as the size of the organization you believe is most suited to you.  Your key words could be job titles, but you might also include skills here too.

You can look for prospects at specific companies, in particular industries, by company size – it’s entirely up to you.

Advanced search

Creating your list of prospects is a good start, but it’s only the beginning.  There’s a whole lot more you can do convert them into leads.

Research your prospects
▪   Visit your prospects’ profiles and establish the best fit for your business
▪   Look at their personal interests and history to find some common ground
▪   If you have any groups in common, look up their group activity – you might learn what matters most to them, their problems and priorities
▪   Follow their company page to find out more about the company culture, their vision and the potential they offer.

Warm up your leads
(It’s much harder to make a cold call.)
•   Start small and avoid looking like a stalker
•   Share content that matters to them
•   Join groups they participate in, and join the conversations
•   Invite them to connect, giving them a reason to accept

Consider the paid accounts
Even the standard free LinkedIn account offers powerful for networking and lead building opportunities, but the paid versions do offer more. You get more results for your searches, and you can see more people who look at your profile – and might be interested in doing business with you.  There are also other benefits (like sending InMails to people you don’t know) which matter less to me, and if you decide to upgrade you can consider the value they might offer you.

The other options (Sales Plus and Sales Executive) offer even more information, but the value will depend on what you get out of them. My advice is to start with the free version and only upgrade once you’re actually committed to making use use of the extra information on the paid options.

Yes, you can find leads on LinkedIn
There’s no doubt about it.  And you can also use the platform to develop the connection before you pitch them. But while you might be able to automate your updates, you can’t automate a relationship, so approach your prospecting in the same way you always have done off-line, and accept that relationships of trust are not built overnight.

Please share this, and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments box and I’ll get back to you.

Related articles:
How to build a great LinkedIn profile
Top 6 tips for your LinkedIn profile photo
5 Reasons your LinkedIn profile picture matters
Growing your business with LinkedIn
Questions SA Execs are asking about LInkedIn

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