Friday January 8, 2016

How I Used LinkedIn for Prospecting

It seemed like finding clients on social media was the stuff you read about on, well, social media, so my initial reluctance to use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool was high. 

While it sounded like the type of thing that only worked for other people, I hadn't heard anything convincing from my own circle of sales comrades that it couldn't be successful. We all shared the same bright-eyed skepticism when it came to being heavy social sellers. But with strong anecdotal evidence from my own research, I figured LinkedIn was harboring too much potential to not tap into it, so I set my "optimistic hesitance" aside and decided to join the "other side" to start mining social media for business deals. 


Here's a rundown of how I started my prospecting on LinkedIn along with my results and outcomes -- and for step-by-step tips for social prospecting, download our free guide here. 

Approach

I went into this endeavor with a straightforward definition of what I wanted success to look like: for every 15 introductory notes I sent out, I wanted to get three conversations (I used this number based on similar and previous "cold" approach channel results and the number of LinkedIn InMails my account was able to send within one month.) My goal was to simply get in front of my target prospects and ask if talking about any marketing challenges they had would be worth their time. Simple enough. 

First, I started with building a targeted client list and the appropriate filters to build the prospect list using the Sales Navigator tool. This took into account things like company size, titles of ideal decision-makers, company verticals and geography. I was able to see the degree of connection these folks were to me, if we had any connections in common, and based on my subscription, I was able to have this list refresh on a weekly basis with new profiles that fit my desired criteria.

From there, I was able to use that information to research and join the right groups that served as watering holes for my ideal prospects. These groups were based on popular topics my potential clients were interested in and pain points they were eager to solve, like growing their business, streamlining marketing and sales operations and leveraging technology for better marketing insights. 

Next, I started planting the seeds for participation – asking and answering questions that members of the group had posed to drive engagement and posting other pieces of original content my firm had developed to share. Based on response, I'd reach out to a member personally. While I had no idea if they had a marketing problem, let alone one my firm was equipped to solve, I'd send an InMail introducing myself, that my firm helps companies similar to theirs, and if a five-minute conversation was worth their time about the topic we discussed within the group.  

Outcomes and Insights

This approach got quite a few bites. Of the first three notes I sent, I got three conversations. My initial reaction was that this was too good to be true and that there was no way the 100% response rate was sustainable. Within the first month, I'd drummed up four calls and one networking/coffee meeting with a potential referral partner. Of the notes that I sent that didn't materialize, more often than not I'd receive a message back saying "Thanks for thinking of me, but no" which to a salesperson, is better than "I'll think about it" or "Try me again later, in three months."

From our firm's perspective, one month is considered a short test, but I was able to draw a few solid conclusions that affirmed the benefits I'd read about prior to my prospecting efforts:

-Social media, LinkedIn specifically, is a great channel for building awareness and a pipeline.

If your goal is to simply open the floodgates and get your name is front of ideal companies, accounts, and prospects, this channel offers a low-cost barrier to entry to do so, and was very time-efficient. Once I had my list built, and my introductory email with my elevator pitch complete, reaching out to a handful of prospects each day barely took 20 minutes.

-Social media offers a nice opportunity to position me and my company as subject matter experts.

Since we already have a nice stream of content through our blog, along with a few years of archives to dip into, I felt armed to share our knowledge with prospects and group members. Using our own branded, original content gave our take on the marketing matters more authority and credibility versus the usual "Here's an article I read in Inc. about the subject..." There's definitely an advantage saying, "Here's how we think" instead of "Here's what I read too."

-Social media is extremely efficient in getting sales outcomes.

As a salesperson, there's nothing worse than getting "think it overs" and sales opportunities that stall from indecision. When that happens, you're forced into the dreaded follow-up sequence where all you get are crickets and tumbleweeds for responses. The InMail approach was especially useful in getting potential prospects to give me a definitive answer: yes, a five minute call is worth my time, or no, thanks for thinking of me but not interested. Even with the no's, I at least knew where I stood  and allowed me to keep moving through my list.

What's your experience with LinkedIn Prospecting and social selling? Whether you had epic wins or utter failure, we'd love to hear your stories and invite you to share them in the comments below!

Download our free social prospecting workbook!

Written by Jill Wilson | Tags: Prospecting, LinkedIn

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