OUR RESEARCH PROCESS
We solicited the expertise of Marissa Taffer, founder and president of M. Taffer Consulting, a boutique consulting practice focused on Business Development and Project Management. Prior to starting her practice she has sold for various size companies and work in sales enablement for Aramark, a global Fortune 500 company.
IF YOU REMEMBER NOTHING ELSE
- LinkedIn can be used to grow your business, increase sales, and find new potential customers.
- With a few data points (potential customer’s titles, geographic location and company sizes), it’s easy to find people with profiles similar to your most profitable customers on LinkedIn.
- Finding new potential customers is just the beginning: you’ll want to connect with these folks and build a relationship based on trust before you pitch.
- Sending a cold pitch or pitching in your first message after being introduced to a cold prospect doesn’t build credibility or trust: avoid at all costs!
- Treat LinkedIn prospecting as a piece of you overall strategy, this is not a stand-alone sales strategy.
Before you start to use LinkedIn to find potential customers, ensure you’re set up with a complete profile that contains:
- A recent and clear headshot: This should not be a selfie. Ask a friend or family member to take a photo of you from the shoulders up in front of a plain wall or a backdrop that aligns with your business.
- A headline that tells potential clients what problems you solve or how you can help.
- A summary of your professional experience that is free of corporate jargon and buzzwords.
Don't: “I’m a results-oriented self-starter who achieves KPIs!”
Do: “I’m a marketing communications expert with over 15 years of helping large companies tell their stories to customers and consumers. I use social media to illustrate how our work impacts the community. In the last three years, I’ve generated over 150,000,000 impressions and started 10,000 conversations about [X]."
- Relevant work experience: Add your current role, responsibilities, and achievements. Show how your work has an impact. For example, if you sell a SaaS product, how does the product help your clients (e.g., does it provide better visibility into data, more efficiency for sales teams, or help marketers automate their process?)
- Reorder your LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements: You probably have more skills than are visible to viewers of your profile (only the top three are visible). LinkedIn provides a way for you to re-organize the endorsements in your list so that your most impressive are the ones viewers see.
- Click the pencil icon in the Skills & Endorsements section.
- Click on the four lines icon located to the right of each skill to move it up or down the list.
- Arrange your skills in the order you want them to appear. Remember that the top three are visible when people scroll through your profile.
- To remove a skill from your list, click the trash can icon located to the right of that skill.
- Click “Save.”
- Recommendations: Ask current or former clients, colleagues and managers to help ill why you’re excellent at what you do and how you help others. When you ask for these, it is okay to tell people what you’d like them to highlight. For example, if you worked on a big project on a tight deadline, ask a colleague to talk about how you motivated the team and helped everyone achieve success.
- Privacy settings: Disable the People Also Viewed feature. This can be an excellent source for finding prospects, but it can also work against you: it displays your competitors to your prospects visiting your profile. Don’t let people leave your profile to view your competitors. Here’s how:
- Go into your Settings & Privacy
- Click on Privacy in the top navigation area
- Locate Viewers of this profile also viewed in this list
- Make sure this is set to No
Once your profile is set up, you’re ready to start searching for potential sales leads and new clients/customers!
In order to figure out who the best potential customers are for your business, start by looking at your past and current customers. Ask yourself what are their roles in their companies and use that information to start targeting similar job titles at other companies. This can be particularly challenging as in one company the same responsibilities a director handles might be handled by a vice president. You may want to try searching multiple titles across organizations and be sure to read people’s summaries and accomplishments in their positions to help you find the right person.
Step 1: Distill customer personas from sales data. For example, let’s say your product is an HR software that helps small and medium-sized businesses automate performance reviews and succession planning. Most of your contracts are signed by HR Directors or VPs who oversee the HR function for companies from 50-1,000 employees with annual revenue between $1.5 and $10.5M. You also know that most of your current clients are within a 75 mile radius and have met you or another salesperson in their office or at an industry event.
Step 2: Take this information and run a search to yield similar results. You want to search for Second and Third degree connections (people outside of your network) in the greater New York City Area (specific geography) who are HR Directors and/or VPs of HR.
Once you apply these filters, the results will come up. (You’ll note in the screenshot that the results are NOT filtered for company size. You can do that manually as you qualify the prospects your search has returned.)
In this example, the search has returned 3,042 results:
Once you have this list of results, review and qualify each prospect according to the list of criteria you’ve established for your target customers. In our HR example this means looking at each of these profiles to determine fit based on role, company size, location and experience level. You may need to look at company profiles or google the companies that your prospects work for to ensure fit.
Tip: Search for a specific position within a company
If you have a list of prospective companies and are looking for a specific position or title within the company, go to the Company’s page and click on the See all employees link, located in the bottom right corner of the introduction card.
This will take you to LinkedIn’s Advanced Search page. Next, if you are looking for a VP of HR for example, type VP HR into the keywords section. This will bring up a list of the employees with VP HR in their profiles. To further improve your results, if you are looking for new prospects, search only for 2nd– and 3rd-degree connections:
Tip: Use saved searches, and LinkedIn will automatically send you leads
When you find a set of particular search criteria that provides highly targeted results for you, you can save your search using the Save Search option. You can see the Save Search feature on the Search Results page on the right side near the top of the page.
LinkedIn will send new leads to your inbox, based on the preferences and the search criteria you specify. You can also click on the number in brackets beside the search name to go directly to the results of that search. This is a fantastic feature – be sure to take advantage of it.
Tactic 1: Ask for an introduction
Before reaching out cold, check to see if you have any mutual (shared) connections. It's always best to ask the shared connection to introduce you. Send a message asking for an introduction using the example below as a guide:
Tactic 2: Reach out directly
Depending on your level of comfort there are two ways to reach out to someone outside of your network.
- Use InMail to send a message. This might be the best way to go if you’re only interested in talking to the person about a specific product or service. You can send them a message asking for an appointment or call to discuss - Note that this method likely will have a lower response rate even if your message is compelling. People are bombarded with InMails and sales pitches and its not overly personal.
- Send a connection request with a personalized message. Make sure the message is about the person you’re contacting and makes them feel good: run a quick google search to see if they or their company have been in the news recently. You can also look at things like years of service or other accomplishments from their profile. In the example below, I connected with a new business owner who’s article about launching his business was shared in my network. I thought he’d be a great person to know so I reached out:
Tactic 3: Interact with them in comments or groups, then ask for intro
If you can’t have your mutual connection introduce you for any reason (or you just don’t want to), it’s advisable to mention the mutual connection in your initial message.
In the example below, Debbie found me through a comment I made on a mutual connection’s post. She realized that we both went to the same school and worked for the same company at different times and wanted to connect with me. We’ve since connected and shared business referrals and invited each other to attend networking events:
Tactic 4: Ask for referrals
When you have a good relationship with a connection on LinkedIn, another way to grow your network and meet additional prospects is to ask your connection for a referral. This could be general (example below) or more specific (example below). The more specific you can be about who you are trying to connect with, the better your results.
In this example, a former colleague is reaching out to ask for an introduction to a connection of mine as there was a role open at my connection’s company she wanted to learn more about. She’s very specifically asking about my relationship with Jen.
This way, she’s allowing me to respond about if and how I know Jen before she asks for a referral.
If you don’t know exactly who you want to meet, but know their title you can also ask for an intro or referral. In this case below (see screenshot), Mike is interested in an open role at my company and wants to meet someone in the legal department. As an insider, I was able to see the role he wants is an Associate General Counsel and introduce him to another Associate General Counsel at the company.
Cold Pitches don’t grow business - avoid at all costs!
Sending a cold pitch or pitching in your first message after being introduced to a cold prospect doesn’t build credibility or trust and frankly is a turnoff to most professionals, especially in the C-suite. While it’s important to be direct when connecting with someone you’d eventually like to do business with, you don’t need to throw your full pitch out on the first interaction.
Every time you communicate with a prospect you should be adding value. This is especially true of complex sellers who are looking to build decades long relationships with their clients.
Great follow ups could include:
- Reaching out to see if a connection you’d like to do business with is attending a local professional association event.
- Sharing an article or podcast episode you thought they might enjoy. This could be related to their role, industry or a personal interest. For example, a former manager of mine was really into mindfulness so I might send her an episode of my favorite podcast that covers the topic.
- Asking for a call or coffee meeting to get to know them better.
In addition to sending follow up messages, you should actively participate on LinkedIn to keep you visible and increase your credibility and thought leadership.
- Share articles relevant to your business.
- Link to your other professional social media platforms, website or news articles about your work or accomplishments.
- Promote events you’ll be attending, supporting or speaking at.
- Comment on others’ content: be positive, ask questions or share your opinion. Remember to be respectful of others work and opinions. If a debate gets too heated, excuse yourself from the discussion: do not troll or attack others. Remember that even if you continue a conversation privately, screenshots can be shared.
- Join a discussion
- Statements like, “I agree with X,” aren’t valuable unless you expand on what X said, back up their point with your own experience, or in some way add new information.