Sales prospecting is both an art and a science. It certainly shouldn’t be done haphazardly, which is why I get so frustrated by prospecting on LinkedIn.
In theory, LinkedIn is perfect for finding and engaging with potential leads and growing your business. But so many salespeople see it as a magic bullet, thinking their connection request is enough to get people buying.
In reality, the opposite is the case.
Intuition alone won’t do the job for you. Even the best salespeople fail without a strategy for prospecting on LinkedIn. But the good news is that a LinkedIn strategy is pretty straightforward.
It comes down to a few basic principles that (should) apply anywhere in the sales world. Just five tips are all you need as a road map to better prospecting on LinkedIn. We’ll break each one down in a bit more detail so you can ace your LinkedIn strategy.
1) Improve Your Profile, Then Make it Even Better.
I’ve already written about the steps to a better LinkedIn profile, and each part ensures your profile is worth visiting. Your profile is the basis of your credibility, because it’s the first thing potential connections see. You better get it right.
Maybe for now, that post is TL;DR. To recap, seven steps knock your profile out of the park:
- Make your profile public
- Help others connect with you
- Pay attention to your headline
- Use a professional headshot
- Optimize your summary
- Take advantage of multimedia opportunities
- Go beyond the resume
Each of these steps involves some effort. But they all boil down to this: your LinkedIn profile provides many ways to show the benefits of your work. Use it to showcase who you work with, how you work with them and how your work benefits the people and companies you work with.
Don’t treat this as a single, linear task, either. Sure, a sweep of your profile will probably improve it, but it still won’t be perfect (and might never be). So you have a constant opportunity to review your information, make updates and optimize profile sections.
2) Spend Time Looking for Prospects
Story time. A bad LinkedIn prospector indiscriminately connects with others, regardless of relevance. It’s like a gold digger burrowing away in the backyard. You could get lucky, but you’ll probably just end up with a pile of dirt.
But consider someone with solid skills prospecting on LinkedIn. They do a lot of legwork before they send connection requests. These people explore profiles that aren’t the right fit first. To continue the above analogy, if they were gold diggers, they’d review mineral land surveys and use metal detectors before digging. In short, they do their research.
You optimized your profile. So, look for others who have done the same thing. Set time aside to view profiles in your target industry and profession, looking for relevant connections.
Obviously, these new connections fit your target demographic. But it doesn’t hurt to dig deeper. Look for early signs a potential connection can build a mutually-beneficial relationship with you. Their subject matter expertise, skills and interests (suggesting specific pain points) are just a few signals that you’ll fit well together.
3) Personalize Your Connection Request
Too many sales agents on LinkedIn prioritize their connection request above all else. After you’ve optimized your profile and researched which LinkedIn users are good prospects, craft your connection request.
Do yourself a favor: don’t send the default connection request provided by LinkedIn. It’s generic, lazy and just plain bad. Good prospects hear from so many others like you, so how can you stand out?
Above all, you win through personalization. That means:
- Addressing your prospect by their first name
- Talking specifically about the interests and pain points you uncovered in your research
- Discussing the reason why you’re connecting.
The last point makes it easy to glide into a sales pitch, but save that for later. An early pitch might save time, but you’ll lose your audience. Let your expertise do the talking, as well as your relevance and the benefits of being connected with you. The rest will come later.
4) Add Value in Your Follow-Ups
Don’t treat your connection request as your one, best shot. Instead, connecting is the beginning of what will become a much longer, productive conversation. But that only happens if you treat your follow-ups with the same seriousness as your initial research and outreach.
So, focus on value. How can you distinguish yourself, ensuring your prospect thinks it’s worth their time and effort to engage with you? You have a small window of time to make it happen. Some examples of value-adds could include:
- Links to valuable industry research
- Conversations about current industry trends
- Offers to talk about their company’s current problems
In addition to that value-add, consider how much of the talking you’re actually doing. Prospecting on LinkedIn can be eerily similar to real life. So, when you meet a potential lead in person, do you drone on about yourself? Probably not. The best way to get a relationship going is to get your prospects talking about themselves.
Be strategic about the frequency of your follow-ups. If you get annoying, your audience will jump. And it’s so tempting to get overeager, especially if you think you’ve struck gold. But stay cool; your excitement doesn’t grant a license to send constant messages. More than one or two a week (generally less, especially if you don’t get responses) is spam. Walk that fine line between being active and annoying.
5) Leverage the Social Nature of LinkedIn
Finally, don’t shy away from the fact that LinkedIn is a social media platform. Treat it like one by engaging with posts, sharing content, publishing updates and leaving comments. Build an active platform that potential clients will be glad to follow.
Sure, these things mean more work—I warned you it wouldn’t be a quick fix. Still, it can easily be done. It’s helpful to put aside time each week for LinkedIn engagement, ideally a bit every day. This way, you transition from someone who wants to meet prospects into a LinkedIn power user.
Of course, the way you engage matters. Being generic will kill your reputation or push you into anonymity. Again, focus on providing value to others, especially potential prospects.
And your engagement with the community goes beyond specific prospects. Look at this as a benefit, because it builds your credibility and authenticity within your community. Eventually, you’ll get direct referrals or prospects will become more likely to work with you.
That’s where mutually-beneficial sales relationships are formed. Just take the pitch out of the equation and focus on adding value, and you’ll see a different level of interest for professional partnership. Embrace the social, and your opportunities will skyrocket.
Ready for Better Prospecting on LinkedIn?
You don’t need to be a marketing expert or LinkedIn thought leader to succeed in prospecting. Just put in the work, get to know LinkedIn and focus on relationships.
Knowing and executing these things will amplify your sales prospecting for long-term business success. LinkedIn is too big and the competition is too great to fail. But when your strategy shifts, you can dip into the power of social media more effectively.
Are you ready for that shift? If the answer is yes, you’re set with these basic tips for prospecting on LinkedIn. Start building long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships to help your business grow!