I’ve seen a number of posts on blogs and even more “Q&A” question on Linkedin itself regarding using it as a business development tool. There’s a lot about Linkedin that I’d like to discuss, so for my purposes here – let’s consider it only from a business development angle.
The great thing about social networking online vs. in-person is the issue of visibility. There’s a great deal of valued contacts in everyone’s social network, but the key difference that linkedin provides is the ability to see those contacts and the linkages involved. So now, you can literally see how to get in touch with the right people, or the kinds of people you are seeking.
If you don’t have a linkedin profile already – start one today.
Assuming you do, what’s next?
Step 1: Profile Makeover
Make sure that your profile is one that will interest the people you’re looking to find. There’s some bad/boring profiles out there, so if yours needs a makeover, click here for some ideas Click Here.
Step 2: Look for your Current/Past Clients
Search for and connect with all your current and past clients. Ask them for recommendations (and give them as well). All my clients to date are 100% reference-able. Those that do not provide recommendations for me on Linkedin either a) do not use it (but should) or b) view my work with them as something they’re not really interested to publicize.
When you’re connecting with these contacts – review their connections and ask for referrals to their networks. The 2nd degree connections of your clients are of high value, as they are only 1 degree away…
Step 3: Search for your Top Prospects
Search for your prospects. Start with your top/high value opportunities and work your way down. Finding your prospects on linkedin provides a new opportunity to engage them, and allows them the opportunity to learn a bit about you as well. Be careful here about your approach to selling, you don’t want them to see you pop up in linkedin and think of you as a sales stalker. Position yourself around something like this…
“Hi so and so, I was searching my network and came across your profile – based on our contact to date, I thought I would reach out to you to see if you are interested to join networks. If not – I understand. And if so, please let me know if there is anything I can do for you or your contacts.”
With this approach, you’re attempting to provide value or introductions – not sell your stuff.
Step 4: Prospecting
You may be surprised by linkedin’s ability to provide local contacts (in relatively major centres, at least). This is especially true here in Canada – many sales people are surprised during a demo session when I ask for one of their top prospect companies, and up pops someone they know, or better yet – someone they want to get to know.
When prospecting on Linkedin, keep your search criteria relatively narrow; in fact, make it “perfect” or search for the best possible prospect scenario (including location: you can narrow within a few miles/km’s of a zip/postal code). You want to avoid the 500+ matches. If you only get a few contacts, work through them and then you can expand your criteria and go for less than perfect.
Your best approach is to use InMails – and be a paying customer. Without InMails, you are relying on your network to pass along your info and you’ll get less results because you are selling. The other factor here is time, and when your sending messages through a few levels of contacts sometimes the ball gets dropped. InMails are great as they work like credits – if the contact doesn’t reply after 1 week, you are credited your InMail back. And, if your contact responds quickly, you can send another InMail right away. Ultimately, the best strategy is to use a combination of Introductions through your network and InMails. Either way, put up some cash and pay for it – the service will pay for itself when you close your first deal.
Some do’s and don’ts here:
- Be brief and to the point, tell people exactly why you are reaching out:
- “I came across your profile on linkedin and wanted to contact you to determine if you had any interest in discussing (your product/service) with me. If you’re open to a conversation, please let me know. And if not – thanks in advance for your time. If there is anything I can do for you, just let me know. Thanks.”
- Just send 1 message per person, don’t “go after” people
- Look for people who appear to be relatively active on Linkedin (50+ contacts, some recommendations, complete profiles, etc…) as they’re more likely to respond
- Automatically add new conatcts to your emarketing list, ask them first if they accept your intro
- Try to sell in your Introduction or InMail, ask for permission to talk/discuss
- Attempt to prospect by sending network invites to people you don’t know
Because you can be very specific in your approach, I’m sure you’ll find that linkedin can do a lot for you in terms of business development. Just remember, this is networking – plain and simple – so be sure to also offer assistance, your own referrals and try to add real value for as many contacts as you can.
* One last thing… If you’re interested in receiving a free, brief, PowerPoint regarding using Linkedin (what it does and how it works – good for people who don’t use it, and want more info), use my Contact Page to request it.