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June 28, 2012

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting with Linkedin

LinkedIn is the largest professional social network in the world with over 40 million users. Since its IPO, it has grown fast and is here to stay. What makes LinkedIn so powerful is that no matter what industry you’re in, you’re likely to find a new prospect or lead for your business.

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting with Linkedin

All it takes is a few hours to set up your LinkedIn presence and an hour of maintenance each week. And best of all, we show you how to do it step-by-step in this guide.

Let’s get started.

Create an Awesome LinkedIn Profile

Setup your LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is how everyone sees you and finds you. Cover the basics by adding all your relevant resume information: your education, work history, and your skill set. But what’s important and often missed is how you set yourself apart with your profile. How will you differentiate from the other 40 million users? Use targeted keywords, a welcoming avatar photo, an interesting headline, and share awesome content.

Seed your LinkedIn Network

Start off building your LinkedIn network by connecting with your current contacts. Import your address book, connect your social media sites, or even connect to your email. This will help to seed your initial LinkedIn network. It will also help you to find new connections that could be leads for your business. You never know who you might be connected to.

Use LinkedIn Advanced Search to Find Leads

Using LinkedIn for sales prospecting and finding leads

LinkedIn people search is one of the most powerful free tools available for your sales and lead generation efforts. Opposed to tools like Zoominfo and Jigsaw, which find and categorize existing information from the web, LinkedIn profiles are created and updated by the actual person so they are more accurate and recent.

Start off by using LinkedIn search to find contacts with specific characteristics relevant to your business. You may want to start in a specific industry, location, or search for titles and keywords.

If you don’t already know what keywords are important for your product or service, you can use Google’s keyword tool to help you find the best keywords for your business.

If you need more specific information, consider getting LinkedIn Premium which gives you the ability to search by the following characteristics:

  • function
  • seniority
  • interests
  • years of experience
  • company size

Join the Discussion on LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to find and connect with other like-minded people.

There are large groups for professional associations, networking, business interests, and small groups for more private discussions.

Search for groups based on keywords relevant to your industry and business. Try a few of the larger groups with the 1000+ members and join some of the smaller groups with only a few hundred. Large groups are great for connecting with people with relatively broad relevance. However, you are less likely to get noticed among the large memberships and less able to build close relationships with its members. On the flip-side, small groups are great for connecting with members on specific topics and relevance but don’t have as wide a reach as the larger groups.

If you are unsure which groups are best for you, take a look at the group insights that LinkedIn provides. For each group, there is a summary that provides information on the where the group is distributed geographically, their functions, and their industry.


To get you started, join groups that you identify with and are already a member of in the offline world. Join the your professional association’s LinkedIn group, your university’s alumni group, and your previous employer’s alumni group.

Tip: Another feature that becomes available once you join a group is the ability to share content with your groups. This instantly amplifies the reach of your content. Remember to use this feature sparingly as you could be seen as spam.

Creating your own group

If you come across a topic that you feel strongly about but there isn’t a group for, create your own. Managing your own LinkedIn Group also comes with perks. You’ll be recognized as a thought leader in your chosen space and be able to directly message members.

Navigate Company Hierarchy and Find Leads

View company details to find leads on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Companies search is great for finding leads within companies who you may not know of. It is a great way for you to navigate a large company’s staff hierarchy and gives insights into who you are connected to that can make an introduction. For example, Ecquire could be a company that would greatly benefit from your web hosting services. But you don’t know who to contact and how you could get introduced. Search Ecquire on LinkedIn and see a list of Ecquire’s current and past employees. You will see if you are connected to the employees through a 2nd or 3rd degree content who could make you an introduction. If you don’t plan to immediately contact this company, use the follow button to subscribe to updates and news on the company.

Become an Expert on LinkedIn Answers

Finding leads and building relationships isn’t always about having a hunter mentality. LinkedIn is a community therefore your participation and giving back to discussions will help to get you noticed. Use LinkedIn Answers to ask interesting questions. Reach out to thought leaders and ask for their opinions. Share your own expertise, answer questions, and position yourself as a resource.

Here’s a list of things to do when you answer a question:

  1. Find out more about the person asking the question by clicking through to their profile.
  2. Personalize your answer by making it relevant to them.
  3. Don’t hold back. Do your research, provide links, and give tips. People will appreciate the time you take to craft a quality answer.
  4. Invite them to personally contact you if they need any extra help.

Connecting with Leads with LinkedIn Events

If your business benefits from face-to-face contact with customers, then LinkedIn Events is a tool you shouldn’t miss. LinkedIn Events is an often overlooked feature that can be very powerful for reaching out to its millions of users.

Create and host your own events: networking events, educational sessions, and even webinars. You can invite all your contacts and when someone RSVP’s, the event will also be shared to their network.

How to Connect with Leads

Thanks to the various ways to get connected on LinkedIn that were mentioned above, your first message to a contact is never cold. If it is, you’re not working hard enough. When the time comes to contact a lead, personalize your message. Many people make the mistake of using the default message “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” The message is dry, has no personality, and shows that you don’t care. Craft your message to include something that you know is interesting to your lead, why you’re contacting them, and why they should care. Do the same as you would with an email. To learn more about your contact, take a look at the connected website’s on their profile. You might find a Twitter account, blog, or personal website.

Tracking and Managing Prospects

With the millions of potential contacts that you could meet on LinkedIn, it’d be a miracle if you could keep track of each potential lead. Thankfully, contact managers and CRM systems are there to make your life easier. Software like Salesforce CRM help you to manage contacts by giving you the ability to filter, tag, and bucket them based on different attributes. Categorize by industry, lead status, location, or any characteristic that makes most sense for your business. The most important thing is to make sure that you capture that data and learn how to use it for your business.

With tools like Ecquire, you can capture contacts directly to your CRM without any data entry.

Capture contacts from LinkedIn using Ecquire

If you don’t have a CRM already, here’s our guide on how to turn Google Docs into a free lightweight CRM.

Do you use LinkedIn for sales and lead generation? Please share your tips below.

One Comment on “The Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting with Linkedin

[…] If you’re new to social media, it’s not too late. There’s are literally hundreds of guides to get you started. Here’s our guide to Linkedin. […]

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