The Minimalist’s Guide to Sales Prospecting on LinkedIn

Ten Useful Activities That Take Less Than 20 Minutes a Day 

Done right, LinkedIn can be a boon for your prospecting efforts. But it’s best to avoid the feast or famine mentality: diving in and investing six hours a day for a week straight—polishing your profile, asking for recommendations, and connecting to thousands of people—and then sitting back to wait for the leads to come pouring in. Granted, that aggressive mentality may attract a lead here or there, but more than likely you’ll face a long-term famine.

But by treating LinkedIn as a small part of the daily prospecting routine, you’ll likely harvest more leads on a regular basis. The beautiful thing is you only need to invest about 20 minutes a day on LinkedIn.

Here are 10 activities to focus on: 

1. Polish your profile.

One of the best ways to shape a LinkedIn profile is to use the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula. In essence, state a problem relevant to the target audience, agitate that problem, and then demonstrate how you solved that problem.

For example:

Content on the web faces two almost insurmountable problems: obscurity and neglect. 

When I say obscurity, I mean web content is buried beneath billions of web pages. By neglect, I mean if someone actually finds your page, they'll more than likely ignore it or abandon it. 

To overcome those two problems, I write web content that search engines can easily find and people can't resist. 

Another option: Think of this as your elevator pitch. In the real world, what do you tell prospects you do? Craft that pitch and paste it in the intro. If you’re not a great writer, ask someone to help you.

Polish your profile

Don’t start prospecting yet.

2. Give recommendations to get recommended.

There are two items people consistently look at on LinkedIn: your profile and your recommendations. A recommendation is nothing more than a testimonial. If you don’t have any, spend enough time to accumulate at least three per job.

Here’s the tricky part. The only way to get recommendations is to give recommendations. Think of it as a favour.

Each day, spend about 20 minutes crafting a recommendation for someone you’d like one from. Once completed, submit it. Once the recommendation is accepted, ask for the return favour. There are no guarantees this person will send anything back, but it will only increase the odds.

Here’s a great guide on how to write effective LinkedIn recommendations.

Give recommendations to get recommended

You’re still not ready to prospect, though: There’s one more step.

3. Post status updates.

To keep your stream and profile looking alive, with a flesh-and-blood person behind it, it’s a good idea to create five to seven posts a day on your profile. This doesn’t have to be an extensive amount of work.

For starters, connect your Twitter profile to LinkedIn. Each time you post something on LinkedIn it will automatically post on Twitter, once connected.

In addition, review the Pulse, find an article, and then reshare that post on your profile. It helps to add a comment explaining why you found this particular article relevant.

Post status updates

Once your stream looks active, you can start prospecting. 

4. Use an advanced search to find prospects.

The advanced search feature allows users to search people by name, location, company, and school. A paid account will allow you to search with more specific identifiers. This includes company size, seniority level, and even function.

During a search you may discover people who know your potential prospect. This is a perfect time to ask for an introduction (see the next point).

However, if you can’t connect with them directly for some reason, then join a group this prospect belongs to. You can see the groups each LinkedIn user belongs to at the bottom of every profile. Join and engage (see number 6 for more detail).

Use an advanced search to find prospects

5. Ask for an introduction.

As you start to build a network, spend some time looking at your connections’ relationships. Identify ideal prospects they know, and then ask for an introduction.

But don’t rely on a connection for an introduction. It may or may not happen. Best to craft a simple message in your friend’s voice stating why you would like to meet this person. By the way, flattery works. 

Once you have an introduction message template it will take less time down the road. Don’t forget to personalize the message each time. 

Ask for an introduction

6. Join discussion groups.

LinkedIn is chock full of groups in just about every industry. Do a simple search and join about 10 groups.

Once accepted into the group, you can do two things:

  1. Answer questions: Search through discussion forums and provide relevant and useful feedback on questions people ask inside that group. Keep in mind, you are not spraying this discussion group with sales propositions. Keep that in your back pocket. At this point, focus on building credibility and trust. Make sure answers are detailed.
  2. Start your own discussions: Can you provide a useful, detailed answer to a topic? Build on a current discussion? Give people information and advice they can use to improve their career and business and you’ll start to look more and more like a go-to authority. 

Join discussion groups

7. Use InMail instead of cold calling.

Email is the unsung workhorse in the digital marketing age, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn LinkedIn’s internal network email system is just as effective. In fact, LinkedIn claims InMail is 30 times more likely to generate a response than cold call. (In fact, if a prospect doesn’t respond, LinkedIn will give you an InMail credit.)

The best way to use InMail is to open up your target prospect’s profile in another window and write the email. Study their profile. Aim to add in one part flattery and one part a solution to one of their problems.

What school did he or she go to? What’s his or her favourite sports team? Can you demonstrate an expertise in his or her industry? Demonstrate how you can solve one of a prospect’s chronic problems, and make sure you clearly articulate what’s in it for them.

Once you’ve crafted the email, send it and wait for the response. After you hear back, adjust future emails based on any feedback.

 Use InMail instead of cold calling

8. Try LinkedIn sponsored updates.

If your budget allows, tap into LinkedIn’s sponsored posts program, which allows users to publish content to other users’ LinkedIn feeds, even if they aren’t following your company page. (Think of Sponsored Tweets or Facebook’s Sponsored Posts.)

Target updates by company, seniority, job position, and even location. You are not limited to text-only updates, but can share videos, SlideShare presentations, and infographics. 

You don’t need a large budget to make this work. It’s possible to extend your reach simply by distributing your content. Then you can measure results, adjust, and maximize for better use. 

Try LinkedIn sponsored updates

9. Become a publisher.

This activity is a little bit more robust and probably one you will engage in only once a week. As stated above, you can keep your feed alive with post updates, but this step will further elevate visibility, build authority, and even drive traffic to your profile.

Though becoming a publisher is closed at the moment, it will open to all members in a few months. Bookmark this page to get sign up as soon as it's available.

Once you receive permission to post, here are a few rules to follow:

  • Avoid copying and pasting content you created other places. LinkedIn doesn’t mind duplicate articles, but original always works best.
  • If original is too much to manage, then take content you created and rework it. For example, an article could be broken up into ten articles. One of the articles could be published each week.
  • If you simply don’t have the time once a week, publish an article you published elsewhere. But make sure to point back to the original source.

The publisher feature works like any other blog software. In other words, it’s pretty easy. You can add images (which is highly recommended) and you can share the content on other social networks.

Become a publisher

10. Follow your prospects.

Because it’s a networking social media site, it pays to build relationships on LinkedIn. This means engaging prospects long before you approach them with a sales proposition. 

Think about how you handle conference leads. You meet someone, trade business cards and emails, jump on the phone, and then maybe start working on a deal. The relationship slowly grows, elevating from suspect to prospect to advisor to client. No different on LinkedIn. 

Get to know your prospects by following their streams, sharing their content, and commenting on their status updates. Send them personal messages to celebrate achievements (people like to brag) and during holidays. Follow them on other social sites, too.  And don’t forget: Flatter your prospect.

Think of each interaction as an investment in a future favour. Just like Stephen Covey used to teach: Make plenty of deposits before you ask for a withdrawal.

Follow your prospects

Conclusion

While all social networks are ever changing, it’s safe to say LinkedIn isn’t going anywhere. It’s been around for a decade—and though its growth has been slow, it’s been steady. Better than any other social networking site, LinkedIn understands the needs of their users, and works to deliver features that favour them. Your investment in LinkedIn will not be wasted.

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About the Author:

Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter at Copyblogger Media. He also writes on his personal blog The Copybot. Follow him on Twitter.