You’re not alone if you want to know how to find prospects in LinkedIn. If so you need to look at the mix of contacts in your network. We’ve identified 5 types of contact below and recommend you look at the ratio of these in your network.
Networking and prospecting on LinkedIn can be a very effective complementary activity to face to face networking, meetings and telephone contact, for sales people and business owners.
Outlined below is a strategy to help you develop your LinkedIn network with a focus on prospecting and lead generation.
Connections help you find prospects in LinkedIn
In order to find and be found through LinkedIn the number of connections in your network is fundamental. You can search for people, and see information like Status Updates, through three levels of connections. And so can others. If you have a small network this seriously reduces the chances of you finding people, and them finding you.
If you want to see an increasing benefit from LinkedIn having 500+ connections should be an objective, along with applying effective prospecting techniques, such as the ones outlined below.
Five categories of people you should connect to
Colleagues, ex-colleagues and business partners
This is the easiest place to start building your network in LinkedIn. You know them, they know you, and it’s in both your interests to connect.
If you’ve not done so already, go through your previous employers and colleagues and connect. While doing so, why not give the ones you worked closest with an endorsement, and seek one in return.
Probably the second easiest category. You know them, and they know you. It’s also likely that they are connected to their peers and other people in their industry, so this creates good second and third level connections for you and extends your network into areas where you could well find new prospects.
Go through your business cards and your current and previous customer companies to build up this part of your network. Add testimonials for them, and seek them in return, for you, your company and your products and services (assuming you have these set up on LinkedIn).
If your business territory is very specific, to a geography or sector or function, having good connections in this category, plus membership of appropriate LinkedIn groups, may be sufficient to achieve your prospecting and lead generation objectives. However, the 3 categories that follow will add significantly to your potential lead-generation achievements.
The third easiest category are people you meet through local networking groups, discussion forums on LinkedIn, people who request to contact you through LinkedIn and so on. While this may be relatively easy, and it does grow your network and may lead to a lucky strike, it may also be relatively low value. Are these people likely to buy your products or services? Are they likely to recommend you to people who are a target customer of yours? Are they likely to be connected to people who are your target customers?
Some people choose not to connect to people in this group, in order to maintain the ‘quality’ of their network. Others people are ‘Open Connectors’ or so called ‘LIONs – LinkedIn Open Networkers’ who will connect with anyone who requests a connection. If you want to position yourself as a ‘Go-To’ person who is willing to give as well as gain then being an open connector is one way to do this. It’s a matter of personal choice, although the fourth and fifth groups may influence your views on this.
This is where growing your LinkedIn network starts to get difficult, but also where your LinkedIn network gets really powerful. As I said in the introduction, the size of your third level network has a massive influence over who you can find, and who can find you. Connecting with people who have 1000 connections who each have 1000 connections will increase your network far more than connecting with people who have 100 connections who each have 100 connections.
Finding relevant super-connectors is one challenge. Finding a way to get noticed by them, and have them accept your connection request is a second challenge.
Being connected to them increases your network reach considerably. It also enhances your personal brand, so that when you request a connection with a potential prospect, when they see you are connected with key individuals in their sector they are more likely to accept your request.
Of course this works the other way too, and people may leverage being connected to you to increase their network and standing. Note: it is possible to Remove Connections if you feel later that you want to dissociate from particular people.
From a marketing, sales and lead generation perspective this is where the real gold lies. You can find people and companies who meet your ideal customer profile through LinkedIn by looking through connections of connections, but this is long-winded. A quicker way is to use the search facility, to find people and/or companies who meet your criteria. Doing a company search and looking at employees will only identify your 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections, so a larger network is again an advantage.
There are also ways to find people who are actively looking to solve a problem where you could help them, or making comments which you could respond to. LinkedIn Signal is an app that helps with this.
Having found them, the second part is to make contact. There are various ways to do this, online through LinkedIn, through other online methods, and off-line too.
The likelihood is that for higher value B2B customers and clients, these methods will be more effective than buying in lists, sending email blasts, cold-calling or online advertising. This is precision marketing and lead generation.
A balanced network of contacts on LinkedIn
As an indication of a pragmatic mix of contacts, I suggest you aim for 20% of your connections in each of the above five categories. If you are significantly over-weight in one area, or under-weight in another, you may need to shift your attention to redress the balance.
Creating a Tag group for each of these groups of connections, and tagging contacts appropriately, is one way to do this. It also positions you to send emails to tag group members, but that’s a different topic.
Prospecting in LinkedIn
This approach to using LinkedIn as a prospecting and lead-generation tool is essentially very personal. It means building up your personal network and profile, and then reaching out on a peer to peer basis. It is difficult, and potentially dangerous to your reputation, to delegate or outsource relationship based prospecting to others.
Being aware of the potential, learning about the approach and then being coached to put it into practice, is a sensible way forward. On the flip side it’s worth bearing in mind that if your competitors are smarter at this they may well corner new deals and clients before you even know about it.