Social Prospecting – how to build a list of prospects using LinkedIn

LinkedIn Lead Generation Social Prospecting Social Selling Image Mark Stonham WurlwindSocial Prospecting is all about using Search in LinkedIn to build a list of potential customers, and then reaching out to them and starting a sales related conversation.

You probably know that LinkedIn is a great place to start, but you may be unaware of just how powerful it is.

So let’s go through some of the ways you can use LinkedIn to start sales conversations.

And let’s start at the tactical level – to get in touch with a segment of say 20-40 people who meet your criteria as potential customers.

Once you’ve go the ball rolling quickly with a small batch like this you may then want to repeat the process, or go deeper or wider – the choice is yours.

Quick start tips

This isn’t rocket science, but for new business sales and business development, this is the fast-path to creating a prospect list.

  • It starts with a Search on LinkedIn – which might be for people by job title, location and industry, or for companies by location and sector and then people within those companies.
  • Then you work through the list to research people, qualify them against your ‘ideal client’ criteria, and identify how best to make contact.
  • Ideally you’ll identify a way to start a conversation on a topic of interest of theirs.
  • And now you reach out to them, via LinkedIn, email, phone, through an introduction etc. to get them interested and prepared to commit time to you.

What this gets you is a list of people who meet your ideal client profile, through a process of elimination.

And there are different options for search filters and list building depending on what level of membership of LinkedIn you have.

Tip: The better the initial identification the higher the conversion rate through the sales process: to a conversation, meeting, quote and to a client.

Ideally you’ll end up with a list of people who realise they have a problem to solve or an opportunity to reach for, that you can help them with.

LinkedIn Tips to start sales conversations through social prospecting

1. Start with a Search in LinkedIn

The likelihood is that you’ve a pretty good idea of the parameters that define your ideal customer. If not, reflect on the most recent wins you and your colleagues have had, or start with a blank sheet of paper and write down the criteria.

  • If Job Title and Location is primary, search the People section of LinkedIn – refining the criteria of location, choose 2nd connection, and sector, as a starting point
  • If Company size is most important – neither too small or too large – search the Company section and look at the Employee section of relevant companies (*Sales Navigator includes the company size filter criteria)
  • Unfortunately the ability to add a group criteria to searches no longer exists. This was useful to search by interests, for example users of a particular software package, by filtering by relevant LinkedIn Groups.

By focusing on small batches, of 20-40 people, you can make good progress in an hour or two. Be laser focused, and feel a sense of achievement once you’ve made initial contact with several people in the list.

2. Save people as a Lead.

NB. This is ONLY available in Sales Navigator – the Premium subscription level.

Leads are a useful way to manage contacts within LinkedIn for prospecting purposes, especially if the objective is to connect with them.

  • Save relevant people from the Search results – 2nd connections especially.

For those of us without LinkedIn Sales navigator the alternative is to save profiles in a CRM system, spreadsheet or document.

Personally I use the Nimble CRM system. This includes a Browser Widget that makes saving prospect to a list very productive.

Either way, now you have a list of prospects (or suspects depending on your terminology) of people who meet certain criteria as your ‘ideal customers’.

3. Make initial contact

Decide what form of contact is best – and this will be influenced by your market, skills, proposition, and the amount of time you can put into each contact.

  • You might want to send them a Connection request, in which case personalise it, and give a valid reason to increase chances of take-up
  • You might want to message them, perhaps highlighting an article you or a colleague wrote, as a conversation starter
  • Or maybe you will try by phone as the next step, and use LinkedIn and other routes as a back-up if you’re unable to make phone contact quickly.

Attempt to make contact with everyone on your prospect list. You may not be 100% successful, but give it a good go.

Some will respond positively. Some will deserve a second and third attempt. And some will be unresponsive despite your best efforts.

NOTE: Managing this is outreach is where a CRM system comes in really handy, to help us to be as thorough and effective as possible.

The way I manage this is using a CRM system from Nimble, which has many excellent productivity features for prospecting as well as for subsequent sales activity.

Additional LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategies from Wurlwind

This is one of 7 LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategies we’ve designed and developed to progressively help people get more benefit from LinkedIn.

Have a look at other strategies via these links, or download our Pocket Guide below for a handy guide.

And if you’d like an exploratory chat please book a call and add a topic via the following online diary.

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