Wurlwind Social Selling - Social ProspectingSo, the time has arrived when you need to build a prospect list.

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. And there are several other techniques that spin off once this level of social prospecting is mastered.

  • It starts with a Search on LinkedIn – which might be for job titles by location, companies by size etc or people within groups
  • Having found relevant people you Save and Tag people to lists within LinkedIn – which is a good approach if you don’t have your own CRM
  • Then you work through the list to research them, contact them, qualify them, get them interested and excited and prepared to commit time to you.

What this gets you is a list of people who meet your profile, through a process of outreach and elimination. Done well you end up with a list of people who know they have a problem to solve or an opportunity to reach for, that you can help them with.

It doesn’t indicate that they have an interest in buying what you offer at this point in time. That’s the next stage.

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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
  • If Interests are the primary determinant – for example users of a particular software package, then find relevant LinkedIn Groups, Join and then search within members of that group.

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 Tag group.

2. Save and Tag relevant people

Tags 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, using the drop-down box to the left of Number of Connections (unless LinkedIn has moved it)
  • Having Saved 30-50 people on a specific criteria, go into Connections area
  • Change the Filters to New and Saved and you should see the names of the people you just saved
  • Select one record, Create a New Tag for the search, and then Checkbox all those you just saved.

And 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.

Having made contact in one of these ways with a reasonable number of people on your Tag list it’s time to move to developing sales relationships with them, while maybe trying to contact a few stragglers on the list, and maybe also initiating another search for another 20-40 people.

NOTE: If you’re doing this regularly you’ll quickly find that managing this through/within LinkedIn and/or on a spreadsheet becomes unsustainable. The way we manage this is using a CRM system from Nimble, which has many excellent productivity features for prospecting as well as for subsequent sales activity.


Download our Pocket Guide to Social Selling

If you haven’t already done so get a copy of our guide, which covers more LinkedIn Tips and introduces the Social Selling Matrix.