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Consistently leveraging LinkedIn within your Sales Organization

I am stating the obvious that your sales team likely uses LinkedIn, after all – they are the world’s largest professional network with 225 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe..

Executives from all F500 companies are members of LinkedIn and according to LinkedIn – more than FOUR BILLION searches were conducted in 2012…FOUR BILLION b2b company, individual or job related queries…Clearly not only is it one of the world’s largest social networks, in a sense, it’s one of the world’s largest search engines as well.

While it’s heavily utilized by individual account executives, in my opinion it is not consistently utilized by overall sales organizations.

If you were to talk to your account executives individually, they likely have different methods and approaches on how they use the tool, represent themselves and incorporate it into their prospecting and pipeline strategies.

I’ve done a few presentations and classes on using LinkedIn for sales organizations and can attest that for those organizations making a more formal approach to including LinkedIn as a part of their sales process – it will “shorten the cycle” in creating and expanding client relationships and when used appropriately, can also help to further positive perception of your company.

In today’s over contacted and limited attention bandwidth world, leveraging a prospect’s social connections can be more effective contact method than dialing and email campaigns as it’s often easier to connect with someone “socially” cold than other methods. People read and respond to LinkedIn emails differently than your own and it’s a quicker route through aggressive spam filters. Your prospects are spending time on this platform – they appreciate recognition and connections.

I wanted to pass along a pretty rudimentary but underutilized feature of LinkedIn that you can immediately incorporate into your organization. If you are interested in more comprehensive ideas or training – drop me a line; I’m happy to share what I’ve aggregated.

Let’s focus on “Advanced Search” and how to use LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search capability to identify prospective buyers or influencers at target prospect companies.

For example, if I’m looking for people who currently work at Honeywell in a finance role, I could just search for the keyword “Honeywell” or “Honeywell Finance” from Linkedin’s homepage.  Unfortunately, that will match everyone who has “Honeywell” or “Finance” on their profile, either from a former job, or even just called out somewhere on their profile.

Using advanced search (click “advanced” next to the search box on the homepage), you can specify “Honeywell” in the field directly for company in the text box on the left hand side of the page, “Finance” for the title text box. For both options, you can ensure it’s an active employee or current role by even specifying “Current” in the drop box that appears once you populate the text in either field.

That will give you a tight search that only returns people who currently have Honeywell as their current company and finance in their current role.

Submitting this search shows matching results based on relation to my network – Results are ranked by network relationship…1st results also show whether you have any shared connections (annotated in green font) and whether you have groups in common etc.

By clicking on the green, you can see who the shared connections are; and ask those connections whether this individual is someone you should be connecting with or even ask for an introduction to them.

Think of the power this “FREE” utility has just given you as a sales person…you now have eyes into org charts and rolodexes of all your clients and prospects…FOR FREE.

Once LinkedIn shows you how you are related to these prospective buyers, your task is to figure out how to get introduced to them and connect with them:

Some ideas:

• Do you both know someone in common? If so, ask that person to introduce you. Explain the value that you may be able to provide to their contact.

• Do you both belong to a common group? If so, send them a LinkedIn message to discuss your common interest / membership and why it might make sense to connect (many groups allow you to email other members once you join)

• If their LinkedIn profile shows their employer location or information, simply find the company’s telephone number and cold call them.

You can also use LinkedIn when given a contact name from a gate-keeper; it allows you to confirm their title via LinkedIn:

• Are they at the right level?

• Is your contact a “manager” level when there are several director level folks at the company? The gatekeeper might be referring you too low in the organization.

• Who might they report into?

• Other folks who might be in the decision making or influence tree?

• Do they have any prior experience or job roles that they might pull perspective from?

• Any common connections or groups?

It’s pretty straightforward application use; just remember that once you have established yourself on Linkedin – nurture your first-degree network.  If you plan on asking your contacts for favors, please remember to keep in touch with them and to deliver value to them (e.g. post a news story or article of interest to your profile or send a web link to a resource that you think they will find useful) or sharing their posts and commentary….you do not need to write original content…simply pass along what others have done. Not nurturing your network will restrict what they are willing to do for you going forward.

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