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LinkedInWith over 300 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is the social network for business. While a lot of people think of it as predominately a recruitment tool, it’s so much more than this. As a network with professionals in every industry, LinkedIn is a sales person’s dream.

Use it correctly and you can dramatically boost your connections, cut out the dreaded ‘gatekeeper’ and make sure your cold calls are never really ‘cold’ again.

That’s why Anna Bratton, one of Salesforce’s top sales people, and our own team at NewVoiceMedia spend hours a day researching and approaching prospects on LinkedIn.

Here’s how your sales team can benefit from this global network of professionals:

Expand your connections

One of the most basic ways to use LinkedIn is simply to expand your connections. The clue is in the name – this network ensures you’re ‘linked in’ to whatever area you work in.

And with millions of users, there’s plenty of scope to grow your connections. From your first level connections, you have access to a range of second and third level connections, allowing you to build your network with relevant people.

The more connections, the more leads and opportunities you can find. For instance, first degree connections could be able to introduce you to their connections (who could be potential customers or the connections of potential customers). From this you can work your way towards who you want to know.

Plus, it means that you will never miss an opportunity to build a lasting connection – whether you meet someone on or offline, you can follow that up with a connection request.

Find the decision-makers at target prospects

Whether you’re dealing with a multi-national company or a small business, there are several people who influence a sale. From the outside, looking in, it can be hard to figure out who’s who and who influences who. This makes your job of selling harder.

However, log into LinkedIn and you’ll often find all the information you need to know. People publish a lot about their working lives on their profile – from their team to their department – and this helps you to build a picture of how that organisation works.

Plus, “Viewers of this profile also viewed...” can point you in the direction of their colleagues.

You can also see who recommends them and often who reports to who. With a little detective work, you should be able to discover who you’ll need to influence to make a sale.

Rethink the ‘cold’ call

It’s a universally acknowledged truth that few people like making cold calls, and even fewer people like receiving them.

But with LinkedIn, there’s no reason why any call should be truly ‘cold’. The information on LinkedIn is enough to make any call lukewarm at worst.

In minutes, you can see their job, responsibilities, experience, contributions to LinkedIn groups, any recent updates to their role and any connections you have in common. This is more than enough to get a conversation going.

And you don’t need to pretend you’re psychic – being open about looking at their LinkedIn profile is a good way to break the ice. Most people aren’t unnerved by this – they’re more likely to be flattered that you’ve gone to the effort of researching them prior to the call.

Get past the ‘gatekeeper’

Senior decision-makers are well-guarded – if you try to reach them through traditional channels, chances are your call will never get put through and your email will never reach their inbox.

These are the people that everyone wants to talk to, so to protect them, they have ‘gatekeepers’ preventing any unwanted correspondence reaching them.

Luckily, LinkedIn provides a way to bypass the gatekeeper and ensure your email gets to their inbox – InMail. This is only available on paid accounts, but is a way to email any LinkedIn user without needing an introduction.

LinkedIn claims that an InMail is 30 times more likely to get a response than a cold call – now that’s something worth trying.

Search smarter

LinkedIn is also a great source of new leads. Their advanced search allows you to filter by title, company, location, company size and seniority level.

So, for instance, you could search for “Procurement Manager” at a company between £100m and £200m, located 50 miles from your office.

You can then save this search, so whenever anyone new meets this criteria, you’ll get an email. It’s the perfect way to find exactly the kind of customers you’re looking for, quickly and easily.

Learn what’s happening inside your prospect’s office

With the LinkedIn newsfeed, you can stay up-to-date with changes in your prospect’s office – whether this is a new appointment or industry news, any change can provide an opportunity to get in touch.

Plus, with people leaving and joining, it can keep you updated with who to contact. When it comes to sales prospecting, the more you know the better.

Discover the potential of LinkedIn groups

Want to find out more about what’s happening in a particular industry? LinkedIn groups are a great way to find out industry pain points and frustrations, with many people asking questions about problems they’re facing.

What’s even better is that you can use this information as a reason to get in touch. Perhaps your product or service is the answer, or maybe you just know about this topic and want to build trust by sharing your knowledge.

Plus, becoming a member of a LinkedIn group allows you to easily send a connection request to anyone in that group, as being in the same group is one of the criteria you can select when sending a request.

According to Sam Richter, CEO of Social Selling Institute, if you message a stranger on LinkedIn, the average response rate is 5% but if you message a fellow group member, who recognises you as an active member, the response rate jumps to 70%.

Integrate LinkedIn with Salesforce

While LinkedIn is a valuable resource, you don’t want all this data separate from the rest of your sales data in your CRM. That’s why you can integrate your LinkedIn contacts with Salesforce – even with pictures too, so you can put a name to a face.

You can take it one step further with ContactWorld for Sales, which integrates with Salesforce, allowing you to have instant access to all this information while on the phone, creating a richer dialing experience.

As you can see, LinkedIn is a great way to discover new leads, research and communicate with prospects. How do you use LinkedIn for sales prospecting? Share your tips below.

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About Olivier Gachot

Olivier Gachot is EVP of North America Sales at NewVoiceMedia, responsible for accelerating growth through new customer acquisition and maintaining successful and trusted partnerships with existing customers. He is a proven leader in building and transforming SaaS companies at scale on a global basis. His 20+ years of experience include leading several companies from early years to successful IPO and acquisitions.

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