How to Prospect for New Business on LinkedIn – Rich Brooks

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Rich-Brooks-PinterestLinkedIn is so much more than just a place to post your resume.  It’s an incredible platform that you can use to meet, grow and maintain your valuable business prospects and clients.  All you need to do is learn how to utilize the many tools that LinkedIn offers to create and maintain visibility and credibility for your business.

Anyone can upload a photo and post their job description, but how do you make yourself stand out from the rest of the pack?  The key is to provide an engaging profile and build from there.  In this case, less is not more, and the more you share the more likely you are to be able to make connections with other people.  Today you will learn the art of the “LinkedIn search” as well as the benefits to LinkedIn’s “In Mail” function.  

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, creator of The Marketing Agents Podcast, founder of Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference and smarty pants for all things marketing-related.  Rich explains some basic, yet key tips, for unlocking the mysteries of LinkedIn and how anyone can use it to gain visibility and reach prospects that may have seemed elusive in the past.

 

If you don’t have a great profile, if you don’t have an engaging profile, a lot of these other things that we’re going to talk about just aren’t going to work.  So you have to start with a foundation.  There’s plenty of resources out on the web for how to create a great LinkedIn profile.  I’ll share some of the things that I always think about.

One is obviously having a photo.  And even more so than Facebook, on LinkedIn you really want to have a professional photo.  Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you go out and hire a professional photographer to take a head shot of you, but it also doesn’t mean that there’s a picture of you that you like at a party and your friend has their arm around you and you crop out your friend so that there’s a disembodied arm over your shoulder. You want something that is professionally taken, hopefully that you’re smiling or looking approachable on, and generally looking right into the camera.

Now of course I break this rule myself on my LinkedIn profile because I’m looking to the side, but that’s atypical.  I think for most people looking directly at the camera, making eye contact so to speak, with the person you’re trying to reach is always a good idea.

You want to fill out your profile as much as possible. That means including not just a job title, but actually turning your job title into a header or a call to action – what is it exactly that you offer.  If you’re the President of your company, the President is not all that valuable, unless you want to be hit up by people who are trying to sell to the President.  So think about what you do.  I think on mine – I don’t have my LinkedIn profile directly in front of me – but it says something to the idea of “Web Marketing and Social Media Consultant”, rather than just “President of flyte New Media”.   And then I have a number of other jobs listed there as well, including the job of being an amateur podcaster.

Putting in things like you company, your geography, where you went to school, the skills you have – which I think are kind of less important these days –  those are all important ways of rounding out your profile.  The more you put up to your profile, the more likely you are to be able to make connections with other people.  So I think it’s key to  really share as much as you’re comfortable with on your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is also more than just a place to post a resume.  That may be one of the key reasons why it started, but these days it really just is a great networking tool. So anything you can do to enhance your credibility and enhance your visibility on the platform is going to be beneficial for you in terms of prospecting later on.

One of those things is if you do have designs or projects that you work on, you should definitely upload those to your profile.   Another thing that you should do is if you put on presentations on a regular basis, you should take those presentations, open up an account on Slideshare – which is kind of like YouTube for PowerPoint presentations – and then embed the slide deck into your profile.  These are the kind of things that are going to help you stand out from your competition when it comes to prospecting for new business.

If you’re comfortable with where you are in terms of your profile, then the next step is really to increase the number of connections that you have on LinkedIn.  One of the best ways to organically jump start your networking on LinkedIn is to start with your email list.  Now chances are – hopefully – if you’ve been listening to the show you know how important your email list is.  You can get your email list from an email list service provider like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp or whichever tool you prefer to use.  Even the people who have unsubscribed from your list, you still have those emails, so you can download all those to your desktop.  You also may have a local CRM or some other platform place where you store your email.  Maybe it’s even in your gmail account or hotmail account, whatever you happen to use.

All of those emails should be put into a file, like a spreadsheet or a CSV file (comma separated value), and upload those to LinkedIn.  You can go into “Add Connections”, and by navigating through that section you can find a place to upload that database of names.  Once you do, LinkedIn is going to check those email addresses against all of the other hundreds of millions of people who are on LinkedIn and show you who is on that list.  In other words, who is already on LinkedIn and who you’re not connected to yet.

They’re also going to ask you to go ahead and invite every single person on your list.  I don’t think that’s a good idea, personally.  I think you should first of all not spend any energy  trying to get people who aren’t on LinkedIn to join you on Linkedin.  That’s not your job, that’s LinkedIn’s job to build their own network.  But you can go through and see the people who are already on LinkedIn who you have a connection to – either because of your email newsletter or you may have done some business with them in the past – and then one by one select them to send out that invitation that says, “Would you like to connect on LinkedIn?”

Now of course you’re going to want to make new connections on LinkedIn, not just jump starting based on people that you’ve already connected with.  So there’s a number of other ways that you can make connections on LinkedIn.  One of the things is if you are targeting specific industries, there are groups in LinkedIn that  will undoubtedly be for all the people in that industry.  So if you are able to, go ahead and join the groups that your prospects belong to.

One of the things that you can do to find these groups is just go into the LinkedIn search and do a search.  So if I’m trying to target “manufacturers”, I can go into the LinkedIn search and type in “manufacturer, manufacturing” – something like that –  and choose to only search through groups. Then I’m going to see all the groups that are about manufacturing, and that’s one way I can then go ahead and either join or request to join those different groups.

Another way that I can find groups that include people I want to reach out to, is that I can go to the people that I’m already connected to that have similar jobs and  see what groups they belong to and then go join those groups.  So again, it’s just another way of making connections.

One of the best ways to make a connection with somebody who you don’t know, is if you belong to a shared group.  So if I’m targeting manufacturers, and I get to join a manufacturers group, then I have an opportunity to ask for an invitation for anybody who’s inside that group, whether or not I have a connection to them yet or not.

Another thing that you can use is if you see there’s somebody that you want to connect with who’s not a first degree connection but a second degree connection, you can find the person or people who are in between you two.  In other words, who are your shared connections, and you can ask for an invitation from that person.  Quite honestly, that’s not my favorite way of making a connection, but when I spoke to the sales team the few guys that were using LinkedIn, this was a technique that they were using with some success.  So again, if you’re trying to get in – let’s say you’re trying to call in some office – and you want to make a connection and talk to the person before you ask for the interview or the time, then one of the things you can do is you might say, “Well, I see that Rich Brooks is connected to me and connected to this woman who I’d like to speak to, so I’ll ask Rich to make the connection for me.”

Now I wouldn’t rely too heavily on this because you are putting a burden on – in this case, me – now I’m more than happen to share it, but if you ask too many people for favors that can come off as being a little bit needy.  So I would use that only when you really need to.  It’s not my favorite technique.

Another way of making connections when you don’t have any personal connections with this person, is using something called In Mail at LinkedIn.  This is only for paid accounts and you get more In Mails per month the more money you pay LinkedIn.  But basically this gives you the opportunity of anybody you see who you want to connect with, you can just send them a direct mail with In Mail to connect. If they don’t accept your invitation in about 7 days, then you get a credit for that In Mail, so you don’t have to worry if you’re sending out a bunch and people aren’t responding.  For the least expensive version of LinkedIn that still costs money, I think you get 3 a month, so you want to be very strategic about the people you send an In Mail to because you have such a limited number.

Now before I started my own web design and internet marketing company – which has been around for 17 or 18 years – so we’re talking about ancient history here.  But before that, I used to sell to nursing homes.  I was a salesperson, I went on the road and I had to go and do cold calls as well as other calls, and that was my day.  I’d get in my car, I’d go to nursing homes with or without an appointment, I’d try and meet with the director of nursing or whoever it was, and I’d try and sell my companies products and services.  By the way, sales is probably the most important thing that I ever learned.  In some ways, it could be more important than going to college.  So I really think that sales is important here.

But the point that I wanted to bring up here is that I know from experience that sometimes making the sale just comes down to timing and being persistent.  And there was a time earlier on in my sales career where I wasn’t having a whole lot of success and I definitely got the impression that my boss was rethinking whether or not I was going to make a good salesperson. And he told me, “Rich, I really need you to get into this specific nursing home.”  Now, this was a brand new nursing home I had called on a number of times and never got through to anybody, I was always leaving messages.  And in desperation I called one more time and asked for the Director of Nursing, and the owner of the nursing home picked up.  Apparently he was in a meeting with the Director of Nursing, and he said, “Do you have such and such product?”  And although that wasn’t the reason I was calling I said, “Yeah, we absolutely carry that.”  He goes, “ Alright, I want to see you in my office tomorrow.”  And with my boss, we went in there and ended up selling them on all of their Med B products, and we actually ended up getting 2 more homes that this guy owned.

And that was just by chance.  I was just calling up and continuing to build credibility and got my name in there and happen to call at the exact, right moment that they were ready to make a buying decision.   Now I share this with you because this happens all the time.  So we get in front of somebody, we start to build a reputation, and at some point they may decide that they’re current vendor is not taking care of them, isn’t professional enough, isn’t delivering the goods – whatever it is – and they’re open to making a change.  You want to be there when they are ready to make that decision.

So what I recommend doing in terms of how to use LinkedIn for this, is once you’ve made that connection I think you should regularly be posting valuable content to LinkedIn in a few different ways.  The first way is just creating an update, which goes into the newsfeed just like Facebook.  Although it’s not nearly as popular, a lot of people when they go in LinkedIn, the first thing they see is the Pulse and News feed.  So by basically writing blog posts in LinkedIn’s Pulse, and also sharing content – whether your own or somebody else’s – improves your visibility on the platform.  If you’re providing valuable content – even if you didn’t write it – you start to be associated with that content as being a valuable resource for your prospects.

So sharing it in the newsfeed is one, sharing it in appropriate groups is another great one as well.  And a third one is, so, a lot of times I’ll be reading an article and I’ll know that it’s perfect for my real estate clients or maybe something for my Bed & Breakfast clients, and I’ll take that and I’ll actually send somebody a direct message, which is a lot more personal than posting it to the newsfeed.  Also it will definitely end up in that person’s inbox and they’re almost always going to see that.  So those are 3 different techniques I use to continually improve my visibility and build credibility with my prospects by providing valuable content.

Now another great place to do some prospecting is through some of the search and advanced search tools that they have on LinkedIn.  One of the things you can do – and this came up a lot at with the guys in the sales meeting – they said, “If I want to get into company XYZ, how do I do that?  One of the biggest problems I have is I don’t know who the contact is.”  So what we did right there in front of them is I looked up the company , XYZ, and we found all the people who had worked for there, or were currently working there, and what their positions were.   Now obviously there were a lot of people there who aren’t on LinkedIn, so not everybody was in there.  But it gave us the people who are in charge of purchasing, marketing, designers.  Everybody who you might want to make a connection with were all there, and all we had to do was do a search.

Another type of search is if you’re not specifically targeting one company but you’re targeting any company in a certain region or industry, you could go ahead and search by job title.  So if we need to get in front of the purchasers, we can do a search on “purchaser”  or whatever job title you need, and then you might find that there are too many people there with that title and it’s too broad.  So then you can narrow it down.  You could say you want to narrow it down to only companies within 500 miles, or only companies of a certain size or income, or whatever it may be.  So there are all these different filtering tools that we can use to then narrowly target this audience.

Now I used this technique, actually, when I was marketing for the Agents Of Change Conference.  That conference was all about digital marketing and it was a regional conference here in Maine. So one of the things I wanted to do is I wanted to let everyone who was involved with marketing in the state of Maine know about this conference.  So with the help of somebody in my office, we did a search for markers who I wasn’t connected with in the state of Maine, and then I saved that search.  So it was easy for me to get back to, and also it would send me an email every week with all the new people that they found who met my criteria.

So once I knew who those people were, using my in mails or other tactics, I would send out an invitation to them, they would respond, and then I’d actually send them out a little message, “Hey, thanks for connecting.  I see that you’re in Maine (or New Hampshire or Massachusetts, etc) and you do marketing for your company.  I’m actually putting on a conference called Agents of Change, it’s all about digital marketing.  I think it would be valuable for you.” And then actually I would often give them a discount code for the conference just to sweeten the deal.  So that’s one real life example of how I used it.   And you might get some ideas on how you can use those same tactics yourself.

One of the other things that happens when you are working with somebody at a company, is suddenly they leave and you don’t know who the new contact is, or you lose track of that person and they were a good contact for you.  So everyday, LinkedIn will send you an email that talks about the people in your network and if the job title changes in the network they’ve got.  So this is a great opportunity while you’re looking through your morning email so just take a quick peek  and see if there is anybody who you were doing business with who is now at a new company.  That’s a great opportunity for you to congratulate them and follow up with them and say, “Hey, I’d love to come in and talk to you about what I can do for you at your new company as well.”  Plus, you now know that you’re at risk to lose your current client, because maybe somebody’s going to come in and bring their old person.  So the very first thing you want to do is find out who the new person is and approach them with the products and services that you’ve delivered to this company, offer to connect with them and show them as well, or see if they need any different types of services.

That’s something that a lot of the guys were using, actually, because as the buyers would move from one job to another, one of the guys said, “Actually, I’ve been trying to get into this one company for years, and then I find out through LinkedIn that one of my good contacts is now their buyer and I was able to get in for the first time ever.”

One of the biggest hurdles of the guys I talked to had, was getting past the gatekeeper.  Very often they would go in for a cold call – because they were in an industrial park, so why not just make a cold call – and they’d go to the front door and the gatekeeper would say, “Do you have an appointment?  I’m sorry, we don’t allow appointments with people who don’t know the name of the person they want to meet with.”  So it was just a basic Catch-22.

So there are a number of ways that you can use LinkedIn to get past the gatekeeper. One of which is that in mail thing that I mentioned before.  You can track down who the person is that you need to be speaking to, and send them an in mail as a way of starting the conversation.

You can also find out positions within a company, by using LinkedIn to do a little bit of prospecting.  Do a little bit of research beforehand. And also, even on LinkedIn, people will share some personal information – like where they went to college – and that may be an opportunity for you to make a connection with somebody.

These are all ways that you can improve your chances of finally making that connection and closing the sale so that you can build your business.  So obviously those are just a few of the ways that you can use LinkedIn for prospecting, for warming up cold calls, and basically for selling more so that you can continue to grow your business.

Show Notes:

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  • Kathy WHitney

    Thanks for sharing, Rich. Practical, valuable information. I’ll let you know how my prospecting works out when the time comes. Kathy