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If you are not using LinkedIn when planning and preparing your prospecting call, you are missing a huge opportunity to gather superb information that you can use to build rapport, ask questions and advance the sale. Here are four simple steps to make LinkedIn work for you:
Step #1: Join Linked In
If you haven't done so, join LinkedIn. It is the largest B-to-B social media-networking group in the world.
Step #2: Get the Names of Your Prospects
If you have a prospecting list with the names of decision-makers, you can skip to Step #3. Otherwise you'll have to gather contact names the old fashioned way: pick up the phone and ask a receptionist, secretary etc.
After identifying yourself, use this simple phrase:
"Can you help me? Can you give me the name of the person who is responsible for _______?"
Two quick points. First, pause after you ask for help. This puts the ball in their court and almost invariably the answer is "yes" or " I will try." Not only is this polite, it changes the dynamic of the call. Second, asking for the NAME of the individual helps prevent the reflexive tendency of some receptionists to immediately put you through and not provide you with a name. This leaves you unprepared should the prospect answer. Once you get the name, thank the individual and terminate the call.
Follow this process and make a list of 25 or 30 prospects.
Step #3: Research the Prospect on LinkedIn
Armed with these names, log into LinkedIn and begin your research.
In the upper right hand corner, there is a search box with a pull down menu. Click on that menu and you'll see six options (people, jobs, companies, answers, inbox, groups). Click on "people" and enter the prospect's name.
(Of course, not everyone belongs to LinkedIn so don't expect a hit on every prospect you enter. But you'll be surprised at how many match up.)
LinkedIn will provide you a list of names that match your entry. Often you'll see names identical to that of your prospect. Scan through the names and match the prospect name to the prospect company. This will ensure you have the right contact. You can narrow your search by using the "Advanced" filter located to the right of the search box. It will allow you to enter a location, title, company name etc. Enter what you can.
Once you've done that, click on the name and start exploring. Depending on your prospect, the volume of information can sometimes be staggering. Here are some areas to review:
Look at their background. Most read like a resume and you'll get an instant feel for the experience and knowledge of the prospect. Many times you'll get their titles and responsibilities.
Check the 'groups' section. Groups reveal specific areas of interest and affinity. Others will mention the schools they've attended. Maybe you're both Gators alumni.
Many LinkedIn members will identify specific "interests" such as hobbies or sports.
Some members provide a list of the books they are reading. Often you'll see 'recommendations' by other members.
Assess their writing style. Is it formal or informal, detailed or broad, humorous or serious?
Step 4: Plan your approach
Contrary to popular belief, information is NOT power. It is only potential power. You need to leverage what you've learned to give yourself an edge.
This takes a little time and effort. For example, maybe you could send the prospect something prior to your call. For instance, you might send a recipe for a coffee/chili rub for a prospect who expressed an avid interest in barbequing. Attach a note and say, "Hey Art, thought this might spice up your day!" When you call make sure to reference the recipe. They'll remember and they'll listen.
If you're an alumni of the same school, mention it in your opening statement. It builds a degree of affinity.
If the prospect is a Chicago Blackhawks fan, lather it on.
Suppose you encounter voicemail. Is there something you could reference that gives your message distinction? For example, "Mike, I see you recently won the Director of Year Award for ABC Co. Congratulations." This ego stroke gets you remembered.
Using the prospect's background, develop questions that relate to their area of responsibility. It will bring instant focus and relevancy to your call.
Use the writing style of the prospect to tailor your presentation. If the prospect is analytical, use a more detailed approach. If there is humour, lighten your approach.
The list is endless.
LinkedIn is a valuable tool. Use it wisely to give yourself an edge and increase your odds of sales success.
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