Most of us have done research within LinkedIn to find a broad list of target prospects based on a particular set of criteria. This post is not meant to suggest the abandonment of such activities. I just want to recommend a more targeted approach to complement those efforts.
Searching broadly across LinkedIn for prospects like people with the title of "Vice President of Sales" will certainly generate usable results but you will then have to go through each prospect to identify which member of your network, if any, could potentially introduce or refer you. It's not wrong to do it, but it can take time.
What I would like to suggest is that you consider your network and think about who within you network has the type of connections you are trying to reach, has a higher propensity to refer, is a member of an organization or trade association that would have your key targets, or is simply well-connected.
Identify one or more people within your network that you would like to leverage then visit their LinkedIn profile. Click on the number of connections beside their name to begin your research. Ignore your shared connections. You can reach them directly yourself, so you don't need to waste your time and energy asking for an introduction.
While you can make some progress using a free LinkedIn account, the real power of this process will come from using a premium LinkedIn account and the advanced filters that it offers.
After you have clicked on the number of connections they have, you will be presented with a magnifying glass search icon. Click on it and input your first search criteria into the search field (e.g. Vice President of Sales). Assuming you are using a premium account, begin applying premium search filters to narrow your searches such as company size, geographic radius, industry, and/or seniority. Select second level connections only to target those to whom you can be referred by you direct connections.
Once you have narrowed your search from hundreds down to something manageable, then save it. Now you have something you can review with the key connection who owns this network.
When I go through this process, I arrange a call with my key connection to share my computer screen and my search results. I then ask them to review the search results with me. I preface my remarks by saying that I am not looking for nor do I expect introductions to everyone in the list of search results.
All I want from my key connection is essentially a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" indication about each person on the list as to whether or not they would take a call from me or be open to receiving an email introduction about me.
These screen sharing and list vetting processes help my connection because it reminds them of members of their network that they may have forgotten about, who may have changed jobs, are strong connections worthy of an introduction, or weak connections that would be a waste of time.
When I have gone through this process with the key connection from my network, I typically take hundreds of results and can filter them down to under fifty results worthy of review. Once I speak with them, those fifty prospects get narrowed down to four to six potential referrals or introductions. From those, I typically can close at least one sale after connecting with each of them for one or more conversations depending on who is involved in their decision making and what stage they are at in the buyer journey.
I realize that many of you may be skeptical of this process, but it has worked for me in numerous instances as well as for past training participants. There was also one of my case studies posted earlier on this site based on this process.
Just try it with one of you best connections and see what happens. Hopefully, you will find sales success. I'd love to hear how things go too.
About the Author
Andrew Jenkins is Founder and Principal of Volterra, a professional services firm that has provided social media strategy, outsourced social media management, content development and planning, and social selling training to numerous mid to large enterprises. Andrew has spent the last twenty years working in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) spanning social media, wireless, and e‐business throughout North America and Europe. He has been identified as a social selling expert and has been featured in LinkedIn marketing campaigns, most recently as one of ten Canadian success stories. He speaks regularly at conferences and events about social media and social selling. He is a member of the Board of the Direct Marketing Association of Canada. He holds a BA in Economics from Laurentian University, a BFA in Film Production from York University, and an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He also taught entrepreneurship at OCAD University and currently teaches Digital Strategy at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.