Start Thinking about LinkedIn as a Network of Leads

In 2004 I took a business development role at a startup software company in the information security space. We had no leads, no names, no contacts. We sold a product that hadn't really penetrated the market yet so we had to "start high" and make connections with the VP or C-level. A complex sales cycle and a multimilion dollar price tag made it impossible to sell using rented lists and the old-school "smile and dial" techniques.

We developed a method of searching LinkedIn to find the top contacts at BIG companies. Here's the top 5 reasons to use LinkedIn for prospecting:

  1. 34M+ Members: Chances are your target contacts are already on LinkedIn, you just have to find them. For US-based contacts, there really is no competition.
  2. User Generated Profiles: Since the user's profile is managed by the owner, profiles are more accurate and updated with any new career changes. Executives must remain open for a better opportunity somewhere else, higher pay, advancement, maybe even a backup plan in case their department or position gets axed. Compare user generated profiles with the "dead" data sold by marketing vendors and it becomes obvious the accuracy here can be many times higher.
  3. Past Info/Roles: Execs commonly include past companies they worked at, which can be helpful for additional "inside info". If you have sold to a company they used to work for, you can establish credibility using that link in your initial conversation.
  4. Better Job Description: Execs often take the liberty of providing a little about their role beyond their department, including key initiatves they want to tackle in the coming year, or business objectives they've been hired to achieve. These are the triggering events that can help you tailor your pitch, or even be the reason you are reaching out to them. Sometimes professional networkers will list a more accurate title, than the generic one given to them by the company.
  5. Better Pool of Contacts: Execs using LinkedIn, by publishing their work history in the public view, are more open minded to making connnections with contacts across industries. I would even go as far as saying they'd be more open to listening to the value a salesperson can bring to the organization with new ideas and suggestions. Clicking the "publish profile" button is a subconscious commitment to prefer more exposure versus privacy. Even though there are some privacy settings, they are consenting to share their personal details with cyberspace. These people are already assuming more personal data on the web = more calls from salespeople and have weighed that risk against the gains. Bottom line: executives on networking sites makeup the best pool of prospects.

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