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LinkedIn As a Prospecting Tool

An old friend of mine recently asked me this about LinkedIn:

I see your active with LinkedIn… have you upgraded to the pay version of the site, and if so, which version and would you be willing to share your feedback with me?

Since I’ll be talking about this at the Bloodhound Blog Unchained Online Marketing Conference, in Orlando, on November 7, 2008, I thought I’d share this answer with the Bloodhound community:

I haven’t upgraded to the pay version but I use LinkedIn obsessively; I have since 2004.

Whenever I meet a new “contact”, I check LinkedIn and Facebook to see if they’re on that platform.  The automated “top of mind status” these platforms provide is invaluable.  If you were to look at my Facebook profile, you’ll see that I’m using the “status” tool a lot to talk about our mutually loved baseball team.  While that conversation has nothing to do with business, it gives past and potential clients a peek into my personal life.  In the age of the participatory web, customers crave information about people with whom they do business.

You’ll also notice that I’ve given people a peek into my political ideology; that’s probably not the best practice for a salesperson. The controversial conversations that spring from a Yankees/Red Sox rivalry are taken in fun.  The controversial conversations that come from ideological differences can drive a potential (or past) clients away.

Generally speaking, LinkedIn (and now Facebook) can be used as a database or CRM.  While it’s hard to balance the stated purpose of these media (connecting) with commercial uses (straight selling), a reasonably intuitive salesperson will learn “the community rules” quickly.

One of the biggest challenges for sales professionals is getting people on the telephone after meeting them on social networking platforms.  If you’re asking or answering questions on LinkedIn Q&A or participating in Facebook groups discussions, you’ll break down the digital wall and those prospective customers will be more receptive to your call.  I feel pretty comfortable calling someone if we’ve had an interesting exchange in the LinkedIn Q&A.  More than 80% of those calls are appreciated and future communication from me is welcomed.

If you use iTunes, Basho Technologies hosts a podcast called “Sales Warrior”.  Search for it, and look up the podcast that talks about social networking.  It’s free and offers some best practices for using social media in your prospecting efforts.  If you can’t subscribe to Sales Warrior on iTunes, you can listen to this 30 minute podcast by clicking here (it’s free)

LinkedIn Professional service, which costs anywhere from $20-$100 a month can expedite the “connecting” process.  Those receiving the “InMails”, however, recognize that the “connection” was bought.  There is nothing wrong with that but organic connections are always more authentic.

Good Luck and Go Phillies!

PS:  To the person who asked the original question:  You and I operate in much different selling environments;  I sell B2C and you sell B2B.  My behavior on the web attracts consumers because it evokes a visceral response from them.  B2B salespeople might want to dial back my “letting it all hang out” behavior for a more professional approach.  Either way, you can use social platforms to advance your sales efforts.

PPS:  If you haven’t used Facebook for your social networking, here’s a tutorial about how to set up a profile,  In addition to the business opportunities this fast-growing platform provides, you’ll see a  number of our old classmates there.

Related posts:
  • Prospecting Numbers, Real And Acutal (In Case You Wanna Skin Some Cats).
  • Raking and blowing
  • Unchained Social Networking: Setting Up A LinkedIn Profile

  • 2 comments

    2 Comments so far

    1. Todd Carpenter October 29th, 2008 7:39 pm

      >>”B2B salespeople might want to dial back my ‘letting it all hang out’ behavior for a more professional approach.”

      I sell B2B. I Lenderama started almost four years ago because loan officers were my clients, and I wanted a way to keep in touch with them. Now, web connected real estate agents constitute more of my clientele.

      I wanted to qualify because my experience has been the complete opposite. The more I let it all hang out, the more people connect with me. More and more I think social media is most effective when it’s social. You just inspired me to go write a post.

    2. Brian Brady October 30th, 2008 7:06 pm

      Todd,

      I agree with your assessment that your strategy of “letting it all hang out” IS effective in the RE/mortgage space. That’s not corporate America, though.

      What I mean to say is that a salesperson for say, Proctor and Gamble, selling to mid-level supermarket executives should probably NOT “let it all hang out”