Seven rules for using LinkedIn as a sales prospecting tool

LinkedIn is a valuable social network aimed at obtaining professional contacts. It’s a goldmine of prospecting opportunities for any sales rep willing to take the time to understand it and use it correctly. The following list provides seven rules that anyone in the sales profession should keep in mind when using LinkedIn as a prospecting tool.

1. Make sure that the personal profile is always up to date. You want to efficiently deliver as much information to prospects who might be looking at your profile for future business. Your LinkedIn profile should include a link to your company’s website, as well as any other business social media links. Many prospects will want to “verify” what services you provide and more details about your clients and business before contacting you so they don’t waste valuable time.

2. Conduct an Internet search for companies that may benefit from product or service offerings. On many company websites, you can find names of managers/leaders to connect with. Most of the managers, the ones who make the buying decisions, will be on LinkedIn. Having a social connection can make it much easier for you to get appointments with leaders without first going through their gatekeepers. People tend to manage their own individual social media accounts rather than have someone else control them.

3. Help contacts because reciprocity works. Every time one of your LinkedIn connections meets with you or hosts a presentation for you, be sure to say thank you. Also, get in the habit of supporting your contacts and, most importantly, referrals. LinkedIn makes it easy to endorse the skills of others, and adding personal references shows that you really know the professionalism of others.

4. Research new contacts before accepting an invitation to connect. Reviewing the potential LinkedIn contact will ensure that they are a qualified candidate for your business. In other words, you may receive random invites from people who wouldn’t promote your business opportunities or who might just want to build their own contact list. In those cases, you should not connect. That being said, also think about your potential connections at your company. Just because they’re not in upper management, they could still be a good person to connect with due to the fact that they can link you to an appropriate decision-maker.

5. Take a look at the connections of those who are already connected. When you have connections, LinkedIn can tell other people you’ve recently connected with. Be sure to check out recent connections, as they may be leads in businesses you haven’t thought of yet. Many people have friends in senior management positions at other companies who can benefit you.

6. Join groups that would allow for more business prospect matches. Joining specific LinkedIn groups that are in your target environment or industry will increase your chances of identifying real prospects. You can be as specific or vague as you want on these group additions and you can also go back and add or remove groups to increase your goal. Sign up for group post summaries so you can keep track of questions asked and provide solutions to get noticed.

7. Please note that other social networking sites are for personal interaction. Keep your LinkedIn account professional to increase the chance of potential business opportunities. In other words, keep family and friends out of your contacts here unless they can provide you with business opportunities. For example, if you have a family member who can provide leads, then by all means have them on your LinkedIn. If not, you should choose another social networking site to interact with them.

Sales professionals using the above seven rules should easily use the common sense provided in them and better understand how they can use it as a great prospecting tool to increase sales. Sales reps should take advantage of the social network of professional connections that LinkedIn offers and the functionality it can provide to find the golden opportunities that may be waiting there.

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