LinkedIn provides an easy and inexpensive way to build up a list of qualified prospects. Here's how to make it work for you.
Regardless of the size of your company, LinkedIn can be an excellent way to find new customers, according to Michael Pedone of SalesBuzz.com. Here's his step-by-step method:
1. Conduct appropriately targeted searches.
First, you probably want to sign up for a LinkedIn Premium account, because you'll get bigger and better search results that way. However, you can do most of the below with just a vanilla account.
LinkedIn's "advanced search" feature (it's to the right of the regular "search" function) allows you to locate potential customers (i.e., connections) using criteria such as vertical industry, geographical location, job title, and so forth.
The easiest way to locate potential customers is search on the basis of where and to whom your product has sold in the past. To do this, look up your former customers! See how they're listed and use that as the model to find similar customers.
For example, suppose you've been selling your product to dental offices. You check on your clients and discover that the people who had decision-making power are listed as "owner," "partner," or "office manager."
Therefore, to build your list of potential connections, you search upon "dental offices" and those three job titles.
2. Send meaningful connection requests.
Set aside five minutes every morning with the goal of sending out 10 to 20 targeted LinkedIn connection requests to the people whose names pop up as the result of your targeted searches.
The trick here is to write a "connection request" that immediately and succinctly provides a personal benefit to that person of why he or she would want to connect with you. What you don't want to do is to sound like every other salesperson.
"Hi [name], we provide XYZ dental equipment and can save you time and money. I'd like to add you to my LinkedIn network."
"Hi [name], we recently helped [dental office in same region as prospect] cut its office supplies bill by 12 percent while offering more favorable billing terms. I'd like to add you to my LinkedIn network in case you decide we can help your business in the future."
With some research (on the targeted "suspect") and the right message, you should be able to add 10 to 50 new prospects a week. That's pretty darn good when compared with other lead-generation methods.
Your own targeted LinkedIn group is a place where your contacts can visit, post questions, and seek help. In essence, such a group makes it absurdly easy for your prospects to ask your advice--always a good thing.
The group also gives you the ability to send out periodic emails to your prospect to promote the next step, which is...
4. Provide relevant Webinars to your group.
Assuming that you've got solid information that your prospects can use, the best way to get your contacts involved and interested is to give Webinars.
Webinars are superior to follow-up calls and direct emails, because 1. it's the prospect's choice to attend and 2. you can keep offering Webinars to contacts without seeming as though you're pestering them.
A good way to promote such Webinars is to contact owners of other groups that also have the same or a similar targeted audience that you want to attract. Ask them if they would email your free upcoming Webinar link to their audience.
The process above is what's generally known as "lead nurturing," and it used to cost thousands of dollars, mostly because you had to use hotel events rather than Webinars to build relationships. Using LinkedIn is both more effective and orders of magnitude less expensive.
BTW, I've been helping out recently with LinkedIn's "Talent Solutions" blog and am hoping to become a LinkedIn Influencer after my new book comes out. So stay tuned!