LinkedIn is the greatest B2B prospecting tool on Earth; not the only one but definitely the best at overcoming constraints. And digging for sales is as much about overcoming constraints as it is about maximizing opportunities.
Constraints to prospecting are huge. There’s never enough information about people, and sales reps need to know who to sell to, who the decision makers are, and who can help get them in.
This informational need is far beyond company size and location, which can be found on prospects’ web sites or bought from ZapData, InfoUSA, Experian, and 100s of others.
It’s the people information, and their relationships with others, that matters most to sales reps. And LinkedIn is the hands down winner to find that out. Here’s a couple of reasons why.
First, the personal data is as good as it gets. It’s fresh because it’s maintained by the prospects themselves, for their own benefit. There’s nothing more frustrating for a rep than to find their prospect data has gone sour.
And although not everyone is fully engaged on LinkedIn, there’s much to be gained. Even partial profiles, their networks of connections, and companies’ updates add to reps understanding of their prospects. Before LinkedIn, reps had to work much harder to dig up this information.
Second, LinkedIn has an easy and simple path to access prospects via introductions.
Research shows that “84% of executives would usually or always grant a meeting with a salesperson who was recommended internally. This highlights the importance of building companywide relationships that open doors to senior management.” (source: Selling to the C-Suite: What Every Executive Wants You to Know About Successfully Selling to the Top by Read & Bistriz, Ed.D.: affiliate link)
This means sales reps must know more people to meet prospects, get into their companies and meet executives higher up the food chain. LinkedIn makes getting that first meeting with the highest relevant executive easier.
How to Request Introductions in LinkedIn
LinkedIn has clear and straightforward instructions how to get introductions in the following:
- Introductions – Overview: What’s an Introduction?
- Requesting an Introduction: How do I request an introduction to someone I’m not currently connected to?
The Tricky Part About Introductions
When requesting an introduction to a prospect you’ll write a message to the person who will introduce you. That message may eventually be seen by the person you want to be introduced to, your prospect. Just expect it to be read.
So, whatever you write…
Write to Connect
Yes, even this little message to request an introduction is exactly like all selling messages: it’s about your prospects, it’s about why they would want to connect with you.
While you’re writing a message to the person who will introduce you, in reality you’re writing to the person you want to be introduced to, your prospect.
In your message make sure you spell out:
- Who you’re requesting to be introduced to (your prospect)
- What you can help them with (their problems you solve)
- Why they can believe you (your credibility with others)
Here’s an example of intro message text:
<<Referrer’s First Name>>,
Would appreciate an introduction to <<Prospect’s First & Last Name>> to see if we might help <<Prospect’s Company>> with their <<typical problems that your sale solves>>.
Similar to our work with you and <<Referrer’s Company Name>> for the last few years, such as <<list several of the services and/or results you’ve provided>>.
Once Connected, Research Before Really Connecting
After your prospect has accepted your connection then you can send them messages directly from within LinkedIn.
Why would you want to do this?
Because compared to regular email, LinkedIn is still novel, it’s different, it’s cool. Your prospect, now a connection, is more likely to get and read your email whenever they visit LinkedIn.
Also, you know your LinkedIn messages won’t get nuked by their corporate spam filter, they’ll definitely see it.
However, before using LinkedIn messages to request anything, do your research!
Check their activity, their company’s updates, your shared groups and all their groups too.
You’ll begin to see what they’re interested in and where they go to learn about it. That’s the knowledge reps need to have intelligent, meaningful conversations with prospects, either live or by email.
LIONs, Introductions & Weak Connections
LIONs are LinkedIn Open Networkers. This means they’re accepting and seeking connections with just about anyone. They can have 100s if not 1,000s of connections. And as you’d guess, those multitudes are not necessarily close personal or business friends.
LIONs connect for many different reasons, i.e. a high degree of exposure when looking for a job, or recruiting for one, or just for the social prestige of having the most connections on the block.
The one similarity among them is that their relationships with many of their connections can be weak or non-existent.
This means when you seek an introduction through a LION you’ll want to check with them (through a direct message) how well they know the person you want to meet. If they don’t know them, try someone else first and only fall back on them with reduced expectations.
NOTE TO LINKEDIN: Please consider adding a feature that indicates the strength of the relationship between connections. Maybe it’s an algorithm identifying mutual factors in connection. It would sure be nice to those of us prospecting through LinkedIn to not only know people are connected, but how well they know each other.
The #1 Reason to Upgrade from Free to a Paid LinkedIn Service
LinkedIn knows where it’s bread is buttered. They know that one, if not the most, important service they provide is connecting sales reps with prospects and as a result have placed limitations on the number of introductions that can be outstanding at any one time.
The free service allows up to 5 outstanding introductions, which means if you want introductions to more you’ll have to upgrade, or wait until they decide to accept your requests to connect, reject, or after 6 months they’ll fade away. Then you can replace them with another lot, totaling no more than 5 outstanding.
Paid LinkedIn services increase the number of outstanding introductions to 15 or 25. I’m at the 15 level and for now it seems enough but if I get more aggressive, I’ll invest in the extra level.
- B2B prospecting is exponentially easier and more successful using LinkedIn
- If you’re not there, you’re missing out and so are the prospects who would’ve benefited from buying you
- Use introductions intelligently and build relationships for the future