Tuesday October 8, 2013
LinkedIn Prospecting: Defined!
We talk about lead generation and prospecting - but do they actually mean? I thought I might put together a definition of LinkedIn prospecting and what it means to me. Let me know what you would change or add in comments below!
To me, a prospect is someone who you find - or attract - in a company, business, industry or organization that has a need for your product or service and the desire and ability to purchase it.
Do Your Research!
Let’s take a closer look at that definition… It’s easy enough to say your prospect must have a need – but let’s go a step further! You must know your target market and their frustrations, desired, and/or needs. That means you must do your research! There are many different ways to go about getting this information yourself, or you can hire a company to do it. Another great method? Ask your existing customer base and /or social media tribe:
- You can use LinkedIn polls in groups to get responses from great numbers of people in your target market
- You can ask them in a group discussion
- You can ask your network in an update
- You can publicly ask specific folks by asking (and mentioning them) in an update
- You can send a private message asking your 1st level connection – or ask a tagged group at a time.
Hang up the Phone (Just for a Minute)
Traditionally, prospecting has been all about finding our prospects (or making endless cold calls from purchased lists.) But as we move from the Age of the Seller to the Age of the Consumer, we are in a much better position when it comes to engaging with prospects. (In my humble opinion – from someone who detests cold calling with a visceral chill!)
Brian Solis in a recent LinkedIn Influencer post writes: "Connected, empowered consumers—also known as of Generation C—have come to expect businesses to know them, to understand them, and to deliver what they want, where, when and how they want it."
What does that mean to sellers when it comes to prospecting? Firstly, we have much better access to our prospect’s needs- because they are telling us. Not only are they (hopefully) responding to our direct queries, but they are stating them in updates and in groups. With the dissolution of LinkedIn Signal it’s harder to hear their voices in updates (Bad LinkedIn!) but you can still search through discussions and comments in your groups. You can also join groups that talk about your target market’s needs. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Jill Konrath’s group: Fresh Sales Strategies where my ideal client’s (entrepreneurial sales professionals) needs and points of pain are often discussed in an open forum!
Position Yourself in Front of Your Prospects
The second thing we can do is put ourselves, our businesses, and information about our products and services out there in the social space. This allows us to attract our prospects by positioning ourselves as thought leaders, thereby creating greater visibility, and if we are lucky (or strategic) inspiring our current clients and fans to advocate us and become an unpaid sales force. Perhaps even earning our prospect’s trust before we (or they) make initial contact. Again, groups and updates are a great way to share useful, helpful, thought leader inspired posts! You will also want to consider (STRONGLY!) creating a company page where you can post video testimonials, recommendations, updates and various other media showcasing your brilliance!
“As long as a prospect has a need and can afford, or has enough of a desire to purchase your product....”
Prospect Relationship Management Tools
You mustn't get lazy! The number of cold calls you have to make might be drastically reduced, (or eradicated altogether) but you still must communicate with your prospects. You can do this through a blast of ads, a well thought-out email messaging or by picking up the phone.
I also highly recommend some kind or prospect or consumer management system to keep track of your prospects do they don't slip through the cracks. Salesforce is one the prime CRM systems and plays very well with LinkedIn. You might also look at Nimble.com and even LinkedIn’s new Contacts feature (which is free!)
All Things Being Equal...
Finally, your current clients and active audience or tribe make the best prospects. When the time is right, make sure they know about everything you offer, and stay Top of Mind with them. As my friend Bob Burg says, "All things being equal, people do business with people they know , like and trust!" If they know, remember, like and trust you, not only are they more likely to buy from you again, but they might begin to refer you to their tribe as well.
Wrapping it Up
Prospecting in the Social Age of the Consumer might be easier or more difficult for you, depending on a few key things.
- Your knowledge of the process or your willingness to learn it.
- Your willingness to do the front-end work - the research and positioning.
- Your ability to engender that feeling of expertise and trust.
- The ability to effectively communicate with you prospects.
- Your ability to manage your prospect base.
- And finally, your ability to close them.
But get the prior steps right, and the last and most important step becomes much easier!
- What is your definition of a prospect?
- If you were to guess.. what percentage of your leads are coming to you - in some way - through LinkedIn?
- What % of those folks are coming to you directly through LinkedIn? (via direct contact - messages, et.)
- What percentage are coming to you indirectly? (Maybe you engage with them elsewhere or they are active in a shared group, etc.)
- Do you have some kind of "system" in place in regards to marketing or selling through LinkedIn?
- How do you (or do you even) initiate contact with someone you don't know on LinkedIn?
- Do you use a CRM system to manage your leads on LinkedIn? Which one?
- What is your biggest frustration with LinkedIn?
- What do you think is most undervalued about LinkedIn?
- What is your best piece of advice for using LinkedIn for Lead Generation and prospecting?