I run lots of training sessions on using LinkedIn for Business Development, many just using the free account. I also do so on LinkedIn Sales Navigator and, while I wouldn’t have recommended it 3 years ago when it first came out, I certainly do now. However, not unreservedly.
My reticence is not because of the software, which is ever improving, but rather on the supporting elements we all need to ensure are in place around it which are key to it being a truly useful sales tool.
Personally I would highlight three elements to work on that are all things that you require when prospecting, whatever account you have on LinkedIn. If you can get these three things right and use all of the capabilities of the free account, then you can get a great deal out of it. However, putting them successfully in place, means that they can really come into their own when Sales Navigator is added to the equation.
1) Get your Personal Profile right
Whether you are using the LinkedIn’s main system or Sales Navigator, you need to ensure that your Personal Profile is presenting you correctly, communicating the right messages and positively supporting the actions you are taking using the software in terms of identifying the right people, listening to what they are saying and engaging with them.
Turning this around, it also needs to act as a key element of the so called “Social Proof” because your potential prospect will be checking you out and needs to decide if they wish to talk to you. Your profile is going to be crucial in their decision making process because it contains the information they require to evaluate whether your offering is of interest, and also whether the person (you) are giving off the right signals too.
In a sales role – and most of us are in a sales role whether we like it or not – you need your profile to almost be a sales and marketing brochure which reflects and supports your approach, your offering and your engagement.
2) Get comfortable with basic Boolean search
This really isn’t as scary as it sounds but it is massively useful to help you to identify the target audience (or audiences) that you wish to approach. Simply put, boolean search is the use of “AND”, “OR” and “NOT” (primarily) in creating a search which will best deliver the most relevant (and comprehensive) results in terms of the people that you are looking for.
Why is this relevant? It’s obviously useful when it comes to the normal search on LinkedIn, giving you a huge number of options in terms of narrowing down your search. It’s arguably even more important on both the LinkedIn Sales Navigator and LinkedIn Recruiter accounts where the search works in a slightly different way to on the normal system. These accounts use something called ‘Guided Search’ which as the name suggests, will guide you, primarily in terms of job titles, to focus in on certain job titles essentially pushes you down certain routes.
The issue with this is that companies use very different terms to describe the same job role – so if you simply follow the guided search suggestions then you are getting the same list as everyone else and you will be missing out on many potential targets who don’t fit that. You know your target market best, so bring your expertise to the search and create a search which truly reflects who you are looking for.
3) Know how you will use the information you get from LinkedIn
Finding the right people, however, is not even half of the battle although it can frequently be both time consuming and one of the key sticking blocks for sales people. Sales Navigator of course helps massively in that respect but you then need to have a plan to approach, inform and sell to them which, let’s be honest, will partly be on LinkedIn but will primarily be face to face and through your normal channels.
Essentially, the challenge is how to use that information to increase the flow of awareness and opportunities into the sales funnel or your internal sales process, however you prefer to describe that internally. This will be something that is organised at a team or company level rather than within the LinkedIn system.
Therefore it’s important to have a process and a way of using the information, news, introductions, contacts that you gather to make use of the work that you have put it but also to benefit from the background (you might even call it “grunt”) work that Sales Navigator is able to alleviate, allowing you to best take the sales process forward in a coherent and successful way.
All of these three elements are things that you need to be on top of mo matter what account you have on LinkedIn … and that’s the point really. For many of us, if you can use all of the capabilities of the free account effectively then you can get a great deal out of it and it’ll will already open more opportunities than you would expect.
However, adding in Sales Navigator and its ever expanding options, takes it to another level and gives additional insights as well as bringing together information, openings and warm routes to the stakeholders in your target companies.