Skip to content
August 19, 2010 / Tony Arena

HOW TO: Prospect for the right customers using LinkedIn

Over the past few years, the unstable business environment has impacted many companies resulting in unpredictable revenues and limited growth. To counteract the situation, lost customers must be replaced and new business won.

There are three ways a company can win new business:
1. A customer contacts them directly
2. Salespeople reach out and generate leads
3. Marketing programmes generate new leads

Today, many companies are limited in what can be allocated to marketing budgets; therefore, salespeople must generate sales leads. This article considers the affect the social network website, LinkedIn is having on sales lead generation, outlining how salespeople are using it to add new opportunities to prospect lists and to plan approaching prospects, to avoid the dreaded cold call and potential rejection. This is based on recent research carried out by Glenomena.

Lead Generation as part of the sales process.
A typical sales process has seven steps:

1. Prospecting – seeking out new sales opportunities
2. Pre-approach – planning to approach the prospect to qualify them
3. Approach – gaining their attention
4. Presentation – submitting a proposal
5. Handling objections – overcoming any objections to doing business
6. Closing – finalising the deal
7. Follow-up – customer relationship management
Sales lead generation covers the steps 1-3: prospecting, pre-approach and approach.

The purpose of a sales lead generation program is to turn suspects into qualified prospects. The role of the salesperson is to engage with the buyer, create an interest and obtain an action that will move the prospect to the next step in the sales process.

Suspects versus Prospects
A suspect is a subjective opinion not based on fact while a qualified prospect meets
the following criteria:
1. They have a need
2. They have a budget
3. They have authority
4. They are receptive to a call.
A list of suspects can be obtained from multiple sources; on-line reports, chamber of commerce, conferences and exhibition lists, on-line and off-line business networks etc. For many salespeople, on-line business network websites such as LinkedIn have become invaluable tools that are now part of daily working lives. Salespeople are seeking out new opportunities using four main features of LinkedIn

  • Companies
  • Groups
  • People
  • Broadcast

LinkedIn allows a user search for companies by industry sector and location. This can return previously unknown companies that the salesperson can add to the suspect list, which can then be qualified. By searching company data, LinkedIn returns statistics such as where employees worked previously, or where they now work subsequent to leaving the company. LinkedIn also returns a list of people following the company and salespeople can search this list for companies to add to prospect lists.

LinkedIn allows users form groups, so as to attract prospects by positioning themselves as thought leaders. While the majority of sales people are not forming own groups, many participate in groups as a means of looking and listening for new opportunities. An advantage of being a member of a group is that the salesperson can communicate directly with the prospect without being connected to them.

The broadcast features on LinkedIn allow users share interesting articles or topics with connections, or anybody who reviews their profile, as a way of attracting new prospects.

LinkedIn allows users search for potential buyers by job title. For example, a search can be conducted for all supply-line managers in the automotive industry, in Germany. This returns a list of suspects that the sales person can use to start to qualify. Salespeople are also searching connection’s connections to identify companies that can be put on to the prospecting list.

Once a list of suspects has been generated the salesperson can utilise several prospecting techniques to avoid the dreaded cold call. The salesperson should attempt to obtain a warm introduction to the decision-maker via business networks.

Techniques include:
1. Referral approach: Obtain a referral from an existing customer
2. Introduction approach: Ask a business contact with a connection to the prospect for an introduction
3. Non-competing salesperson: Ask a non-competing salesperson for an introduction
4. Business organisation: Use on-line groups and forums as a way to reach the prospect

Salespeople are employing the abovementioned pre-approach techniques using connections from LinkedIn to create the warm introduction opportunity. Checking a prospect’s profile on a social network website has the potential to guide the initial conversation that will allow the sales person build rapport quickly.

At this point, the salesperson must now reach out and grab the potential buyer’s attention and get a call to action. This can be via email or telephone. Advice for telephone calls includes:

  • Having a telephone script stressing benefits
  • Selecting the appropriate timing for call
  • Having a call to action

When making a telephone call
1. Be positive and upbeat
2. Say your name and your company’s name
3. Lead with any of the following:

  • 3rd party reference
  • Follow-up from email/literature sent
  • Statement of known problem/business issue
  • Pertinent point made by someone in industry about known problem

4. Qualify – Are you responsible for ….?
5. Obtain a call to action: Face-to-face, proposal, presentation etc..

Some advice for sending the initial email:

  • Keep it short and succinct recognising that it might be read on an iPhone or
  • Use an effective email header
  • Avoid wasting time: qualify them…’Are you the person with responsibility for …?’
  • Draw in with a succinct email referring to:
    o 3rd party reference
    o Statement of known problem
    o Pertinent point made by someone in industry about known problem
    o Your Customer Value Proposition
  • Know your call to action: e.g. ‘I will call you on Thursday at 14.00′, ‘Can I meet you on the 24th at 10.00.

In terms of the on-line business network, LinkedIn; salespeople are also using it to approach potential prospects through participation in discussion groups. This allows them to communicate with potential customers without being connected to them first.

Some salespeople are using the premium service on LinkedIn, which allows them to send 10 INmails per month to members of the database even if not connected. The advantage of this type of communication is it allows the receiver to qualify the sender by sector, connections or offering and avoids the email getting caught in the receiver company’s firewall.

Sales organisations are continuously working to find better and more efficient ways to locate leads, qualify them and convert them to customers. On-line Social Network Sites such as LinkedIn are altering the way professionals communicate with each other. Organisations are using these technologies to get closer to customers, to generate leads, qualify prospects and manage account relationships.

Despite current economic challenges when marketing budgets are limited and salespeople have to do lead generation, a program that is planned and managed well, using all the available tools and prospecting techniques can turn suspects into qualified prospects, putting a salesperson in a position to win new business.

Originally posted on:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: