Prospect Smarter Using LinkedIn

Feb 23, 2021
Author: Collin Stewart

What Should Be Done Before Reaching Out To A Prospect?

LinkedIn is a sales channel that is ripe with opportunity, for those who know how to use it effectively. In particular, it’s a medium that is highly conducive to building trust in prospects. “A lot of people can see a ton of information about you right off the bat when they go to your profile; if you have it set up correctly” explains Brandon. 

Before even thinking about contacting a prospect, it’s important to ensure that you are using LinkedIn in the right way. Fortunately, there are tools available to help you with this. As users of LinkedIn Premium and Sales Navigator may be aware, the Social Selling Index is one such solution. 

The Social Selling Index consists of four pillars. These are:

  • Professional Brand 
  • Right Prospects
  • Engage And Be Engaging
  • Build Trust

You can check how you are performing on these metrics compared to other people in your industry and others with the same job title as you. “This gives you a really good base-point to see how you’re utilizing LinkedIn” says Brandon. The “Build Trust” pillar is particularly important to get right before approaching prospects.

This is a measure of the content that you have placed on your profile. “How you’re telling a story about how you’re helping your customers out” adds Brandon. “Those sorts of things all go a really long way towards building that social proof, building that trust, before you’ve even met somebody”. 

For Bernard, both the “Engage And Be Engaging” and the “Build Trust” pillars of the Social Selling Index are of the utmost importance from the perspective of SDRs. “Constantly put yourself out there, constantly post relevant content” he says. “Don’t hide behind the profile picture.”

Optimizing Your Profile

One of the first things you should do before reaching out to a prospect is optimizing your LinkedIn profile. “In terms of optimizing your profile”, “There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit there”, posits Brandon. “And a couple of really quick adjustments can be made that will have a big impact.”

Ensuring that you have consistency across your brand is a valuable starting point. Your marketing department is no doubt working hard to produce a lot of great content, so utilize this effectively. For instance, make sure you place an inviting branded banner at the top of your profile.

Your headline is another key area to focus on. This is something that should set the tone for the rest of the profile. “A lot of people create their LinkedIn Profile as if it’s a CV or a resume selling themselves rather than selling the company they’re working for” affirms Brandon. 

Rather than writing your position in your company, consider briefly describing how you help certain personas to achieve certain tasks. “The summary within your profile and the job description can follow that as well,” he adds. “Telling a story about how you help your customers goes much further as social proof than saying you constantly hit your quotas.”

 Of course, it is completely fine to share some of your accolades and achievements on LinkedIn. But you will construct a more impactful and engaging profile if you do not place these front and center. “If you’re utilizing this channel for reaching out to prospects, they’ll visit your profile to determine what you’re about,” says Brandon. “If you’re talking about people like them, and how your organization helps them, that’s going to resonate with them more than your work history will.”

Reaching Out To Prospects

Once you have optimized your profile to make it more engaging and start building trust, you’re ready to approach prospects. But what’s the best approach? Should you go for the hard sell, and directly pitch as you connect with someone?

For Bernard, this is an easy question to address. “To answer that question: no. Try really hard not to pitch in your opening message” he states. “Flow into it, make a conversation.” Brandon agrees with this sentiment and urges caution in your approach to prospects. “The biggest recommendation I would make to people is to not be immediately ‘salesy’ on LinkedIn. It’s a social platform, and there’s a social debt you have to pay before you, for example, ask someone to view a demo.”

Importantly, there’s a balance to be struck between engaging socially with prospects and pitching to them. As with many sales activities, the key is to carefully test what works through trial-and-error. “You’re going to have to do some testing and some iterating with your messaging”, adds Brandon. 

It’s useful to keep the sales funnel model in mind and to consider all of the individual steps therein. You want to make each of these steps as easy as possible for your prospect to say yes. “The first barrier that you need to overcome” elucidates Brandon “is just getting them to say yes to accepting your invitation on LinkedIn. So, don’t send an invitation message that ‘sells’ right away.”

To help illustrate these points, Brandon and Bernard have some examples of first messages to prospects in a sequence that have worked for them. 

Crafting Your Message: Example 1

Invitation Message

Hi NAME,

I’ve been working in the innovation management space for a few years, and it appears we share some common ground. 

Are you open to connecting to discuss the high-level trends shaping the future of material innovation?

Follow Up 

Thanks for connecting NAME,

Do you have any time free in the next few days to share a few ideas?

Disruptive innovations such as advanced plastic recycling, 3D printing, materials informatics, omics, graphene, blockchain, and 2D materials are creating massive opportunities.

I’d love to discuss how you can take advantage of the emerging technologies disrupting the materials, construction, and manufacturing space.

This example shows how they establish relevance and make it easy for the prospect to say yes. These have been sent to innovation professionals in the construction and materials industry, with a request to discuss high-end developments. As Brandon explains, “this is their world! You’re not saying right off the bat, are you open to getting on a call with me?”

There is no hard sell; it’s a soft approach that demonstrates shared interests between both parties. “There’s no solution offered, there’s no pitch” describes Bernard. “I’m not offering anything; I’m engaging in a discussion because it’s a social platform. Be social, on a social platform.”

The follow-up message continues this gentle style, reinforcing the idea that they occupy similar areas. “It’s relevant, and it’s a super-soft ask” explains Brandon. “It asks ‘Are you open to connecting, as we’re in the same space?’ A lot of people are going to say yes to that.” 

A key point here is that they have done sufficient research to know precisely what their prospects’ interests are. When you develop your campaigns, make an effort to find out what your prospects are focusing on in their industry and some of the jobs they’re trying to achieve in that space, Brandon explains. “You can then weave that into your messaging.”

Crafting Your Message: Example 2

Invitation Message

Hi NAME

I see you’re in the analytics space as well.

I’m trying to understand how analytics leaders are thinking about Power BI Integrations, and I’d really appreciate your input!

Follow Up

Thanks for connecting NAME,

I’m trying to understand challenges that might exist around automating data flow between Power BI and your custom software.

Have you ever faced any challenges building data pipelines into power BI?

In this example, the team used “looking for input” as a call to action. Research had revealed that Power BI Integrations were a current bone of contention for people working in this field. So, including an invitation to discuss this area was likely to resonate with prospects.

This use of input-oriented language regarding the issue of Power BI Integrations was continued in the follow-up message. “A lot of them have faced challenges with this, and if they’re facing a challenge right now, this can lead to a call that’s quite strong,” explains Brandon. 

Bernard agrees with this assessment, adding, “when you’re mentioning the challenges they’ve faced, you’re suggesting that you might have a solution to the problem.” This can be an added incentive for your prospect to engage with you.

Crafting Your Message: Example 3

Invitation Message

Hi NAME,

I saw your response on NAMES article on ML model deployment and wanted to reach out.

I’d love to connect to share our thoughts on new methods to accelerate model training and validation.

Follow Up

Thanks for connecting NAME,

Do you have any free time in the next few days to share a few ideas?

I’d love to share how our platform optimizes the labeling process to reduce model iteration times.

I’m trying to understand how analytics leaders are thinking about Power BI Integrations, and I’d really appreciate your input!

This third example’s methodology is based on contacting people who have engaged with LinkedIn posts relevant to your business. Specifically, the team was offering a solution that helps people accelerate their ML Model deployment. Accordingly, they found people who were responding to articles on this topic. “The connection rate for this campaign was around 45%,”  said Brandon “so almost half the people we’re reaching out to are connecting with us”.

“The follow-up message is super concise”, adds Brandon. It also departs from the previous examples by using a slightly more aggressive style. If you have a compelling solution that fills a major gap, you can be a bit harder in your approach. “This one’s not very soft, it’s like I’d love to discuss how we do this, or how we help that” explains Brandon. “But this strategy is still getting a lot of positive responses because they have massive differentiation in their space.”

The Timing of Your Messages

It is also necessary to carefully consider the timing of your sequences. While you don’t want to come across as needlessly aggressive, you do need to strike while the iron is hot. “A good proportion of those people who accept your invite who are going to respond, will respond within half an hour to an hour,” asserts Brandon.

Accordingly, it’s important that you get your follow-up message sent as soon as possible after the connection is made. This will help narrow down your results to those most likely to end in a sale.

“Once you see that connection, the earlier you can get this follow-up message sent, the better,” explains Brandon. “If you can do it within 15 – 30 minutes, you have an opportunity to filter out people who you don’t want to be speaking with. If you don’t get the second message out quickly, then the first message alone might result in you receiving many false positives.”

Converting The Meeting

There is a whole spectrum of possible responses to your overtures to prospects. Even amongst the positive responses, these can range from “weak positive” to “strong positive”. It’s important that you gauge this accurately and respond accordingly. “You don’t want to force yourself on the prospect” explains Bernard.

If you get a strong positive, then an important next step is to source the prospect’s business email. Bernard posits that a reliable way of doing this is asking: “do you mind providing a business email so that we can solidify a time in our calendars?”. “It’s almost a call to action” explains Bernard, “and you put the ball in that person’s court. They’ll then feel more motivated to respond to you in an appropriate time.

If you would like to hear more advice and guidance from Brandon, Bernard, and Sarah on how to prospect smarter on LinkedIn, including tips on how to build more effective searches on Sales Navigator, you can listen to the full conversation below.

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