LinkedIn has revolutionized the way over 259 million business people connect with one another, making it an incredibly valuable resource for B2B companies. For B2B sales professionals, LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is an especially useful tool as it allows users to extensively search LinkedIn’s vast network, identify and connect with prospects and pitch them on their products or services.
But Sales Navigator isn’t just a repository of potential leads. As LinkedIn’s strategic account executive Brian Tietje explains:
“The biggest mistake salespeople make is using LinkedIn like a database. They only use it to mine for leads. But people do business with people they like and respect. The only way to build that kind of relationship is with the people element—all that gooey stuff that business people try to avoid.”
To find out how B2B sales professionals can use Sales Navigator more effectively, I spoke to several LinkedIn experts. Based on their advice, here are three effective ways to leverage Sales Navigator to land more sales appointments.
Quickly Identify Your Ideal Prospect With Advanced Searches
You already understand the demographics of your best buyers, but how do you find them on LinkedIn? Top LinkedIn sellers are skilled users of Lead Builder, a premium tool from LinkedIn that allows you to create and save prospect lists using focused search filters such as seniority level, company size, interests and years of experience. LinkedIn claims that, among sales reps who use LinkedIn in their sales process, those who use Lead Builder have a 44 percent higher win rate than those who use only the free account.
Matt Haley is a sales development representative at Single Grain, a San Francisco-based digital marketing agency. He has a 40 percent response rate from prospect lists he builds using Lead Builder. Here’s his process for building a quality prospect list:
- Use Boolean operators to quickly locate prospects. When applicable, Haley will use a boolean operator for keyword search. For example, if he’s selling to CEOs in the financial services or accounting industry, he could use the following search: title: (CEO OR “Chief Executive Officer”) AND industry: (“Financial services” OR Accounting) to see only the profiles of his potential prospects.
- Narrow the list by looking for connections. Haley pares the list down further by adding only those prospects with whom he has a mutual connection. To find other possible connections, he clicks on the company page of the prospect’s employer and looks for any connections he has to other employees.
“The most crucial element is really knowing your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP),” Haley says. ICP characteristics may include location, size of organization, industry or any other criteria used to determine those who are most likely to buy from you. “Beyond that, simply using the advanced search filters is the best way to generate new prospecting lists on a daily basis,” he explains.
Score a Personal Introduction With TeamLink
LinkedIn introductions are valuable because they’re solicited through a trusted source—a common connection between you and your prospect. Top LinkedIn sellers find more ways to earn introductions by using TeamLink. The tool lets you quickly see how others on your sales team are connected to prospects so you can identify the best path to an introduction. A regular LinkedIn account only allows introductions through the mutual contacts you share with a prospect. TeamLink, on the other hand, also allows introductions through the mutual connections of your team members, colleagues and ex-colleagues. Using this Sales Navigator feature exponentially increases your number of opportunities for introductions to prospects.
Neal Schaffer, founder and editor-in-chief of Maximize Social Business, says that the best strategy to ask for an introduction on LinkedIn is to approach it the same way you would if you were asking in person. When reaching out, give your connection all the information they need in order to properly introduce you. To this end, Schaffer recommends including the include three elements in your request:
- Briefly explain how you want to be introduced.
- Explain why you want an introduction and how you can help the prospect.
- Save the sales pitch for after the connection is made.
Here’s an example of an introduction containing these elements:
“Hi John, I noticed that you’re connected with Jane Smith, an IT director at Awesome, Inc. I specialize in optimizing analytics software that IT departments depend on for high performance. I’d like to send Jane a white paper just published by Big Industry News that may help her when she plans her next IT project. Would you be so kind as to introduce us? If you aren’t comfortable, I understand. But if you can, it would be much appreciated! Thank you, and please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can return the favor. All the best, Jack Smith IT Analytics Consultant”
Bonus: How to Create a Cold Connection Request
Sometimes there’s no avenue for an introduction to a prospect you’re targeting—but this doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a connection. Kurt Shaver is founder of The Sales Foundry, a company that trains businesses on how to use social selling tools. Shaver’s clients typically see a 15-20 percent increase in sales appointments within 60 days of completing his LinkedIn Sales Navigator training program.
He shares the following three-step formula for requesting a connection in cases where no prior introduction has been made:
Step 1: Establish context and build rapport. Differentiate yourself from spammers by explaining how you know the person you’re contacting and the common interest or background you share.
Step 2: Position yourself. Tell them about yourself, sticking to facts that are relevant to the reason you’re contacting them.
Step 3: Call to action. Be clear about why you want to connect. Example of cold invitation request using this formula: “Hi, Janna. I saw your inquiry in HARO for LinkedIn success stories. I was impressed that Software Advice has helped 151,499 buyers find the right software. I’ve trained thousands of salespeople how to use LinkedIn. Please accept my invitation and let’s see how we can help each other.”
Shaver says this strategy results in high acceptance rates because it presents the sender as a true professional. This is in stark contrast to the default LinkedIn message—“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”—which leaves a prospect asking, “Who is this person and why should I connect with them?”
Build an Authentic Relationship Before You Pitch
Once you’ve identified a prospect and have been successfully introduced by a mutual connection, what do you say in your initial outreach? Don’t start with your sales pitch—it will immediately rub your prospect the wrong way and shut down the chance of establishing a sales relationship. Barbara Giamanco, CEO of Social Centered Selling and co-author of “The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media,” shares the following example of a LinkedIn sales message “gone wrong”:
“A major cloud CRM company sent me a few emails with their sales pitch for a new product telling me about how great their company and product was. They wanted to demo it for me. I ignored it because it was spammy. Then I received a LinkedIn message from one of the company’s salespeople with the exact same message. I ignored it again. A few days later the salesperson sent me a LinkedIn message with the exact same message. I couldn’t believe it! I marked it as spam at that point.”
The company in this example was clearly interested in telling prospects about the benefits of their new product, but failed to tell their prospect what they really cared about—how the product can actually help them. Launching right into a sales pitch communicates you don’t understand your prospect’s needs and are only interested in the sale. Giamanco says you have to earn the sale by first being genuine and making an effort to learn how you can help a prospect. “Social selling is less about selling and more about giving,” she explains. “Only then will you be a salesperson someone actually wants to work with.” Here are a few creative ways to show a prospect you want to help them:
- Offer to introduce your new connection to someone in your network who could also be helpful to them;
- Boost their visibility in your network by sharing a piece of their content in your groups;
- Send a handwritten note congratulating them on a recent business achievement; and
- Connect them to a conference opportunity that increases their visibility with leaders in their field.
When you give with sincerity, you demonstrate credibility, which helps establish trust with your prospect. You also prove that you’re interested in more than a sale—you’re looking to cultivate a relationship, which means prospects are more likely to be receptive when you ask them to become a customer.
Ask for the Sales Appointment
Many experts actually advise against asking for sales appointments via LinkedIn. As Giamanco explains, sending impersonal, unsolicited messages to any profile you can find is a sure way to strike out. But, if you smartly approach a prospect and find they’re receptive, you can absolutely land a sales appointment via Linkedin. Shaver experienced success when he found he shared connections with the prospect he was targeting; the VP of sales at a technology company:
“I contacted him through a LinkedIn InMail message. I mentioned our common connections and asked if new customer acquisitions was a high priority for his new sales team. He acknowledged that it was so I explained that I worked with a number of companies like his teaching sales teams how to leverage LinkedIn to reach decision makers. He said he was interested, so we scheduled a meeting. Two months later, I was hired to speak at his company’s national sales meeting.”
If used properly, LinkedIn can be a nice compliment to a salesperson’s arsenal. And the information in Sales Navigator can give you meaningful insights into an immense pool of potential buyers. But access to that information is only an advantage when you bring value to the community of prospects you’re targeting. As Tietje sums it up: “LinkedIn and Sales Navigator take to a different level what we do everyday. We want to be efficient. We want to leverage our knowledge and resources. We want to connect. The most successful salespeople are those who have a helping mindset.”