If you've been online lately, you may have noticed LinkedIn's prospecting tools geared to help salespeople. Some of those services include tools to efficiently prospect within LinkedIn's network, premium services that allow greater depth and information on those you wish to contact, and even a Reference Search where you can get a list of people in your network who can (if they choose) provide a reference for someone you want to connect with.
These services may interest you and may be worth $24 a month or more, but don't attempt to let technology and social media do the prospecting or networking for you. LinkedIn claims that a premium account will help you find and contact the right people but what you say when you approach a prospect will make all the difference—it will either make that subscription fee worth it or make you feel like you've wasted your money.
Unfortunately, I come across more salespeople who feel they wasted their money than those who actually make progress. And here's why: No amount of additional services can take the place of your own ability to attract quality prospects through empathy, expertise, and problem solving capabilities. There are plenty of other salespeople prospecting and requesting to connect on LinkedIn every day. You can either be seen as one of many who letting the technology speak for them—or as one of the few who know how to approach a human prospect.
Because all your prospects are humans, the rules of approaching them aren’t different just because LinkedIn did some research for you. As you attempt to connect on LinkedIn, take the time first to create a valid business reason. A valid business reason illustrates why the person you want to engage with will benefit by engaging with you. I once read an InMail a salesperson sent to the CEO of a company she felt could benefit from the product she sold, and she received one of the best responses a salesperson could receive. The CEO not only gave her the name of the person she needed to talk to, but also went further and asked that person to contact her as well. He also noted that her email was one of the best he had ever read. He rarely responds to solicitations on LinkedIn, but hers was so compelling, he had to respond. To top it off, he said if she ever wanted a sales career in his industry, to give him a call. Wow!
This particular salesperson stood out because her email went well beyond a request to connect. It was a valid business reason to connect, one that showed she understood his business, and the challenges it faced. She illustrated that she knew about trends in his business and she shared a few ideas on how she could help. In other words, she was one of the few who prospect wisely on LinkedIn, not one of the many who get ignored.
LinkedIn's tools can be used to enhance your business development efforts, too, but don't forget: no amount of additional InMails, search results, or filters will help you get an appointment with the right person. Sure, the premium services LinkedIn offers gave her some valuable information, but it is how you use the service that matters most.