How to Use LinkedIn for Prospecting and Sales

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Hi everyone, my name is Rich Brooks. We're going to get started today, and as I mentioned before, I'm going to deliver about 30 minutes worth of content and then open it up for Q&A. I probably will not have an opportunity to answer questions while the presentation is going on, but I am going to stick around afterwards to answer all your questions about sales and prospecting on LinkedIn, about LinkedIn in general, about digital marketing in general. I want this to be a valuable use of your time, so grab your cup of coffee, grab your water, grab your lunch, dinner, breakfast, whatever you're eating right now, and let's jump in.

Today we’re going to be talking and looking at one of my favorite social media platforms, LinkedIn. Man, that makes me sound old and lame all at the same time, but it's true. First off, I run a B2B – a business to business – company, flyte new media, so of course LinkedIn is a platform that works for my business. If you're in B2B, you should be investing a lot more of your time here as well.

Secondly, any political or COVID discussions on LinkedIn are much more practical, helpful, and a lot less partisan than they are on any other platforms…Facebook. And thirdly, there's a lot less boasting about how little Jimmy learned to swim or graduated with honors from kindergarten. So that's also good.

Now I've spoken and presented a lot about LinkedIn in the past, but today we're going to be looking through the lens of prospecting and sales. That means I'm going to focus most of my attention over the next 30 minutes on those elements of LinkedIn. If you have a question about something outside of the material today, I'm happy to try and answer it during our Q&A session immediately following the presentation.

So why LinkedIn? I've given you a few reasons. I like it, but there's a bunch more. With 300 million active monthly users there are a lot of potential clients here for you, a lot of vendors. Also, unlike some other platforms, you don't need to invest hours of your day here to rise above the rest. Just a few minutes a day and you'll probably be in the top 5% of all LinkedIn users. LinkedIn has plenty of tools for building your platform on LinkedIn. You can create engaging posts, publish meaningful articles, and deliver videos – even live video – and a whole lot more. And where we're focusing our attention today, LinkedIn offers a lot of tools for finding and connecting with the right people. And that's where we'll put our attention today.

So for those of you who don't know who I am, my name is Rich Brooks, I'm the President of flyte new media. We are a web design and internet marketing company located in beautiful Portland, Maine. I also founded The Agents of Change, it's a weekly podcast and an annual conference, during non COVID times, right here in Portland, Maine as well. We get about 400 people to show up and bring in digital marketing experts from around the world to share how you can reach more of your ideal customers through search, social, and mobile marketing.

I'm the tech guru on 207, that's the evening news program here on the NBC affiliate in Maine. And I wrote a book called The Lead Machine – The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing, which is available on Amazon. More recently, I co-founded Fast Forward Maine, which is a resource for growing Maine businesses. And I also do a lot of in-person and virtual training for executives and sales teams on LinkedIn, everything from building a thought leadership platform to prospecting for new clients.

So today, here's what I'd like to cover. First of all, how to stand out on LinkedIn through an optimized profile and maximizing your LinkedIn feed, how to find your ideal customers on LinkedIn, and the ins and outs of LinkedIn's paid sales and prospecting tool, Sales Navigator.

Now to stand out on LinkedIn, you should really start with your profile. I recommend you don't do anything until you've optimized your profile. People will check out your profile for a number of different reasons, but especially after you reach out to connect with them. If prospecting is your purpose, and I'm guessing it is if you're here today, then you're going to want to leverage your profile to build credibility and trust with your prospects. In addition, you can use your profile to position yourself as an expert and to make yourself more findable in the LinkedIn search, reverse prospecting.

Now, while the profile stretches down much further than what I'm showing on my screen right now here, you can see three critical sections; the header, about, and featured. I want to talk for a few minutes on each of these. Let's start with the header section.

Now, the first thing you want to do is make sure that you have a professional headshot here, not a company logo, not your dog, as adorable as he or she may be, and not a picture from a party where you had to crop out your best friend who's arm is still mysteriously hanging around your shoulder. That's fine for Facebook or Instagram, but it won't work here on LinkedIn.

Next you're going to want to replace the default LinkedIn header image with a custom image. I have a photo here you can see of me presenting on stage, with some overlay text describing what I do and who I am. And I also am showing off my three main brands; flyte, The Agents of Change, and Fast Forward Maine. You should find an image that's right for you. LinkedIn just changed its design and its new default header image is even worse than what it was before. So absolutely that's something you should change. And I see a lot of people who put up just a generic photo, they're like a nice landscape or a pile of pencils or something. I don't think that those do much more than the original image. So I'd really recommend that you spend a little bit of time putting together the right header image for you. You also might consider having a company header image. At flyte we designed a graphic that our team can use if they want to. I obviously went with a custom image, but that is something that you might want to do for branding purposes for the people in your company.

Now, below your name, you'll see your headline. The current trend, which I hopped on, is to briefly describe what you do for people, not what your title is. Because a lot of people use LinkedIn search tool – which we'll get into – consider using some likely search terms in your headline. As you can see from mine, I include things like digital marketing, SEO, social media, and so on.

The next section is the ‘about’ section. Many people put in a line or two about themselves, but really that's a missed opportunity. You can have up to 2,000 characters in the ‘about’ section, so use them. This is another place to put your keywords people will use when they're searching for someone just like you. LinkedIn search algorithm is pretty basic compared to say something like Google's. So a few quick changes can make a huge difference in your visibility in LinkedIn.

Another tip is write in the first person. There's no HTML. There's not even bold italics or bullets, but you can still get creative. Use emojis, use white space, do what you can to stand out and have a killer opening line, as LinkedIn only shows the first couple of lines of your bio until somebody clicks on more. Mine tells my origin story and includes a psychic, so it kind of stands out.

The last section I'm going to focus on today is the featured section. This is where you can add different types of media, including articles, slide decks, photos, videos, and more. You should add relevant content here that will further enhance who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. There's a lot more that you can do to enhance your profile. And if you're interested, I put together another LinkedIn webinar training session that's available on demand on our website that goes much more into all the elements of your LinkedIn profile. Definitely recommend checking it out. Again, you can find it on our website. But when I do an email wrap up after this, I'll be sure to include that link as well.

Another way to gain visibility and build awareness and trust is through the feed on LinkedIn. The feed on LinkedIn is a lot like Facebook's feed. People post things and the LinkedIn algorithm determines how many people see the post as well as who sees it, based on some recent research that was done, which I'll share in that follow up email.

I mentioned there are several ways to maximize your visibility in the feed. The first is, the best time to post is from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM. And it seems to be east coast time, so that's a little strange. I don't know why that is, but this is what the research seemed to show. So try getting in the habit of posting something in the morning.

If you want it to get a little bit more visibility, also a higher SSI score – which I'll get into in just a minute, what that is and how to raise it – a higher SSI score equals more reach. An all-star rating also equals more reach. If you're not sure if you have an all-star re rating, you can just go to your LinkedIn profile and scroll down to your dashboard section – which is visible only to you – and you'll see whether or not you have the all-star rating. And basically this comes down to how much of your profile you've actually completed. So the more complete your profile, the more reach you get.

Also 3 – 10 hashtags. Now this is fairly new. The old advice was three hashtags only, but now it appears more is better, to a degree. Now I'm someone who doesn't like the look of a lot of hashtags. It feels messy and desperate to me. So I'll probably still keep to 3 – 5, but do what feels right for you.

And also tag appropriately. What do I mean by that? Well, in your post you can tag somebody just like you would tag them on Facebook with that little @ sign and then type out their name or their company and it pops up and then you can basically select them. That's great in terms of LinkedIn will send a message to that company or to the person or to the people that you've tagged in your post that could increase your visibility and get more activity on your post. However, if you tag a bunch of people in your post and they don't respond to your posts, that actually works against you. So again, only tag people if there's really good reason why they're going to be tagged in that post.

Now, a lot of these rules are about the algorithm and tweaking it and maximizing it. I always say algorithms are great, but at the end of the day you still want to do the thing that's best for you outside of the algorithm. If it makes sense to tag somebody even though you don't think that they're going to respond, then go ahead and tag somebody. Just be aware that it could hurt your overall reach.

Another way of building or using the feed to build rapport is to follow people you want to be in contact with, but maybe seem to be out of reach. Maybe you've already reached out to them but they haven't responded, whatever the case may be. So liking, commenting, and sharing their content within the feed is one way to kind of get your name in front of them so there's a certain familiarity when you do reach out to them again. Something about the feed is, it can take a lot longer for a post to heat up on LinkedIn than it does on Facebook, but then it also sticks around a lot longer than it does on Facebook, too. So it can be very beneficial for you that way.

Now I mentioned this SSI earlier, SSI stands for “social selling index”. And it's basically one part of the LinkedIn algorithm on whether or not you get the visibility you're hoping for. So you can find out what your own social selling index, your own SSI score is, just go to So again, I'll put that in the notes, but Now you may be prompted to log into Sales Navigator, which we're going to get into when you get there. But to be honest, it's just your LinkedIn credentials. So just add your LinkedIn credentials. And so even if you don't pay for Sales Navigator, you should still be able to access your score.

Now there are four components that drive your SSI score, and it's fairly easy to raise it quickly by taking a few actions a day. There's four components or four pillars that build your SSI score, and they're weighted equally. According to LinkedIn, the first one is to establish your professional brand. A lot of what that means are all the things I discussed in optimizing your profile and maximizing the feed. So follow those instructions and you'll be well on your way to establishing your professional brand on LinkedIn.

The next thing is to find the right people. Now many of the things LinkedIn rewards in this category are things that are easier to do, or you can only do them through Sales Navigator. That's problematic if you don't want to pay for Sales Navigator. Some of the things that Sales Navigator is required for; carry out advanced account searches, save leads and use the lead builder tool. In fact, those are all Sales Navigator only things. So you're only going to get all the points here if you're using Sales Navigator. However, even if you don't upgrade to sales navigator, you can improve your score here by running advanced people searches – which we'll go into in a moment – view people's profiles, and look at who's viewed your profiles. All things that are available in the free version of LinkedIn.

They also want you to engage with Insights. And I don't really like the way this is phrased because Facebook's analytics are called Insights. That's not what they're talking about here. What this means is that you will follow relevant hashtags. You can follow hashtags within LinkedIn, join relevant groups, and engage with them. So find the right groups and make sure that those groups actually have an ongoing conversation, and then comment and share other people's posts.

And the last piece is to build relationships. And that comes down to your total number of connections. It also looks at your Vice President level and above connections. So you don't want to just be connecting with the entry level interns. Internal connections, how many of your coworkers you're connected to, and the acceptance rate for the request sent. So if you're sending out requests to everybody and they're not really responding to you, and that can actually hurt.

So let's take a look at prospecting, and we're going to start with LinkedIn's free tools. As an example, if you were looking to get in front of decision makers in the construction field, you would start by searching for ‘owner’ in the search bar on LinkedIn, and then selecting people. I know this makes more sense, like why don't you search start searching for construction companies and then go to owners, but it just works better this way has always been my experience. So we search for the position we want to go after, and then we select ‘people’. And this takes us to a page that looks something like this, which is all the owners basically on LinkedIn, 21 million of them. That's a little broad, can't really get through that, so we might want to filter that down.

Luckily, LinkedIn gives us some filtering tools, and you can see here that there are three that they show right off the bat; connections, current companies, and locations. But you can also click on all filters, which I'll do here. So here's all filters and you can see some of them right now, connections. Are they your first connection, second connection or third or more connection? And in this case, I want to just go after people who I'm connected to, or one degree away, so first and second connections. I can also filter down by are they connected to somebody I know. So I can put that person's name in there, which I left blank.

I can also search by location, and here I've selected all the New England states, except for Connecticut. No offense to Connecticut, it's just a little bit further away. So I selected those five states. I can select by current companies, which is very valuable, but I'm not using here. Past companies, industries, this is where I put in ‘construction’. And of course you would put in whatever makes sense for you; profile language, schools, there's even more stuff down below that you can more narrowly filter what you're looking for.

Once I've done that and I hit ‘apply’, now I have a much narrower group of people, only 1,800 people to sort through. So that can be helpful. And then the next step is trying to connect with these people and leaving them a note, which we're going to come back to in a minute. But I want to show you what the Sales Navigator tool can do for you.

Now I had been a longtime proponent of only use the LinkedIn free version. The only person who needs to pay for LinkedIn is a head hunter or somebody who's in charge of a membership organization. But because of the way LinkedIn has changed over the years and removed some of their free tools. I'm actually now using Sales Navigator. I actually used it free for a month and then decided it was actually pretty valuable and kept it.

And I'm using, you can see here, there's three different levels. Most people are going to use the professional level version, although there is a team version, you can take a look at that, too. So whatever one makes the most sense for you. So I'm paying $65 a month basically for this tool.

When you log into your Sales Navigator, which is well connected to LinkedIn but not exactly the same thing. You can see in the middle instead of the newsfeed I get alerts from people I’m following, people I'm connected to, maybe what leads or accounts are posting to LinkedIn. And then some other recommended leads on the right hand side, as well as jump back in, what were you doing last. And then across the top you can see that there's navigation where I can go to my lists, my safe searches, my messages, and then some administrative tasks as well.

I'll do the same search I did before. I'm going to type out ‘owner’ and do a search. And I don't have a screen capture for this, but I basically added in the same filters that I did before. And in the left-hand column, you can see the five New England States that I selected, first and second degree. And basically a lot of the same information, nothing too different at this point, but there are some additional filters. But some of my favorite are actually right at the top of the screen. So you can see the 1,500+ total results, but you can also see people who have recently changed jobs. So that can be very valuable if somebody just came into that position.

And also perhaps my favorite, the number of people who had posted on LinkedIn in the last 30 days. Part of the problem with LinkedIn is not everybody is very active on it. So here we can immediately filter by the people who are actually using LinkedIn on a regular basis. This is not available in the free version and I think this is a critically powerful tool. So I select that and now I'm down to 197 people that are active on LinkedIn and meet all my criteria. And that's a much better way of spending my time.

Once I'm in here I can take a look at any one of these people. I can save them, that's how you save a lead for later, or I click on the three dots and you can see I can connect with them, make a LinkedIn connection if I'm not already connected. I can view their profile, I can view people similar to them as well. Let me just highlight that. So if I find somebody I really like and they'd be a great candidate for me to prospect, who else has liked them according to LinkedIn.

And then I can also send them a message, too. If I want to learn a little bit more about this person before taking the next steps, I can click on their name and go to their page on Sales Navigator and get a whole lot more information about them. I can again save them, I can message the, I can add a note. So this is where some of the CRM tools come into place. I can view them on LinkedIn, all this sort of stuff, and that information is all right here.

Now I can message them. Now, one of the things that's nice about Sales Navigator is you can actually message people you're not connected to, something free LinkedIn does not give you. So you actually get 60 credits a month, which is a lot of credits to burn through in a month. That's basically three a day if you're working 20 days out of the month, and that's a lot of people who you're not connected to, that you can send messages to. And this will arrive in their inbox on LinkedIn. And depending on how they have their account set up, it could also go to the regular email box as well.

So I basically, even if this person isn't connected to me, can go ahead and send them a message. Here's where it tells you how many of your credits are left remaining. I can also save this person to any of my custom lists. I can see my construction list or my Q4 lists or whatever it may be. So this just makes it a lot easier to organize some of my information like this.

And then one thing I didn't mention is you can save these searches. So when you do a search, and you can do this on LinkedIn too, so you can save a search like we did before for owners of construction companies. And you can save up to three lists on the free version of LinkedIn. And not only does it make it easier just to recreate that search that you've done, but it also will email you for any new additions to that list that take place every week. So basically they'll send you a list of new construction company owners. You can do the same thing as well on Sales Navigator, although it's an unlimited number of saved searches you can do. So if you're talking about a lot of different industries or a lot of different levels or a lot of different positions within a company, those won't count against any total. You basically have an infinite number.

The other thing is you can save different types of lists. And basically there are two, there's lead lists and account lists. As you can see here, lead lists are for tracking individual people, and account lists are for tracking businesses. So that's very helpful. As people tend to move jobs you can track people as they move from a new job, and you can still stay on top of a company even after somebody who's a key contact for you has left.

So everything up until now that we've discussed has been about finding the right type of prospect, whether using LinkedIn or Sales Navigator, but finding a prospect and turning them into a lead or client is a whole other ball game. My goal is usually to get somebody off of LinkedIn and into my email or onto a phone call, or a Zoom call, or a face-to-face meeting at other times. So that's a sales process that might be a little bit outside of the scope of a 30 minute webinar.

But let's talk for a moment about making that first outreach, whether you use LinkedIn Messenger or the Sales Navigator messenger tool. What can you say to engage a prospect? Let's start by saying, don't be this guy. Don't be pushy. Don't be shovey. We've all been this guy, I've been this guy before. Maybe not with the finger guns, but I've definitely come on a little strong. This just happens when you love doing sales, you get really excited about your product. You get really excited about the close. It's a rush, so I get it. I'm not judging you right now, but I'm going to judge some other people.

So, these are just a few of the commons, if you will, for people who are looking to connect to me on LinkedIn, and they're sadly generic. And these are just four or five out of hundreds that I get on a regular basis that just are doomed for the trash bin.

“Hi, Rich. I came across your profile and thought we could mutually benefit from connecting here.” – Notoriously vague.

“Hi Rich. I was impressed with your profile on LinkedIn. I'm keen on growing valuable professional connections. I'm looking forward to hearing from you soon.” – There's really no benefit to me in this. There’s no reason why I should follow up with this person at all, unless I was desperate to make a connection as they are.

“I noticed your profile as a strong industry leader. It would be a pleasure to connect.” – Again, pretty vague. What industry? You can tell that a lot of people are using some third party tool to just make as many connections as possible, thinking that's somehow going to lead to business.

And the incredibly lazy, “I'd like to add you to my professional network”  Not even punctuation. I'm guessing this was what LinkedIn suggested they say and so they said it. This is not how you start a business relationship. Once you do actually make that connection, the problem that I see a lot of business people doing is immediately going for the sale. You don't want to be that person either. This I received seconds after agreeing to connect with somebody, “Hope you're doing well. Are you looking for premium and cost-effective white label website design development, and SEO solution at $20 an hour?”  Like, that just seems really rushed. And then more information and samples I didn't ask for.

And event information on another one that I got, check out this opening line, “Hey Rich”, Hey, “first name”, you can tell that this is the third party tool they used and they didn't even configure it correctly. And again, just like more dollar signs, more amazing offers. This is so huckstering, I can't believe any of this stuff works for anybody.

In fact, I have a copy and paste script for people who do this to me now, where I basically say, “Hey, have you found this intro to be ineffective? Well, I'm offering LinkedIn training for you and your sales team. It just $500 an hour”. No one ever seems to respond to that one. Anyway, the point is that you're looking to build a relationship. Oh, it's much easier and more fun to poke fun at people who are doing it obviously wrong than to give you actual advice that's going to work for you. And the bottom line is it really depends on what you're looking to accomplish on how you should approach people. So part of it might be what your industry is and what your goals are.

For instance, even me, when I reach out to somebody because I want them to be a guest on one of my podcasts my approach is much different than if I'm talking to an owner or a director of marketing that I'm looking to get business from or looking to prospect. So it really does depend on what your end goals are.

But I think the most important thing here is just to try and make a real, honest to goodness connection with that person. And if you've ever been a fan of Zig Ziglar or How to Win Friends and Influence People, it's always about finding out what you can do for the other person. Now, that idea of trying to help someone else before they help you, giving before getting, that's become a little bit trite because so many people are doing it. The expectation is that there's going to be something on the other side, but it really does. It's at least required to try and find out something that you can do for that other person. But it's even more important to make that human connection. And some of the ways that you can do that is do a little bit of recon.

You can tell from some of the emails or some of the invites that I just shared, that they did no real recon on me. They spent no time at my LinkedIn profile. They didn't go to my website. So I recommend that you do some sleuthing, not stalking, and there is a fine line. So I would recommend checking out their LinkedIn profile and everything they share, and maybe their website as well. But don't try and find them on Facebook or Instagram and check out all their pictures and then start asking about their kids, because that's just creepy. But if they've posted it to their LinkedIn account, it's definitely fair game. Look at their profile, look at what they've been posting.

The second thing I'd recommend is find some commonality there. My friend, John Nemo, who's been on my podcast before talking about using LinkedIn, he likes to find out where people went to college and then trash talk their sports team. But apparently it works for him. So, you know, go figure whatever works for you, that's going to be the thing that makes the difference. And then try and figure out what's the reason for them behind why they should connect with you. What is the benefit for them?

If they do make the connection, nobody likes to be sold. That's something that we can all agree on. Like, that's just not something that most of us enjoy. So what is it that you might be able to offer them? Don't waste people's time because it's really just wasting your own, and find those points of interest. It could be a previous job location, school, et cetera. Or maybe they've posted something where you can tell that something that you have might actually benefit them, or maybe you can make a connection for them that they couldn't otherwise make, and reciprocity. Right. Reciprocity, they're going to want to repay that favor, so always be looking to help other people out because it always does come back to you in spades. And it's also just the right thing to do.

So as we wrap up, because we've come to the end of the half hour, some big takeaways for you. This is what I wanted to get across today. Optimize your profile, that's the very first thing you want to do.

Then maximize the feed. And that means sharing great content, liking and commenting and sharing on other's posts as well. Whether it's LinkedIn or Sales Navigator, prospect with filter. So look first for the job position you're looking to prospect, and then start adding those filters to find just the right prospects for you.

And if sales and generating leads online is part of your job, really try and find the funds or get your company to fund it, but upgrade to Sales Navigator because it really does start making the tools get a lot better. You're able to really do a lot of stuff that's really at CRM type levels, creating lists, leaving notes, follow ups, to do’s, all that sort of stuff that you can do. So a very powerful tool.

And lastly, be human. Remember that there's somebody on the other side of this connection, this prospecting, and they don't want to just hear from another salesperson. So really try and get into their shoes and figure out what's the value that you could deliver to them. And don't put your sales first, put their needs first.

All right. That is what I had to share with you today. And I'm just going to go ahead and open up the chat and see if there's any questions that people have.