According to HubSpot's 2016 State of Inbound report, LinkedIn is a valuable B2B prospecting resource. Social selling is a priority for more salespeople than ever before, with 42% of those surveyed already communicating via networks such as LinkedIn for business.
Done right, LinkedIn prospecting can bolster call- and email-centric outreach and help teams develop rapport with leads. But if you find yourself reaching out and coming up with nothing all too often, you might be sabotaging your social efforts.
4 Common LinkedIn Prospecting Errors
1) Failing to define your audience or prioritize valuable connections
How many LinkedIn connections do you have? I’d guess enough to fill a small venue. But how many of those connections are a good fit to your buyer personas? Probably not many.
While it’s tempting to boost your network by connecting with as many people as possible, to be successful, you need to work towards quality over quantity. To do that:
- Define your ideal prospect and build a relevant audience. Who is your ideal prospect? Make sure your organization has created detailed buyer persona profiles and use that insight to search for and reach out to the right people.
- Search, search, and search again. Both the free version of LinkedIn and Sales Navigator offer advanced search filters to help you find and connect with precisely the right prospects. Once you’ve defined your ideal prospect profile, all you need to do is set the search parameters and click go.
- Switch your mindset from “selling” to “advising.” Would you describe your LinkedIn presence as helpful and inspiring? Do you see yourself as a thought leader? Inbound sales works to transform sellers from aggressive closers into helpful advocates. If you’re not aligning social activity with this mindset, you’ll be unable to maintain a LinkedIn presence that delivers results.
- Don’t worry too much about numbers. Do you really need 500+ connections? If the majority of those connections are poor value, probably not. Again, the message here is quality over quantity. It’s not the size of your network, but how you use it.
2) Not having a valid reason to connect
The clue to LinkedIn success is in the name. You’ve got to have a link with a prospect to have a successful ‘in’! There are multiple ways to leverage LinkedIn for introductions to prospective customers. But if you connect out of context, you’re doing more harm than good.
A clear reason for engagement and a solid value proposition are key to making positive connections. To avoid sabotaging your efforts:
- Have a clear reason to connect and engage with potential prospects. Cold connecting doesn’t cut it. Make sure you have a reason to connect before hitting that request button, such as:
- A connection from somewhere else. Did your prospect download your content? Have you met them elsewhere, seen them speak at an event? Did they view your profile?
- A referral. If you’ve been referred to a contact, or vice versa, by all means, reach out. Remember to reference your original referrer and reason for the referral in your connection request.
- Known site visits. Be careful here. If a good fit prospect is all over your site, engaging with your non-gated content (but hasn’t downloaded anything yet) it might be a good time to reach out -- just make sure you use all available lead data to identify if the prospect is an active buyer first. Combine your request with pain-solving content, and you may see greater success.
- Any other relevant interaction. Keep an eye out for relevant situations and times to connect.
- Explain the value you can provide. Imagine you see someone in a group or comment thread who’s experiencing a buyer pain that you solve. If you can offer immediate help and value, you’ll see better engagement. When reaching out make sure the pain-solving value is clear; whether you’re directing prospects to relevant content, or offering other advice.
- Write personalized connection requests. If you’re using generic template copy to connect with prospects, stop! State your reason for connecting, detail the value you can offer and above all, do not churn out a ‘salesy’ message -- prospects won’t be thinking about buying yet. Remember, your connection acceptance rate affects your SSI score, so aim to make each connection valuable and relevant.
Remember, the goal with prospect connection requests is not necessarily to expand your network, but to take that first step toward establishing yourself as a trusted advisor.
3) Following up at the wrong times
Sent a connection invite or InMail and had no immediate response? Wait. It’s important to know when to follow up for best results. To avoid sabotaging your follow up:
- Wait a week. After reaching out, wait, don’t send anything else and don’t send anything salesy.
- If you still get no response, follow up with value. State the reason you wanted to connect (i.e. restate the value you can offer your prospect), but don’t try to sell your solution in any way.
- Recognize when to wait longer. Of course not everyone wants to connect. If your prospect isn’t feeling enough pain, or if you reached out at the wrong point in their purchase journey, you might not see a response. Recognize this, know when to wait longer, and look for signs that their situation may have changed.
- Be active in other areas of LinkedIn. Success on LinkedIn is all about quality, genuine engagement and relevant activity, whether from sharing great content to being active in groups or comment threads. If you’re already prioritizing social selling, this should be easy. It’s also a good way to stay in front of prospects who are not ready to engage directly, without spamming.
4) Having a poorly optimized LinkedIn profile
Think of your profile as the first impression a prospect has of you and your company. If that profile is shabby, out of date, or lacking insight, you’re on the fast track to sabotaged sales efforts. As a few quick ways to create a good first impression, you should:
- Use a professional picture. Yes, that Prisma selfie you took looks great. But it might not send the “trusted thought leader” image you want to portray. What’s appropriate will vary depending on your industry, but if in doubt, keep things professional.
- Optimize for search. Sometimes you don’t find the prospect. Sometimes the prospect finds you. If you optimise sections of your profile (summary, headline, job title etc.) with the right keywords, you’ll be more likely to show up in LinkedIn and other searches.
- Ask your network for recommendations and endorsements. Nothing says ‘trust this person’ like a great review! So don’t be afraid to ask for them.
- Complete every section. If your profile lacks detail, it can shake your credibility. Make sure you complete as much information as you can.
- Check your contact details. If a prospect wants to reach you outside of LinkedIn or check out your site, can they find the info? Make it easy!
- Publish Pulse posts. While this isn’t strictly a profile update, if you share relevant content via Pulse, you’ll reach your whole network and add to your thought-leader reputation.
- Tag your contacts. Both Sales Navigator and LinkedIn allow you to tag and segment your contacts; make the most of this feature for easy lead management.
However you do it, prospecting isn’t easy at the best of times. In fact, State of Inbound 2016 shows it’s still the part of the sales process that reps struggle with most, especially when leads aren’t educated in your solution and aren’t aware of your reputation as a trusted advisor. So don’t sabotage yourself! Start building LinkedIn presence and relevant network today.
Originally published Sep 23, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017