Using LinkedIn to Identify Sales Prospects

Every marketer should have a pretty good idea about who their ideal customer is.  That’s their job.  Being able to identify a narrow prospect pool from within the wider population is important, because it means that a more targeted sales message can be used, and thereby increases the efficiency and ROI of any sales process.

Facebook advertising is a superb tool for advertising to specific demographics, and you can do a lot with the interface to make sure that you’re talking in the right way to the right person, but what about B2B sales, where the purchase cycle is longer and more formal?  Well there’s always LinkedIn


LinkedIn has been going since 2002, and has a membership base of around 90 million professionals around the world, of which about half visit on a monthly basis.  For many users, LinkedIn is no more than a modern day rolodex, however thanks to the ability to perform highly refined searches through its data base, its probably the most powerful prospect finder available to anyone working in sales.

Every product or service has a market of people who are most likely to buy, and you can easily identify the people within that market from within LinkedIn.

Step 1: Search

In most cases with B2B, there is a specific job role associated with purchasing a particular service.  For Social Media consultancy,  you would probably want to speak to the online marketing manager, simply search for that role and you get an giant list of all the people who currently fit the bill:

Searching in LinkedIn - Easy
Searching in LinkedIn - Easy

Remember I said 90 million members?  That means you have a lot of people who fall into any specific job role:

A quarter of a million Online Marketing Managers!
A quarter of a million Online Marketing Managers!

Step 2: Refine

A quarter of a million online marketing managers is a lot to work through, so it’s useful that LinkedIn allows you to refine your search considerably to find the best group of people.

Standard members have a choice of a number of refinement options as follows:

Refinement Options
Refinement Options

You don’t necessarily need to use all of these options, after all, we’re looking for a target market, not a specific individual…

Let’s say I have a UK centric Social Media consultancy product that is great for financial services companies, I can simply add those criteria to my search, and narrow it down:

…There are 39, 246 Online Marketing Managers in the UK

…There are 1,334 UK Based Online Marketing Managers working in Financial Services

That’s a reasonable prospect list to begin with.  There are plenty of things you can do to refine the search further, but at this point, it might be better to start trawling through it to find the right people to speak to.

Step 3: Contact

LinkedIn suggest that you don’t just accept invitations to connect from anyone, and a spammy approach to the service will likely get your profile flagged and your account closed.

Most users though do have a fairly open profile, so there is plenty of information that you can get about them before you make contact  – name, time in role, previous companies etc.  It’s often best to take the first contact off line – either through an email or a call, or a brochure through the post, but that is dependent on sales style.

It’s worth noting that LinkedIn have a paid profile option that allows you to be much more rigorous in your refinement of the search results, and also provides additional options about what information you can see about people.  It’s definitely worth investing in if you are planning to do a lot of prospecting through LinkedIN.