When you first got involved with LinkedIn, if you’re like most, you eagerly started signing up for Groups, wanting to be part of the discussion with others who shared a common interest. Anyone can start a Group and there are now approximately 1.5 million covered topics, from business issues to alumni groups to interest groups.
Unfortunately, many LinkedIn Groups are not well-managed meaning spammers realized they could post irrelevant content in Group discussion boards. Thus, if you’re like most, you started getting frustrated with the constant stream of Group emails you received, with only a rare few offering valuable information. You may have even started removing yourself from some, if not all, of your Groups
thinking that they were becoming useless.
Well nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, by joining the right LinkedIn Groups, you might find that they become a fantastic sales prospecting resource. Here’s how to take advantage of this powerful tool.
Selecting a Group and Participating
1) Make sure you are logged into your LinkedIn account.
2) Go to www.linkedin.com/groups or locate the Groups link by clicking on the “Interests” tab on LinkedIn’s main navigation.
3) To find a Group that you’d like to join, enter terms into the Group search engine.
4) Try to select Groups that are very specific to a topic (e.g., Financial Services Marketing) or that have a large number of members. Note that as you search for a Group to join using the main Group search engine, LinkedIn will recommend a Group that fits your search terms and you can see the number of members prior to joining.
5) Select a Group to learn more about it and its members.
6) Click the “Join Group” button to become a member. Some Groups will automatically accept you, while other join requests need to be approved by the Group manager.
7) Once accepted, participate in Group discussions by adding your expertise. Pose a question to the Group. Even promote relevant events using the Groups “Promotions” feature.
8) You will be tempted to sell to the Group members in the “Discussions” area, meaning, you’ll want to post information about your website, your upcoming events, etc. Resist doing so. You need to establish credibility as someone who provides value to the Group prior to talking about yourself. I use a factor of 10/1 meaning, I like to post educational information, answer others’ questions, etc. at least ten times for every one time I post a message that promotes one of my programs.
|Once a part of a Group, select the Group and click the “Members” tab|
Boolean, enter a search into the Group search box. |
Use quotation marks around phrases, for
example, “vice president” + “financial services.”
Using LinkedIn Groups as a Prospecting Tool
1) Go to your Groups page and select a Group.
2) Click the “Members” link on the Group navigation.
3) On the left-hand side you’ll notice a search box. Enter in terms in the search box using Boolean. For example, “vice president” + “financial services” will return results where the person’s LinkedIn profile contains both of those phrases. Or, type in the name of a company to find group members who currently or used to work at the organization
4) Once you find a member who you would like to contact, hover your mouse over the person’s name until the entire row changes color. When it does, you will see a link on the right side that says “Send A Message.” Click the link and write the person a note. YES…you can communicate with people in a Group even if you do not have a connection.
Click the Advanced Search link within a
Group page and you can sort your
members using a variety of criteria.
6) You can also search for Group members by category by clicking on the “Advanced Search” link under the main search form. Using the side filters, you can limit your search to Group members who work at a specific company, live in a specific area, work in a specific industry, went to a specific school, etc.
7) After conducting an Advanced Search, you will see the names of all those who fit your search criteria. If you have a first level connection with any of them, a “Message” button will appear that you can click and send the person a note.
8) If you want to message any of these contacts where you do not have a first level connection, you’ll want to copy the person’s name. Then you’ll need to go back to the Group’s main page and once there, enter the person’s name into the main search form (this tip will not work if you enter the person’s name on the search form in the Advanced Search area). Once the result appears, you can hover your mouse and find and click the “Send a Message” link.
9) Another way to Message people where you don’t have a connection is on the Advanced Search results page, you’ll notice some horizontal lines next to the Connect button. If you hover your mouse on top of the lines, a drop down menu appears. Click on the “Save Profile” link.
On LinkedIn’s main navigation, click “Network” and then “Contacts” and go find the person’s profile you just saved (in your Contacts area, you may need to conduct a quick search on the person’s name). Hover over the person’s name until the row changes color, and you’ll see a “Message” link under the name. Click on it and you can send this person a message.
The added benefit of using this method versus the previously mentioned copy/paste method is now the person’s profile is saved in your Contacts area, and you can even tag the person as a prospect and create follow up tasks (more on that in a future blog post). Note that a side benefit of using this method as described is, typically, when you don’t have a connection at any level with someone, LinkedIn only shows you the person’s first name and last initial, and worse, you’re not allowed to view the person’s profile. However, when you save someone’s profile to your Contacts, in your Contacts area, you can see the person’s full name and access his or her profile.
10) You’ll note that following an Advanced Search, that if you are not connected at the first level, that LinkedIn does provide a “Connect” button.
11) If you click on the “Connect” button, the “Invite to Connect” screen appears, with the shared Group radio button pre-selected. You can then invite the person to be a part of your network. If you do choose to invite someone, MAKE SURE to mention your shared Group membership, and make sure to include a relevant note of why the person would want to link with you. I highly recommend messaging the person first and establishing a relationship prior to sending an Invitation, however, I know some people try and skip that step. Do so with caution.
12) IMPORTANT NOTE: Some believe that it is very poor etiquette to invite people to link where you don’t have a personal connection, and that you should message them first. In fact, if you send people you don’t know an invitation connection and if just a few people respond with “I Don’t Know This Person,” LinkedIn can suspend your account. In addition, LinkedIn limits the number of invitations you can send to 3,000. That seems like a lot, but if you just “blast” invitations, you will use your limit up quickly.
So if you’re going to invite an individual to connect, do so VERY carefully. MAKE SURE your invite is highly relevant and provides the other person value, and in your invitation, give the person a very compelling reason on why he or she would want to link with you. DO NOT just randomly start inviting people or again, you will get your LinkedIn account suspended. When in doubt about inviting someone to connect, use the methods described above and message the person instead.
Using the tricks I teach in the Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling book and my Social Selling training programs, you can use LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search and then an email search to find individuals who meet a specific criteria and easily contact them.
However, when you don’t know someone and have no connection at all to the other person, he/she will most likely hit the “delete” button when they see your email. My own experience shows that when I reach out to someone I don’t know, I get a response maybe 5% of the time.
When you’re in the same Group with someone, however, and you start your message with something like “…we’re both members of the Sales Executive LinkedIn Group and I wanted…” and include additional information relevant to the other person, you are much more likely to get a positive response, especially if the other person recognizes your name as someone who has posted valuable content to the Group. In fact, LinkedIn and other sources (and my own anecdotal experience) report that using this method results in an accepted invitation 70% of the time. WOW!
Try this a few times and I’m certain that you will have a new respect for LinkedIn Groups, now that you know how to effectively use Groups for Prospecting. Now that you Know More!