By now your profile should look good and be packed with key words and phrases that describe you. Your profile should reflect what you want to show potential customers (or prospective employer). You hopefully have a few recommendations and links to your websites or blog. And you have been updating your ‘status’ fairly regularly (2 x a week minimum)

You should also have at least started getting involved in targeted ‘groups’ where you ‘comment’, ‘like’ and even start ‘discussions’. You will also have answered a couple of ‘questions’ (hopefully your answers get voted as ‘best’). This has all started to build your reputation on LinkedIn and within your industry as an expert. If you use Twitter for business purposes you should have connected your twitter and LinkedIn updates using the ‘tweet application’. So your ‘updates’ appear at the same time on both twitter and LinkedIn. But don’t be as frivolous with LinkedIn as you maybe with twitter so be careful what you tweet.

So now you should be in a place where your profile looks like the professional you are who can help your prospective customers. You can now actively go out and hunt for leads. Firstly, you don’t need to pay for an account upgrade, yet. Most of what you can do is available free. The points that are not free are clearly shown as a ‘premium account’ features. If you start to use LinkedIn more for lead generation then it may be worth moving to a premium account. But only decide when you have more experience of what it can bring you.

Actively searching for leads – it’s all about opening a dialogue with them

  • Keep an eye out in your ‘groups’ for people who have started discussions or commented on discussions. A quick check of their profile will show you if they are your target. If they are then its worth commenting yourself or even messaging them direct if they have made a great point which you can use to open a direct dialogue. At the least you will appear on their radar. Also over time you will be able to identify many people in your groups which will make this process very quick.
  • Use the ‘advanced’ people search to find your target audience e.g ‘Finance Directors in Swindon, UK’. There are many options to choose from in setting your criteria.
  • Research these people especially which groups they are members of. Then join the key groups and contribute into these groups. When you share a group you can message the group members directly. NB: with a Premium account you can save people’s profiles and organise them in a ‘profile organizer’.
  • Look at existing connections where you know that person is a good networker or is well connected and see if they have connections that you would like to talk to. NB: many people don’t let their connections be viewable by others.
  • If you want to send a message to an identified target and ask them to connect you have the following options….
  1. Ask to connect through an existing connection you have (Linkedin shows you how you are connected to others). This is basically asking for a referral from a business contact and is your best route.
  2. Message them direct through groups that you are part of.
  3. Send an ‘Inmail’ – which is basically a direct message. These can be bought. Or if you have a premium account you get some included. But if you have a good network and are members of the relevant groups you don’t need them. This is for those target who are outside of your connections or groups.
  • It’s important that you do not just send the generic message “I use LinkedIn to…..” You should personalise it and show the target the benefit of connecting with you. If there is something you have in common, a seen on their profile, use that as a point of interest.
  • Also sending them some useful and highly relevant information is a good idea. This maybe on your site or blog, or elsewhere.
  • Remember at first it just about opening the dialogue and getting connected. Don’t do the hard sell yet. It’s very likely that if they are going to connect they will at least check out your profile. So they will get a good idea of what you can do from that, you don’t have to tell them everything in the message
Linkedin can be a place to find new leads using the techniques above. But it’s important to also view it as the place where you can nurture your prospects over time. Your connections are your prospective customers. If you are doing all the ongoing reputation building activity they will begin to see you as the person they need.
Remember be engaged with the community and provide useful insightful information. Then users will be more open to your sales message.