By: Sam Richter
NOTE: This is updated from a previous post. Recently LinkedIn changed the way to search within Groups making prospecting much easier. Unfortunately, in others ways, LinkedIn has regressed and made it more difficult. Follow the steps below to Know More! on using LinkedIn Groups as a prospecting tool.
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) Enter terms in the main search form related to a Group that you’d like to join (e.g., “plastics manufacturing”). Use quotation marks around multiple words for better results.
3) On the left side of the results page, look for the link that says Groups. Click on it.
4) The results will now be limited to Groups associated with your search terms.
5) Try to select Groups that are very specific to a topic (e.g., Financial Services Marketing) or that have a large number of members.
6) Select a Group to learn more about it and its members. Note that you can tell how active the Group is by viewing the number of current discussions.
7) 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 (Groups that require acceptance will have a small lock icon next to the Group title).
8) 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.
9) 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.
Using LinkedIn Groups as a Prospecting Tool
1) On LinkedIn’s main navigation, click the “Interests” tab and then choose “Groups” from the pull-down menu to access your Groups page. Click on a Group logo to access the Group page.
2) On the upper-right of the selected Group page next to the “Member” button, you’ll notice text that says the number of members in the Group. Click the text (it does not look like it’s clickable although it is).
3) On the left-hand side you’ll notice a search box (don’t confuse this with the “Search” tab on the Group’s main navigation as it is not the same). 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) On the results page, once you find a member who you would like to contact, you’ll notice that underneath their job title you’ll see a “Send A Message” link. Click the link and write the person a note.
YES…you can communicate with people in a Group even if you are not connected with that individual.
Typically, you’re only able to send a direct message to a first level LinkedIn contact. However, if you share a Group together, you’re able to send the individual a direct message.
5) And here’s the trick…in your message, make sure to mention that you are in a Group together. When you do so, the other person is much more likely to read your note. Also, mention something that is relevant to the other person, e.g., you enjoyed one of their recent Group posts, you saw a press release about the person’s company launching a new product, etc.
Once you start communicating, you can even ask the person if he or she would like to join your LinkedIn network, whereupon you can send him or her a LinkedIn Invitation to Connect.
6) You’ll note that following a search, on the results page, you’re easily able to Connect with a Group Member. 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.
7) 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.
Crafting the right message is the key to using LinkedIn as a prospecting tool. Here’s why.
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!