One of the biggest challenges in sales prospecting on LinkedIn is in how to find and contact those who are difficult to message through the site: The Untouchables. Luckily, LinkedIn offers several tools to aid in communication with your prospects. Though LinkedIn is a virtual trade show, there are those who attend industry exhibitions but don’t spend time on the floor or in the breakout sessions. If your efforts until now have not allowed you to gain access to those key decision makers behind locked doors that haven’t showed up but have a profile, there are many innovative ways to reach out beyond your first-degree connections on LinkedIn and try to contact them.
Introductions: The highest degree of success in reaching out to someone you don’t know in the business world is through a warm introduction, and LinkedIn has an introduction feature that allows you to request an introduction from someone either directly or indirectly connected to that person. Despite the buzz about online social media marketing, B2B business is still often an offline social event. If the key person you want to contact is a third-degree connection, pick up the phone and ask your first degree connection if he or she could contact your second degree connection and potentially facilitate an introduction. Asking for a warm introduction the old fashioned way is by far the most effective way to successfully introduce yourself to someone else.
Join The Same Group: A ninja tactic that many savvy sales and marketing professionals utilize is joining the same LinkedIn Group specifically to contact a certain member. The default setting for groups is to allow others in the group to message you regardless of your connectivity status. However, some people don’t want to be contacted and change this setting, so this strategy may not work 100 percent of the time. It should be noted that LinkedIn recently changed their user interface so that you can no longer message someone if you are in the same group through search results. You literally must message them from within the message functionality within each group.
Monitor Group Activity: You may be limited to how much information you can see on people’s profiles if you are not directly connected with them. Joining the same group as these people allows you to see more of their activity and also gives you one more potential way to contact them: through a Group discussion. While this feature is commonly referred to as the “follow” feature, you don’t necessarily have to follow that prospect. Simply find that person on the members tab for any particular group and you will find a “see activity” link under any given name. If that person has posted a discussion or comment to any group of which you are a member, you can now engage with him or her in a virtual discussion and build rapport in this manner. This is a good option for those who would prefer to naturally engage in a discussion versus openly sending a message.
“Work” The Profile: Look very carefully at the profiles belonging to the people with whom you want to connect. If they have LinkedIn applications installed, you may be able to get in touch through those platforms. If they RSVP to a LinkedIn Event, attend the event. If they display their blog, comment on the blog. If they ask a question on LinkedIn Answers, answer it. Make sure you also check the profile for a phone number, email address, or a link to a website that may allow you to contact them off LinkedIn.
Twitter: If you notice that your target second – or third – degree contact is on Twitter, which may be noted on the LinkedIn profile page, take advantage of the hyper-social nature of Twitter and send an @Reply message. If you feel that is too direct, retweet their content and /or add them to a Twitter list, both of which are indirect ways that could spark natural engagement.
The Mighty InMail: The “Hail Mary” InMail for paid accounts is really your final if-everything-else-fails option. LinkedIn guarantees that it will reach the individual to whom you send it, and if you don’t receive a response within seven days, you’ll receive a replacement InMail. Because of the guaranteed delivery and the need to pay in order to send one, it can be assumed that InMails generate a response rate that is greater than traditional email methods.
Unfortunately, those that are least active on LinkedIn are the hardest people to reach when sales prospecting. Many people on LinkedIn aren’t involved in any groups and don’t actively participate on other parts of the site. If you want to reach those people, sending an InMail or resorting to the classic networking method of calling a connection and asking for an introduction may be the best options for reaching your target person. Before you do either of these, however, use LinkedIn to do as much research as possible to increase your chances of success.
The above is a summary of selected content from my critically acclaimed new LinkedIn for business book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing,” available at Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or iTunes.