Networking, often viewed as the best way to prospect for new customers, also can be viewed as brainstorming for new customers with people you know. More salespeople today are leveraging LinkedIn as an advanced sales networking tool.
If your definition of networking is handing out 132 business cards at an event without really engaging in conversation or creating new business relationships, you may struggle with these tips to use LinkedIn to find the right people to network with and start conversations. Hint: The conversation should not be about you initially.
InMail is a paid LinkedIn subscription that is the best way to reach someone on the site. Members receive a certain number of free InMail messages per month. You can e-mail people you don’t know directly through LinkedIn’s internal e-mail system, but you never see their e-mail addresses, which protects their privacy. The recipient has the right to deny or change these settings, but many accept InMail. If your account subscription does not have free InMail, you can purchase it for $10 each. That’s not bad if the person you want is hard to reach; this may be your way in.
Groups and Answers
The Groups and Answers features both allow you to share your expertise. There are groups in your professional area that encourage conversation and discussion. If you don’t hard-sell people with your information, you can serve as a helpful resource and make new connections.
The Answers feature is similar. People post questions about a challenge or issue they want addressed and other LinkedIn members can answer with their expertise. Better yet, refer a friend who you know can answer the question. It helps that person stand out as the expert and allows them to start a one-on-one dialogue with someone new.
Saved Search is a real gem on LinkedIn that few people know about. Saved Search only works for searching for people. Use this is to find the people you want to meet and then see who in your network knows the person.
To use Saved Search, go to the Search bar of LinkedIn. To the left is a drop-down box that defaults to People. You can also search groups, jobs, and answers, but not with Saved Search. To the right is Advanced Search; click there.
You can search LinkedIn by industry, groups you belong to, keyword, and a few others. Once you’ve modified your search, click next to the title on Save This Search. You will be asked if you wish to receive results by e-mail.
To return to your saved searches, click Saved Searches in the upper-right corner of the search area. You will be prompted to save the current search.
Once you save a search, LinkedIn will send you an e-mail with any update that matches your search criteria. At the free member level, you can save up to three. It climbs slightly for each professional membership subscription. You can change the search as often as you like.