[IMGCAP(1)] In Part 1 of this article we looked at how to use the search function in LinkedIn to identify likely prospects. Now we’ll discuss how to analyze company profiles to “qualify” a prospect and learn how best to connect with them.

Examine prospect profiles
For a company that seems a likely prospect, click on the name of the company to see its LinkedIn profile. The profile will give you an overview of the company, tell what it specializes in, list company members who have LinkedIn profiles, and give key company statistics. The page also shows the headquarters’ physical address, phone number and website address — all essential for adding the company to your prospect database and doing research.

Next, click on the profile of the owner, CEO, CFO or other key person listed likely to be your best contact at the company. Depending on how robust the person’s profile is, you’ll learn how you might connect with him or her. For example, you may see what college and high school the person attended, where they previously worked, what their interests are, what groups they belong to and whom they have as LinkedIn connections.

Make connections
If you see any common connections, you may be able to contact your connections for an introduction to the person. If you aren’t quite ready to reach out to a prospect, you at least have learned more about the company and possible ways to approach it.

If you have no connection at all with the person, but want to establish one, you’ll want to first introduce yourself via e-mail. For this purpose, you might consider sending an “InMail” message to him or her through LinkedIn (premium service required). The advantage of an InMail message is that it shows up on the recipient’s home page (if the recipient allows InMail), as well as in the person’s regular e-mail inbox. This means there’s less chance your message will get lost in the swamp of daily e-mails and, because it comes from another LinkedIn user, it’s more likely to be read.

Once you’ve had a response and “conversation” (via e-mail or phone) with the prospect, you can invite the person to connect with you on LinkedIn. You can then begin to cultivate the relationship and determine how likely the prospect is to provide you with business or referrals.

Reap the benefits
When you find likely prospects, add information about them to your firm’s database, so they will receive your firm’s standard marketing communications. And then start your pursuit. Just be careful to not send marketing e-mails to a prospect with whom you haven’t built a good relationship. People will start to disengage if they think you’re just on LinkedIn to get e-mail addresses.

Using LinkedIn for prospecting is worth integrating into your business development process. You’ll end up with better prospects (and more current information about them) than you’re likely to get from a list service. You’ll also find it more efficient and effective than many other types of prospecting for making connections that develop into business-generating relationships.  

Sarah Johnson is the Director of Marketing Consulting Services for PDI Global and works exclusively with CPA, law, and financial services firms across the country to help them grow more effectively. When she’s not working, Sarah spends time cooking and completing triathlons. Sarah can be reached at  sjohnson@pdiglobal.com or 312-245-1681 .