[IMGCAP(1)] Research is the key to developing a list of good prospects to focus your strategic pursuit efforts. The more you know about a prospect, the easier it is to determine whether that business or individual is worth going after and, if so, how best to do that.  

LinkedIn’s search function provides an efficient way to identify prospects and gather information about them that can facilitate business development. But before you start using LinkedIn for prospect research, make sure that your firm’s profiles are filled in with as much relevant information as possible and that your professionals are actively building their connections. Why?

Because, if you ask to connect with a prospect you found on LinkedIn, the person is likely to check your profile to find out more about you and your firm. If there’s not much there, the prospect may decide to not connect with you or respond to your outreach. Also, the ability to use LinkedIn to assist with prospecting grows exponentially as your connections grow.  

Traditionally, most firms have developed their prospect lists through a list broker or developed them over time through networking events, seminars and conference attendance. While those methods are all still important, they often don’t give you the kind of data you need to be able to plan pursuit. LinkedIn’s advanced search features and results can help you develop more robust data on your prospects, making your pursuit management much easier and more effective.

Identify likely prospects

Let’s say your firm is looking to expand its construction niche practice into a new market. You can easily use LinkedIn to help you build a list of prospects.

1.    Start by using the advanced search features. You can access these by people or company by clicking in the search box on the main navigation bar or clicking on the “more” tab and selecting companies. (Note: In both cases you will have to select “advanced” or more to see all the search features.)
2.    Once you have the search boxes open, enter your relevant industry information. For our current case, you might select “construction” as your industry.
3.    You will then want to fill in information specific to your location. You’ll probably also want to check the “search headquarters only” box, because in most cases the company’s decision makers you want to reach will be there.  
4.    Next, you will want to select the company size. You may want to do no more than two to focus on your “sweet spot” (the size of company most likely to do business with you).
5.    Then hit “search.”

Review the list that’s generated and focus on companies whose size and type most fit the profile of a likely client. For example, you may want to focus only on general contractors with 40 to 50 employees, as opposed to smaller businesses, engineering firms or companies that supply construction materials.

(We’ll continue our discussion of using LinkedIn for prospecting in Part Two of this article. Look for it on Oct. 18.)

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 .