It’s no secret that LinkedIn is a powerful source of B2B leads. Sales people use it in a variety of ways from casual long-tail networking to more direct active lead generation. Specifically in this Insight, we’re looking at improving the process for medium to high volume prospecting. One of the biggest frustrations of sales managers in those sorts of environments is their teams spending endless unaccountable hours on LinkedIn. They know that it eventually leads to sales, but how productive is their team truly being?

Attempting to solve the problem are a plethora of LinkedIn automation tools, such as Alfred which runs as a Chrome plugin and helps you connect and message a preset search of prospects; or LinkedIn Helper which auto-sends your connections a message. These tools have a limited shelf-life. They live in a murky grey area, and there’s a dedicated team at LinkedIn that play the cat and mouse game of blocking them. Are they even truly that effective? Everyone has accepted a LinkedIn connection request, and then immediately received irrelevant non-personalised auto-generated message…how many messages like the one below need to be sent out to get even one warm lead?

For higher volume prospecting we’ve had continued success in multiple industries with the following strategy…

1 – Harness experience & experiment

Most LinkedIn prospecting drifts along without thought-through strategy. It’s important to develop clear:

  • Targeting
    What are the qualifying criteria? Job titles, company size, industry, location…
  • Messaging
    What are the core messages that have proven to work? How can you truly personalise the messaging for the prospect.
  • Cadence
    How many messages have proven to work, to connect with someone? Is the first one sent as part of a connection request, or some pre-defined number of days/weeks after a connection is accepted?

Start by working with a select few members of your sales team, who’ve had demonstrable past success with cold LinkedIn prospecting. Use their intuition and previous experience as a starting point, then experiment with different tactics. It’s essential that you track your experimentation and results. The aim is to develop a repeatable strategy that can be used by others, with many of the initial cracks ironed out.

2 – Proper tracking

There is a prevalent trend for sales teams to be poor at tracking LinkedIn leads in their CRM, even where they are good at tracking their other lead sources. This is part of the nature of a LinkedIn account being a private individual’s and a closed environment. Frequently LinkedIn leads will only migrate into the CRM at the point they’re in later-stages of the sales cycle, and the team need to use the CRM to progress the opportunity (perhaps to make a quote).

It’s important to ensure there is a clean process, where LinkedIn prospects are added to the CRM at the earliest stage. At the latest a prospect should be logged when it becomes a qualified lead. One of the cleanest ways is to have a Calendly appointment be the handover from prospector to Account Executive (AE). Not only does your AE have a confirmed first contact with the new lead, but it’s trivial to have Calendly auto-populate your CRM.

Having good data allows for better analysis of closing rates and sales durations. It may appear that leads originating on LinkedIn have a 90% closing rate, but if only the best ones are logged it’s an entirely unreliable metric.

3 – LinkedIn at arms-length

The idea of splitting your sales function into Sales Development Reps (SDRs) to prospect and Account Executives to complete sales is well established. Having sales professionals focussed on just one area is proven to yield better results. Building on this idea – rather than leave LinkedIn prospecting with a general SDR team, once you’ve developed your LinkedIn prospecting strategy, it is better to run a dedicated team for LinkedIn prospecting.

In fact, rather than just hiring someone to sit next to the existing SDRs and run LinkedIn prospecting, it’s far more effective to outsource and hire freelancers. Depending on the level of technical complexity in your industry/product offering the freelancers could be anything from tenured UK based industry veterans to admins with strong English in the Philippines. Whatever the skill level we’ve had repeatable success hiring and managing through Upwork. The LinkedIn prospecting team could be just one FTE, however, to allow you to benchmark it is best to have at least three individuals doing it, even if they’re only part time.

It’s important that freelance prospectors are shown as being part of your company on LinkedIn, and they should have company email addresses and undergo whatever core training you require of new employees. Inevitably over time they will become valuable members of the team. However, the aim is build some level of compartmentalisation. By establishing LinkedIn prospecting as a separate unit, that isn’t emotionally-bonded to your core team, it allows dispassionate analysis. The cost basis is neat – to generate your LinkedIn CPL you can take your Upwork costs divided by the number of qualified leads. As the deals track through your CRM you can generate clean ROI figures.

However, the real value comes from how your AEs will be able to interact with the LinkedIn leads. They have no problem telling you when the quality on affiliate leads is poor, or when volumes have dropped from PPC. This should be the same for LinkedIn – they should be able to provide honest feedback about quality and volume.