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In the world of social selling, LinkedIn can seem like a no-brainer. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn was designed for networking professionals. It was built to facilitate the sharing of personal work details and helps users target very specific types of people. If that isn’t a salesperson’s dream social network, I don’t know what is.

While LinkedIn’s very nature caters toward social selling, it isn’t as easy as it seems. LinkedIn has created blockers, like InMail, to stop you from directly connecting with people you don’t know. And, more importantly, you have to walk a very fine line between annoying prospects and starting a relationship.

To maximize your social selling success on LinkedIn, here are four little-known tricks that will help you identify and communicate with prospects, without being annoying:

Target Leads with Advanced Search

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LinkedIn already has robust searching capabilities, allowing you to target prospects based on company, title, location, industry, and more. And, with a few quick tricks, you can make LinkedIn’s search feature even more powerful.

Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) to display more targeted results. For example, let’s say you are a public relations freelancer and you want to target senior-level marketing folks. You don’t necessarily need to find the VP of marketing — you could also build a relationship with a director of marketing or a PR manager. Instead of doing multiple searches for managers, directors, and VPs of either marketing or PR, you can combine all this criteria into one search.

Go to LinkedIn’s advanced search, and in the “Keywords” box, you would enter “marketing OR public relations.” Then, in the “Title” box, you could type “manger OR director OR VP.” You could also apply this same formula to location, industry, or company. The options are endless.

Save Your Searches and Get Automatic Emails with New Prospects

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Once you’ve refined the perfect search criteria, you can save up to three searches so you don’t have to manually re-do the search every time. This saves you time and effort, and allows you to more easily check up on your key targets.

And, as if it couldn’t get better, LinkedIn will automatically email you when new search results appear. In other words, new leads will literally come straight to your inbox without your having to do anything! If someone gets promoted or moves to a different company or changes industries and that change meets your search criteria, you’ll get an automatic email.

Never Pay for InMail Again

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If you have a free account, you can only send messages to people in your connected network. That means that if you find a prospective customer but he or she is a second or third connection, you’ll only see the option to send an InMail, which requires you to upgrade to a Premium account. And even once you upgrade, you’ll only have a limited number of InMail credits and after you use all of them, each one costs an extra $10. That can add up fast.

However, there’s a way to get around this InMail block, for free. Let’s say you find a prospect but she is a third connection. Scroll to the bottom of her profile and see which Groups she is part of. Then, you join one of those groups (the most relevant one for you) and once you’re in the Group, in the upper right-hand corner, click the hyperlink that says “40,000 members” (it won’t really say 40,000 — it’ll say how many members are in that group). You’ll see a long list of all the members. Search for your prospect and underneath her title, you’ll see the option to “Send message.”

Ta-da!

Understand the Hierarchy in Organizations 

While it can be relatively simple to pinpoint your ideal potential customer, she may not always be the decision maker in the company. You can build a solid relationship and she can absolutely love your work, but sometimes, she just doesn’t have the power to decide if her company can hire you.

But, with some extra snooping, you can identify business decision makers and map out the hierarchy of power in companies. First, simply read the details in a person’s profile. You would be amazed at the information they share, like what team she is on, how big her team is, etc. These kinds of details can help you refine your searches and identify the other people on her team, ultimately leading you to the manager or director.

Also, when you’re looking at someone’s profile, take a look at the “People Also Viewed” section on the left-hand side. Most of the time, coworkers and managers will be listed there.
The greatest advantage of LinkedIn is its wealth of knowledge. You can learn so much about prospects with some fine-tuned searching, automatic email updates, and extra snooping. Social selling on LinkedIn isn’t just about sending as many InMails as you can. Instead, success comes from truly understanding your prospect and only reaching out when it makes sense.

If you liked this post, make sure to read our other social selling post, “3 Must-Have Strategies for Social Selling on Twitter.”

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