Gene McNaughton, President of Business Breakthroughs, International, takes his LinkedIn activity seriously. He has to! When your targeted prospects are senior-level decision makers, you don't get a second chance. They make snap decisions about if you're someone who's worth talking to -- or not. 

To ensure that he can quickly connect to these executives, Gene does his homework. And, that's exactly what top sellers do on LinkedIn. 86.7% of them always research prospects prior to making contact compared to only 26.7% of their colleagues. (Click here to download the 2013 Sales/LinkedIn Survey: Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code.)

Now, check out Gene's story to find out what he's looking for on LinkedIn and how he uses his research.

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Today's article features Robbie Johnson, Channel Manager for SPS Commerce and a principle in Social Media Performance Group. His creativity and tenacity in using LinkedIn for sales to create this big-time opportunity is something we can all learn from.

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As a partner in Sales for Life, Jamie Shanks is constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible with LinkedIn and other social selling tools. I'm always learning new things from him -- which is why I think you'll like today's article about the business value of using LinkedIn. 

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Did you know that overall, you're 5X more likely to get a sales call returned if you have a personal connection with someone? To me, that's an amazing statistic. In a world where people are swamped at work and suffering from information overload, it's the best way to capture their attention.   

So what does that mean you should be doing?  In essence, implementing a connection-based strategy to reach new prospects.

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So how many LinkedIn groups do you belong to? I’m in 50 – the maximum allowed  -- and there are tons of reasons for it. But first, lets talk about the kinds of groups you can join.

My personal favorites are groups that my prospects belong to -- in my case, that’s VPs of Sales, but for you it may be Clinic Directors. Or, if you sell to specific vertical markets such as printing or financial services, you can belong groups with that focus. And finally, if you sell in a certain geography, you’ll find LinkedIn groups too.

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Ever had a situation where your one and only connection in a company is too busy to meet with you or just doesn’t have any urgency to change? If so, it’s time to take action.  

The first thing I want you to do is to go to this person’s LinkedIn profile. Scroll down and keep your eye on the right side. Stop when you see “Viewers of this profile also viewed …” Below that you’ll see a whole bunch of other people – and virtually all of them are colleagues of your deadbeat prospect.  

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I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn looking at people’s profiles. I think they’re a gold mine of information for savvy sales professionals who wants to learn as much they can about their prospects before contacting them. And, the best thing about these profiles is that they’re self-created. Many of your prospects are sharing invaluable information about themselves on LinkedIn.  

Let me tell you specifically what I’m looking for.

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Finding the Prospecting Needle In the LinkedIn Haystack.

When we did our 2013 Sales & LinkedIn survey, lots of people shared their thoughts and strategies about how they were using LinkedIn. I love what Paul Meyers had to say: 

"I use Linkedin as a surgical tool when I need to ferret out a very specific individual decision maker within an organization – the guy who holds the purse strings. Since their staff is well trained to keep annoying sales guys away, LinkedIn helps me find them."

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Have you ever been drooling to get into a bigger company, but been unsure of where to even start? If so, here are two ways you can use the LinkedIn search function to find the names of potential prospects.

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So how many LinkedIn recommendations do you have on your profile? If you don’t have at least 10, you’re selling yourself short – and here’s why. Your prospects are checking you out. They want to know what kind of person you are.  

Imagine if they go to your profile and see one or 2 recommendations – and they’re from your peers or former co-workers. Not too impressive.  

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