Part social network, part prospecting and outreach tool, LinkedIn occupies a unique in-between space with multiple opportunities for reps to attract, nurture, and close accounts in their target market.
The platform allows reps to find the right people, engage them in a way that’s contextually relevant, and at the same time, build out an online presence that attracts qualified inbound leads.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of identifying and reaching the right B2B decision-makers on LinkedIn.
Before diving into search tactics, InMail and outreach, a quick note: while LinkedIn offers some basic prospecting features for free, you’ll need a LinkedIn Sales Navigator account to unlock the platform’s biggest benefits.
Get clear on who you’re targeting
As with most sales strategies, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got detailed, accurate buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICP).
When you know who you’re targeting and which qualifiers indicate interest, fit, decision-making authority, and propensity to buy. Before you start searching for prospects, you’ll need to identify common attributes among your best customers.
Look at the deals you’ve won in the past and ask yourself the following questions:
- What industry do your top clients operate within?
- What job titles did those decision-makers have?
- How many people work for this company?
- How long have decision-makers worked in their role?
- What authority do they have—do they sign the deal themselves or do research and report back to the C-suite?
- What types of content do those decision-makers visit at each stage in the buying process?
- Are there other interests or commonalities buyers share?
I’ll get into the how momentarily, but LinkedIn’s search filters make it easy to find decision-makers with attributes matching your best customers.
Using LinkedIn’s search features to find perfect-fit prospects
People often assume that the best way to identify decision-makers is by plugging in an industry and a job title.
While you’ll certainly find some qualified prospects, this approach isn’t necessarily the most accurate or efficient strategy. Unfortunately, job titles mean different things to different companies, even within the same industry.
Here are a few ways LinkedIn can help you find perfect-fit prospects:
LinkedIn’s basic search function does include “people” filters that go beyond industry or job title. You can search by connection level (1st, 2nd, 3rd), school, location, industry, or the name of a shared connection.
By contrast, LinkedIn’s Advanced Search gets deep—at both individual and organizational levels. Reps can search by function, use Boolean search commands to customize parameters, search by company headcount and use exclusions to weed out irrelevant results.
Browse “People Also Viewed”
“People Also Viewed” is a discovery feature that appears in the right sidebar when you visit a user profile and surfaces people with similar characteristics.
If you haven’t yet defined the best parameters for running an advanced search (or don’t have time), you can visit top customers’ profiles to find others like them.
Additionally, this feature can also help you validate, refine, and build out your buyer personas, and improve your prospecting strategy as a result.
Look for common connections
Getting referrals is a powerful way to get time with needed decision-makers.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows you to drill down to 2nd-degree connections, making it easy to scan the results for mutual connections you can ask to make a warm introduction.
If you don’t have a relationship in common, the next best thing is searching for shared interests or experiences.
Enter your decision-maker search criteria, then filter the results for people who went to your college or support the same non-profit group.
Review skill endorsements
Skill endorsements can also help you surface new prospects within your target market.
Check out the “Skills” section on existing client and prospect profiles and see who has endorsed them. Here, you might find industry peers operating in similar roles or a prospect’s boss who has more purchasing power.
Catch decision-makers as they start a new role
Whenever a target account brings a new decision-maker, there’s an opportunity for reps to swoop in with a solution.
New hires are often more open to changing things up than their predecessors for a couple of reasons: they have no allegiance to the status quo and they’re looking to prove their value early on, which may prompt them to seek out guidance from a trusted outside source.
LinkedIn’s “Notifications” tab keeps an ongoing record of updates, including new jobs. In this case, a quick note makes sure you reach out before prospects get settled in and begin finalizing key decisions.
Use LinkedIn Groups to get decision-makers to come to you
LinkedIn Groups are a great way for sellers to find users that match your ICP and build credibility with potential buyers by sharing your expertise and unique perspective with the community.
You can search for groups by entering relevant keywords or hashtags into the top search bar.
Once you’ve “joined up,” your main goal is to make yourself visible to group members by answering questions, commenting on posts, and throwing some praise toward prospects when they’ve shared something of their own.
It’s best to follow “Reddit rules” and avoid anything that reads as overly self-serving or promotional.
As an example, let’s say your company sells software that uses AI to improve the customer experience. Linking to a landing page designed for high-intent buyers reads as a sneaky way to deliver ads, while rattling off specs both bores and alienates users more concerned with outcomes.
You can, however, talk about CX trends, how AI helps workers connect on a human level, or the different types of solutions buyers have to choose from. The idea is, people will eventually see you as a go-to resource in their industry, and when the time comes to select a vendor, they’ll automatically put you at the top of their shortlist.
Start your own group
Where participating in industry groups is a great way to keep up with trends and get in front of new prospects, creating your own group offers a different set of benefits including community building, establishing thought leadership and creating a valuable space where VIP “insiders” can talk shop.
Do note that starting your own group is more about building a community than increasing reach. Joining groups is better for appealing to broader customer segments, while starting a group is designed to nurture relationships and drive long-term loyalty by keeping a tight focus on the topics your best customers care about most.
For example, if you’re searching for groups that focus on “sales” topics you’ll find groups just for sales and marketing VP or account executives, Others focus on sub-topics like sales and marketing alignment or industries like apparel, IT, or oil & gas.
Your group’s title and description should include relevant, descriptive keywords that make it easy for your target audience to find your group. Make sure to use words that your ideal customer would use to describe your category or topic.
How to connect with B2B decision-makers on LinkedIn
The most straightforward way to connect with a prospect is, well, asking to connect via
sending a request to connect works best for connecting with prospects who have some level of familiarity with you or your company.
These include prospects who:
- Have engaged with your content
- Subscribe to your newsletter or follow you on social media
- You’ve interacted with in LinkedIn Groups or on other channels
- Share a mutual connection
- You’ve communicated with before
Essentially, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve “warmed” buyers to the point where:
- They immediately know who the request is coming from based on your name, company, and profile pic.
- It makes sense (from the buyer’s perspective) for you to reach out
As a cold outreach strategy, this method might backfire—for one, you’re waiting for them to accept your request so that you can then sell to them. In other words, it might slow you down.
And, given that you haven’t yet demonstrated what kind of value you bring to the table, decision-makers will likely interpret your attempt at outreach as spam.
For cold outreach, InMail cuts right to the chase
For the uninitiated, InMail is a part of LinkedIn’s built-in messaging system that allows sellers (with a Premium subscription) to send direct messages to users.
It’s a great tool for connecting with busy C-level buyers, as well as decision-makers who aren’t aware of you or your company.
You might also use InMail to reach prospects when you can’t verify their contact information.
Compared to email, InMail offers a few advantages, especially if you’re reaching out cold. It allows you to bypass the spam filter, and the paid credit system means users need to be intentional about who they connect with.
Essentially, InMail ensures that your message reaches its target destination and doesn’t get buried under the thoughtless junk mail people send when email is free and unlimited.
Finding decision-maker emails
While InMail offers some serious cold outreach benefits, using this approach for every cold email can get expensive. Instead, save your credits for VIP accounts or well-qualified prospects who have indicated an interest in your solution and email the others.
Use a tool like Hunter.io or VoilaNorbert to find and validate email addresses from your LinkedIn prospect list and personalize your outreach efforts with details sourced from your search missions—and check out these prospecting templates to learn more about what it takes to cut through the noise.
LinkedIn is a decision-maker gold mine as long as you nail down a few key things first. Your strategy hinges on good data and accurate personas and ICPs.
If you need answers on specific points about finding and reaching out to decision-makers on LinkedIn, come to Revenue Garage’s upcoming webinar with Brynne Tillman, the leading expert on social selling with LinkedIn.
The webinar agenda is completely open to attendees. Head to Revenue Garage and submit your questions, vote for the questions you’re interested in, and watch the agenda change in real-time.