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What is social prospecting? According to HubSpot’s Social Prospecting Workbook, it is “the art of scouring the social web, identifying potential prospects for your business, and engaging them to draw them to your site and get those potential prospects to your sales team.”

social prospectingEvery sales person should be searching for prospects through social sites, especially LinkedIn. You already know that using social sites are valuable for promoting your company’s products, special deals, etc. to your existing followers, so why not do a little extra work to find out who your potential prospects are and then reach out to them directly?

In this article, I’m going to focus on tips and tools for using LinkedIn for social prospecting, but social prospecting can be done in all of the various social networking sites.

1. Qualifying Leads

You wouldn’t want someone on your sales team to pitch just any random person on the street, right? That would be a waste of time. So, don’t waste your time by blindly throwing out a line and hoping someone will bite.

Be effective and efficient by qualifying your social leads first by listening to conversations - not in a creepy way, of course. Listen to what people are talking about and what questions they are asking to learn if they are a viable prospect. Pay attention to conversations in the groups you are already in and contacts you already have.

2. Creating Relationships

Once you’ve found a viable prospect, create a relationship by being their problem solver. You can answer their questions, create a solution to a problem, and become a thought leader in their eyes. Don’t randomly spam groups or people with your “solution” if they don’t have the problem in the beginning. Nobody likes “that guy.”

3. Providing Relevant Content

You know who “that guy” is. He’s the one who joins a conversation and then randomly promotes his new awesome book about something completely unrelated. He didn’t join the conversation to be helpful or become a resource, he’s just throwing out a random line. This, of course, means he isn’t qualifying leads (go back and read #1 again.)

Providing relevant content is one of the keys to inbound marketing. The viable prospect that you have already qualified and began creating a relationship with, should be one of your company’s buyer personas. As a responsible marketer, you should have relevant content for each of your buyer personas. Voila, you have a viable prospect who has a problem that you have a solution for.

Additional LinkedIn Tools To Help With Social Prospecting

People Search: This may be elementary, but something so obvious can sometimes be overlooked. Search for people who are in the specific industry you target, location you want to target, and have the specific title of your buyer persona.

Premium: There is a cost to having Premium access (it is a wide range depending on the package), but you can search for more specific information such as seniority, interests, years of experience, company size, and functions. You can also get a list of all the people who have viewed your profile in the last 90 days. Anyone who has viewed your profile is a great lead. Another benefit to Premium is you have access to InMail which allows you to contact prospects without a connection. This can certainly be abused, so be mindful.

Companies Search: If you are targeting a company who needs your service, search within that company to find out if you are already connected to a current or past employee and didn’t realize it. That connection can possibly introduce you to your relevant prospect at that company. Oh, and don’t forget to follow that company if you’re interested in their business. That’s the “social” part.

Social prospecting takes a little time, but the ROI is worth it. Take the time to search for a viable lead, qualify the lead, get to know the lead, and then solve the lead's problem. Doing this can not only create a new customer, but a new fan and advocate for you and your business.

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