written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource Kurt Shaver
“I know how to sell [my product/service] once I get in front of a prospect, but getting that first appointment is tougher than ever.” I hear this lament from salespeople, consultants, and entrepreneurs all the time.
Years of sales experience and investments in sales training has resulted in many of them knowing how to Qualify, Present, Differentiate, Negotiate, and Close sales. The problem is access. It is harder than ever to break through caller ID, voicemail, and email to start the sales process.
The situation is like when an out–of-towner visitor asks the hotel desk clerk for directions to San Jose. “Just get on the 101, head south to I-85, and….” “Hold it”, the visitor interrupts, “Can you start with how I get out of the parking lot? It exits to three different streets.”
As one sales VP said, “All the sales training in the world doesn’t mean squat if you can’t get the first appointment.” For a salesperson or anyone else whose livelihood depends on generating his or her own leads, getting connected to decision makers is the No. 1 benefit of LinkedIn. Whether you are a sales rep, a self-employed consultant, or the partner at a CPA firm responsible for bringing on new clients, LinkedIn offers two powerful ways to bust through the connection barriers:
1. Personal Introductions: LinkedIn reveals common Connections that a person shares with their target prospect, offering the possibility of receiving a personal introduction. That’s the best way to start a new sales cycle. Studies show that an initial email mentioning a common connection enjoys an 87% higher response rate than an email that does not. Building a strong LinkedIn network will increase the chances of finding common Connections.
2. Personal Insight: If you don’t have a common Connection, then your next best approach is to find out something about the person that you can use to gain their attention and establish some rapport. Sure, you could Google them – but that is practically old-fashioned now because you could be reading something that someone else wrote about your prospect years ago. It is better to see what they recently wrote about themselves. Chances are they have posted much more recent and in-depth information about their position, business accomplishments, work history, associations, interests and more on LinkedIn. I cannot tell you how many times I have establish instant rapport on initial meetings simply by mentioning something from the person’s LinkedIn Profile. I am completely transparent about it. I’ll say, “I reviewed your LinkedIn Profile and noticed that…” It always triggers a comfortable 3-5 minute conversation. People can’t resist talking about their favorite subject – themselves.
So, now that you know how to start more sales cycles with decision makers, do you know the way to San Jose?