When youâ€™re sourcing new prospects or receive an inbound lead, whereâ€™s the first place you look forÂ more information on your buyer?
Most likely, you go straight to LinkedIn. As well you should.
But while a buyerâ€™sÂ LinkedIn profile provides a wealth of information, not all of it will be useful. And when youâ€™re prospecting at scale, you canâ€™t afford to spend an hour, a half hour, or even 15 minutes on each profile. You have to skim.
Weâ€™ve prioritized the most important parts of a LinkedIn profile you should focus onÂ before picking up the phone, dependent on how much time you can afford to spend on research. Zero in on these 12 areas, and youâ€™ll be ready to have an intelligent, informed conversation in no time.
The Obvious: Just Three Minutes of Research
These four sections cover the bare minimum of what you should know about your prospect before you pick up the phone. Prioritize these areas above all others.
1) Summary (0:45)
A summary is a high-level description of a professionalâ€™s background, areas of expertise, and career goals. Because LinkedIn members write their own summaries, this profile introduction of sorts reveals how your prospect wants to be seen and what they want to achieve. Make sure to tailor your pitch and conversation in a way that will appeal to theirÂ interests.
As an example, hereâ€™s social selling evangelist Jill Rowleyâ€™s LinkedIn summary:
Rowley specifically mentions that sheâ€™s passionate about getting universities to introduceÂ professional selling classes and degrees, which means she thinks big. Asking her for advice on how to structure an entire curriculum would likely be a compelling offer. Asking her to speak to a five-person seminar three states away? Less so.
2) Job Title/Description (0:45)
What does your prospect do? Does their title suggest a level of seniority or are they more entry-level? Check their description for verbs like â€śmanageâ€ť or â€śoversee,â€ť and see if you can determine whether theyâ€™re directly responsible for any metrics or goals — especially those that pertain to your offering.
3) SharedÂ Connections (0:30)
More than 80% of B2B decision makers start the purchasing process by asking for referrals. With this in mind, check if you and your prospect shareÂ mutual acquaintances toÂ provide a warm introduction to your prospect. If a common connection pops up, reach out that person and ask if theyâ€™d be willing to provide a warm introduction.
Scroll to theÂ â€śConnectionsâ€ť section of LinkedIn. LinkedIn automaticallyÂ surfaces shared connections you have with professionals youâ€™re not already connected with.
4) â€śIn Common Withâ€ť Sidebar (1:00)
This is the fastest way to surface everything you and your prospect share professionally. Whether itâ€™s the same alma mater or the same LinkedIn group, use this section to quickly find everything you have in common, and then dig deeper into relevant areas.
The sidebar appears underneathÂ â€śHow Youâ€™re Connectedâ€ť andÂ â€śPeople Also Viewedâ€ť on the right-hand side of a LinkedIn profile. For prospects youâ€™re already connected with, itÂ will appear at the top of the right sidebar.
The Not-So-Obvious: If You Have Seven Minutes to Spare
Read everything about your prospectâ€™s current job, yet donâ€™t feel like you have enough information to hook them in an email or call? Read the sections below to find yourÂ â€śin.â€ť
5) Recent Activity (1:00)
If youâ€™re lucky, your prospect didnâ€™t just createÂ a LinkedIn profile and walk away. Ideally, theyâ€™re sharing content, liking updates, and postingÂ in groups. TheÂ â€śRecent Activityâ€ť section of LinkedIn will unearth this information, allowing you to form a clearer picture of what your prospect cares about.Â
To get toÂ â€śRecent Activity,â€ť hover over the arrow next to theÂ â€śSend InMailâ€ť button, then clickÂ â€śView recent activity.â€ť
Once youâ€™re on the page, you can browse through updates, comments, likes, and published posts on LinkedIn (see #13).
6) Job History (1:30)
Your prospectâ€™s current job is obviously important, but you should also look at their holistic job history. Have they worked in the same industry for decades, or have they jumped from field to field? One circumstanceÂ isnâ€™t necessarily better newsÂ than the other, but a buyerâ€™sÂ job history will reveal how you should approach your prospect.
For example, someone whoâ€™s worked at the same company for 12 years and has risen in the ranks has likely accrued a good deal of organizational influence. In a sales scenario, this personÂ will be valuable to speak with even if they arenâ€™t the sole decision maker. On the other hand, a prospect whoâ€™s held the same senior position at four different companies in the last decade might not have as much internal influence, but will almost certainly have a direct say in sales decisions.
7) Certifications/Projects (0:15)
Certifications are a great way to get up to speed on your prospectâ€™s expertise.Â In general, you shouldnâ€™t get overly technical or in-depth during sales conversations, but a prospect certified in an area relevant to your product can handle a more detailed discussion. Additionally, check out theÂ â€śProjectsâ€ť section of a buyerâ€™s profile to determine if theyâ€™ve worked on an initiative that relates to your product or service, or if theyâ€™ve implemented an offering like yours before.
Itâ€™s worth mentioning that notÂ all prospects includeÂ certifications or projects on their LinkedIn profiles. Thatâ€™s fine — look for related sections like â€śPublicationsâ€ť and â€śHonors & Awardsâ€ť that alsoÂ demonstrate deeper expertise.
8) Volunteer Organizations/Causes/Interests (0:15)
TheseÂ sections areÂ bonuses, so donâ€™t worry if theyâ€™re blank on your buyerâ€™s profile. However, if the information is there, use it. Bringing up a common interest is a good way to build rapport with a prospect, especially if you canâ€™t find out much else about them.
9) Groups (1:00)
Group membership is a great way to learn about your prospectâ€™s goals and priorities. How many groups are they a part of, and are the topics vague or specific? Do they participate in industry groups, or post a lot about specific problems? What comments do they make on othersâ€™ content?Â Pay attention to their activity and glean useful information from their involvement.
Deep Cuts: If You Have 15 Full Minutes
By this time, you should have a good sense of what makes your prospect tick. But maybe youâ€™re going after the CEO of a major company, or giving it another go with an account youâ€™ve been chasing for years. In high-priority or special cases, find out as much as possible about yourÂ buyerâ€™sÂ concerns, goals, and thought process by digging into the following four areas.
10) Recommendations (1:00)
Not every prospect will have recommendations. But if you can find them, recommendationsÂ can be the most illuminating and interesting parts of a LinkedIn profile.
Recommendations can be key to understanding how a prospect works and how much influence they hold. Recommendations from colleaguesÂ both senior and junior to your prospect are a great sign. In addition, recommendations from people in multiple different departments signifyÂ that your prospect has pull across the company.
In terms of specific language,Â look for phrases that indicateÂ your prospect is able to build consensus to reach decisions, or is directly responsible for making decisions.
11) Endorsements (0:30)
The Skills section of LinkedIn isnâ€™t always helpful. I could add â€śFlamethrowingâ€ť or â€śJugglingâ€ť to my skills, but that doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™m a championship juggler. On the other hand, a professional with 99+ endorsements on her top five skills probably knows what sheâ€™s doing. Look for endorsements in areas related to your product to confirm youâ€™re speaking with the right person.
A caveat: Like recommendations, not everyone is diligent about collecting endorsements, so a lack of endorsementsÂ doesnâ€™t necessarily mean your prospect is fudging their background. Use endorsements to confirm an area of expertise or identifyÂ your prospectâ€™s strengths, not to disqualify.
12) Influencers/Topics/Companies Followed (1:30)
Spend a minute and check out whoÂ your buyerÂ follows onÂ LinkedIn. Are there sharedÂ themes among the influencers or topicsÂ they subscribe to? IdentifyingÂ common threads inÂ the news, people, and companies they keep tabs onÂ can shine a light on what your prospect cares about.
13) Publications/Posts (5:00)
If your prospect blogsÂ on LinkedIn or links to their work, read something theyâ€™ve written. It will give you insight into their thought process and what they deem a major accomplishment or concern. Have they written four posts about how they improved upon a certain metric? Lead with numbers. Are they a sucker for a good growth story? Show them how your product can achieve even more.
LinkedIn is a valuable source of informationÂ on your prospects if you just know where to look. By using this list, youâ€™ll be able to develop an efficient and effective LinkedIn screening process that will get you key information in a short amount of time.
What do you make sure to look at on a prospectâ€™s LinkedIn profile before you call them? Let us know in the comments below.