How to Scout Whales on LinkedIn

LinkedIn NetworkAre you one of the executives who still think social media is frivolous, trivial, and unrelated to your business?  Think again!  In this article, I explain the value of just one of the social media tools to find a personal introduction into a new large account prospect, to locate employees and past employees that you “didn’t know you knew,” and other valuable information about your prospects.

In The Whale Hunters Process™, once you have completed a Target Filter and created a Whale Chart, it’s time to research those key targeted companies that seem ideal for you.  From you research, you create a Scouting Dossier about each potential prospect.  The dossier contains information you will need to help score each company against the Target Filter criteria to determine which prospects will be best for you.

An important component of the dossier is a list of contacts–names and titles of people who you need to meet.  In a whale-sized public company, you can find the names of key executives in the annual report and SEC documents.  But in a very large company, you are not going to meet the CEO.  You need to meet some key executives at one corporate location, or in one division, or in one functional area such as marketing, manufacturing, quality control.  That information is harder to find.  And once you identify key contacts, you need to find an introduction to them.

LinkedIn, the leading social media tool for building professional connections, allows you to identify and connect with the right people.  Here’s how it works for me.

1.  Suppose I am a salesperson for a marketing firm, and I want to introduce my services to wedding retailer David’s Bridal.  I log in to LinkedIn and search “companies” for David’s Bridal.  More than 500 employees of the company are members of LinkedIn, and one of them, the director of eCommerce, is in what LinkedIn calls “my network.”  She is directly connected to a person who is directly connected to me, a person that I actually know very well.  I can ask my connection to introduce me to the director of eCommerce at LinkedIn.  And from that person, who is likely one of the key people I need to meet, I can find other key people at David’s Bridal.

2.  Now suppose I represent a software development company that introduces its products to manufacturers.  On my Whale Chart is a company named Aethercomm.  37 employees of that company are LinkedIn members, one of whom, the director of business development, is in my network.  Now I can request an introduction to that person from the person to whom I am connected.

3.  What if I own a print company, and I want to learn how to do business with the National Football League?   My LinkedIn search produces more than 500 NFL employees, two of whom are in my network.  They are not the right connections for me, however–one is a scout and one is a game official.  It’s not likely that they could help me.  However, through my network I am connected to five former employees of the NFL.   I am not directly connected to these people–rather, in every case, I am connected to someone who is connected to them.  It’s a “second-tier” connection.  But now I am able to tap my network of immediate connections to request an introduction to someone who could help me navigate the NFL.

But that’s not all.  When I did the company search on the NFL, I also uncovered the names and profiles of people not in my immediate network but whom I needed to identify.  One of those is the Vice President of Entertainment Marketing and Promotions.  That’s a person who could help me connect with the buyers of print services.  When I opened his profile, I discovered that I have a “third tier” connection–nineteen of my direct connections have connections to people who have connections to that VP.  Once again, I have a network that can help.

In all three of my examples, LinkedIn provides much more than the names and connections.  I can learn how long people have worked for the company, where they are located, their job title, where they went to school, and the names of their former employers. In many cases they have online recommendations from people they work for and co-workers.  Often I can see their picture.  On a company search, you will find information about the company itself.  Many companies have their own LinkedIn page.   Lots of them also provide a link to their Facebook page where you can learn even more about their employees and their business philosophy.  Former employees to whom you are connected can provide very helpful inside information.  When you are researching a very large organization–like the NFL–you’ll find links to each of their divisions or locations, and those links will take you to more connections.

What I haven’t said yet is my most important point:  You can’t get any value from LinkedIn unless you become a real part of it.  LinkedIn is a powerful research tool for me because I invest time and energy into building my network of relationships within the LinkedIn community:

–I joined LinkedIn and completed an extensive profile.
–I use the site’s internal tools to invite people I know to connect with me on LinkedIn.
–I receive requests to connect with people and I respond to those requests.
–I join LinkedIn groups and participate in discussion forms.
–The Whale Hunters has a company page on LinkedIn, and I build connections there as well.

As of today I have 3569 connections linking me to many million professionals.  Basic membership to LinkedIn is free.  I choose to pay a monthly fee for which I get more services– better searches, more introductions, the ability to connect directly with people through “InMail” and so forth.  Three levels of premium service are available depending upon the services that you wish to have.

If you are scouting the whales on your whale chart, LinkedIn is a priceless resource.  It will save you time and money and extend your reach of contacts exponentially.