Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to search Efficiently (The Hidden Capabilities of Google)

My daughter is a typical teenager – 15 years of hormone fueled, facebook focused, and texting driven angst, who, although born as part of the internet generation, is totally unaware of how to search efficiently and quickly. The feeble cries of protestation of “I can’t find it anywhere” when a school project forces her out of her comfort zone are an almost daily occurrence.

So I did a little poll around the office and found out that she wasn’t abnormal and that very few people seem to be aware of how Google, for example, can help you drill down to get the specific information you want. So I thought that a primer in basic search techniques was in order.

Google actually has over 40 modifiers to adjust and fine tune your search results. There are also another 22 advance special features triggered by keywords. You don’t have to know them all but some are very useful:

Search for an exact word or phrase

You should know this already but if you want to find the exact word or set of words put the search phrase in quotation marks. It helps to sift the wheat from the chaff quickly.
Ex: "imagine all the people" gets you the John Lennon song quickly

Exclude a word

To exclude a word from your search query just put a dash (-) before the word you don’t want to search on
Ex: "imagine all the people" –lennon and now you don’t have the song but something completely different. Good for when you know that a brand name may be confused with a place name.

Search within a site or domain

Lets say you want to search only within a specific website you can use Google to define only this.
Ex: "imagine all the people" and you will get only the phrase as it was reported on Important point is that there should be no space between site: and the actual domain name. You can also define just a top level domain such as .gov or .de as well (

Search within other Parameters

Link: If you type: you can see who is linking to a particular site.
Author: If you type: author:Charles Dickens it will return articles authored by him.
Location: If you type: queen location:Holland it will match the term “queen” with articles from Holland only

Define a word

If you want to know the definition for a word or phrase then just put the word “define:” in front of the query.
Ex: define:marketing and you have  a quick definition together with pages that relate to the word
Use a wildcard

If you can’t remember an exact phrase but some of the words then use an asterisk (*) within a search as a placeholder for any unknown terms.
Ex: "linkedIn and * b2b" will give you various search phrases with options for the blanks. Great for songs title where you can’t remember it exactly.

Search for either word

If you want to search for pages that have just one of several words, include OR (capitalized) between the words. Without the OR, your results would typically show only pages that match both terms.
Ex: Winter olympics 2014 OR 2018 will give you results on either of the terms.

Search for a number range

This is great for finding a range of numbers . If you separate the numbers by two periods (with no spaces) to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and measurements.
Ex: new convertible cars $20000:$25000

Use Google as a calculator

Many people have no idea that you can get the answers for most calculations simply by typing them in the search bar.
Ex: 2^3(25+3^4) will give you 848 and a nice calculator will appear for simpler math. Use sqr for square roots etc. It’s actually very handy.

So explore and have fun with this. You will be surprised how much more you can get out of Google specifically if you know a little bit more.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Using LinkedIn for Effective Sales Prospecting

LinkedIn has now passed the 225 million mark of users, with 40% being in the North America. It has become the number one business social media site by a large margin. It is one of the best, up to date and most compelling databases of individuals known in the business world.

If you are not using it as a Salesman to find leads, qualify prospects and promote yourself, you are missing out. For B2B, LinkedIn is the critical tool that can make your prospecting faster, smoother and, ultimately, more profitable.

So how do you turn LinkedIn’s vast database into a steady stream of leads that can negate the need for you ever to cold call again?

Get Your Profile Right – Your online Business Card.

More and more, business professionals will view your profile on LinkedIn prior to a meeting to gain a better insight into whom they are having a discussion with. What you have on view is a dynamic and involved business card; it tells who you are, what solutions your company offers and what makes you stand out. Make sure your profile is professional and informative and will impress. Photo, Headline, Summary, Contact and details of your experience.

Photo: Make sure you have a solid, business-like picture of yourself up. It’s nice that you are proud of your kid’s baseball team or your partner, but this isn’t Facebook. Ensure that it is good shot of head and shoulders and you are dressed appropriately; after all a picture tells a thousand words.
Headline: Your headline should be a summary of who you are. Imagine you are at a party and someone asks what you do. In one short line tell them. That’s the Headline. LinkedIn will automatically define this as your job title at your company name – not that inspiring and not too informative. Rather than “Salesman at Acme”, what about “Solution provider for Packaging Lines” or “Custom Systems specialist for B2B Cloud Service”.
Summary: Still at that same party, but now you are going to give them a little more information. Get out your Elevator Speech. Who you are, what you do for you company, what your company offers customers; one paragraph and punchy.
Contact: If you are a salesman you want people to contact you, so make it easy. Make sure you have phone numbers and email address. By the way, you may have signed up for LinkedIn using a personal email address, make sure your contact information reflects your business email. Nothing worse than seeing (unless you work for that company of course!) 
Experience: If you are promoting yourself as a provider of solutions for your customers, rather than just a seller of goods, then this can reflect your skills and capabilities. Keep it brief and pertinent (unless of course you are looking for jobs, then more is needed) OK, so you’ve set your profile up and you look like a professional solution provider that is trustworthy. So how can you use LinkedIn to your advantage?

Connections – the Heart of LinkedIn

Connections breed connections. Your first level contacts open up a route to a wide range of second and third level connections. This is how you scale your network. Whenever you meet anyone (online or off) always follow up quickly with a connection request while you are still fresh in their minds.

Having said that, there is a common mistake made by lots of people on LinkedIn and that is to make a connection with everyone. The more names you have the more successful you are. Wrong! Choose your connections wisely. Your realtor or hairdresser is not a connection you need frankly (unless you are in that business). Keep your personal and business lives separated. Remember that LinkedIn is for helping you connect with the right people to further your sales career. I have seen too many people with connections that are out of control and don’t assist them in doing business.

Groups are Critical

As a sales professional this can be your lifeblood; a great place to go fishing for new leads. Ask yourself why anybody joins a specific group? Because it is relevant to their needs and interests. One of the standard ways of finding leads is to profile a specific customer who you have sold to and then go out and find individuals and companies similar to them. That can be very time consuming. However with LinkedIn, just look at the Groups that your customer belongs to and search within that Group for more like them (only possible if you pay for a premium LinkedIn account). It is a great way to pre-qualify prospects.

Follow Companies and Find out More

Similar to making connections with individuals, you can make a connection with a company by Following them. It’s a good way to stay in touch and find out what they are doing. Many companies will constantly refresh their company pages with information on new products, events, news jobs and more. It is an automated way to keep informed provided the company has an active policy of making changes on an ongoing basis.

Pay for It for Success

Simple logic here – LinkedIn is a business. If you want to release the full potential, you have to pay. A Business Premium account is going to set you back a miserly $20 a month. If you can’t afford that for the benefits that it provides then you are destined never to be a successful salesman and you need to focus your career aspiration a little different.

So what are the benefits?

  • Expanded Who viewed your profile
  • Full Profiles available
  • InMails
  • OpenLink
  • Premium Search

Of these, the two most important are InMails and Premium Search.

InMails – Connect with Ease

InMail is LinkedIn’s internal email system and allows you to send an email to any LinkedIn user without requiring an introduction. It is especially useful for 3rd degree and out of Network connections. Basically, it ensures your email gets through to their inbox.

I have heard all sorts of statistics on the effectiveness of InMails from 30 to 50 times more successful than a cold call or a standard email contact in getting through but I would claim much higher in my experience.

InMails are only available on paid accounts. The higher level the account you have, the more you get. On Business Premium account you’ll get three InMails each month. This means you’ll want to reserve them for when everything else fails. But the good news is that if you do not get a response to an InMail within seven days, your credits are refunded.

Search – the Power Tool

The key for LinkedIn in finding new prospects. You only get out what effort you put in so you need to be sensible about how you search. This is no different to working with Google or Bing – you have to be smart with your search keywords and methods.

With LinkedIn’s advanced search you can find people by title, company, location or keyword. If you have a paid account the you can add company size, type, and seniority level too and most importantly search by Group. By intelligently mixing the different filters you can get really deep and identify key individuals quickly and easily. You can also save your search criteria and get a weekly report listing anyone new who matches the customers you’re looking for.

Who’s viewed You – New ways to Connect

With LinkedIn, you can see who’s looked at your profile. Unless visitors have set their profiles to anonymous, you can click on the “Who’s viewed your profile?” link and see a list of them.

This can work for you as a method for contacting people.

The fact that someone looked at your profile is a good excuse to reach out with a connection request. Furthermore, if you look at other people’s profiles, a certain proportion will always look back

Even when you get visitors described as “Procurement Professional from the Pharmaceutical Industry” you can still click on them. LinkedIn will then give you a list which will include the actual visitor. It then takes just minutes to quickly visit each profile to show you’ve looked back.

Use Google as an Additional Tool

So you’ve done a search and you have found some interesting people to contact and you want to know more. If the person is a 3rd Degree connection often you will get a picture and then a name that is just “Linda W.” and the only way to connect with them is via a precious InMail credit. How do you overcome this? Simple, use Google.

You know some basic information – a first name, a company they work for and a job title. Put it all into Google and hit search. Hey presto a URL link to that person on LinkedIn. Click on it and now you are seeing the full details of the individual plus you can now just “Connect” to them saving your InMails for others. Get used to using LinkedIn together with Google to find out more on a potential prospect.

Steal from your Competition

I wrote about this in a previous Blog (Stealing Customers though LinkedIn). This is a critical part of using LinkedIn’s ‘hidden’ capabilities. There is nothing wrong with it and you should use this tactic ruthlessly. You will be surprised how much information you can gain and how many more leads you can garner using this technique. As the blog details, just don’t let it happen to you.

You will be surprised how many sales people are totally ignorant on LinkedIn and how to use it effectively. Make sure you are aware of the power of this important sales tools and how to use it to find and qualify prospects, Investigate contacts, find out what customers and companies are doing and most importantly generate leads and sales.

Happy Hunting!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stealing Customers though LinkedIn

If you are a truly successful sales person then you can’t have ignored the latest trends in sales and marketing in the B2B arena when prospecting – LinkedIn. However, do you know that you may be allowing your competition to know exactly what you are doing and who all of your customers are?

Now there’s a scary thought!

Information on customers is highly valuable to the salesman. In fact I have seen many salesmen hiding much of the information from their own company as a way of protecting their job security. Its one of the reasons that there is so much push back on implementation of CRM systems such as or ACT!

So where is the backdoor to this mine of data?

First, let’s look at LinkedIn briefly and some basic human characteristics when networking on this social media tool for business. Here are some assumptions:

  • The majority of people when sent an invitation to connect will do so.
  • The number of connections someone has on their profile is often seen as a measure of how successful they are (wrong).
  • When a salesman visits a customer he often connects with them via LinkedIN directly afterwards.
  • Most people leave their connections wide open to viewing by another connection
  • Verticals are incestuous and it’s not uncommon to have competitors in your past connections
So, with all this said, it is not difficult for a savvy competitor who is a 1st degree connection with you to go through all of your connections trolling for companies of interest. All they have to do is click on the “connections” link in your profile and hey presto, a goldmine – every one of your contacts available to see. And LinkedIn makes it easier by allowing them to search within your connection to make the process even smoother.

About now you should be worried.

So what do you do? 

Option 1 – The Gatekeeper

You can go through all of your connections looking for competitors and then remove them one by one (go to “Connections” and then “Remove Connections” and choose who to get rid of. They will be informed that you have done this, by the way).

A little intensive and takes some time with always the worry that you will miss someone. Plus, let’s be mercenary about this, connections to other sales contacts can also serve as a life blood to future career options so you shouldn’t burn your bridges whenever possible.  Plus competitive reps can be very creative about finding avenues to become one of your connections if they are suitably motivated.

Option 2: Lock Down

The best way and the simplest - just shut down the ability for anyone to see who your connections are. With a closed network your connections can see your entire profile, but cannot see your full list of connections.  The one exception is that your connections can see connections that you share together. 

So go to “Settings” on your LinkedIn account and under Privacy Controls, select the text link titled  ‘Select who can see your connections’. Toggle the drop down from ‘Your Connections’ to ‘Only You’.

In addition (and don’t forget this), ‘Activity Broadcasts’ provide auto-updates from your account.  Take time reviewing the privacy controls and consider your options. Lock this down also.

Ok, take a moment and breathe a sigh of relief. You are now safe from prying eyes.

And then take the next step…

If someone can do this to me, why can’t I do this to them?”

One of the hardest parts of selling is getting to the right person. Who are they, What is their job title, What do they really do? It can be a huge time waster. If your competition has already done this, then why not stand on their shoulders.

Look through your connections and see if you can find a competitive salesman. If not, try and connect with them. Try three or four within a company; at least one, if not more, will accept. Then click on their connections and off you go.

The joy of LinkedIn is that there is no audit trail of what you are doing once you have made the connection and closed off your Activity Broadcast. So nobody will even know.

Is any of this wrong or illegal? Not in the slightest. If your competition broadcast this information then why not use it. Just make sure they can’t do it to you first.

LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for prospecting but to use it effectively you have to know the advantages and disadvantages and how to use both to further your sales goals.

Good hunting.