Exercise: Search for a Prospect Company in LinkedIn
Here's my top recommendation for LinkedIn, if you have a profile but feel sort of "meh" about LinkedIn. Use its search. You may know that you can ask one of your LinkedIn Connections to introduce you to one of their LinkedIn connections. It's a bit cumbersome to go about it that way. Here's a better idea.
Let's say you are interested in having Valero, the energy company, as a client. Put "Valero" in the search box. Leave "People" as the thing you're searching for.
What comes up are people who work for Valero, sorted in the order of how closely they're connected with you or your connections.
I tried this cold at the presentation - I'd actually love to talk to somebody at Valero for a nonprofit event I help organize. Turns out several of my first-degree connections have moved from a previous company to working at Valero. I can look for the folks whose job titles look the closest to the "Community Relations" group.
Use the Phone
Here's another tip: I could use LinkedIn to ask for an introduction. But I'll get better results if I shoot the person a quick email or give them a call.
Keep It Real
And that brings me to another tip: Really know the people you connect with. LinkedIn's power is its ability to amplify a REAL business network - not help you PRETEND you have one.
Speaking of keeping it real - LinkedIn is now prompting users to rate one another for different claimed skills. It's fun to see people I haven't worked with in awhile say that I'm good at WordPress or Web Strategy or Information Architecture – but many of them really have no idea whether I'm good at that, they just take me at my word that I am. Flattering in a way, but if you REALLY want to help someone, give them a real LinkedIn Recommendation. The written kind, with believable detail. They take time, and they are a wonderful gift, and a great way to thank somebody for a job well done, or a relationship you value.
Need More LinkedIn Advice?
There are tons of juicy presentations about LinkedIn on Slideshare. Here's one that has a good deal more detailed advice that I find sound. Connect with me on Slideshare and share your own!