When we did our 2013 sales-and-LinkedIn survey, lots of people shared their thoughts and strategies about how to maximize the benefits of LinkedIn. I love what Paul Meyers had to say:

“I use LinkedIn as a surgical tool when I need to ferret out a very specific individual decision-maker within an organization — the guy who holds the purse strings. Since their staff is well trained to keep annoying sales guys away, LinkedIn helps me find them.”

That is so true today; everyone wants to keep you out! The LinkedIn advanced-search function is a great place to begin looking for prospects’ names. Here are five fresh LinkedIn prospecting ideas being used by some of your colleagues:

  1. Find surprise opportunities — Mike Osterhaudt. “I search for companies in the ‘people’ field. This gives me a list of people who work or have worked in that company. I then narrow it by location and job description. Then, I also look where people have worked before they were at their current job. By doing this, I’ve found many other companies (who are now my customers) that I didn’t even know existed before.”
  2. Track competitive activity — Bob Bishop. “I search my competitors to see who they’re hooking up with!”
  3. Support lead-generation initiatives — Lucy Railton. “We try to confirm the identity, title and location of every inbound lead via LinkedIn. We provide profile links with the assignment of leads. This gives our reps fewer reasons to not do proper prospect research and/or connect with them via LinkedIn. Also, by connecting to industry-specific groups, we have access to a larger audience of searchable contacts. Additionally, with the advent if the new ‘endorsement’ feature we can see the names of people likely connected to a prospect that we’re currently not connected to. Plus, the number of endorsements and titles of the endorsers often gives us an indication of how immersed the prospect is in our industry.”
  4. Follow prospect/customer actions — Gary McManis. “I’ve followed and encourage my staff to follow the new contacts and recent LinkedIn activities of our customers and prospects. This helps us uncover possible opportunities. This past year, we uncovered several relatively large projects they were getting ready to undertake by noticing they were connecting with vendors and consultants who offered services that were a good fit for our products. We engaged the prospect early in their process and were able to get there ahead of our competition. And since we became a planning asset to the customer, we were able to generate new business.”
  5. Rebuild a neglected territory — Zane Safrit. “The territory I’m serving has been neglected for a long time. Twenty-five percent to 30 percent of our customers and prospects have changed jobs. I have two choices with my time: call and/or email to find out they are no longer with the company or check LinkedIn for their current status and connect with them there. The first option leaves no possibility for future interactions. The second option, using the same amount of time, renews the relationship while it qualifies their interest in further discussions. Plus, I can find elements of their background to include in our conversations as we move forward, further building a relationship of trust and friendship. That’s key for our big-ticket items and longer sales cycle.”

Finding the people you seek on LinkedIn can seem like a daunting task, but if you dig in wisely, you see there are plenty of opportunities just waiting to be uncovered.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Jill Konrath is the author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. If you’re struggling to set up meetings, click here to get a free Prospecting Tool Kit.