Using LinkedIn’s People Search for Business Development

Many a lawyer has wondered as they drove past the headquarters building of a corporation, “why aren’t we doing work for that company?” As they roll by, lawyers can even see some of the executives through their windows, working and sending legal work to other law firms. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a free, easy way to identify these executives, contact them and get to know them in person?

LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search helps lawyers get to know executives at target companies. This often-overlooked tool is very useful in business development. Presuming you already have a LinkedIn profile—and approximately 1.5 million lawyers worldwide do, according to Read Write Enterprise—simply navigate to the top right corner of the LinkedIn screen. Choose the “Advanced” link next to the magnifying glass icon.

Next you’ll see lots of boxes to fill in.

  • Where it says “Keywords,” type in the name of the company.
  • In the box “Postal Code” enter the zip code of the company.
  • In the “Title” box, type in “counsel” if you’re looking for the names of the in-house lawyers.

Using this search, LinkedIn will display all the in-house counsel working at that location. There were nearly two billion people searches like this on LinkedIn in 2010. More than 2 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages and as of January 2011, LinkedIn counts executives from all 2010 Fortune 500 companies as members. It is a happy hunting ground for lawyers.

For example, M&I bank is a major presence in Indianapolis. A search for “M&I bank” and the zip code 46201 produces a list of executives, including Connie Shepherd, who is a Senior Vice President at the bank working in the city.

Techiquette and business development

The next step is making a connection with the people you’ve discovered. The direct approach is to invite a person to connect, but this may seem too forward to executives you don’t know. A more genteel tactic is to ask someone who knows your target to make an introduction. LinkedIn will display all the connections you have in common, showing the photos from their profiles. See Techiquette For Lawyers for more on this.

My favorite approach is to review your target person’s profile to see which groups they belong to. LinkedIn will display whether you belong to the same group already. If not, their profile will show under “Additional Information” which groups the person belongs to, and you can join them easily by clicking on the blue “plus” button. Once you’ve had a chance to read and comment in the discussions of the group, you will have established your presence there. I also encourage you to start discussions, for example, by bringing up something new in current affairs and asking other members what their opinion is. This prompts interactions and makes the next step easy, which is to invite your target to connect with you because you belong to the same crowd.

Ideally, the group you’ve joined will have in-person meetings near where you work. The object of connecting with people on LinkedIn is not to assemble a collection of online buddies. Instead, the purpose is to start an online relationship as a bridge to a “3D” meeting with the other person face-to-face.

While you’re at it, visit the group’s home page and click on the “Members” link to see who else belongs. They will be ordered by relevance, meaning that your first-level connections will be displayed at the top of the list. Before you go to a group’s meeting, it’s a good practice to review the membership and make notes about three or four people whom you intend to talk to. This takes the randomness out of walking into a big room full of people, because you’ve arrived with a goal in mind.

Now you can see why the 59% of online consumers think having a LinkedIn account is important, according to a recent study from ROI Research and Performics. Instead of driving by a corporate headquarters, wondering what’s going on inside, you can harness online social media to penetrate the walls and place yourself inside.


1 Comment

  1. I agree, Larry. I often tell my clients that the best way to maximize their time on LinkedIn is to identify a target and search for them using the People Search tool. Nine times out of 10, the target is on LinkedIn, or their company is. It’s the most efficient way to see who you know that can introduce you to your target and what groups you may both be a part of. I’m glad you touched on how to establish the connection with those you’ve discovered. With social media, including LinkedIn, personal contact is often left by the wayside. It’s just as important now, if not more-so, to have live interactions with clients and targets alike. Remember that it’s easy to ignore someone through emails, but not so easy to ignore someone face-to-face.

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