July 2023#Cases#Custdev

Mastering LinkedIn: Strategies for gaining invaluable insights from interviewing C-Level Executives

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Authors

Tatiana Galagutskaya

Head of Project Management Officе

Lana Izrina

Market Researcher

Team

Alisa Tkach

Editor

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7 min

Any business with access to insider information boasts an undeniable advantage. As a consulting company, we strive to fully understand the perspectives, priorities, and logic of decision-makers. This way, we can formulate effective strategies for our clients. 

A deep understanding of industry dynamics, customer preferences, and emerging technologies empowers us to anticipate shifts in the market landscape and make strategic adjustments to our campaigns and initiatives.

Typically, the hardest part is finding these often-elusive high-profile respondents, but we’ve optimized this process, aiming for quality rather than quantity. 

Here is a glimpse of how we do it.

C-level hunt: prep work

One straightforward way to get in touch with experts is to message them directly on LinkedIn since nearly all professionals are actively using the network. And while your email is likely to end up in the spam folder, the LinkedIn message has a much better chance of reaching its recipient. 

However, to ensure they reply, you need to master two things: your profile and your first message. 

LinkedIn profile essentials

General advice for a catchy LinkedIn profile is to make it friendly (never too formal) and keep it alive. 

Other tips go as follows:

  • Fill in all the information, showcase your achievements, and ask the people to endorse your skills.
  • Make sure people see your real face and stick to the business casual style in the photo.
  • If your name is considered ‘hard to pronounce’ and you don’t have a problem using an easier pseudonym, do go for it.
  • Meticulously grow your network: the more niche experts and C-level executives you add, the better. People who see mutual high-profile connections tend to trust you more. 
  • Once your network gets bigger, aim to maintain good relationships with the key people. For instance, you can like and comment on their posts or congratulate them on their achievements. However, don’t just react for the sake of reacting. Your network is your capital, and people sense and appreciate sincerity.
  • Don’t try to save on the essentials. A premium account equips you with more useful features and contributes to your professional image. Sales Navigator, in turn, allows you to send InMail messages that will be delivered directly to the recipient’s email address, increasing your chances of being noticed. 

InMail messages are sent to LinkedIn and personal email addresses

Why is LinkedIn better than networking?

In our experience, traditional networking is not always the best way to find niche experts. A verbal request to recommend someone very rarely bears tangible results, since people forget about it or simply lack motivation. Moreover, the pressure of the NDA tends to stop potential respondents from sharing any information.

Elaborately planned personal contact, even the one initiated online, always gives the best conversion. Although the LinkedIn conversion rate is typically less than 5%, those people that do agree on the interviews are as good as gold.

Hint: The creation and proper ‘maintenance’ of a dedicated LinkedIn profile may take months or even years, and outsourcing such tasks might be a good idea. BDC researchers, highly skilled in qualitative research, have been working on their accounts for years while mastering the art of finding the right experts in any location and for any cause. 

First message impact

LinkedIn connection messages have a 300-character limit, so you have to weigh every word: stay concise, friendly, and cut straight to the point. You don’t want to copy and paste the same template for everyone; personalize your request. 

An example of a concise and effective connection note

Study the lead’s profile, experience, mutual connections, and other things that might help you catch their attention and make an outstanding first impression. Ensure that you always speak the same language. Notice whether the person likes the official communication style or prefers to keep things casual and go with it.

Other places to look for leads

LinkedIn is not the only place to look for people. Sometimes, your best bet is to get creative. In our practice, we managed to find valuable respondents on local headhunting websites, via personal social media, and even on Tinder. The more detective work you do, the better your findings. 

Unusual outcomes: finding new partners, advisors, and clients 

Sometimes, respondents’ outreach blossoms into new cooperation. One of our long-term partners once shared that Company X is their picture-perfect client. 

After our long-haul investigation work, followed by weeks of forging relationships, we gained the trust of Company X management. Apart from the interviews, they took an interest in our client’s software, and we eventually facilitated that collaboration. Already at the introduction stage, we managed to identify the needs of Company X and find common ground, thereby connecting them with their perfect client. 

High-quality recruiting, among other things, may lead to all kinds of cooperation, including gaining new partners, advisors, or even clients. 

Motivation: financial incentive and industry impact

Once you capture someone’s interest, you’ll need to stay proactive and never expect them to get back to you themselves. Follow up regularly using the same old personal approach: praise their expertise and let them know you’re only keen on talking to them in particular. 

Then, you need to find out what motivates them, and prescreening is the best way to do it.

Pre-screening intro as a key to quality insights

A 15-minute call where we ask just a few questions before scheduling the actual interview serves two purposes. 

First, you can determine whether the person has the information you are looking for. On the one hand, you don’t want to pay for a 1-hour call just to find out that their expertise is irrelevant. On the other hand, decision-makers often know less than highly skilled professionals that do the actual work daily, so you might want to talk to someone from their team instead. 

Secondly, prescreening is a great way to establish the respondent’s motives for the interview and, if they look for financial incentives, determine how much their insights may cost. 

Thirdly, you may quickly weed out unreliable people that won’t turn up; it’s always a good thing to do at the early stages.

Pro tip: If you feel that you’ve found the one, ask the respondent to sign an agreement right after the screening, giving them a sense of responsibility.

How much do you pay for an interview? Depending on their current position and experience, people may agree on very different amounts: from a couple of hundred USD to over $10,000. For instance, high-profile business consultants usually start at $3,000 and charge all the way up to $10,000.

Note that bargaining is not always a good idea. For example, you’ve found your perfect match, willing to share specific hands-on knowledge. They ask for $3,000, which is at least $500 higher than your budget. Our advice is not to bargain, as it won’t make a huge difference but may provoke the expert to share less.

For the sake of community

Some respondents agree to give out information ‘for free’ as long as they understand that their insights will help the community. It typically works with wealthy people in top management or public figures who see industry growth as one of their key goals. 

A promise of insightful research that covers the current market’s pain points is yet another way to motivate. We’ve done it numerous times and can confirm it is a valid strategy. 

A few more tips

  • Whether your respondent is idea-driven or expects a monetary reward, make sure you always deliver on your promises. If you agreed to a 1.5-hour interview, stay within this time frame or ask for permission to extend it.
  • Clarify when and how you will send their payment, and confirm it again at the interview's end. 
  • C-level executives live and work in a fast-paced environment, and sometimes you need to be ready to meet at 3 a.m. or right now in an hour without any preparation. The willingness to accept these terms and stay flexible will surely get you bonus points.

The bottom line

There are no reference solutions for finding the right people with invaluable information. Extensive prep work, passion for investigation, a personal approach, a focus on quality, not quantity, and even psychology techniques are a few things that often help.  

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