By TJ Lane, Senior Account Supervisor, Write2Market

I’m always amused by the attitude that sounds like this: Why should I pay money for that service when it isn’t doing anything that I couldn’t do myself? If you sit down and really think about it, there are an awful lot of services we purchase that we could easily do ourselves. Maybe even most of them.  If only we had the time and interest.

When it comes to sales prospecting, time is in limited supply. Sales professionals want qualified leads pronto. The less time they have to spend finding them, the more time they can spend engaging them. Time is often the core benefit sought when purchasing a service — the time that we get back from not having to complete the task ourselves. This notion can be easy to forget. I forgot it today. I was checking out SalesLoft, a prospecting tool that searches LinkedIn profiles for qualified sales leads.

salesloft

That Was Easy! Too Easy?

The idea is that SalesLoft combs LinkedIn profiles and provides returns based on whatever search parameters you specify.  Think of it as a Google for LinkedIn.  It’s so deceptively simple to use that my first thought was, “This is nice, but it’s nothing I couldn’t do myself without involving and paying SalesLoft.” But this is where things get interesting. After some more tinkering with SalesLoft, I realized that my logic was flawed for three main reasons:

1)   SalesLoft has a slicker and faster search than LinkedIn’s rather clunky search. It also shows returns in a Google interface, allowing you to add all of the prospects on each page at once, instead of individually, if you are happy with all of the results and don’t need to cherry pick.  SalesLoft can find the same number of qualified leads in minutes that it would take hours to find using LinkedIn alone.

2)   When you see a contact you want to keep in SalesLoft, all you have to do is click a button.  You can access your stored contacts anytime or export them to a spreadsheet or directly into Salesforce. Maybe this isn’t anything you couldn’t do yourself, but do you have the time or desire to mindlessly copy and paste all day?  You would also have to be connected to each profile to get full contact information, which brings us to the most important point…

3)   SalesLoft gives you more complete information than you can find on your own. It provides email addresses and even phone numbers for contacts that you are not personally connected to. Maybe you could do this yourself, but maybe you couldn’t – it depends on whether each contact you are interested in is willing to accept your connection request. SalesLoft doesn’t care, it gives you full contact information for everyone, even people who might never approve a connection from you.

And that is really the killer app here. SalesLoft gives you contact information for people on LinkedIn that you are not connected to. This can be solid gold for sales prospecting. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the contact information SalesLoft generates is not always perfect.

Test Drive

As an experiment, I decided to use SalesLoft for something a public relations professional would find great utility in: locating journalists. Just as a hypothetical, I searched for journalists at my former employer, CNN.  The results were quite good and the email addresses accurate, however I noticed that it could not locate direct phone numbers. Instead, it listed the same general CNN switchboard number for every contact.  SalesLoft won’t reveal how it finds phone numbers, but it looks like it uses publicly available phone numbers based on what company a contact is associated with. Contacts that are self-employed or work for very small companies may not show phone numbers at all.

This may or may not be an issue, depending on how you prospect. Certainly, a general number will work if you call a switchboard and ask the operator for a direct line. However, if you prospect many contacts from the same employer, it won’t be long before that switchboard operator hates you more than anybody else on earth.  If you happen to prospect very small business owners, freelancers, or contractors, SalesLoft may have a difficult time providing phone contacts for a large percentage of your sales leads.

There’s no doubt that SalesLoft has the ability to save significant amounts of time and trouble.  It’s probably worth the price of admission for most people who prospect more than a handful of contacts at established firms. Just don’t expect it to do all of the legwork for you. But the bottom line is that SalesLoft does in fact give you information that would be very difficult — maybe impossible — to obtain without it.