The way a lot of people use LinkedIn,it might as well be a Rolodex. (Remember those dusty old collections of contacts and business cards you'd aimlessly flip through to find a contact to call?) With all the hype about social media, you've got to hope its tools work better.

LinkedIn can be a useful way to collect contacts. But when it takes you from who you already know to who you want – or better still, who youneed– to know, that's when prospecting heats up. LinkedIn Groups can reveal all sorts of information about your prospects, if you know how to look.

Here are five tips to help you use LinkedIn Groups to generate leads:
  1. A new way to connect

    If you find someone you want to connect to but don't have someone to introduce you, look down at the bottom of his or her profile. If the person is a member of any groups, join.You can then make direct contact as a fellow group member. But your group membership alone might not be enough to get your target to connect. Your new prospect will probably check your profile first.If you are using LinkedIn for sales, your profile can't be simply a sales resume. Use your summary to describe yourself as someone your customer actually wants to know -- less "seasoned sales pro" and more "genuine problem solver."

  2. Find new prospects

    Search for and join groups that would be interesting to your target customers. Identify members whose questions identify pressing needs and connect by answering their questions. Because the group members might not be the decision makers you are after, use ZoomInfo to research them and their roles in their organizations and to figure out who the decision maker might be (and that person's email and direct phone number). Armed with a prospect company and an existing pain-point, you can laser-focus your pitch and aim it at the right person.

  3. Make the most of your conference travel

    See if the event has a LinkedIn Group. Get into the group before the event and see who is going and why. In fact, ask questions that will get potential customers to raise their hands, such as: "How many of you are attending [session that talks about a problem your solution would address]?"Or: "Can you suggest a session that [talks about a problem your solution would address]?"Once you know who they are, set up face-to-face meetings during the event. Just remember to do your homework and figure out how you can best meet their needs and be certain you that you are meeting with the right person in each organization.

  4. Sell what they're buying

    Face it: Sometimes the lingo that marketing or product development people come up with doesn't mean a thing to the customer. You know it. You're the one on the sales call when you give the pitch and hear nothing but dead air. LinkedIn Groups can be like reading your customer's diary. They talk openly about their wants and needs. If you listen in, you'll learn a lot about how to put your pitch into the words they want to hear.

  5. Sell (yourself) by being a resource

    People like to do business with people. But with all this technology between you and your customers, cold calling has gotten downright frigid. Starting discussions on LinkedIn Groups can be a great way to put yourself out there as a go-to person. You'll be someone people want to connect with. Better still, if you phrase your questions and discussions well, you'll generate leads from responses. Another great way to engage is to offer a genuinely useful white paper, ebook or case study that helps solve a problem members are complaining about. Start a discussion, interact with members who comment, and get those members hot for what you've got.

  6. PowerLinkedIn Groups with ZoomInfo

    If you're not using ZoomInfo Pro to supplement the information you get from LinkedIn Groups, you're missing a lot. ZoomInfo Pro gives you detailed profiles on more than 50 million businesspeople at five million companies. You can find out whether a LinkedIn Group member is a decision maker and if not, who is. ZoomInfo includes just-verified email addresses and contact info. Plus, it's the only place where you can set up email alerts to track when a prospect changes jobs, gets an award, etc. Find out more about ZoomInfo Pro.

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