LinkedIn recently launched ProFinder to help 17 categories of service providers already on their main platform to connect with their customers in an effective way. You can locate ProFinder on LinkedIn in the Interests tab’s drop-down menu. Although LinkedIn itself provides listings in its main database for some 475 million subscribers (in 200 regions), of which many are service providers, relying on this listing on LinkedIn to generate business (or do to business) can be chancy. For a potential customer a database search and then selecting from that search the most appropriate service provider can be both time consuming and error-prone, despite all the supporting back-up provided by the individual service provider’s credentials on their Profile. Yet another reason such an exploration can be a hit-or-miss in getting the right service provider to get exactly the service you want is because in most cases the client has not clearly thought through their own requirements until they start talking to the service provider. So, from an efficiency standpoint such an exploration can end up wasting valuable time for both parties in the process.
ProFinder is designed to make this process much more efficient in the following ways:
- Each category of 17-Service providers is curated by LinkedIn before a provider is listed in the right category. Key qualifiers such as the number of client Recommendations are highlighted to the prospect when they take a look at a professional service provider’s Profile.
- A prospect searching for help in any one of the categories is first asked to state their requirements as a part of the “RFQ” (Request for Quote) that the prospect submits to ProFinder. This simple strategy makes it easy for service provider to zero-in on only those RFQs that are of interest to them, without second-guessing.
- The RFQs are limited to only five responses. So, the first five responders to the RFQ reach the prospect, which keeps their review task limited to those five responses. This makes the process efficient.
- The prospect has the ability to have a phone conversation (up to 15 minutes) to flesh out the details as needed to validate the service provider’s claims. During that conversation they can further make their arrangement more specific to the prospect’s needs.
- Throughout this process ProFinder keeps the responders notified of the progress of their proposal via an automated system already set up, so the status of all submitted proposals is visible to the providers in real time.
I came across the ProFinder service offered by LinkedIn on December 26, 2016, when I signed up. Within minutes of signing up I was notified of my acceptance to ProFinder and I was in business. Within the next 24 hours I was notified of two RFQs for career coaching (my main service activity). Within the next 48 hours I had short conversations with both the prospects. Although ProFinder responses provide up to 15 minutes for this initial call, my calls with these two prospects were under 10 minutes because they had already vetted me before calling. They each signed up within the next few days after the calls. I am currently working with them as I am responding to more RFQs that pop up on ProFinder constantly.
Previously, almost all of my new prospects came through referrals. Most of them just called me without doing much checking on me (my LinkedIn Profile, website, YouTube videos, books, and my blogs), so I had to spend significant amount of time in the initial call before I could get them to sign up, despite the strong referrals. Now, with ProFinder I am able to respond to the RFQ in just minutes and when the interested prospect calls to explore further they have already checked me out, so I spend less time Selling myself. My time is now spent Telling them what I can do to get going.
The way ProFinder is designed it makes it efficient for anyone on either side of the equation to benefit from it: The Service Provider benefits from responding to prequalified leads that fall within their zone of expertise; the Clients interested in those services benefit by having access to a curated pool of five qualified Service Providers without going through an extensive vetting process before selecting the best Provider.
I suppose winning both my initial proposals in the first few days was more a beginner’s luck than anything else. I now have several responses in the pipeline with ProFinder and hope to close on few more of them soon!
If you have not tried out this new resource LinkedIn has provided check it out for yourself, either as a Service Provider (one of 17 categories) or as someone who wants a curated expert to help them with their specific needs in any of their life’s pursuits.