Lead Generation, Prospecting 4 Comments
Sales Prospecting On LinkedIn Using The X-Ray Technique
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful sales prospecting and link building tool for sales teams, but the search capabilities it provides are very limited. With a free account, you only get 100 results from your immediate network. This is hardly enough to build a large scale prospect list.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to filter LinkedIn results by any field on a profile, even those LinkedIn doesn’t let you search, opening the door for much more powerful searches across the LinkedIn network, get thousands of results, and get any prospect’s full name and profile details, even if they are not in your network.
LinkedIn Has Its Limitations For Sales Prospecting, But There’s a Workaround
To get around the limitations of LinkedIn search, we can use a strategy called X-Ray Searching. X-Ray Searching involves using another search engine, such as Google, to search LinkedIn public profiles. Using some advanced Google Search operators, we can work around LinkedIn’s search limitations, get higher quality results, and build highly relevant lists of prospects much more quickly.
X-Ray searching lets you scan public LinkedIn profiles, so you’re not limited by your network or immediate connections. The majority of public LinkedIn profiles also contain that person’s full name, giving you more access to their profile details than searching inside LinkedIn.
Constructing The Basic X-Ray Search
To conduct X-Ray searches, we will be searching Google with the site: search operator to restrict our results only to those from linkedin.com.
LinkedIn uses different subdomains based on the country of the user for profiles. We can restrict our site: search to a particular subdomain to filter only for results from that country. For example, to only search users in Australia, change your search query to include
LinkedIn profiles based in the US are on the main www subdomain. So, to get only US results search with
To further narrow our results to only public profiles, we can use the inurl Google search operator to only return results with specific keywords in the URL. A public LinkedIn profile for an individual will always start with one of two URLs: linkedin.com/in or linkedin.com/pub. If you see a lot of directory or company results coming back, use a search string like this one:
One more thing to remember: Be sure to log out of LinkedIn or open an incognito window when X-Ray searching in order to see public profiles. Otherwise, you will be redirected to internal profiles that will often contain much less information.
Advanced X-Ray Searching with Wildcards
The secret to X-Ray searching like an expert is Google’s obscure wildcard operator, represented by the asterisk(*). The wildcard acts as a placeholder, matching any word in a phrase. For example, the search “Google * my life” will match “Google saves my life”, “Google simplifies my life”, and so on.
To search on any field of a LinkedIn profile, we just need to combine text that always occurs in a profile with wildcards to get the desired result. Don’t worry: This will all make sense with the next example.
X-Ray Searching By Current Company and Title
We will start by replicating a search LinkedIn allows with the X-Ray method. Let’s say you need to find people who work at a particular company in a specific role. You could do this search on LinkedIn, but with a free account, you would only be limited to 100 results from your network. X-Ray searching with Google gives us at least 1,000 results, and much more powerful search options. This is one of the most clever ways to utilize X-Ray search to boost your sales prospecting efforts.
Simply searching by company name or title with a site: query would return results that have that text as a keyword anywhere in their profile, not necessarily as a current position.
If you look carefully at a public LinkedIn profile, you’ll see a common pattern. All public profiles have the word “Current” followed by their current position.
That’s all we need to zero in X-Ray searches on that particular profile field.
To search for everyone currently at Google with “marketing” in their title, do this Google search:
"current * marketing * at google" inurl:linkedin.com/in site:linkedin.com
Note the wildcard characters surrounding the word “marketing”.
We can also use wildcards to filter titles by seniority:
"current * vice president * at google" inurl:linkedin.com/in site:linkedin.com
Ranged Searching by Time on the Job
Let’s move to powerful searches that LinkedIn doesn’t allow at all. A useful feature of LinkedIn is the ability to see how long someone has been in their current position. This is very useful as a sales prospecting and lead qualifying strategy. Someone who has been with an organization for a long time may have a lot of influence internally. Conversely, a recently hired executive might be eager to make a mark and more open to trying new solutions.
We can use X-Ray searching to filter by this profile field at a very granular level, significantly improving on anything LinkedIn search offers, even with the premium Years of Experience filter.
To accomplish this, we use another obscure Google search operator, the double full stop (..). This is sort of like a wildcard for numbers – it lets us search for any number within a specified range. For example, searching for “2..10” will match any number between 2 and 10 inclusive. This turns out to be very useful for parsing LinkedIn profiles.
Here’s an X-Ray search query to find anyone who has been at Google for 3 months or less:
"current * * at google" "present 1..3 months" inurl:linkedin.com/in site:linkedin.com
Make sure to copy this search exactly. The keyword “Present” is important to limit the number of months to only apply to their current position.
Here’s an X-Ray query to find anyone who started a Director-level role at Microsoft in the past 3 months:
"current * director * at microsoft" "present 1..3 months" inurl:linkedin.com/in site:linkedin.com
This is just a small sample of the sales prospecting possibilities X-Ray searching allows. Any bit of text on a public LinkedIn profile is searchable. Try combining the searches above with skills, past positions, groups, and other fields to find even more relevant prospects.