LinkedIn has brought me significant income, great contacts, excellent employees, and quite a number of friends into the bargain over the last decade. Yet I frequently meet people who aren’t on LinkedIn at all, or confidently tell me it’s a waste of time! So here’s how it could work for you too.
Start by knowing WHY you want to connect to people on LinkedIn. To illustrate, my reasons are:
What would be your reasons?
Whatever you want from LinkedIn, the ease with which you’ll achieve it is mostly down to one thing:
How many good quality connections do you have?
It’s really no use connecting to a handful of friends and business colleagues. The chances of you helping them or them helping you by connecting on LinkedIn are close to zero! You’ve heard the phrase “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know”. But these days it’s about who knows you, and who is able to find you. The potential number of people who you can find and who can find you is limited by the number your connections, their connections, and their connections.
Connections are definitely not just about quantity, it’s about quality. I’d suggest that ‘quality’ in this context is about connecting to people who
a) have a large number of good connections
b) are relevant – e.g. industry, geography, job role
c) are collectively diverse – one good connection in ten companies rather than ten connections in one company
You can think about this another way by asking yourself “how many connections do I have who are connected to the people I want to talk to?”. For example, if you offer accountancy services to small businesses you can have a hundred connections to owners of small businesses and thereby have 100 potential customers. But if instead, you connect to the person who runs the local Chamber of Commerce, your one connection probably gets you hundreds of potential clients. So think “Who knows a lot of the people I’d like to talk to?”. Even better if you can connect to someone who your prospects also trust. An introduction from a ‘trusted advisor’ is infinitely more valuable than being found from a google search listing. Think about it – if someone wants an accountant, will they use a google search or ask someone they trust? In reality – probably both, but the trusted introduction is more likely to work out.
Just because someone is a desirable connection for you, doesn’t mean that it’s obvious how you’ll be a desirable connection to them. The least effective approach is to connect with the standard LinkedIn invitation message. A better approach is to briefly say why you’d like to connect, and how YOU might be able to help THEM. Using our same example, if you’re a small business accountant connecting to the local Chamber of Commerce, you’d better be ready to join, and how about offering to introduce all your clients as potential Chamber members? Now you’re an interesting connection and offering a win:win opportunity.
As mentioned in the list of four reasons I connect, I’m primarily looking for people who can help my clients. I’ll want to speak to them, probably meet with them and understand how they operate, and their values. After all, I’m not about to risk my own reputation by referring strangers to my valued clients! I want two or three providers of each kind of service and I want them to be absolutely outstanding! I want my clients to thank me for the introduction, not ask why I introduced that complete idiot who didn’t return calls, overcharged and provided poor service!
Like most people in my profession, I’m cursed with wanting to help people (said with a smile, of course). So if I stumble upon someone I think I can help – and I don’t mean for money – then I’ll do it. I don’t stop to ask “what’s in it for me?”, I’m not helping because they will owe me a favour. Like many people, I help simply because I can. Naturally, a lot of people are looking for hidden financial motives. So many manipulative marketing strategies help make people cynical. It reminds me about a message I received – not even a connection request – a few months ago; It basically said: “I saw your profile and think it’s great what you’re doing to help businesses grow – keep up that good work!”. That was it. I told a few people and ALL of them asked: “what’s the catch, what are they trying to sell you?”. Then I explained they weren’t selling anything and not to be so suspicious! I messaged the guy back and thanked him for his kind words. As many of you will have guessed, the reply I then got said “Great. I offer websites, have you considered getting yours re-designed…”. But forgive me if I continue to see the best in others and avoid being cynical, even in the face of contrary evidence. I immediately found three people to send “well done!” messages to, with absolutely no hidden agenda, just to redress the balance in the universe
Fortunately, there are a lot of people who like to help. A well-recognised strategy in sales and marketing is to use the four magic words “I need your help” or some variation. If you start a cold call with “I wonder if you can help me?” it’s been proven that you’ll get a better response than just diving in with “The reason I’m calling you today…”. So if I connect to someone who I think might be able to help me, I’m honest and tell them why I’m connecting. I’ll mention how I might be able to help in return, but I don’t always. Sometimes people appreciate the straightforward honest approach. I also follow the rule taught to me many years ago – “Ask for everything you need or want, and be happy with the answer”. So if they don’t want to help, that’s absolutely fine. As ‘Nev from The Call Centre” would say – SWSWSWN (Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Next…).
The fourth of my reasons for connecting to people is that they appear interesting. In fact, I generally find people fascinating. My general state of mind is ‘fascinated’ so I’m always listening, watching and learning. If someone has started and run a business for ten years, they’ve made it to where only 4% of businesses get, so I automatically think they deserve respect and I’d like to meet them. If someone has climbed Everest, rowed the Atlantic, run 100Km across the English Pennines, won an Olympic medal… I think they’re fascinating and I’d like to meet them. No agenda and the coffee’s on me. I never fail to learn from everyone I meet, even if they thought the meeting was to learn from me.
For me, LinkedIn is a fascinating goldmine of interesting people. Business resulting from it is an excellent by-product!
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