LinkedIn is the professional online networking site of choice for over half the professional people in the world. There are over 360m users worldwide with 18m+ in the UK alone. If you are in any sort of professional or commercial office based role, you need to be on LinkedIn. And it’s not just the online cv that many people think it is. It is a powerful tool to find and connect with anyone you need to meet in the business world.
You may have heard about the 6 degrees of separation. This is where everyone is connected to everyone else through a maximum of six connections. For example, one of my colleagues has a client, who has a client that makes saddles. Some of the saddles they make are for Prince Charles and he is obviously connected to the Queen. So I am 5 connections away from the Queen! Now with LinkedIn, you are realistically only 3 connections away from any business contact you need to make.
My colleague Andy was challenged by a client to find an English lawyer that spoke Portuguese and was conversant with Portuguese property law. Andy thought it was a wind up but the client had a property in Portugal that he was having some issues with and he desperately needed a bi-lingual lawyer. Within 24 hours Andy had the client talking to a suitable lawyer – all through the power of LinkedIn.
So how do you connect with your target clients on LinkedIn?
Doing the groundwork
First you have to do the groundwork. By that I mean you have to have a powerful personal profile. Why? Well the first thing I do when I get a connection request, or arrange to meet a new business contact, or arrange to interview or be interviewed by someone, is I check them out on LinkedIn. If I did that to you what would I find? I’ve had some surprising experiences:
- Blank profile pictures
- Holiday snaps for a profile picture
- Meaningless job titles and precious little else
- Then the other extreme of twenty years of detailed role by role experience
You name it, it’s out there on LinkedIn. So do yourself a favour and brush up your profile. Get a professional style head and shoulders picture of yourself on there. Present yourself as you would if you were walking in to a business meeting with a contact. Do yourself justice!
***TIP*** Get my free guide The 9 Key Points to creating a Powerful Personal Profile
Crafting the cold connection message
I had one connection message from someone I followed on Twitter that said something along the lines of “I build and manage for you powerful sales teams! What’s your email, I’ll send a proposal!”. Would you walk in to a networking meeting and say that as your first sentences to someone? Of course not, so why do it online. But I see people do this time after time with their first message to me on LinkedIn.
You need to build a rapport and demonstrate value to your connections. If you identify someone you want to connect with and potentially do business with you need to find some common round to start a relationship on. Maybe you are both members of a LinkedIn Group or you have both commented on someone’s post. Maybe you have a shared interest. Find a way to make a connection, but never, never sell. Not even a hint of it.
Once connected, keep the conversation going. Share comments, or articles you think they may find useful. If you have some material you can give them that would be helpful then do that (like my 9 Points guide….). Keep developing the relationship and gradually you can move towards a more sales oriented conversation. Yes it takes time, but people like to buy from people they at least think or feel they know. The stranger shouting buy this – no matter how good this is – wont get a look in.
Where to find your target connections? That’s a topic for a future blogpost.