How to connect with your target clients on LinkedIn

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!

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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.

Don’t play hide and seek with your LinkedIn profile

The girl spies through a hole in a paper.Lots of people hate networking. I’m one of them. The thought of entering a room full of strangers and starting conversations fills me with dread. But I do it for three reasons. Firstly, I need to meet new people that could be potential clients. Secondly, most people I meet want to talk about what I do – helping people get more out of LinkedIn. And thirdly, I know most of the people in the room hate networking just as much as me but think they are the only one. But even the most terrified of networkers doesn’t enter the room and hide.

Online networking

LinkedIn is online networking for professionals. It is the place to find and be found by the very people you need to speak to to grow your business, increase sales, find suppliers, build partnerships and alliances or develop your career. So why oh why do so many people hide themselves with their profile. Why do they put the scantest of details about themselves in their profile? Why do they hide much of their profile from public view?

Some people have said to me they only want to connect with people they have physically met. I don’t really get that. The whole point of being online is to broaden your horizons and open up opportunities. If there is a select group of connections you only want to share your most important stuff with then create a private group and invite them in. But be open to connecting with people that want to connect. It could lead to great things.

I have two groups of people that typically connect with me – those interested in project management and those interested in small business marketing in general and LinkedIn in particular. By inviting and accepting invites from people in both communities I have opened up business opportunities, reconnected with former colleagues and developed new friends in far flung places I could never hope to have met in the physical world alone. That has created a network for sharing, giving and receiving feedback, and developing business.

Checking out prospective connections

I’m continually updating my LinkedIn profile to attract new connections. And when I get a new connection request the first thing I do is look at their profile. Is this someone I should connect with? I almost always message new connections and typically I’m looking to find out why they wanted to connect. Then I ask how I can help them. I’m looking to engage and start a dialogue. The thing I definitely am not doing is selling. I look to identify ways I can help people.

My own profile is designed to make me interesting to other people. So if I find someone I want to connect with and send them a connection request, they can see from my profile who I am, what I do and the value I can add to their network. I’m encouraging them to connect.

Dealing with Cranks
Yes I get some cranky connections. I’ve had my share of African scammers wanting my bank details to ‘help’ them get funds out of their country. I simply dlete them or report them and get their profiles blocked. Most are easy to spot as the profiles have very little detail or have jobs that make them highly unlikely connections for me. For example, I had one request purporting to be from a Nato general. It had the correct photograph, but it had been taken off the internet. So always check out requests from people you haven’t met but keep an open mind to who you can connect with.

LinkedIn webinar bootcamp webinar screenIf you’d like to spruce up your LinkedIn profile and get yourself found by more of the right connections download my free guide “The 9 Key Points to Creating a Powerful Personal Profile“. Alternatively, sign up for my 3 part online bootcamp by clicking here or on the screen below.