What I Have Learned About Introductions and Referrals After Reaching Out to 2000 LinkedIn Connections

(skip the first paragraph if you have read either of my previous “2000 connections” posts)

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations. Here is some of what I learned.

Almost without fail, everyone I spoke with could think of someone to introduce me to right away. I think that while people know what you do, it is not until you have a  conversation that they understand what really sets you apart. This could be because they haven’t read your profile lately (and who does?), or because  having the actual conversation prompts them to start thinking of people that you should meet.

And this gets to the heart of having these conversations: discovering the unknown paths to interesting people. Your connections are the path. The truth is you can be successful on LinkedIn without a premium account. If you have 500 connections with 500 connections each you have 250,000 second degree connections, and a lot of them are going to be people in a position to help you and that you can help in return.

Here’s an experiment for you: Go take a company you would like to be involved with, whether as a customer, supplier, or potential employer. Now look among that company’s employees for any second level connections, your two’s. Your connections are the pathway to those two’s. And if you are like a lot of LinkedIn users and you are probably saying, “yeah, but I don’t really know my connection who knows that person very well.” Well, I have one thing to say to you: that’s why you should be reaching out and having these 15 minute introductory conversations.  

And one other thing, when you get introduced by a connection to someone new  you start with the most valuable commodity of all: credibility. The connection that introduces you is in effect saying, “This person is worth ten minutes of your time. I’ll vouch for them.” That credibility is fleeting and only gets you that first few minutes, but that’s more than you would get trying email, cold calls, blind invitations to connect, InMail or even “warm” social selling outreach.

Your connections are ambassadors that can introduce you to the people that you would like to know. Shouldn’t you get to know those ambassadors?