I Reached Out To 2000 Of My LinkedIn Connections: I Now Have An “A” Network And A “B” Network.

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.

The result is I now have an “A” network and a “B” network.

Over half the people I asked for introductory phone or Skype conversations never responded. But it’s not just in this instance: I have sent messages to connections telling them I wanted to refer business to them and got no response. Which also raises the interesting question: If you don’t wish to interact with your connections, why are you connected with them in the first place? 

So I now have an “A” network – the connections I have spoken with and that I understand better based on the conversations I had with them – and a “B” network, those connections I have never had a real person to person conversation with. For example, I have dozens of connections that design websites. Four or five of them I have had conversations with. Now I really understand them better, what their specialties are, and who makes a good fit for them. I trade messages with them, they are a resource in their specialties when I need them. And guess who gets referrals?  I subconsciously “work” on behalf of my “A” network. Don’t get me wrong, I value my “B” network. But it is my “B” network. Maybe they will become “A’s” one day.  

Connecting with someone should be the start of a professional relationship, but for many LinkedIn members it seems to be the end.  

 

I Reached Out To 2000 Of My LinkedIn Connections: Here’s What I Learned About Networking

Background

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.

Networking is undervalued, under practiced and misunderstood

Most LinkedIn members these days seem to have at least five hundred  connections, but never seem to do anything with them once they are connected.  Their networks are more like collections of people than a network of connections. The calls I made and the conversations I had allowed me to get to know these connections better. And that information was what I needed in order to be able to properly recognize opportunities to introduce them to other people in my network. A LinkedIn profile can only tell you so much. When you talk to someone, you can really find what makes them tick and where their real interests are.

Networking sets you apart

LinkedIn is a networking tool, but almost no one networks on LinkedIn. I had people that were kind of boggled that I was doing this. I had people with fifteen hundred or two thousand connections saying “No one has ever asked me to talk with them. Everyone just wants to send messages.”

You need a plan, you can’t just call people for no reason

I am really confident that if someone comes to me and starts to say, “Bruce, do you know someone who can…?” that I will have some good people that I can refer them to. People that aren’t just profiles and a photo but someone I have talked to.

And in return, I think many of them know enough about my specialties that they could recognize opportunities and point people in my direction.

I didn’t do this whole exercise to pitch people. Most of my clients come to me to learn how to use Sales Navigator more effectively. Most of my connections don’t have Sales Navigator and are not prospects for my business. However, each of those connections might know one hundred people who do have Sales Navigator.  

This is the power of networking. I don’t look at my connections as possible prospects, I look at them as possible sales channels. They know hundreds of people that I don’t, and they are in a position to recommend or introduce me to those people. And I am in a position to do the same for them.

There are no guarantees, and you have to be okay with that

Networking is a transaction where nothing may result. Or nothing may result for a long time. And the two people on both sides of this transaction have to be okay with that. No promises. I usually wind up making several introductions or referrals  on LinkedIn every week. And I tend to get several referrals and introductions through my connections every week. But there are no expectations and no guarantees and that’s fine. I trust it to work.

Was this a lot of work? Yes. Several hours every week. Big enough that I had to set aside time every week to do it. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I didn’t spend that time, I invested it.

I will have a couple articles with more about what I learned sometime on the next few weeks.

 

A Path To Success On LinkedIn


It leads through your connections.

If you are an average LinkedIn user, you may have something on the order of five hundred connections.

A few questions to ponder:  

Why are you connected with them?

What is the purpose of your connections?

If you have five hundred connections, does that mean four hundred is bad and six hundred would be better?

What do you want from them?

What do they want from you?

How much do you interact with them?

What do you know about them? “My connection Bob Smith is an engineering consultant.” Great. What type of engineering? What’s his real specialty?  Who are his typical clients? Industry? Local? National? Big companies? Startups? What’s that? You say you don’t have time to find all that out about him. I see.  And why are you connected with Bob then? Because he may refer clients to you? You want nothing to do with helping him but you hope he helps you? Well, good luck with that.

Many LinkedIn users seem to have connection networks that are a mile wide and an inch deep. They collect connections but never talk to them. These connections are assets. These are the people that have the ability to open doors for you. Ignoring them isn’t an optimal strategy. You will notice I said “they collect connections but never talk to them.” I used the word “talk” for a reason.

Not automated messaging, not bots, not templates.

Not LinkedIn messaging, not text, not email.

Talking.

I have conversations with a lot of my connections, especially with people I have not met prior to meeting them through LinkedIn. Want to know what the first thing is they usually say to me when we talk via Skype or phone?

“This is the first time I have had one of these calls. No one does this on LinkedIn.”

Think about that statement for a minute. What does it say about LinkedIn and LinkedIn users when a LinkedIn member is surprised when one of their connections wants to talk to them?  

LinkedIn is supposed to be about professional networking, yet it seems hardly anybody does. When did connections become something to be collected and pulled out and admired from time to time like old baseball cards? A LinkedIn network isn’t numbers, it’s people.

I set aside time time to have calls with ten or fifteen of my connections  every week. Every week. Just fifteen minutes each. But in that fifteen minutes I find out what their real specialties are. What they are passionate about. And that helps me help them. In January I introduced twenty-four of my connections to people I thought might be a good fit for them. And a lot of the connections I spoke with referred people to me. The result is new connections and new business, for both my connections and myself.  

If you are like most LinkedIn users, you come to LinkedIn, read a couple of articles, add a like or a comment, follow a company or two, and call it “networking.” Instead, invest just a little effort in talking to a few of your connections. You will stand head and shoulders above their other connections, because hardly anyone networks on LinkedIn, and almost no one networks effectively.