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.  

Why Asking Your Connections For Help Often Doesn’t End Well On LinkedIn

About once a month someone will ask me for help because they are sending a message like this one to all of their connections and getting no response:  

Subject / headline:  Looking for your assistance

My new (insert one of: product/service/revolutionary device) is almost ready. Do you have any connections who are CEO’s of small companies who could use my product? If so, I would really appreciate it if you introduce me to them.

Thanks!

So why is this approach is doomed to failure?

1) The headline alone dooms it to failure. In a world that seems based on “what’s in it for me?”, a headline that says this is all about you is a non-starter.

2) You are perceived as asking your connection to do all the work for you. Many recipients of this message will translate it as “please go and do my prospecting for me, and then qualify those prospects, and then bring them to me.” This doesn’t sound like a favor, this sounds like you want them to do your job for you.

3) It looks generic. If your message isn’t personalized, it looks like what it probably is: a cattle call you sent to a lot of people. Half the people receiving this message will be insulted to receive a generic message and not respond. The other half will  figure it was sent to a lot of people, assume that someone else will help you…and not respond.

4) It’s too open ended.  How many prospects does he want? Is two okay? How about five? He doesn’t want ten does he? Fifteen? Good heavens, he isn’t expecting me to find fifteen prospects for him is he? I don’t have the time to find fifteen prospects, forget it.  

Is such as approach ever appropriate? Sure. When you have scads of credibility with the other person, they know and like you, and unquestionably would want to help you. (hint: start with your mom and expand from there. It won’t be a big crowd)

The other time this approach is appropriate is if you are already a LinkedIn Influencer, have thousands and thousands of followers and can depend on LinkedIn to promote your post and get it in front of thousands of people. Unfortunately, the last time I looked, you and I weren’t part of the LinkedIn Influencer Pulse-opoly.  

It all boils down to being not specific enough: you should be asking a specific connection for help with a specific company or person.  This translates as “I am coming to you because I think you are the only person with the unique knowledge of this company (or person) that can help me.”  

There is nothing wrong with asking your network for help. Just don’t ask your network, ask the individual people in your network one at a time, and ask them for specific help with a specific person or company.  

 

5 Ways To Feed Your LinkedIn Connections

a-feedIt’s simple: the more interaction you have with your connections, the more opportunities you will uncover. You will think of people and resources you can help each other with. More customers, more suppliers, more colleagues, more mentors. You may have a thousand connections, but if you only interact with one percent of of them, you will never realize the potential that your network represents. So show an interest and interact with these people. How? One at a time. Here are some suggestions:  

Give them endorsements

This is the easiest way. Not the best way, this is lowest on the totem pole, but it is the easiest. I use this when I don’t have a lot of time. Kind of like saying good morning to a colleague in the hallway. But this should never be the only interaction you have with a connection.

Engage with their published posts

As someone who writes and publishes posts on LinkedIn I can tell you that when I see  comments and shares and likes from my connections, I appreciate it.  

Give them recommendations

Vastly overlooked. If you really do know a connection reasonably well, and you feel comfortable doing so, this is a wonderful thing you can do for them.  And it’s right on the dropdown menu to the right of “send them a message.” A recommendation takes five or ten minutes and will mean a lot to a connection (well, it should anyway). Sometimes I think recommendations are the bizarro world opposite of endorsements. We give endorsements to people a bit too freely then make up for it by being tight with our recommendations.  

Introduce them to someone in your network

Your network is the biggest LinkedIn asset you have. So share it. And you don’t need to base it on business. It can be based on hobbies, shared causes, alma maters, anything.

Ask

Get off your duff and offer to have a call with them. You can guess what they might want, but why be sure and just ask? I have found that having a ten or fifteen minute  conversation with a connection uncovers all kinds of information that enables me to do any or all of the four items above much more effectively. I try and make two or three of these calls every day. The result is always a better understanding of what each of us is trying to accomplish and the types of people we want to meet through LinkedIn. And because hardly anyone does this, it stands out.

If you invest ten minutes of your time every day doing these things, you will be rewarded. You will know your connections better, and they will know you better.

Because in the end, what’s the point of having a network if you don’t network?