Be The One To Offer Value First

Once every week or two someone will contact me and the conversation goes something like this:  

Seeker: No one in my network wants to help me.

Me: How many exactly have you helped?

Seeker: Well none. No one has asked.

And there is the crux of the problem. You will be offered help from people you have offered to help.

And this leads to one thing that works on LinkedIn: providing real value to other LinkedIn users first. And for free too. Regardless of what your goals are – networking, finding a job, sales, marketing – nothing beats providing value, especially at the start of or early in a new relationship.

Because what does everyone want? More. More information to help them make better decisions. More access to the right people. More resources. That’s what it comes down to. Be the person that offers some of that information, that access. Be one of those resources.

Providing value is giving a little piece of yourself to someone else on LinkedIn that will make them better informed, give them information that they can use, or help them with a problem that they have. And at the same time, not expecting to be compensated directly for it.

When I suggest this to someone, I usually get this objection:

“We don’t give away our hard won knowledge and expertise for free. They should expect to pay for it.”

 But I didn’t suggest you give it all away…just a piece. Enough to help the other person. I often do this, sending one of my how-to’s on something like using InMail. The how-to I send will legitimately help someone with a facet of InMail such as subject lines or  calls to action. But as I teach eighteen different facets to InMail in my course on that topic, I’m not worried about giving away one of them.  

Giving away a bit of your knowledge demonstrates your expertise. And it invites the question, “Well what else can he/she do for me?”  Helping someone like this makes them think of you as an expert first and someone out to ask them for something second. It puts the focus on business and it puts the focus on them and their problems.

Some people say that what they sell or work with doesn’t lend itself to the idea of giving away little pieces of their knowledge. That’s fine. You have something else extremely powerful to offer: your LinkedIn network. You can offer access to your connections. If you have 500 connections, you have multiple people you could introduce someone to that would be valuable to them, and to your connections.

An offer to help someone, sincerely and without expectations of any direct compensation or tit for tat is something people don’t expect. But they will appreciate it. And it works.   

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?

 

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.