Following Versus Connecting On LinkedIn

Lately LinkedIn seems to be trying to shift the focus away from connecting and towards following. For example you can now change the default button from “connect” to “follow” on your profile. And there is talk that this will soon not be an option but that “follow” will be the default.

But while LinkedIn may be hyping following, here are three good reasons that given a choice, I prefer connecting over following. When you are connected with someone on LinkedIn:

  • you can send each other messages directly over LinkedIn. This doesn’t replace email, the phone or whatever messaging system you use, but it does come in handy for LinkedIn-centric messages such as referencing someone you know mutually on LinkedIn, or drawing their attention to someone or something of interest on LinkedIn.
  • you rank higher in your connection’s search results on LinkedIn. As LinkedIn is one huge database full of people, an obvious application is to use that database for searches – for suppliers, vendors, experts, new staff, information or discussions on specific topics, practically anything. And one of the things you will find is that LinkedIn wants search results to be relevant to the searcher, and if one or more connections get found in a search, LinkedIn will tend to list them at the top of the search results. If you are looking for a WordPress expert, it makes sense for LinkedIn to list WordPress experts you are already connected with first.
  • connections show pathways to other people on LinkedIn that you didn’t know exist. You may find a prospect on LinkedIn and see the little “2nd” postscript after their name and then the person or people both you and that person are connected with on LinkedIn. You can use this information in two ways. The first is to name drop the mutual connection’s name in a message or invitation to connect. The second is to use that mutual connection or one of your mutual connections as an intermediary, and ask them to introduce you to the person of interest to you.

With these in mind I always choose connecting over following. I think of connecting as “following, with privileges”. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Someone ignores your connection request, so you then just…follow them.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Why You Need Content On LinkedIn

When I started out in high tech sales back in the pre-internet 1980’s, clients could get their info from three places:

Trade shows. Trade shows were great but everyone couldn’t go.

Trade magazines. Very important. This is where most of the information came from.

And third was a vendor’s sales reps. This is where a lot of info came from. The informal “here’s how other people in your industry are tackling this problem” stuff.  What’s new, what’s coming, what other companies were doing…these were all important parts of a sales call. Salespeople were an integral part of a customer’s education and finding out what was going on in their industries.

Now your customers can do their own research. And they do. Your customers are gathering information.

They want to know if other people have problems similar to theirs.

They want to know how those companies tackled the problem.

They want to know if a solution to their problem is even possible.

Then, after gathering that information, they want to start looking for companies that have the ability to help them. These days, they will often select the finalists – the two or three or four companies that they think can help them – before they ever reach out and initiate that first contact.

That’s why you need content. If you can publish content that shows you have seen the problems your customers have or will have, understand what is involved in fixing those problems, and that you have experience successfully helping other people solve those problems, you have an “in” for getting on that finalist list.

And the more the merrier. A steady drumbeat of good content reminds people that you have this experience they need. It shows that you understand their problems because you have looked at those problems from a lot of different angles.

Salespeople used to be needed in order for companies to keep up with the latest and greatest developments in their industries. Not anymore.

The worst thing you can do if you are the best kept secret in your industry? Stay the best kept secret in your industry.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Well, What Is In It For Them Anyway?

As I am always going on about, “it’s not about you, it’s about them” in your interactions with others on LinkedIn – especially in connecting and outreach – it was only a matter of time before I got asked this.

I had someone ask me about this the other week. They were sending connection requests to prospective customers and they were having a tough time coming up with a good reason for the person to connect with them.

To their credit, they were honest with me in describing the situation. “I want business from them, so this is kind of a one way street. What can I offer them?”

This is what happens when we have the blinders on. We see something we want – in this case a connection to a prospect – and all we can see is what that will do for us. It blinds us to the other person’s perspective and their problems, wants and needs.

Here are three things you can offer the person you are connecting with.

1) Your knowledge. Everyone seems to forget this. Every day you help people like your prospect solve the problems they have. This is what you do. While their problem or issue may be a new and novel situation for them, it’s something you see all the time. It’s like they are the person looking online for the recipe for a dish, while you’re a chef who cooks twenty of that dish every night.

2) Your experience with their industry. This is different from your knowledge in that you are putting the knowledge into practice in different situations. This is important because your past experience solving problems like the ones they have will reassure them that you are someone worthwhile they should know.

3) Lastly, you have something that is uniquely LinkedIn: your network of connections. And this applies to most anyone you meet on LinkedIn. If you have any size network at all you have the ability to introduce or refer this new person to someone they want to know. Need help with CRM? I have connections who work for CRM companies, I have connections who are independent CRM consultants, and ones that are CRM power users. People in similar positions to themselves? No problem. Suppliers? Got you covered. Access to your network is actually a pretty powerful thing to be able to offer.

You have more than your pure product or service to offer. Be aware of it and take advantage of it.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/