LinkedIn is a social networking site focused on business owners and other professionals. Now owned by Microsoft, LinkedIn claims over 500 million plus members. It can be a valuable resource for making new contacts, prospecting for new clients, or just learning more about the people you work with. Unfortunately, most of you are really bad at it.
We’ve all had that random LinkedIn connection request. Someone we don’t know asks to connect. We accept, to be polite, and a few minutes later comes the message. It’s a sales pitch, usually begging for a quick Skype call from someone who claims to be so impressed by your LinkedIn profile. Seriously, has this ever worked, ever?
Don’t Be That Guy
I understand that prospecting for new business in hard. Cold calling is tough. The same people who think stuff like that actually works are usually the ones who will claim that no one ever gets new business on LinkedIn. It’s the same people who think it’s just another Facebook with better profile photos. And don’t get me started on all of the women who have to deal with guys treating it as a dating site.
Professional business relationships take time. They are difficult to develop, especially with people who are successful, busy and treat their time as the precious resource that it is.
Making That LinkedIn Connection
Asking for a LinkedIn connection is better done on a PC than a phone. This is because you can write a note to the person along with your connection request. Keep the request professional with a sincere line or two about why you would like to connect. If it’s accepted, say thank you and leave it at that.
Now you have access to more information about that person. Watch and see what they post. It’ll give you an idea of their interests, and where they went to school. Like and comment here and there when you have something to contribute.
While you’re doing this, you should also be curating your own posts on LinkedIn. Your posts should be interesting and valuable to your potential contacts. Maybe it’s news about things your company is doing. Share information relevant to your industry, with your own comments about why it matters. Even better, create your own content to share expert advice or news that people can then share with their own contacts.
Keep It Professional
Don’t hound people with requests for meetings or phone calls. No one wants to deal with anyone who’s constantly asking for stuff. Think of LinkedIn like being at a high-end social function with business leaders you admire. It’s acceptable, even encouraged, to talk about business. That’s why you’re there! But you’re not some kid on the street trying to sell water or candy to someone passing by. You’re in a relaxed professional atmosphere, building relationships.
Over time, you’ll see who may give you an opportunity to engage further. Watch when someone posts that they need something that you provide, or can recommend a resource for. Maybe they are supporting a charity or cause that you can also participate in. Find that opportunity to connect on a level where you are doing something for them. Be involved in a way that’s meaningful. This way, when you do meet, or get that phone call, you have something real to offer. Take that relationship that you’ve started to build to the next level.
This takes time and lots of effort. I’m talking months and years, guys. It’s like building any other relationship. If you don’t care enough to put the time and effort, lots and lots of it, to actually get to know the person, why did you bother to connect with them in the first place? Because you were only impressed by their profile when you thought they would give you something now. Successful people see though that real quick.