How do you connect with people on LinkedIn? See their name pop up in the “People you might know” list? Receive an email from someone you haven’t heard from in ages? Perhaps meet new connections or run into colleagues at conferences and connect?
This ad hoc approach of connecting on LinkedIn is typical of many professionals. It’s a start. Still, you can go further with a strategic approach that leads to many more quality connections. You can build your LinkedIn connections in a systematic way that can open the door to new leads, new partnerships, new referrals and whatever you need.
To begin, review this list to jog your brain and write down names of people to find on LinkedIn. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “I can’t believe I wasn’t already connected with so-and-so!” This should help you resolve that.
Strategically build your network on LinkedIn by connecting with the following.
Look beyond your primary contact. Consider other people in the contact’s company regardless if you’ve worked with them on a project. For example, you may be included in a group email from your primary contact. Send a connection request to others in the email with a personal note that says, “I work with [primary contact’s name] and would like to connect with you. Let me know if I can help with any resources.”
Anytime you connect with a prospect — whether it’s a webinar, demo, conference, free consult, initial conversation, collected email — that’s another opportunity to connect on LinkedIn. In your message, mention how you connected and ask if they have any current needs. You may be able to direct the way.
These are the people who make up your ideal clients that you haven’t yet met. In this case, you want to prepare to introduce yourself to the decision-maker by connecting with others in the company. Let’s say you identify a company that fits your ideal client requirements. You look for employees that you can connect to quickly. Eventually, you’ll make enough connections and reach the decision-makers.
This group — such as businesses working on an account with you — can refer business to you or refer you to businesses. For example, I’ve worked with a client who used a search engine marketing company, a social media marketing agency, and a marketing automation company. I connected with the people in the other groups.
You can also work with businesses that do the same thing you do except they’re bigger or smaller than your company. Sometimes a job is too big or too small for them. In this case, they’ll refer a business to similar, trusted businesses that can handle the account.
When you join a LinkedIn Group, you’re connecting with members who have a shared interest. Be sure to let the recipient know you’re in the group together when sending a personalized connection request.
Sometimes we overlook staff in our own companies. You can do a search on LinkedIn based on company and location to help you find other employees. Ask colleagues for suggestions or check your colleagues’ connections.
Connect with vendors so you can refer business to each other. For example, web designer connects with a writer and graphic designer. Sometimes a web design project needs an outside writer and graphic design work that’s beyond the web designer’s capabilities. You save the client a lot of time in looking for reliable vendors when you refer trusted vendors.
Connect with influencers such as bloggers, consultants, experts, editors and writers from your industry. Build the relationship.
This includes staff and board members from industry associations. Like with influencers, build the relationship before you need them to do something. If, for example, you plan a webinar that would interest members, you can ask your contacts in the organization to email or post an announcement.
Organizations consist of PTA, Boy Scouts, church, temple, alumni, anything. You already have something in common with these people: you’re passionate about the organization. Many members and volunteers have successful careers and businesses that could complement yours.
Personal services providers
People who provide you with services in your personal life can make great connections even if you work for a B2B company. These are the barbers, hair stylists, lawn service providers, photographers, bakers, carpenters, and electricians. Friends often ask for recommendations on Facebook. When you provide a successful referral, your connections will think of you the next time they need your business or someone they know who does.
Thought leaders are people who are on top of your industry. Remember every type of organization has thought leaders. If you’re looking for thought leaders in the managed services provider (MSP) field, you want to look for those in marketing, research and development, HR, accounting, and operations. Not just the CEO or analyst.
Expanding your connections to include these types of people is easier than you think. These are the people you need to know and most likely know some on some level. For those you don’t know, it’ll make it easier to request introductions.
It’s not just about finding and connecting with people. You also want to think about the other side of the coin: those looking to connect with you. You most likely have something in common with the people in this list, which will help them find you. And they will when you connect with the people on this list as they’ll recognize the connections you have in common.
Because of your thinking ahead by connecting with others and the things you have in common with the person doing the search, you’ll come up higher in the results.
Building relationships on LinkedIn requires a different tact than with people you meet in person. You might attend a conference or a networking event. There, you work the room introducing yourself and learning about others. Before moving on, you exchange contact information and follow up.
With LinkedIn, you’re in a room with millions of other professionals. Who do you talk to? What do you say? Should you send a message? Start a conversation in a forum? It’s almost like trying to clean an overflowing garage. Where do you start?
First, know that there are no shortcuts or speedy ways to cultivate relationships in LinkedIn. The good news is that following this process will ensure you take a direct path to building relationships on LinkedIn.
Start with the reason why you’re on LinkedIn. What do you want to get out of it? Grow business? Find partners? Connect with investors? Invest in startups? In answering this, it’ll help you define your target audience.
And now you’re ready to start the process of building relationships in LinkedIn. Here’s the process:
1. Search for new connections.
Begin searching LinkedIn Groups to find the people who meet your defined target audience. For example, if you want to connect with managed services providers (MSP), look for MSP-related groups to join. Be careful. If you’re not an MSP and the group is specifically for people who work for an MSP, it would probably be best not to contribute. Still, you can listen.
Look for groups with a decent amount of members and lots of activity. For every group, LinkedIn displays the group’s activity level. After joining a few groups, monitor the discussions while noting the names of people you may want to contact.
LinkedIn’s search tool gives you another way to find people. Its search tool allows you to save searches, search by keywords, company, location, job title and more. Read Advanced LinkedIn Search Tips and Tricks for more ideas on how to maximize your searches to find the right people.
LinkedIn Groups can open the door to an introduction. When a contact you’d like to meet posts something you found intriguing, send a message that references the post. Use it to introduce yourself with a request to connect.
For people you find by searching LinkedIn, where you don’t have a group in common, you’ll most likely need to look up their email address. (LinkedIn Premium Members can send InMail.) Check the person’s profile and contact info for clues on how to contact the person. Once you’re able to send a message, explain why you want to connect while including a benefit for the recipient. Your message should include:
- Why you chose them
- What you have to offer, or how you might be able to help
- What you would like them to do
Do you and the prospect know someone in common? Ask your mutual friend to connect you. People tend to follow through when receiving referrals from people they know.
3. Build Credibility
Yes, it’s harder to build trust online when you can’t look someone in the eye and shake hands. But you can show you’re reliable, likeable, and competent through your actions. An easy way to do this is with education.
You gain trust by sharing useful resources like case studies and articles, forwarding news, sending analyst reports, and letting people know you saw their company mentioned in an article. Every time you stay in touch on LinkedIn by providing valuable resources, it nudges up the trust meter.
Another way to build credibility is to make and follow through on promises. Most people fail to follow up or are generic about how they will follow up. A good promise is one that you know you can deliver, is under your control, and doesn’t rely on other people to make it happen.
A promise can occur in an email, phone call or tweet. When you make a promise, be specific about when you’ll follow up whether it’s tomorrow or by next Monday. Then, deliver on the promise.
Life happens. Sometimes you can’t keep a promise for whatever reason. Contact the person as soon as possible, apologize, and make another promise that you know you won’t miss.
If you have an email list, you can add new LinkedIn connections to the list. When people accept your LinkedIn connection request, it gives you permission to stay in touch with them. But you don’t want to abuse that. Yes, you can add them to your email list. But it’s better to ask them first if it would be OK, and explain why the emails would be useful to them. Respect them enough to give them the choice.
Nurturing is the process of building relationships with non-sales-ready leads to keep them your funnel. LinkedIn provides some tools to support relationship-building.
You may get notification emails from LinkedIn letting you know who’s celebrating a birthday, a work anniversary, new job and so on. If not, you can see this in your Connections section on LinkedIn, under Keep in Touch, where you’ll find all of your LinkedIn Contacts. Use those and these six excuses to stay in touch on LinkedIn.
Check your home page for news, articles, and content from your connections. Like, comment, and share their content. Little things like this build warm fuzzies.
Endorsements offer another quick way to do something for others. Visit a person’s LinkedIn profile and simply click the skill you wish to endorse. If someone endorses your skills, that’s another excuse to send a message of thanks and check in.
You can go further as a lead moves along in your sales funnel.
Eventually, when the lead moves from cold to warm, you’ll mention your product or service and explain why it’s the right one. Education works well with prospects in the awareness phase of the customer decision journey. It also helps overcome potential objections and teach them what they need to know.
You can invite serious prospects to webinars and events, a great way to demonstrate your expertise. Effective companies have a marketing strategy that identifies what content they share with the leads based on where they fall in the sales funnel. When your LinkedIn connections reach the next phase of the customer decision journey, be sure to include them in the activities for that phase.
At the right time, you can share video customer testimonials, podcasts, white papers and product demonstrations.
Remember that you can enter notes about connections in LinkedIn. No one else can see these notes. You can also use tags. When meet someone, you can tag that person with “Awareness” or whatever you call the first phase of the funnel. When someone moves from “Awareness” to “Consideration,” then you can drop the “Awareness” tag and replace it with “Consideration” or your name for the second phase. Do this for your connections to know where they are in your funnel.
Do consistent nurturing to keep your company in front of prospects. That way, when they need you, they’ll remember you.
5. Move offline.
You’ve reached the end of the line. Your prospect is sales-ready. Take the relationship to the next level by requesting a phone call or in person meeting. Before you connect offline, prepare to share what you have to offer that benefits the other person. It’s easier to create value when you focus on giving rather than receiving.
The most successful LinkedIn users stand out because they always offer value. There’s a reason why answering “What’s in it for me?” still works. Thank them for their time.
Don’t forget – keep nurturing the relationship even after you move it offline. Sharing warm fuzzies never gets old.
What other ways can you build relationships on LinkedIn?
Habits help us do the same thing every day without fail. Waking up, brushing teeth, showering, exercising and so on. It’d be worth adding LinkedIn to the list because it helps grow your business. I know – it’s just another thing you don’t have time for, right? Start small. Try it once a week, then twice until you reach a comfortable pace.
The results might surprise you that you’ll be compelled to do it four or five times a week. If once or twice a week works better, then you can do most of these for longer stretches. The only exception is birthday wishes as you’ll want to send those on the person’s birthday, or close to it.
Here’s your 10-step LinkedIn Daily Action Plan.
1. Check Inbox for messages.
- Respond to inquiries.
- Set reminders for follow-ups.
2. Do follow-ups.
- When someone tells you about a project or big event, follow-up to see how it went.
- After meeting someone at an event, send a resource or something of value.
3. Accept new connections.
- Tag the connections you’ve accepted. Suggestions:
- Where you met the person. Event, company, party, trade show, social media, etc.
- How did you meet? In-person, online, phone, etc.
- Type of relationship: Customer, prospect, group member, coworker, vendor, friend, relative, fellow alumni and so on.
- Strength of relationship on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being weakest and 5 is strongest.
- What do you want to do with the person? Meet in person, build relationship, maintain relationship, grow relationship, reconnect, etc.
- Send a personalized welcome message to new connections. (When you accept someone else’s connection and vice versa.) Suggestions:
- Briefly describe what you do for clients.
- Mention your email list, why it’s valuable and how to subscribe.
- Send a link to download a free guide or resource of value.
4. Check Keep in Touch or daily email from LinkedIn Updates.
- Send birthday wishes.
- Congratulate on promotions, job changes and news. (Verify the dates because sometimes it looks new when it isn’t.)
- Traveling? Find contacts in the area where you’ll be to see if they want to meet.
- Share an interesting resource.
5. Post a status update on your home page. Suggestions:
- Interesting articles along with a short comment.
- Inspirational quote.
- Tip based on your expertise.
- Powerful, professional images.
6. Check your notifications.
- Respond to comments on your blog posts, group posts and status updates.
- Send connect requests to people who engage with your content.
7. Send five to 10 connect requests to people who fit your criteria.
- Check your saved searches.
- Run new searches.
8. Check one or two groups.
- Comment on discussions.
- Answer questions.
- Share content relevant to the group and write a question to use as the title.
9. Check your activity feed.
- Review news.
- Read updates.
- Like or comment on info shared by people you want to nurture.
- Share anything interesting related to the update.
10. Filter a tagged list in Keep in Touch.
- Open the profile page of anyone you want to nurture to endorse them for one skill.
- Send a message.
Try it and let us know how it works for you. What suggestions do you have for this list?
Social media is far more than a distraction or even a networking tool. Your network may be one of the most valuable resources you have, and it’s time to dive into the realm of social selling (if you haven’t already!). Odds are you’ve been doing social selling for some time, even if you haven’t realized it. Harnessing social media to reach out, share your expertise, and touch your prospects is a phenomenal method of marketing and nurturing.
Here are our top 5 blog posts on social selling:
The old sales funnel may not be recognizable, but there’s still a framework for marketers and salespeople to use as a guide. It is important to understand that the thought process a potential customer goes through is no longer one directional and linear, but rather a web of potentiality.
To start off, here is a useful tool we’ve found:
And here are our pick for top 5 posts on the subject:
And finally, here is our take on it: