By Todd Colbeck
What good is having a LinkedIn profile if it doesn’t generate leads? To get leads from LinkedIn, you don’t need to post messages, you don’t need any of the paid features, and you need to do only three things:
- Post a good profile
- Make the right connections
- Network properly
All three of these things are simple, but if you don’t execute them properly, you will not achieve the intended result. I will give you the “key” to each step so you can unlock the referral vault that is in LinkedIn.
Let’s talk about a good profile. A good profile is not a resume. You don’t need to post your life history - just the typical items of where you work, where you went to school and any professional designations you have. However, the two keys to a good profile for getting referrals are a great picture and the proper profile summary. As shallow as it seems, marketing studies show that a good picture will improve your marketing. Go to a professional photographer, dress professionally and get a great picture, ideally from the waist up. Please skip the one you took with your phone on vacation, OK?
The next key is making the right connections. When you join LinkedIn, they attempt to scrape all of your contacts from any email account you have. Bad idea. Why would you want to clog your network with people who never will become clients or, even worse, with your competitors? Eighty percent of the value of your network comes from 20 percent of the people in it. Stack the odds in your favor by focusing on connecting with:
- Prospects in your pipeline. For example, people who came to your events but didn’t make an appointment to see you afterward, prospects who met you but said they wanted to “think about it,” etc.
- People you meet in the future who either are prospects or who can introduce you to prospects.
I would trim the number of ex-coworkers, vendors and, particularly, competitors.
One of the little-known secrets about LinkedIn is that your best referrals typically don’t come from the people you already know (first connections) but from the people that they know (second connections). So how are you going to meet with the first and second LinkedIn connections who need your help?
This brings us to the third key of successfully using LinkedIn, networking properly.
Do you hate spam? Then don’t spam your network. To reach out to a contact you may barely know by asking them for business right up front is not very social. Remember this is social networking, not advertising, right?
Here is an example of an effective use of networking. Suppose you have scheduled a meeting with someone and let’s say it’s a client, but it actually could be anyone who is a first-degree LinkedIn connection. Before you meet, check to see whether they have any shared connections with you. If they do, see whether they have people in their network with whom you want to meet. Make sure you will be able to share your connections with them at the meeting, either in a hard copy or from a screen.
After you greet the person, start by thanking them for being a part of your LinkedIn network and ask them if it is OK to take a few minutes to network. Next, ask them about the types of people to whom they would like to be introduced to add to their network. Then pull out your connections for their review. Tell them that if there is anyone on the list with whom they would like to connect, you would be happy to start the introduction process. Now just sit back and wait. Once they finish, they likely will ask, “How can I help you network?” Simply share that you are looking to meet people like themselves who are busy and successful and want to better themselves financially. If your screen is open, offer it to them to review their network. Once they identify people, ask the best way to get in touch, whether by connecting on LinkedIn or by calling them. Then go on with the rest of your meeting. Always remember to network at the beginning of a meeting rather than at the end when people are tired.
To follow up, forward this person’s profile to the people they were interested in meeting. Next, open up the profiles of the people they were willing to introduce and select the “get introduced through a connection feature” so the person can forward your message to the referral.
The only challenge I have seen people experience when using this system is in following up consistently. It does work, you will get a lot of referrals, but if you fail to follow up, the net result will be zero.
Todd Colbeck, MBA, is owner of Colbeck Coaching Group, Miami Beach, Fla. He formerly was brokerage vice president of the northeast U.S. region at American Express Financial Advisors. He is the author of How to Get New Clients Using LinkedIn. Todd may be contacted at email@example.com.