Inside sellers are very interested in more LinkedIn tips on ways to build their networks and ultimately grow revenues, so we are working to do weekly posts on tips and ideas specific to LinkedIn. There are definitely some basic fundamentals that you must understand when working with LinkedIn, such as being focused on adding value rather than scouring groups and connections for potential buyers.
1. ALWAYS personalize your connection requests. A connection request is when you invite someone to connect with you on LinkedIn. There is a default message I wish LinkedIn had never created which says, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Don't use that canned request because it shows at the very least that you are lazy or thoughtless - using LinkedIn's canned wording - and at most it shows a lack of connection and creativity. If I don't know you and you send me a connection request, I'd like to know how we are connected. If we are not connected, and I don't know of you otherwise, chances are I won't want to put you in my valuable network which I have been building on LinkedIn since 2003. With LinkedIn, if enough people decline your connection and tell LinkedIn "I don't know this person" - you can get a warning and ultimately kicked out of LinkedIn by trying to connect to too many folks you don't know. LinkedIn is built on the premise that you are building your network with people who are connected in some way to you - which is why there are now over 200 million users.
2. Refrain from promotion and work to add value. If you join a group, there may be potential customers and referral partners there. Take time first to listen and monitor what people are talking about. Learn how to find ways to share ideas and knowledge, not promote that you sell something that would solve an issue or problem someone is talking about. Forget that you sell containers and someone is asking about containers. Take a step back to understand what type of containers and why they think they need them. Substitute what you sell with the container scenario.
As Stephen Covey used to say, "Seek first to understand, then be understood." This is so true within a business community like LinkedIn. Compare this virtual community to an in-person networking event. No one can stand that guy that goes around handing his card out to anyone and everyone - or the guy who turns away once he hears that what you do won't benefit him. Don't be that guy in person or online, and you'll gain a broad audience and following.
3. Use a multifaceted approach to connect with people you meet on LinkedIn. Did you make a connection through someone you know? Send a brief note through LinkedIn, and find a reason to connect by email, phone, or video call. I guarantee no one is going to a Google Hangout or Skype video on LinkedIn as a regular strategy - this is one way you could really stand out in your industry. Lead with adding value - forwarding a white paper, blog post, or article about a topic of interest to your buyer or strategic partner - generate interest, and differentiate yourself from all the noise. Just because you met on Linkedin does not mean that you need to only connect through LinkedIn.
Try these basic tips to build your foundation - grow your contacts to 500+ professionals because if you do that, you'll have a good shot at many, many 2nd and 3rd degree connections.
Are you building out a robust network of business professionals on LinkedIn?
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Post any of your favorite LinkedIn tips as comments, or your LinkedIn success stories. We'd love to hear them, and they could be the single inspiration someone else is looking for.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling.