Let’s Get Personal – Leveraging Your LinkedIn Presence

By UPRAISE Team

There was a time when a staple on everyone’s desk was – er, no, not staples, but we had those, too – the Rolodex. The Rolodex was where one kept the important business cards and other contact information accumulated in the course of business.

The Rolodex sat on our desk, and seemed to stare knowingly at us, and with great judgment. This phenomenon was intensified for anyone in a true sales or business development position. It was as if the Rolodex was mocking, “hey, loser, I see you trying not to make eye contact with me. Really, are you pretending to organize that file folder drawer one more time? C’mon, flip through me and get some of the dust off. Make a friggin’ phone call, wouldja? Do your dang job!!”

So we systemically worked to kill the Rolodex. And replaced it with LinkedIn, the online answer to your old address book and Rolodex. For many of us, LinkedIn is the present-day Rolodex. How can you use LinkedIn most effectively? I’m going to share what’s worked for me over the years.

Can the spam

No one likes spam, especially from your professional networks.

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Granted, the occasional mass distribution of “I’m pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a position at XYZ Company, beginning May 1” is really not that irksome to me. Since I connected with this person for some reason to begin with, I may appreciate knowing where they’re moving. I, for one, still enjoy a good relationship. If I’ve had a good business experience with a person, I may very well see to it that my business follows them to their new opportunity. However, I would’ve been impressed if they took the few extra seconds to personalize their outreach.

Personalize your outreach

LinkedIn is a great tool to network within your network, and to ultimately grow your network. For me, the key to success is personalization. I don’t spam my network. In an era of impersonal service, I appreciate the personal touch. When I started at UPRAISE, I sent out a couple dozen personalized LinkedIn messages to key contacts – folks that I had worked with or for at the C-level, who I’d be happy to work with again on behalf of my agency. Sure, I had a draft template, but I customized each message for the recipient. Think about it, these are people you know, trust and value. If you bumped into them on the street, wouldn’t your in person interaction and conversation reflect that?

Your online outreach should be crafted with that same individual care. With this approach, your reply rate will be in the acceptable range. If you’ve worked to keep the personal connection current, reaching out to mention that you’ll be in the neighborhood in a few weeks and offering to briefly meet for coffee or tea to hear more about what your connection has been up to is a great idea. But you’ve got to be sincere.

Be honest, and use common sense

Years ago, I was working in sales, and a junior person was listening to my phone calls. I called a prospect, and explained “I’ll be across the street from your office on Wednesday at 10. How ‘bout I stop by to see you for a few minutes at 9 or 11?” “Sure,” he responded. Moments later, I heard the new sales person on the phone, “I’ll be in your neighborhood and across the street on Wednesday at 10. Can I come see you at 9? Great! Now, what’s your address?” Of course, the prospective client hung up. Deception is never a good thing.

Connect with common interests

You can also effectively leverage common interests, such as reaching out to contacts who happen to be alums of your alma mater and see if they want to meet at a sports bar to watch your team in the basketball tournament, something I recently did. While we did not meet to watch the game, we engaged in a LinkedIn messaging conversation with the result that we did meet for coffee within the week.

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You’re here to help

And, if you’ve done your research, it’s quite effective to position yourself as a potential resource in improving your contact’s current situation. With these various approaches in mind, and being strategic about which one makes the most sense in a given situation, you’ll get responses that’ll range from “Great to hear from you. I’m all set right now, but I’ll keep you in mind,” to “Yes, coffee sounds great. Happy to tell you about what I’m up to at ABC Industries,” to “I’ve always enjoyed working with you. You’ve always done exceptional work. Can we talk this week? I’m thinking about a project that I’ll need some help with.”

Quality over quantity

It can be overwhelming, especially with 5,000 LinkedIn connections, to come up with a workable outreach strategy. Like anything else, it’s one step at a time. You’re going for quality, not quantity – personalization, not spam.  Come up with a plan. Who do I want to get to know better? Who am I genuinely interested in? Who do I respect and admire? Who can I see myself working with? Then use LinkedIn’s sorting fields to narrow it down. For example, whenever I travel on business, I plan about a month ahead of the trip and sort my contacts by the city that I’ll be going to on business. I’ve met people for dinner this way while I’ve been in their town. I’ve also had responses from connections that couldn’t meet, but were open to an email exchange or phone conversation.

You’ll also want to sort by job title in many instances. If I want to introduce connections to UPRAISE Marketing + PR, I’m going to be sorting by CMO, and in some cases, CEO. Then personalize your message. Did you work with them in the past? Did your paths cross somewhere somehow? Did you graduate from the same school, or grow up in the same state, or hold a similar position somewhere during your career? These are all good things to mention in your LinkedIn messages as you attempt to connect in person.

The right attitude

If you go into this with the idea that you are simply doing it to sell something or grow your business, proceed at your own risk. If these are to be true, long-term connections and deepened relationships, you’ve got to make the nurturing of the relationship the number one priority. Meeting for coffee, for example, may turn out to be nothing more than meeting for coffee. And that’s fine. You’ve spent more time with your connection, and they with you. You are building mutual trust and respect, and shared bonds. Invariably, when you’ve truly let go and aren’t expecting a payoff, that’s when you’ll get the LinkedIn message alerting you to a new opportunity. And in the meantime, enjoy crafting your LinkedIn virtual handshake as you develop and nurture relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

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