LinkedIn is a phenomenal resource for making connections, especially now that many of us are working and networking from home. There are currently more than 600 million users, which means you have an incredible opportunity to reach a bounty of current customers and potential prospects who are just a few connections away.
Another piece of the conversation should be reaffirming your relationship with them. If you’ve worked with them before, confirm that they’re still happy with the results of a past project. You might hear about some non-utility-cost financial or non-financial benefits you could add to your Success Story Archive. You could also ask about what trade organizations they belong to and what publications they’re reading so you could gain insight into where they get their information and what their key issues and interests might be.
Here’s another way to approach things. If you’re thinking of contacting a colleague of someone you’ve worked with, ask if you could drop their name. Chances are they’ll not only say yes, but also give you permission to have potential customers call them for a reference. That’s really the key to the kingdom. With that permission, you could proactively research other professionals they’re connected to. You now have an attention-grabbing way to introduce yourself.
Lastly, doing some research on a company or a particular person can give you material to mention when you write them a message. Perhaps they recently presented on behalf of a trade organization or served on a panel that’s relevant to your offerings. Those are the people you should be making connections with. And when you do request to be connected with them on LinkedIn, do something more creative than clicking a button that populates your connection request with the usual, boring canned greeting: “I would like to connect with you.” Make a real effort to personalize your connection request. For example:
“I read your PowerPoint from the panel you co-presented last year. I really liked your approach and thought we should connect and chat sometime.”
Anybody who gets that connection request will probably accept it because you know who they are and it’s clear that you are contacting them for a reason. In short, you are making a cold call warm, and once the door is open you can start a conversation about what you do, what you sell, and the folks you have helped – assuming you’ve given them the opportunity to become interested enough to hear it. If the person you’ve connected to knows someone else with similar needs, then that’s a bonus. What’s more, you can ask them for the permission to use their name and continue the referral process.
One more thought... This is not some sort of contest where you get prizes for the largest number of connections, etc. You should have a legitimate reason to connect with someone, and you should be committed to investing the time to nurture that relationship and create a win-win situation for both you and your connection.