The pandemic has created a work-from-home business model. It also created two extra hours in your workday because you are no longer commuting to the office. This gives you an ideal opportunity to dive into LinkedIn. That’s what I did.
This is your opportunity to learn from my mistakes. For years I’ve been attempting to crack the LinkedIn code. This could be the greatest prospecting tool of the 21st century. What’s the secret? It’s not using automated programs. It’s not reinventing the cold call, connecting and selling immediately. It’s not posting on autopilot. It’s about engagement.
Here’s what I did
I have 2,600+ connections on LinkedIn. I estimate my network grows by about 100 people every three weeks. I have about a 40% response rate across my network. Put another way, out of 2,600 people, about 1,000 have messaged back when they’ve heard from me over the past year. That’s about 1,000 people replying.
- My messaging strategy. First, I build a list as a Word document of all my first-level connections. Starting at the beginning, every day I send about 10–15 personal messages, working my way down the list. When I’m done I type “sent” next to each name. With 2,600+ names, the next sequence will take me about nine months. It’s a little at a time, early in the day. It’s prospecting.
- What’s in the message? They are individually composed, but follow a common theme.
“(Name), this is a personal message. We’ve been connected (x) years. It’s time to get to know you better. Jane and I live in New Hope, Penn., population 2,500. We are a tourist town. You are in (town). What’s that like? We are big wine fans. How about you?”
It’s sincere. It’s non-threatening.
- I send out invitations. I pick a profession or firm. I scan for second-level connections. To each person, I send a personal message, giving them a reason to connect. I share links to articles I’ve written. You could easily share published research from your firm. I reference our number of shared connections. If people don’t accept after about four weeks, I pull the invites back.
- Thank people for connecting. When an invitee connects, I send a message thanking them and wishing them a good week.
- Incoming messages. If 40% of people respond over the course of a year, it means I’m getting probably about 20 responses a day, on average. I respond to each one. It can be brief. You often get a dialog going.
- Outgoing messages. I like lists. I have them by profession or industry. Once a month I send individual messages to each along with an article link. I realize people get lots of unsolicited messages. I sometimes mention “Here’s my monthly message,” or “Please let me know if I’m messaging too often.” Some people respond, others don’t.
- Notifications. This includes those birthday, work anniversary and new job messages. I send them all, rewording each so it is personal. Replies here contribute to the 40% response rate, too.
- Posting. Three times a week on my feed, I post a link to one of my published articles.
- LinkedIn groups. I have found groups composed of people with the potential to do business. Who knew some accounting societies accept non-accountants as members? Every Tuesday I post an article link (with introductory text) to each group. On Thursdays I visit each group, read other people’s posts and comment on at least two. I’m an active member. People engage, replying to my comments. They reach out, asking to connect. Imagine a circumstance where someone with the potential to become a client reaches out to you?
- People between jobs. You come across them by accident. They explain they haven’t updated their profile page. I try to be supportive, let them know they can look through my connections. Maybe I can help. I check in about once a month, making suggestions. From an advisor’s point of view, helping a connection like this has a good probability of leading to business when they get resettled.
What’s the result?
Pulling it all together, I’ve achieved about a 40% response rate overall. Put another way, 40% of my connections have messaged me back at least once during the year. Some are almost daily. Do some people drop me? Of course. Do I get lots of invitations? Of course.
The object is to get a dialog going, develop a personal relationship, learn about each other and transition to a business conversation, when appropriate.
Can you measure success? My business is different, because I’m not an advisor or agent. It’s not like ringing the cash register. It’s more like selling an aircraft carrier. LinkedIn has a metric called the Social Selling Index. Happily, as of 10/23/20 I’m in the top 1% for my industry and the top 4% for my network.
What’s the cost?
Here’s the best part. The dollar cost is zero. The only other cost is your time. Think about it as your 21st century prospecting strategy. You’ve got those two extra hours you saved not commuting to the office. I use the basic LinkedIn membership, the one that’s free. You don’t need to buy a prospecting program from someone else. You are working on your own, building your own program that is tailored specifically to you.
One last word: Don’t forget compliance. Firms went from prohibiting social media use for business to actively encouraging it. Nevertheless, your firm has rules and you need to work within those guidelines.