Would you ask someone to marry you the first time you met?
You usually aren’t asking for a life-long commitment when you reach out on LinkedIn, but it is important to remember that you are asking for more than a click or quick response. Whether you are hoping to find a new client, a new employee, or a new employer, the intent is usually to create some sort of relationship.
Which is why short-cuts and “hacks” on LinkedIn usually fall flat. They try to short-circuit the relationship-building process and fail to create the fertile conditions that lead to business opportunities. These short-term tricks became common in 2020 during the pandemic and contribute to some wariness on the part of some businesspeople.
In this environment, professionals that take a long-term approach to their LinkedIn activity continue to find the biggest benefits on the platform.
7 Steps to the Long-Term LinkedIn Approach
In the end, tools like LinkedIn are simply another communication channel to create human-to-human relationships. And the process parallels the way we’ve always built our business relationships.
The key is to translate the skills and actions that you would take in the offline world into the digital world.
Here’s how to do that:
1. Approach New Contacts as an Individual
No matter the reason for your outreach, remember that the person on the other end of your LinkedIn interaction is just that: a person. Think about how you would treat the person if they were standing in front of you at an offline event. That’s the same care you should take in the online world. Don’t go in with the intention of blasting generic messages at them. Look to talk to people about things they care about. What do they care about? Well…
2. Research Before Outreach
Luckily, LinkedIn is a great platform for the curious. Before you blindly reach out to a new or existing connection, do some research. At a bare minimum, scan through their profile and look at what they are highlighting as their main areas of professional focus.
Then go one step deeper and look at their recent LinkedIn activity. Look at what they have posted, what other posts they have commented on, and other information they have shared. It will let you know where to start a conversation with them.
3. Lead with Curiosity and Listening
Now that you know a bit about them, use it to ask relevant questions. It’s easy to slip into a “talking” mode, but relationships are built on a give-and-take, and you can go far by finding out about the other person first.
Don’t worry about what you are going to say to potential connections or post on LinkedIn. Instead, think about what questions you might ask them. This fruitful dialogue will give you insights into how you can work together.
4. Engage with Their Content
Speaking of content, keep your relationship moving forward by engaging with their posts. When they share an idea, an event, or observation, they are signaling that it’s important to them. And when you like or comment, it signals that you “heard” them.
Even better, by commenting you can start a mini conversation that keeps you on their mind and positions you as a resource in their network. That makes it easier to take the relationship up a notch when you need to.
5. Share Useful Content
When it comes to sharing content yourself, don’t be shy. Yes, you don’t want to be the one “talking” all of the time, but sharing content that is relevant to your contacts is a great way to become a knowledgeable and trusted resource.
Share content that you’ve curated or created that focuses on your main areas of professional expertise. Be sure to include your personal insights or perspectives when you do this. This will go a long way to cementing your personal brand in the minds of your LinkedIn connections.
6. Offer to Help Them
People will directly or indirectly share challenges that they are facing – challenges that you can help with. It could be a post that they’ve shared or even a comment that they’ve made. This is when you can reach out and share how you can be of service.
This is a delicate, but important step. Too many professionals think that others will just reach out and say, “Help me.” But it’s almost always the case that you will have to reach out and share how you can help.
7. Improve Your Online Relationship Skills
For many of us, remote work and its emphasis on digital engagement is a new world. And even though offline interaction will return, it’s going to be important to learn how to mix both in-person and virtual communication to be successful.
Building relationships on LinkedIn is the perfect place to practice and improve these skills. Engaging with your network on LinkedIn allows you to improve the soft skills of digital interaction. So even if you aren’t able to gain a new client or create a new partnership, you’ll have lots of feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Want to Up Your LinkedIn Game?
Be Found Online account-based marketing services that help you to identify key contacts on LinkedIn and cultivate them. We call this product LinkedIn360. Whether you’re trying to build awareness with targeted ads or reaching out directly from your LinkedIn account, Be Found Online can help you develop your LinkedIn relationships while assisting you in building a pipeline
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As CEO/Co-Founder of BFO, Steve excels in ‘unleadership.’ (his word) Steve believes in collaboration and leading by example; remaining vulnerable and open to new ideas, accepting feedback…and doing good things.
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