With LinkedIn, you have easy and immediate access to professionals and experts spanning every possible industry, interest and profession the world over. In my own business, for example, we use LinkedIn to connect with professionals who may benefit from our services, to generate face-to-face meetings with prospects and even to increase workshop attendance. That is just a fraction of what you can accomplish by using LinkedIn as a tool for business growth. For business owners, consultants and sales professionals, the potential for generating strong leads using LinkedIn is vast, and it only takes one click or one quick message.
That is a bit of an oversimplification, but not by much. The reality is that while access to the tool is simple, turning clicks into meetings actually takes a bit more thought and effort, especially if your goal is to inevitably convert those connections to paying customers or clients of your business.
Forming relationships through LinkedIn can require a certain strategic approach. It’s likely a waste of your time to simply dive in and attempt to ask every single connection of interest for a meeting over coffee. Instead, aim to establish a clear objective — connecting and building a relationship — and more than that, be able to prove your value to the prospect right off the bat.
Generating new leads for your business, even through social media, may require you to put time and effort into building trust and a rapport. So take the time to strategize. This way, you can actually leverage the social platform to make those valuable connections for yourself and your business.
Here are some tips you can use to build your online relationships and turn them into those coveted face-to-face meetings.
Before you even reach out to potential connections, first identify what you’d like to accomplish, whether you’re acting on your own behalf or that of your business or as a representative of your sales team. As you look to make targeted connections through LinkedIn with the goal of setting up meaningful, productive meetings, approach the process with a realistic strategy in mind.
At first, plan to target a handful of prospects who fit the profile of your ideal customer or client. Be realistic and selective in your engagements. For instance, you may want to target locally before you go for the top movers and shakers around the world. This way, they’re more likely to engage and ultimately meet face to face.
Build A Rapport
If you want to eventually convert your prospects, you probably can’t just dive straight in with the pitch. First, send them a request to connect. Once they’ve accepted, you can start warming the connection and building a relationship. That will obviously begin with a quick introduction, but the key here is to keep the connection warm with regular interaction. It’s going to take some effort, especially in the beginning.
To build a strong rapport right off the bat, it’s important to draw immediate focus to your prospects’ unique and ever-evolving business challenges. They’re likely very busy professionals, so be sure to thank them for connecting. When you do that, you’re acknowledging the time they’ve spent (which could have been spent on countless other things), and that alone may really help you stand out. From there, you can share neutral third-party resources, such as videos or articles, that may benefit their business. This shows that you care about helping them meet their challenges, and because you’re drawing from an outside source, it won’t come across as a pushy sales pitch.
As you continue to develop the relationships, you can start asking business-specific questions, like what their pain points are in their own businesses, what you can do to help them overcome those challenges and so on. This can show that you’re serious about what you have to offer without coming across as pushy or overly aggressive. It shows real concern for your prospects’ needs, which is the perfect way to establish trust before you start asking for meetings and such.
As you build your LinkedIn network, it’s important to stay engaged with every prospect on your list. If you’re thinking that sounds pretty time-consuming, you’re right, but that is part of the investment you’re making in your own business. This is time well-spent.
Spend time and energy commenting on updates, such as job anniversaries, job changes, profile updates and the like. The good news is that LinkedIn already does the work of tracking these announcements. So when you see them, go ahead and send messages to your connections to warmly express your thoughts and well wishes. Doing this may just lead to further conversation and a deeper connection that you can count on later to help you get that meeting you’re after.
Engagement is about more than just commenting; it’s also about sharing. It’s about the give and take — just make sure you’re not taking more than you give. Share information about your prospects’ industries and their businesses that they may find interesting. Do this both on your news feed and in private conversations.
If your goal is to turn your LinkedIn connections into leads and get face-to-face meetings (and eventually convert them into customers or clients), then focus on building trusting professional relationships with them. It all starts by thoughtfully selecting your prospects in order to minimize time spent on leads that will never convert. When you choose the right audience, the time you spend building a rapport and engaging with them may be extremely valuable to your own business and beneficial to your prospect as well.
Once that trust is built and you’re sure that you’ve developed a strong relationship with your prospect, requesting a face-to-face meeting should be no trouble at all. Begin by asking for a short meeting over coffee, and allow your in-person relationship to grow in the same gradual way that you’ve nurtured your lead through LinkedIn.