For someone working to create strong partnerships for your company, it’s crucial to do anything and everything to make connections and expand your network. While everyone should see some importance in networking and being engaged in your industry, for people working within sales and business development, it’s a requirement.
While referrals and potential clients reaching out to you directly are great, that can be inconsistent at times and you may lack some control in driving those opportunities. It’s important to have the ability to go out and develop connections of your own. This not only helps to develop more current opportunities, but builds up your personal brand within the industry as well.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few ways to use LinkedIn to your advantage and how to leverage the network to develop current and future opportunities for yourself and your company.
Build Your Network
Granted, this may be something you have done already but if you haven’t, this is definitely Step 1. Connecting with former colleagues and current colleagues is important to help grow your network on LinkedIn, and with that you will start to see “shared connections” and “people you may know” options come across your news feed. People will start to pop up, former college classmates for example, that work in the same field/industry and are a solid connection for you. You may not have even realized they worked in the same field prior. Having a real connection (not just on social media) with people is the basis for building a strong network of people.
If you haven’t spoken to someone in a while and connect with him or her on LinkedIn, send that person a quick note saying hi and see how they’re doing. Try to leave the door open for having discussions down the road, should they need a resource or help with anything.
Searching For New Connections
At this point, you’ve pretty much connected with everyone you know from current and previous jobs, as well as your personal life. From there, you’re looking to grow your network with people in the same industry. There’s no clear cut way of doing this and some people feel uncomfortable reaching out to people, but remember this:
People are on LinkedIn for work purposes and if you offer something that can help them be better at their job, why wouldn’t they want to connect?
A good way to start building your network at this point is to identify some key companies that would be a great fit for your company to work with, and build a list. From there, start searching within LinkedIn for “people who work at _____”. You’ll see this option as you begin the type the company name in the search bar at the top. Before you request for a connection, see if you have any “shared connections” with that person. The bigger your network grows, the better your chances are of having those shared connections with people in the industry. If you do have a shared connection and it’s someone you know quite well, you may want to ask for an introduction. While asking for an introduction, be sure to let them know if they’re uncomfortable in doing that, it’s 100% OK for them to say no to your request. You never know what the relationship is there and you might be better off not having an introduction from that person.
Starting The Conversation
Once an introduction has been made or you’ve simply connected with that person on LinkedIn, it’s time to reach out and start a conversation. First off, thank them for connecting/networking with you. Second, tell them what it is you do, what your company does, and how you think you may be able to help them. There’s a fine line between being too passive and being too aggressive so show your interest and suggest some days/times to speak. Also mention that if those days/times don’t work, you’re willing to accommodate to their schedule as best as you can.
There’s a chance reaching out like this to a particular person will lead to nothing. They may not be interested or the timing just isn’t right. I will tell you though, that the more you engage with people like this, the higher the chances are a solid opportunity comes through this channel. You are undoubtedly building your network within the industry and more people within your target market are aware of you and your company now.
While many of us may rely on inbound leads and opportunities coming from various referrals, it is a good idea to diversify a bit and have more control over the situation. Leveraging LinkedIn’s professional network can help to get the conversation started with key people at ideal companies for you and your company to work with. On top of that, building your network will have a great impact on your own personal brand and being well known in the industry. Not every connection will turn into a client, but positive things will happen when you push to initiate things on your own.