3 Rules of Building Linkedin Relationships
Pan for Linkedin Gold. Discard the gravel.
All Linkedin connections should be realistic candidates for business relationships. When you link up with one of the 30 million Linkedin users, the potential should exist for your partnership to strike gold. In terms of business value to you, be aware there are far more useless pebbles than valuable nuggets out there. The key is to know where to look and what to look for. If you are a recent college grad, target successful professionals with less than five years experience. If you have a decade or more of success in a profession, then try for the rainmakers.
Don’t waste time connecting to overseas users or wonder off into areas unrelated to your business. By focusing your network, you’ll have a clear, clean list of contacts. This is not a popularity contest where guys and gals with the most connections win. Unproductive connections will contaminate your network. Toss them back.
Join the right Linkedin groups - Don’t just hang out with your competitors.
Alice is an estate planning attorney who thinks she’s a perfect fit in an attorney-only group. She should think about how unlikely it is that one of those estate planners will ask for her help planning an estate. A better group for her to target would be financial advisors or planners. Just about any group of professions would be better than her competitors. If she joins a group with a linchpin relationship to her specialty, she’ll have a good chance to strike gold.
Get creative. Here are some ideas for a Chicago estate planning attorney:
- National or estate planning or probate groups
- National and Chicago area financial planning groups
- National and Chicago area CPA and accounting groups
- National and Chicago area funeral homes groups
- National and Chicago realtor groups
- National and Chicago estate appraiser groups
- National and Chicago bankers groups
- National and Chicago business leaders groups
- National and Chicago home health professionals
- National and Chicago funeral home groups
- National and Chicago area charity groups
- National and Chicago area business broker group
- If there isn’t a Linkedin group that targets your business niche, create one!
When you join national groups, use your group search to find your local connections. Linkedin allows members to join up to 50 groups. If you join a group and you later decide it’s not for you, just drop out.
The first and most powerful person to connect with is the owner or creator of your Linkedin Group. The person who started the group had a purpose in mind. Become an agent in helping the creator build relationships and find business and you will have made an important ally.
Next, search for participants who have something special to offer. Maybe they own a web site that would complement your activities. Some will have written a book or appeared on radio or TV shows. Check their bios to see if they understand the principles of networking. If so, share ideas.
Make clear in your profile what you want from a referral partner and WHAT YOU CAN GIVE THEM!
I’m sorry about shouting, but it’s that important. Paint a clear picture of your ideal client.
Example: “My ideal client is a wealthy business owner or retiree who has more than $1 million in net worth and who lives within 45 minutes of Chicago. This individual has only done a minimal amount of estate planning and may or may not have a will.”
A demographic profile is even more useful when it includes a red blinking light that tells you: Something has changed. Be alert for these signals. Changes in life events can create problems for clients and problem-solving opportunities for you and your referral partner.
“Something has changed” details that should hit your hot button:
- A “troubling” doctor visit
- Illness or death of spouse
- Contemplation of divorce
- Birth, death or illness of parent, sibling, child or grandchild, or business partner
- Marriage or divorce of a child or grandchild or business partner
- Business has grown (or declined) significantly in the last few years
- Net worth has grown (or declined) significantly in last few years.
- Added or lost business partners
- Within 5 years of retirement
- Within 5 years on contemplating sale of business
- Job loss or business litigation
While sharing the attributes of your ideal client, also discover the client characteristics your referral partner needs.
Example: Your contact Fred tells you he’s in declining health and his business is becoming a burden and a source of worry. You should offer Fred the opportuntiy to meet with your friend Cynthia the banker, Tom the business broker and Brian the financial advisor. Simply ask Fred, who do you want to meet first?
If you keep your antennae up for opportunities for your referral partners, you are well on your way in creating a thriving network that will help you too.
Hate to share? Learn the Rule of Reciprocity
If you have an active and healthy reciprocal referral network, you are crazy not to share. It helps your original contact solve problems and it will increase your own business prospects, I promise, by eight fold.
Here’s how you do it. Say you have worked with Sam and Sarah who own business. Sarah’s cancer has gotten worse and Sam tells you he doesn’t think he can keep things going at home and at work much longer. You’ll be doing him a favor by professionally leveraging the relationship with your other partners (including):
- A retirement community move-in coordinator
- A business broker
- A business accountant
- A financial advisor
- A professional life insurance agent
- A support network (cancer recovery group, funeral home, Stephen ministries, etc)
- A Realtor
- A business consultant
Fear is your enemy. It’s the main reason people don’t refer to other professionals. They’re afraid that:
- The referral partner will provide poor service and they’ll be blamed.
- A partners’ fees are too high or his competence too low.
- The referral will be complicated or time-consuming.
- They won’t get a referral or introduction in return.
How to Conquer Referral Apprehensions
If professionals don’t reciprocate referring clients to other professionals, it’s almost always because they haven’t agreed on ground rules and haven’t created an environment in which trust can grow. Here’s how to build trust:
Require this of yourself and ALL referral partners
- Know a referral partner’s core competence and limits. Study everyone’s Linkedin bio for starters.
- Plan on how referral partners are going to get together regularly. For Linkedin connections, you could arrange weekly or bi-weekly conference calls. Attendance should be mandatory when scheduling is confirmed. A member who misses two conference calls is out.
- Agree on a service plan, such as call backs within 24 hours.
- Give discounts or service upgrades for referral partners’ clients.
- Plan to efficiently introduce referral partners. Make it clear how, where, when and by whom.
- Follow up to make sure the client is satisfied.
- Remember you’re looking for professional friendships driven by clients’ needs. You should be building referral relationships that will last as long as your career, not days, weeks or even months. If you are not thinking long-term, you aren’t a pioneer and you won’t get far.
- Agree that the client’s needs do come first. Example: Joe is a residential Realtor who cannot meet the needs of Ed, who has commercial property for sale. Joe MUST refer Ed to the appropriate party or back to the network.
- Keep score of each person’s referrals. Note when a referral partner solves a problem with extra effort. You can also share opportunities that failed. Talk about what went wrong and ask each other how it could have been handled better.
- Give a referral partner notice that they are not meeting expectations and agree on a method to replace them in network.
Be a Go-Giver, not a Go-Getter!
Here’s the payoff for developing a productive Linkedin network.
You’ll never have to worry about:
- Your income
- Your boss
- Your net worth
- Losing or finding a great job
- Having interesting friends
- Having free time
- Leaving a legacy in your industry
Proceed to: 6 steps to build Linkedin relationships