As salespeople, every day we are looking to make new connections and we are actively fielding connection requests from others. While some of us may have a plan for maximizing the effectiveness of these activities, I am guessing that most do not. We just … do.
In terms of building your social networks, there are probably three different schools of thought …
- Connect with anybody and everybody
- Don’t connect or only connect with people who you know
- Connect only with those who would appear to be the right people
Let’s look at the pros and cons for all three but, in the end, only you can decide for you as to which works best for your needs..
Connect with anybody – Connecting with anybody and everybody is great if you want to expand your reach. The more people, the larger your reach. The more people, the more avenues that you have available to connect with others due to your shared connections. However, is that your business model? As an internet marketer, it might be whereas, if your model is to handle a few key accounts, it might not.
However, you might decide that quality trumps quantity and that it will be more effective for you to build relationships with a smaller circle of people. Also keep in mind that you are allowing your direct connections access to your network and, if some of these folks turn out to be dirt bags, by the time this determination has been made, the damage may have already been done.
Connect with nobody – Not many pluses here. If you connect with nobody, your goal of expanding your network just isn’t going to happen. If you only connect to people you already know, well, at least that is a start and you can expand your network from there based on their connections.
Connect with the right people – I like to call this “moderately discriminating.” While you don’t connect to just anybody, you are willing to step outside of your box and take a few chances because … the potential rewards exceed the perceived risks. The challenge comes when we are asked to make that determination and when we are not doing so with a clearly defined criteria and goals.
How do you discover the right people?
This process starts with your goals for connecting to anybody. Are you doing so to meet new people and make new friends or are you also doing so to increase your business? Making new friends and building your book of business are not mutually exclusive goals. They do, in fact, go hand in hand. If my aim is to generate new business, I’m likely to want to connect to:
- People who are in my target market
- Folks who have the potential to buy my stuff
- Connections who can refer me to others
- Influential people who can help me to improve my craft and maybe even promote my services as ambassadors (bonus points).
Ultimately, you are looking to develop relationships that are mutually beneficial. In other words, what you can do for them is every bit it as important (perhaps even more important) than what they can do for you.
Target connection personas
We hear quite a bit about “buyer personas” and how to effectively target accounts. We can apply these same models and strategies in building our social networks. Let’s call it a “connection persona”.
In defining your ideal persona, you may use a wide variety of demographics to determine this such as:
- Klout score
- Number of connections (followers, etc.)
- Groups they belong to
- Social network
- Common interests
- Shared connections
- Prospect, influencer, referrer, educator
Keep it simple and pick your top 5 non-negotiables but, no more than 10. If you like, you can give bonus points for secondary features.
Now, you need to establish some benchmarks. Take a few of what you consider to be your absolute dream connections, the model for all others, and run them through your system. Do not be surprised if you discover that your current ideal connections (at least those that you now consider to be ideal) don’t match up to your point system. You may need to adjust your criteria accordingly or might also come to the realization that perhaps your current network does not, in fact, live up to the standards that you need. Interesting.
Will you do this for every potential connection? Pragmatically, and speaking as a salesperson who has the attention span of a gnat, “no.” The real goal here is to think more proactively about this topic.
How to find great connections
There are probably dozens of tools that have been designed to help you to identify your ideal connections. Most of these are based on keyword searches and Twitter is by far the most popular network due to its open architecture. Advanced searches are available on most networks. All will take an initial investment in terms of your time in order to become comfortable with their use. This will be well worth your effort!
LinkedIn advanced search is very well designed for this task. Premium LinkedIn accounts as well as those dedicated to sales will offer even more specialized criteria to search on. All LinkedIn accounts, even free ones, will allow you to save a certain number of searches (do this once you have massaged your parameters to achieve the maximum desired results) and then LinkedIn will monitor your network and email alert you when changes in member status now cause them to match your search.
Best practices for connecting
You have just met, or discovered, someone on a social network who would appear to be a potentially valuable connection. A lot of people might just ask them to be friends on Facebook or they will send them a (non-personalized) connection request on LinkedIn. No, no, no. Even if you do personalize your LinkedIn connection, what are you going to say? “Please connect with me so that I can pitch my stuff to you.” Wrong. It can get even worse. Asking to be my friend on Facebook, when I don’t know you from Adam, is roughly equivalent to you knocking on my door and then asking to sleep with my wife.
Instead, engage with progressive taps and touches. Retweet them on Twitter, @message them, follow, direct message, and only then consider requesting a more formal connection on LinkedIn or Facebook. Engage on groups. Get to know people and take the time to slowly build your relationship.
What about people who want to connect?
When you receive a request to connect, run it through your persona guidelines. From a purely practical standpoint, you are not going to do this with everybody. Some folks would make obvious good connections while others are just as obvious in the opposite way. Review as follows:
- Review their profile and look for key words. If they will sell you 100,000 Twitter followers for $1.99, and while that may or may not sound good for you, I am closing their tab just about as fast as I would be running out of a room if my head caught on fire.
- Take a look at their recent activity. LinkedIn, without fanfare, has reintroduced this feature (drop down arrow next to the “send message” or “connect” button).
- See who they are connected to and you are looking for desirable, as well as shared, connections.
- If this is on LinkedIn, I want to know if they have viewed my profile. If they have not, and there are no other strong indicators that I should accept, I don’t. You can also request more info before accepting but, don’t be surprised to find that 95% of those requests will be ignored.
Recently I was speaking to Alan Berkson who is the Director of Community Outreach at Freshdesk. Alan pointed out that being a discriminating connector on LinkedIn has an added benefit. When Alan finds somebody on LinkedIn that he might like to connect to, LinkedIn’s relationship map is going to produce two or three connections that he knows would be happy to introduce him vs. one hundred who may or may not. Noise reduction. Nice!
How about you? What are your rules for connecting with people and what tools and methods are you using to find those really great connections?