The LinkedIn platform is a really valuable tool and resource, and it can be used in many ways. Like anything, it can be overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with it, so here are some of the ways I like to get the most out of LinkedIn.
- Who am I meeting? As Crystal wrote in her blog last week, with all of the resources at our fingertips these days, there is no reason not to do research in order to prepare for meetings. LinkedIn is a great resource for this: if I have a meeting with you, or if you have reached out to me to ask about my business services, or if a contact of mine has recommended that we meet, I’m going over to LinkedIn to check you out! Not in a creepy way, mind you – if you’re on LinkedIn, you have complete control over your profile and what can be seen, so hopefully you will have some information there that you want to share with me, such as your experience, your business interests, the companies you follow, and what your references have said about you. I will also look at your photo – that way, I can find you if we meet. And hopefully you will look me up too, so you’ll know more about me. If you use LinkedIn, keep an eye on your profile content, keep it relevant and up to date, and make sure it’s working for you.
- Posting and sharing. At Project House, we write blogs and we like sharing them. We also like (thumbs up!) and share articles we find interesting; blogs written by colleagues or clients, and information about our areas of interest (small business, women entrepreneurs, leadership practices, etc.). We also share job opportunities for our clients, in the hopes that members of our network will also share them, so that they eventually arrive at a great candidate. LinkedIn is a place to share professional information and insights – it is not a social platform like Facebook however, so please don’t share cat videos or word puzzles here, or you will rub people the wrong way.
- Reaching out. Once you are “linked in” with a network of people, you can get in touch by sending a message, either with one person or with a group of people, in order to ask for a meeting, share information, or ask a bunch of people the same question. This is a great feature, especially if you see someone who you really would like to meet, but haven’t yet been connected with. A nice message that says “hey I see that you know so-and-so, and I’d really like to buy you a coffee and talk about this thing that our businesses have in common” can act as a great introduction. I’ve sent emails to a group of my contacts in a specific industry to ask them how something works, or to point me in the right direction to get the help I need. Just don’t spam or blast everyone in your network with a canned message – as with anything in business, the more genuine and relevant your request, the more people will be inclined to respond and help.
There are so many great ways to use LinkedIn and to maximize your profile, including writing or soliciting work referrals, listing activities or organizations where you volunteer your time, and following people who post great blogs or articles. If you’re just getting started and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, a great picture, a few words about what you do, and a title that explains where you work or what you’re looking for are enough for people to start connecting with you. When you go to your page, you will often get helpful prompts to beef up your profile, which you can follow or skip until you’re ready, or until there is something you want to add or say.
What are your favourite ways to get LinkedIn working for you? And if you don’t have a profile for your business, let us know if you’d like to see a future blog on creating a great one!
I don’t consider myself to be a salesperson. While I truly enjoy meeting potential clients to tell them about what we can do, and in the process I try to convey that our company has integrity and know-how, I wouldn’t say that I’m a great salesperson. That being said, I have recently been on the other side of the table as a potential client, and sadly I got a first-hand glance into what I think was a colossal fail of a client meeting. This sparked some good conversation among my team and colleagues and inspired me to write this blog. While we aren’t trained in sales, this experience proved to me that if you enter a meeting with humility and genuineness, and you strive to put your best foot forward, you can leave people with a positive experience., which is the goal, isn’t it?. Some of the things that we do intuitively are really working for us, and this makes me proud.
I think it will be more effective to write this as a list of the 10 things you shouldn’t do in a client meeting, and I hope you’ll see why! Incidentally, if this meeting sounds familiar to you from the business side of things, and if you are guilty of some of these behaviours, I’m hoping that reading this will provide you with some insight and some helpful advice around how to turn a potentially bad meeting into a great one!
- Don’t mass email people, or else be careful doing so. This story started with an email from a new startup that I received through LinkedIn. I’ve never used this feature in LinkedIn before, but I understand you can do an eblast of sorts to all of your contacts. I received a message that at first glance wasn’t too canned or formulaic, but it was a little impersonal. I was interested in the services this company could potentially provide to us, so I responded. A few minutes later, Heidi forwarded me the same note and asked me if I remembered this person from a past project. Aha!…so it was a generic email. My suggestion is this: if you are going to blast your entire contact list, don’t send it to everyone within the same organization. Call me old fashioned, but if you genuinely want to do business with me, wouldn’t it worth your time to write me a personalized note? I understand mass email blasts for organizations trying to sell me t-shirts or furniture, but my business is important to me, and if you want to do business with me on a B2B professional level, it’s lazy to start this way.
- Don’t not know who I am. I set up a meeting with this business to hear more about their company and services. As background information, I have met this person before, and there is a reason why we are “linked” on LinkedIn. We are not bosom buddies or anything, but with just a few clicks of the mouse, it would have been easy to discover how we are connected. Anyways, I arrived and was able to pick this person out of the crowd as I had done my homework. I got to the table and said hello in a familiar way, only to get a “Hi…I’m so and so…nice to meet you.” To which I of course replied “Yes I know – we did bushiness together at “X” company…remember?” I received a blank look as a reply, so I added a few more details before they finally said “oh yes, I remember” and the conversation went on from there. With all of the resources you have at your fingertips these days, there is NO reason this kind of exchange should happen – especially if you want my business. If you reach out to me, and I take the time to meet with you, you should know who I am, why we’re connected, and possibly even what I might need from you.
- Don’t expect me to pay for your coffee. It was evident that this person wasn’t jumping up to offer to buy me a coffee, so I bought one for both of us. There are often times when it’s not necessary to treat someone to coffee, and when you are a startup, I get it…money is tight…but this person was truly cavalier about the whole thing and it rubbed me the wrong way. In addition,, I also got hollered at to “grab me some sugar would ya!” If you want someone’s business, and they’re taking their time to meet with you, a coffee is a nice and low-cost way to set a positive tone. And if someone offers to buy you a coffee, say Thank You.
- Don’t come unprepared. After the coffees were ordered, I came back to the table and rather boldly said, “so I guess, as you didn’t remember who I was, you have no idea what I do or what my business is about.” The reply was “Oh yes I do, HR Consulting – I looked!” Ya…when? While I was up getting coffees?
I know this is a bit repetitive from point number 2, but this one is a no brainer people! If you are going to meet someone and you want to woo them as a new client, please take a few minutes do some research before the meeting. I’m on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook…I have a website…there is no reason you shouldn’t know exactly who I am and what I do. You should know who we know in common and maybe even be prepared to talk about something that I recently posted or tweeted. Taking the time to get to know a potential client or business partner in advance is a simple way to show them that you care about them, their business, and their time.
My brother told me recently about this new app called “CHARLIE APP” which allows you to “make a killer impression” by scouring the web for information about the person you are about to meet then emails it to you before your meeting! What a great idea – I’ve just signed up and can’t wait to try it out. Stay tuned!
- Don’t tell me how rich you are. In this meeting, I was astonished that the topic of conversation quickly went to the “$hitloads” of money this person was making. While I’m excited for you if your business is booming, and really who doesn’t want their business to be profitable, I’m just not that interested in how much money you’re making. Especially if you are clearly just trying to impress me without knowing what actually impresses me. It just sets the wrong tone – it’s off-putting and unpleasant.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to find out about my needs. While I certainly want to hear all about your new business and your services, you are missing a huge opportunity by not digging into my business and my needs and then trying to piece together how you could truly help me. It shouldn’t be up to me as your potential client to fit the pieces together. Ask me questions! As my brother told me (he’s in sales so I consider him knowledgeable on this subject), you should be asking at least 5 probing questions as well as asking “Why” as often as possible, while staying genuine. If you’re not curious about me and why you’re meeting with me, you are not making good use of our time together, and my time is precious to me.
- Don’t be arrogant. This can be a tough one I guess, because some people just come across this way, either in their body language or in the words or tone they choose. Perhaps you are nervous and you are trying to act confident, and you are overdoing it… Having said that, though, it can also be pretty easy to avoid this if you just watch what you say at least. This person had the nerve to tell me at one point that they had purposely done something lacking integrity in their last position. Wow, that’s a red flag. Why would I want to work with someone like you? You stand for all the things that I work so hard to prevent. If you lacked integrity then, you lack integrity now, and I know you won’t have my best interests at heart if we work together!
- Don’t be too technical. If the nature of your work is very technical, it would help to create a pitch to describe your business or services in more user-friendly terms. If I don’t understand what you’re saying, and feel lost, why would I want to work with you? If I feel inadequate and unable to keep up with you when we’re in the preliminary stages, how will I feel doing a project with you? Know your audience, get a feel for what their level of understanding is, and then modify your pitch accordingly. Don’t make them feel stupid for not understanding you – help them and educate them. This is a great opportunity to build trust.
- Don’t speak negatively about your other clients. We all have difficult clients or difficult projects, but don’t speak ill of anyone in front of a potential client! Aside from the issues of professionalism and confidentiality, if you so easily talk about other clients like that to me – a practical stranger…what the heck do you say about them behind closed doors, and what might you say about me?
- Don’t miss the opportunity to send a follow up email and re-engage me. I gave the customary 24-48hrs to receive the “hey…thanks so much for meeting with me” email. It didn’t come. Am I surprised? Ugh…not at all! Don’t make the same mistake. If someone took time out of their busy day, and drove to your part of town to meet with you, bought you coffee, and listened to your terrible sales pitch, you owe them a thank you! A nice note also serves as a little prompt and reminder – your name and email is now in their inbox so you are easily contacted.
Clearly the meeting was a complete failure – and I think it’s safe to say that this person won’t be getting my business. In a funny way, I thank him for all of the warnings and red flags, as they helped me avoid wasting any future time or money on a partnership. As I said though, it was a good solidifying moment for me, as I know that all of the things that made me crazy during this meeting are things we DON’T do…or at least we try very hard to not do. We want potential clients to know that we CARE about them, that we will work HARD for them, and that we VALUE their time now and as a client.
What do you do when you are meeting with a potential client? Any do’s and don’ts that you care to share with us? We’d love to hear about them!