Too many sales executives get caught up in their Linkedin numbers, the followers, the contacts, the likes - but a network, like everything in sales, should be measured on its ability to produce results. To get the best results, to even perhaps get past the limits of the human brain and the Dunbar Number, there are three things a sales executive must be deliberate and consistent about with their Linkedin Network.
Treat the News Feed Differently
Linkedin's news feed creates a one-stop location for keeping your finger on the pulse of what is going on - or at least that is what many think. Yes, it's a great tool to see what's been shared by your network in the last day or so, but it creates a false sense of connection and awareness. With the amount of content that is being shared today, it's almost impossible to catch everything in your newsfeed.
Rather than relying on the news feed to provide a jumping off point for who to interact with, leverage it as a way to understand topics, business issues, and trends that your network cares about. Yes, you can drop a comment here or like something there, but if you change your perspective slightly, the news feed becomes a source of education first, insight second and direction third.
No one can curate and stay on top of all of the quality content being created and shared today. The news feed provides a way to get around that, surfacing things you can leverage with more purpose across your network to keep it active and reliable.
Keep Your Connections Active with Purpose
Once you understand the 'current topics' or themes that are being discussed, leverage those to engage not only with prospects or others you want to add to your network, but with your existing network as well. By using the insights from the newsfeed you can share with people that have been in your network for years or those you would like to add to your network. You can personalize your interactions and dive deeper into sharing, emailing or engaging in ways that are seen to provide value or demonstrate your understanding of others. Remember, social interaction like Linkedin should be focused on the development and care of relationships - not selling.
As a general rule I recommend finding at least three articles or comments from the newsfeed each week and sharing them with six different people in your network along with a comment about why you felt it might be relevant to them. This doesn't take a great deal of time and keeps your network active while reducing the chance your network will see you only as someone who takes or calls on them when you need something.
Another method for doing this is building 15 minutes into the start or end of your day. Go to your contact list, select six individuals to review their profiles, and comment on something they have shared or reach out to them with something from the newsfeed you thought they might find valuable. Either way, purposefully engaging is key to developing a network you can rely on and working through your entire connections list ensure you are touching everyone at least once annually if not more. If your network is too large for this approach, ask yourself if the size of it makes up for not being able to rely on it.
DO NOT Accept Unsolicited Connection Requests Without a 'Digital Coffee'
As your activity increases on Linkedin, as you share more content or create more content, attend more networking events, spend time at industry events, you will continue to receive invites to connect on Linkedin. This is a powerful way to expand your reach, but never just accept a Linkedin request from someone you don't know, or only met briefly at an event.
Use the request as an opportunity to schedule a 15 minute 'digital coffee' to get to know one another, to hear each other's voices at a minimum. When an unsolicited invite comes in, or one from someone you met briefly in person, reply with a request to schedule 15 minutes to connect BEFORE you accept their invitation. Fight the urge to focus on the number of connections you have and work to ensure they are strong connections first.
Send a link to your calendar if you have one to make it easy for them. In my experience, most people are extremely responsive and thankful for the approach not to mention the number of times this results in uncovering ways to do help each other or do business together. And if someone who sends a connection request doesn't have 15 minutes to spare, you weren't going to have a reliable connection anyway.
BONUS: It's About Consistency
When we look at the 'business development toolkit' of most sales executives, the network is often where we start - because it is the single greatest force multiplier available. It amplifies the effectiveness of other channels including the phone, social selling, email campaigns, events and personal groups. But it must be cared for and maintained to be effective.
Consistency is the key to many things in life, but when it comes to maintaining your network - especially as they can continue to grow and be magnified by new technologies - your results and revenue depend on this predictable approach. Schedule the time, stick to it and don't view these interactions as replaceable with something of higher priority. Your number this month may not count on it, but next quarter, when President's Club is within reach and you need an introduction from someone in your network to close a deal - you'll thank yourself for those 15 - 20 minutes a day of keeping your network optimized.