While social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter can be good tools for creating awareness and word of mouth, the best social media platform for creating introductions is The Big Blue Introduction Machine… that is… LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is merely a link in the chain (pardon the pun) of what it takes to build a thriving business through referrals and personal introductions. Before I get into the checklist of actions you can take to use LinkedIn as an ongoing source of new clients through introductions, we need to cover a few basic principles that need to be kept in mind to be most effective.
You Must Be Referable
Before asking someone for referrals or introductions you want to ensure that you are referable. One barometer of your referability is that you are receiving unsolicited referrals. Another way to know if you’re referable is by conducting Value Discussions. The Value Discussion is the first and most important step in our VIPS Method™ for asking for referrals without pushing or begging. At a review meeting, it would sound something like this, “Laura, let’s put the market aside. Let’s put the economy aside and talk about something we CAN control – namely – our communication and overall working relationship. First off, is there anything not working for you that I should know about? Anyone drop the ball at any point in time? (After that discuss – if anything…) Tell me what is working for you. How do we continue to earn your loyalty?”
You Must Leverage Borrowed Trust
A key ingredient in this process is the trust and respect that exists between the referral source and the new prospect. The higher in regard the prospect holds the referral source, then the more likely the recommendation or introduction will pique the interest of the prospect and lead to an exploration of your value. At one of our most recent Referral Champions Training Camps, one of the attendees said, “When I’m discussing introductions with my clients. I always suggest, ‘Let’s see if we can come up with one or two people who would take my call just because you asked them to.” He’s clearly going for high-trust relationships. That’s not a bad idea.
You Need to Turn Someone’s Willingness to Refer into a Solid Introduction
Referrals are worthless if the you haven’t been introduced in some way to the new prospect. Without a strong introduction the connection is never made. And by introduction, I don’t mean your prospect telling their colleague, “George – Bill is going to call you.” I mean an electronic handshake where your referral source jointly emails or texts you and their colleague. A great email or text introduction always has a little “insistence” built in. “George – I strongly urge you to take Bill’s call – to meeting with him if it make sense. It will be worth your time.” Getting a solid introduction is a collaborative process with your referral source. Make sure whatever you do, all parties feel comfortable, and your referral source at least piques the interest of the prospect – enough to take your call or respond to your email.
Your LinkedIn Referral Optimizer Checklist
- Your profile should be as complete and up to date as you can make it. In the Summary or Experience section, talk about your WHY. Why are you excited about your business, the benefits you bring, and the company for which you work? People will be more willing to work with you if you connect with them on two levels at the same time. They have to connect with your value; believe that you have the experience and knowledge to help them. And they have to connect with you as a person. Sharing your “personal why” will help you connect on the emotional level that’s so important. People considering doing business with you need to think or feel, “I can trust this person.”
- Make your Professional Headline benefit oriented. Forget your title. Put that in the Experience sections. Put your simple branding statement here – but make sure you speak to tangible benefits. This is your branding statement. You do have one don’t you? “Helping my client stay clear and confident about their financial future.”
- Connect with all of your clients and centers of influence. Connect with any clients with whom you have a growing relationship – you’ve met or spoken a few times and connected well. Make your invitation personal – not the standard LinkedIn template. If you just spoke with a prospect on the phone – making a pretty nice connection. Now you can invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. “George – I enjoyed our conversation this morning. Let’s get connected on LinkedIn. I often post short articles, news, and ideas I think you’ll find valuable.”
- Post valuable information to your account at least once per week. If you’re a financial professional, make sure they are “compliance friendly.” Make sure this brings real value to the reader and not just something promotional.
- Use your clients’ 1st Level connections for possible introductions. Start with the people who have endorsed or recommended them. Check out their profiles. As a financial advisor, you can’t accept LinkedIn recommendations or endorsements, but your clients can – and do. These are usually good, possibly high-trust relationships. Of course, you want to do searches on LinkedIn for different terms that match the criteria of your idea clients. Then look and see what 1st level connections your clients have with the search results.
- Once you identify possible introductions from clients and centers of influence to people on their profile, take your request off line. While you can use LI to ask for the introduction, you’ll be much more effective asking either in person or over the phone. Don’t make the mistake of hiding behind the technology. Using email and LinkedIn messages will significantly reduce your results. Once you see the connections – give your clients a call or wait until you meet with them to suggest the introductions.
- When you begin to suggest possible introductions to your clients and COIs, start by acknowledging the fact you are connected on LI. Ask them if they are using LI for their business. By asking them about their experience in using LinkedIn will help you feel less like you’re stalking your clients. The truth is that anyone who puts a profile up on LinkedIn understands that others may be looking at their connections. It’s the whole point of LinkedIn. So you don’t ever need to feel like you’re stalking your clients. With that said, I’ve run into this quite a bit with my coaching clients. Advisors don’t want to feel like they’re stalking their clients. Entering into this request in this way, should feel more comfortable for you – so you’ll actually do it.
- Once your client or COI has agreed to introduce you to one or more people, formalize the introduction a bit. Discuss method, message, and time frame. This is often where the process breaks down for some. Attend to a good introduction. You” can say something like, “Laura – I suspect that George would much prefer to hear from you before he hears from me. Let’s craft an approach that will feel comfortable for the two of you and, hopefully, pique his interest in hearing from me.”
- If you aren’t already connected with me (Bill Cates), make sure you connect to my LinkedIn account and that you are receiving my free weekly tips designed to help you acquire more high-level clients through referrals and personal introductions.
LinkedIn was built for introductions. More and more advisors are using LinkedIn to create connections, that turn into introductions, that turn into new clients. Stop dabbling with LinkedIn and make a commitment to make it work for you.