Another Tactic for Cultivating Professional Contacts

Last time I described the tactic of sending cheerful and brief congratulations or acknowledgement messages to professional contacts who Linked In reports in the Updates section.  This is an easy, non-intrusive way to initiate communication with a valued contact with whom you have never interacted or with whom you have lost touch.  I hope you tried this and got some positive results!  If so, maybe you are emboldened as I was and are now ready to take another step!    

Mysteriously Linked In provides fairly accurate suggestions of “people you may know.”  I’m not sure how it does this but it does manage to come up with names of people I have in fact actually spoken to or worked with at least a little.  My first thought when I saw these suggestions was “Oh, I haven’t seen or spoken to that person in ages, how could I ask them to join my network on Linked In?”    But then I started thinking “How would I feel if I received an invitation from the person – pleased or deeply offended?”  “Pleased” was the immediate answer. So I started selectively sending personalized and inquisitive invitations to the people Linked In suggested with whom I felt would really like to be in touch.  Personalizing the invitation by briefly referring to something we had worked on together or a shared professional experience assured me that we really did have something in common.  Inquiring briefly about what the person was currently doing professionally and how they were enjoying it assured me that my invitation was as motivated by my genuine interest in the other person as by my desire to expand my network.  If I find it easy and authentic to include both these components, I  press send.  When I get an acceptance, I make a point of sending a short, warm message back asking to get together to catch up or to catch up by email.  Three bits of advice:

1) Don’t overwhelm your new contact with tons of email or requests for help.  It is unlikely you would feel comfortable doing this in person, so don’t do it electronically!

2) Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an immediate acceptance.  Many Linked In members only check their messages infrequently.  Be patient and enjoy watching your list of contacts and expand and the number of hits on your profile spike!!!

3) Do stay in touch periodically with your core contacts – send a note every 2 or 3 months.  More on how to do this in later posts.

Cultivating Your Network

After I give my Building Business Contacts seminar, participants often come up to me later and say “I have a lot of people in my Linked In network but I don’t feel like these are people that I know well enough to ask for help.  What can I do?”  I suggest that they start cultivating their business contacts strategically, respectfully and generously. There are many ways to do this but I got personally re-connected to a few techniques just recently. These techiques are easy, quick and very productive. I will share them with you over my next few posts!

NUMBER 1- Keep your eye on updates from your contacts that Linked In provides on your Home page.  You can easily see who in your network has gotten a new position or updated their profile or posted a comment or link.  When you see this kind of activity from a person in your network with whom you would like to have a deeper connection, drop that person a note via Linked In.  Keep it short, keep it focused on your contact, and make a reference to the specific activity that caught your eye.  Conclude your note with a request for more information or a question about your contact and their work.  Keep it light, keep it sincere and keep it generous. After you proof read the note and before you hit send, read the note out loud and ask yourself if you would feel good if someone sent this note to you.  If the answer is yes, press send.  If the answer is no, tweak your note until it makes you feel good as a recipient.  This is a great way to start a dialogue that can lead to you being able to help out your contact and to your contact learning more about you.

Try this technique and let me know how it goes!