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Three Ways To Start Business Conversations on LinkedIn

I purposefully did not call this article ‘Three steps to winning business on LinkedIn’ because it’s not as easy as that, and anyone who tells you otherwise is oversimplifying. There is no such thing as a step-by-step guide for a successful conversation because, unless you are talking to your cat, you don’t know where it’s going to go.

The most important thing to remember when using LinkedIn is that it’s not for selling. Think of it as a networking tool that can generate leads, but the sales conversation needs to take place elsewhere.

1. Use your newsfeed

Your newsfeed is full of the latest updates from your network and can be found on the ‘Home’ page. This is full of posts from companies you follow and the latest activity from your connections. Browse your newsfeed regularly and interact with the updates you find interesting. It may just remind someone who wants to have a conversation with you to get in touch.

You could do something as basic as congratulating someone on a new job, or offer your opinion on an article they shared. Keep in mind that your goal is to keep in touch with your connections and demonstrate your expertise.

2. Send Messages

Make a habit of sending a message whenever you accept a new connection, or someone else accepts yours. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to know your new contact a little better, find out what they are looking for and let them know more about what you do. Be humble and don’t sell yourself too hard.

It’s also perfectly acceptable to use messages on LinkedIn to say hello to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Don’t make your message too long and ask specific questions. If you know someone well then you’ll know what questions to ask, but if you don’t then perhaps you could ask what sort of clients they are looking for at the moment or even ask for their expert opinion on something.

3. Explore Groups

Some LinkedIn Groups can be great for making new connections and starting business conversations, but not all. Don’t waste your time in a group full of self-promotion with lazy administrators, because the chances are that no-one in that group will actually read your comments or posts. They’re not there for the right reasons.

The best LinkedIn Groups have their own culture and rules, with members who interact with each other regularly. You can tell a good group because the most recent posts will actually be recent, they will be posted by various members instead of just one, and each will have several likes and comments. Join the good groups, listen to the tone of conversation and then introduce yourself as a new member. Ask other members for their expertise and use your own to help others when they ask for it.

Here’s my advice:

Be humble. Be curious. Be sincere. Ask questions. Answer questions. Give advice. Say hello. Stay in touch. Comment on discussions. Share articles. Demonstrate your abilities. Share your knowledge. Be an expert.

The best relationships on LinkedIn are the result of natural conversations and they take time to build. Don’t jump straight in and start selling your services. Take time to get to know people and gain their trust honestly.

Bethany Carter,  January 21, 2015

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