How a VA can make you a better networker

One thing many people struggle with is making the most of their networking activities. It’s all very well finding the time to actually attend a networking meeting either weekly or fortnightly, but doing it right can be all too time consuming for some.

Networking isn’t simply about showing up and passing business cards around. You need to take the time to think about what it is you want to say – you only have 60 seconds to get your point across and make people remember you. Equally, you also need to commit to the follow up. If you’re not going to make the most of any connections or leads that have come your way, you’re totally wasting your time rocking up to an event in the first place.

I have one client who attends, on average, six networking events a week. All, bar one, are morning meetings which he likes because he can get them out of the way before most people have started in the office. However, he came to the realisation that he wasn’t keeping on top of everything effectively, which meant he was essentially wasting his time, and money, by going to all these different events.

In order to help reduce the strain on his time, and ensure that he is being as efficient as possible with his networking activities we have put a few things in place.

60 Seconds

Once a month we have a 10 minute phone call to brainstorm ideas and catch up on what’s been happening in his business. From this chat, and from my general day to day knowledge of what he’s been up to, I am able to write his 60 seconds/elevator pitches for him to use.

He prides himself on not using the same information over and over again, as he wants to keep things interesting for the rest of the people in the room. Thankfully I have a great system set up whereby I know what he has said in which group, and when so there is not likely to be any repetition.

CRMs

When a new member joins one of his groups, or a visitor has attended, he will send me a picture of their business card via WhatsApp. I will then add their details in to his CRM system, along with information of what meeting they attended, if they have been before and if he has set up a one to one meeting with them.

One to Ones

Before you think it, no, I do not attend one to one’s on his behalf! We did talk about it once, and I managed to talk him out of it. However, what I will do is liaise with people to book the one to one’s in the first place, and send confirmation of the appointment once it has been made.

He then records his one to one meetings on his iPhone, and sends me the audio which I will transcribe. From this I complete a “file note” for him, which will be attached to the individual’s record on his CRM and forwarded to them as well. This is to allow them to confirm that he has understood precisely what they do in their business and what sort of opportunities or referrals they are looking for.

I will then add their details in to a database so that in 11 months we will make contact again to arrange another one to one.

Referrals

When he is handed a referral or lead he will always pass me the details so that I can make the initial contact. I will find out precisely what is required, and pass over any information that the prospect needs to be able to make a decision.

If a meeting needs to be arranged, I will schedule it.

From there, the client handles everything else himself.

This is an approach that works perfectly for him, but might not be ideal for everyone. However, I hope it gives you some idea of how outsourcing some tasks could take the pressure off you, and allow you to be more efficient at work.

If you want to have a chat about how you could improve things in your office, why not give me a call on 0161 883 2024 or email lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk

An open letter to the Door to Door Sellers of LinkedIn

Hi

I hope you’re having a great day.

My day was going great until I got an invitation to connect from you. I admit I didn’t recognise your name so I went to your profile to see if I could find out anything helpful. It turns out we have various mutual connections, and for me, that provides you with a degree of legitimacy.

So, I accepted.

I’d barely clicked “accept” before I received another notification – you’d sent me an InMail.

Now, I’m a fairly realistic individual. I know I’m awesome to be around and am generally a good person, but even I know nobody is waiting with baited breath to get in direct contact with me. The speed with which that message comes through would give most people whiplash, which tells me one thing; you’re a salesperson.

Yes, I know we’re all “salespeople”, in the strictest sense of the word – why else be on LinkedIn in the first place? However, you’re one of those salespeople.

With trepidation I open the message and yes, there it is, the generic sales pitch.

Sigh.

Within 60 seconds of accepting your request I have already removed you as a contact. OK, so it’s a minor waste of my time, and a constant source of irritation but in all honesty, I just feel sorry for you.

Despite the fact you think you’re a hot shot with your 500+ connections, I assure you, you’re doing LinkedIn all wrong.

If you have to send a generic pitch to every single new contact without actually reaching out first, then there is something wrong.

This approach is exactly the same as the person who attends a physical networking event and spends the entire time collecting business cards and talking at other people. These people don’t get invited back for a second time, and people avoid their calls. The rest of us, who have mastered the art of conversation and relationship building talk about you when you’re not there, and warn other people to stay clear.

The simple truth is we should all treat our connections like gold. The people you spend time with, whether that be in real life or the virtual world, should be your tribe. They have your back, they cheer you on, they support you and you can learn from them. They are not simply people to sell to and then spit out once you’ve got your pound of flesh.

Spamming people on LinkedIn (and yes my friend, that is exactly what you are doing) is the modern day equivalent of traditional cold calling. I’m not naïve enough to think it doesn’t work, occasionally. For every 20 people that ignore you, one might bite and with your relentless enthusiasm you may well close a deal one day. However, I assure you there is so much more to gain by playing the long game and actually remembering to be social when using social media.

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to build relationships, whether that be from scratch or to enhance existing ones. The only way to do that is to take your time, be useful to others and always be considerate and respectful.

If you can’t manage that, be quiet. And stay the Hell out of my inbox!

5 examples of good LinkedIn etiquette

I’ve been doing this gig for a while now, yet it never fails to amaze me how bizarrely people act on social networks compared to how they would in real life.

It’s almost as though when you sit someone behind a screen and ask them to connect with a fellow human being, all rational thought and social etiquette goes out the window.

And it really gets my goat.

So here are my top 5 tips when it comes to LinkedIn etiquette.

# 1 – Be personal when connecting

If you’ve decided you want to connect with someone, take the time to send them a personalised connection request.

If you were in a face to face environment you wouldn’t just go up to someone and shove your business card in their face, hoping they’d get back in touch with you one day. That would be rude.

It kind of works the same way on LinkedIn.

Sending someone a generic message shows you can’t be bothered to explain to them why you’re reaching out. What is it about them that makes you want to connect?  What is it you think you can offer them that would be of benefit?

Yes, many people will accept your request regardless of how you ask them to connect, but they’re not going to be invested in you.  They’ll just ignore your posts, and ultimately might end up removing you as a connection anyway. So what’s the point?

Put the effort in now, and you have a much better chance of establishing a genuine networking relationship.

# 2 – Once you accept, send a message

Far too often when you accept a connection request from a random person they don’t actually get in touch.  That means there’s no interaction, which is kind of the whole point of LinkedIn. Isn’t it?

The best thing you can do is send someone a personalised message as soon as you accept their invitation.  This is a great way to get the conversation started, and also get a better feel for whether they’re genuine, or are just collecting names and bulking out their contacts list.

# 3 – Say thank you

No doubt your parents always taught you to say please and thank you – well that rule hasn’t gone out the window just because you’re on LinkedIn.

If someone has taken the time to endorse you for one of your skills, then you owe then a thank you.  After all, they’ve gone out of their way to do something that’s of no benefit to them, but could be of benefit to you.

They didn’t have to do that.

Don’t feel obligated to endorse them back, although, if you can genuinely recommended them for a skill they possess there’s no reason why you wouldn’t.  However, make sure you avoid the trap of trading endorsements when you have no idea what you’re really talking about.

# 4 – Keep it professional

Not all social networks are created equal, and nor do they have the same purpose.  LinkedIn is not the place for you to share photos of your kids, your dog or to moan about the weather.

LinkedIn is business focussed, which means anything you post should be business related.  You can post about what you’re up to, who you want to connect with, ask for information or assistance from your connections and discuss industry news.

But no one wants to see a picture of what you’re having for lunch.

# 5 – Introduce people

The whole point of networking is to increase your network. I know it sounds obvious, but apparently when it comes to LinkedIn many people seem to have forgotten this.

One of the best things you can do when it comes to using this amazing platform is take the time to introduce your contacts. If you know someone who’s looking for a web designer, and you happen to know a web designer, then take a minute to introduce them to each other.

Facilitate other people’s connections and you greatly increase your own social capital, as well as getting a warm fuzzy feeling for doing a good thing.

 

If you want more tips on Netiquette please email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or call 0161 883 2024 to find out when our next training session is.

Three types of people you should avoid on LinkedIn

So far this week I have done one-to-one LinkedIn Orientation with five people. OK, so that’s just a fancy way of saying I spent two hours going over the basics with five separate people who signed up, created a profile and promptly lost their password. One of them hadn’t been back on since uploading their profile photo, and that was ten years ago.

This is probably my favourite part of the “training” I do with people – taking someone who admits they know nothing, or have preconceived ideas about what LinkedIn is, and getting them to embrace it. Admittedly it’s baby steps, going from “member” to “daily interactor” doesn’t happen overnight, but you get my point.

One thing that often comes up, certainly with people who have had their accounts for a while is connections. Often I hear things like “who is this person? I don’t know them” or “why do strangers keep asking me to connect?” Equally typical is the query “why add me and then never communicate?”

The simple truth is LinkedIn is full of people who aren’t using it properly, and unfortunately when you aren’t confident in what you’re doing, you can find yourself looking to these people as the “experts”.

Here’s my list of three types of LinkedIn users you should probably try to avoid if you want to attain LinkedIn zen.

#1 The Door to Door Salesperson

We have all received an invitation to connect with someone we don’t know, only to receive a generic sales pitch via InMail the second you accept them.

If you have accepted someone who does this, do yourself a favour now, and remove them as a contact. They are not interested in two-way dialogue and relationship building. They just want to knock on your door and sell you something, then they will move on.

Equally, if you are this person please, on behalf of everyone else on LinkedIn, I beg you to STOP! Here’s why.

 

# 2 The Social Police

Every so often I see comments, on other people’s posts, about the validity and appropriateness of what they’re sharing.

“This is LinkedIn, not Facebook”

“This sort of thing doesn’t belong here”

“LinkedIn is a professional network – be PROFESSIONAL”

You get my point.

The sort of posts that get these comments are either family or pet photos, memes, or jokes to name a few. Now, don’t get me wrong, when I see these things I do invariably roll my eyes because, in all honesty, LinkedIn is not the place for them. However, I refrain from commenting on such posts because I am not the police of social interactions.

What annoys me more than inappropriate posts are the comments from the self-appointed social police. Their opinion of what is or isn’t appropriate on LinkedIn is just that – their opinion. There is no handbook that says “Thou shalt not post a meme of a cat wearing a watermelon as a helmet”. There is no LinkedIn code of conduct in that sense. I am a firm believer that if you don’t like it, you just don’t interact with it; or maybe, you can remove the offender as a connection. Believe it or not, you do have those options.

Personally I recommend avoiding the social interaction police at all costs. It takes a certain type of person to comment publicly on someone else’s post in a manner that comes across as nothing short of rude, and in some cases bullying. Who, if they genuinely wanted to educate and help their fellow connections, would rather hit out, instead of send a private InMail along the lines of “Hi Bob, funny meme earlier; however, LinkedIn really isn’t the sort of place for that sort of thing. You’d probably get more interaction if you …”

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

# 3 The Ego

We have all seen them, the LinkedIn users who have a headline along the lines of “MOST VIEWED LINKEDIN USER” or “The Midas of sales: Everything I touch turns to sold!”

No, really, I’ve seen the latter. I’m still cringing now.

There is a really fine line between confidence, and an overwhelming smugness, and the people who go too far are really difficult to build relationships with on LinkedIn. Which is why I always avoid them.

It’s such a shame really as you can guarantee in a genuine networking environment they wouldn’t stand up and say “I am awesome, I am great, I am perfect”. Well, some might, but very few. In the real world they may exude confidence, but they are probably capable of having a two-way conversation.

Online they are just narcissistic and are predominantly interested in either the sale (see point 1) or collecting numbers. Don’t be one of their numbers.

 

 

These are just the people I will always avoid, you may agree – you may not. However, the key here is that you do have a choice who you interact with online, as you do anywhere else. Don’t feel you have to accept everyone, and don’t feel once you have accepted that you can’t back out again. Keep the connections you want so you can customise your own LinkedIn experience.

Are you utilising the lead generation powers of this LinkedIn feature?

When we talk to people about LinkedIn most of them don’t see beyond their own profile.  As long as they have one, and they’re connecting with the latest people they’ve met at an event, they believe they’re doing well.

Of course, they’re not generating any leads, and not getting any business through LinkedIn, but that’s fine.

Others realise there’s a bit more to it, and might have set up a Company Page, and might even be doing searches for some specific key individuals they want to be introduced to. But that’s as far as it goes.

All of that’s fine, apart from most people will admit they’re not getting much out of the whole process, and don’t know why they’re bothering. To mis-quote Tom Lehrer, LinkedIn’s a lot like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put in to it.

If you want to stop getting rubbish out, you need to put a bit more effort in and start really thinking about your lead generation strategy.

One of the best ways to connect with new people, and strike up genuine conversations that can actually lead on to business is via LinkedIn groups.  So many people fail to understand the little gems that can lurk in these untapped resources, so there’s plenty for you to work with.

This all sounds wonderful, but how do you get started?

Step 1: Find a group

Quite obviously you need to join a group, but it needs to be the right one for what you’re hoping to achieve.

You could of course create your own group, but in order for this to work you have to be able to spend a lot of time on it.  If you haven’t already spent time in any other groups, I really don’t recommend this route.

Instead, look at what’s already available.  That way you will be able to access an already established audience.

When you’re searching for groups think about your buyer personas (which I’m sure you’re very familiar with and have worked out in detail).  What sort of things are they interested in?  Who are they? Where are they going to be hanging out online? Figure that out, and then go join the same groups.

Alternatively, think about your competitors, and see if they have already set up any groups themselves.  Not to poach their potential leads (there’s enough people on LinkedIn, you can find your own!) but to see what they’re doing, what works and what doesn’t.

You should also consider joining groups that are relevant to your industry.  This is a fantastic way to hit the ground running, get used to being involved in discussions, and you may even be able to pick up some tips along the way.

Step 2: Post

As a member of quite a few groups (one of which is an awesome shoe worshippers group on Facebook) I can assure you that the vast majority of people say nothing.  They’re lurkers.

Which is fine, but when it comes to LinkedIn, you need to make sure you’re out there and actively getting your point across.

Most groups have specific rules about what you can, and can’t post, so as long as you follow those, you’re not going to go too far wrong. The main key is not to be too self-promotional.  A LinkedIn group is there to serve its members, and that’s usually done by sharing information and educating.

Make sure that you don’t just get involved in posts that are asking for services you can provide, but that you engage with the whole group as much as possible. People really do notice if you’re just there to sell, and that doesn’t help to develop any relationships further.

Equally, when you are responding to anything, keep your content relevant.  Any help you can offer will be seen as helpful, and that will be remembered too.  It doesn’t take long for people to see you as the good go-to for that particular type of advice or assistance, which is precisely what you want.

Step 3: Monitor results

As with any lead generation tactic you need to keep track of how well it’s working.  You might find that some groups are more beneficial than others. Equally, you may see that you learn more from some than you might in another one, and that’s just as valuable as actually developing leads.

Only you know what you’re looking for, but LinkedIn Groups are a fantastic way to find it.

 

I don’t care how big it is, what can you do with it?

When we first speak to people about their social media, many of them are concerned with the number of people following them on their various channels. We’ve had clients embarrassed by their lowly 100 fans, and envious of a competitor boasting over 1,000.

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again – when it comes to social media, size does not matter.

The same is true when it comes to things like LinkedIn and your other networking activities.

You will no doubt have noticed that when you get over 500 connections, LinkedIn stops specifying precisely how many you have.  As a result 500 becomes this wonderful number many aim for, because to have that 500+ next to their name makes them look impressive.

If you know that many people, you must be really well connected.

Apart from that’s not the case.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m conducting a little experiment with LinkedIn at the moment, and part of that means I’m just accepting invites from anyone.

A quick scroll through my last 20 connections (added over the last five days) and I find:

  • 1 person I’ve met once at a networking event
  • 2 people I’ve heard of, have mutual connections with, but have never had a conversation with
  • 13 complete randoms that haven’t even taken the time to start any communication beyond sending a request
  • 4 people I actually know (two of whom are previous clients)

I don’t think there’s anything particularly unusual about that, many of us if we take the time to look through our network will find numerous names we don’t recognise, and faces we can’t place.

That’s not a network.  That’s a directory. And it’s pretty useless.

The whole point of LinkedIn is to connect with people you know and trust.  Countless times I’ve asked a genuine connection for an introduction to someone else on their list, only for them to reply “I’ve no idea who they are”.  Great.

Well, plus side they just add people so at least I can introduce myself, but it’s still quite frustrating.

There’s whole swathes of the LinkedIn community that are out there collecting names and numbers, and then, for some inexplicable reason, doing absolutely bugger all with them!

Not only that, but the bigger the network, the harder it is to do anything meaningful with.  When you have over 500 contacts how do you begin to manage that?  How do you code people so you can immediately pin point your history, interactions, commonalities, their potential as a customer, supplier or collaborator?

You have no idea who most of them are – so explain again why size matters?

Everything is better when we stop and take the time to actually connect. I’m not saying for one second you have to delete everyone you can’t sell to (how egocentric is that?), but at least identify who these people are you’re now sharing your cyber space with.

The virtual world will be a better place for it.

 

 

 

So many business cards, so little time

ToEarlier this month Time Saving Heroes had the pleasure of exhibiting at The Big Bolton Expo, hosted by thebestofBolton.  Having attended a number of different expos, both as an exhibitor and a delegate over the past three years, I can honestly say this was hands down the most professional, friendly and well run event I’ve been to.

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The organisers did a great job of being on hand to help with any questions, and were always friendly, calm and fun to talk to.  At other events I’ve seen the people “in charge” running around like headless chickens, which I always think leaves a poor impression.  It also makes them very unapproachable if you do have a query.

With such a well-run event it’s impossible to come away, no matter what side of the stand you were on, without a handful of business cards and a bunch of new contacts to follow up with.  While it’s always important to follow up, after splashing the cash on a stand, it’s imperative. You need to justify that time, effort and just as importantly the financial expense.

This is where a VA can come in handy.  I know some businesses have a team behind them, and some may even have a whole marketing department, but for sole traders and SMEs this is not the case.  After spending a whole day exhibiting, you’re going to want to crack on with “work” the second you’re back in the office the next day, and then, before you know it, an entire week has passed and you’ve not sent a single email.

Admittedly, the contacts aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up in a timely manner.  The longer you leave it the harder it might be for someone to remember you, and any conversation you might have had.  Sending an email the next day leaves a good impression – it shows you’re organised, if nothing else.

How a VA can help

Here at Time Saving Heroes we have a number of clients that we only work with after expos and conferences.  It’s the only time they need to use our services.  Whilst every client in this situation is different, here’s what we do for most:

  1. If the client is local they will either drop off their new pile of business cards, or we will collect from them. If they aren’t local, they tend to take photographs and send them to us via email/Dropbox etc.
  2. Once we have the business cards we collate all the information in to a spreadsheet, which can then be easily uploaded in to their CRM systems. If we have access to the CRM system itself we will upload the data directly.
  3. If any information is missing from the business cards/leaflets we will take the time to search this out. It might be that there’s no Twitter handle on the card – so we will look to see if the business or individual is on social media, and find all relevant links.
  4. For most clients we will have pre-written their initial contact email, and now we will send it out on their behalf. It might be a specific email, or it might be in the form of a newsletter, depending on the client’s preferences.
  5. We will ensure we make contact with all businesses and individuals on behalf of the client via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other platform they deem to be relevant.

 

After that we can help schedule certain individuals for further follow-up, as well as writing any other emails and/or newsletters that the client might want to send.

 

If you have been to an expo, conference or any other networking event and are worried that you don’t have time to capitalise on the new contacts you’ve made remember Time Saving Heroes. We are your secret weapon in the fight against time. Call 0161 883 2024 for more information.