Do you ever wonder what to say or how to conduct yourself on LinkedIn?

First, picture this, you’ve arrived at a new offline networking event, you have never met anyone before (Let’s face it, we have all done that at some point, and can remember how uncomfortable it feels) – you make a beeline for the coffee/tea station, and look for someone else who appears to be on their own, as it’s the least intimidating way of striking up a conversation.

That person is beaming from ear to ear (you don’t see the signals going through their mind shouting “Whoopie, Fresh meat”) and catches your eyes, gives you their most engaging smile, shakes your hand, introduces themselves, and THEN goes straight into their sales pitch! How does that make you feel?

They’ve not passed the time of day, not asked what you do, not offered to introduce you to anyone else in the room, NO SIREEEEE, they’ve gone straight for the kill, and launched into telling you what they do, and why you should buy their product or service from them – at no point have they wondered if you actually need their product or service by asking YOU any questions.

Whilst they are busy giving you their pitch (you’ve still not got a word in edgeways) you can see that they are watching the door for new arrivals. Someone else walks in the room, they appear to be new too, you see the original person look at you, they can tell they are not getting anywhere, and so excuse themselves, and make their way over to the NEXT victim….. how did that make you feel?

Would you have felt uncomfortable, maybe undervalued, like all you were was a £ sign in their eyes? Would you try to avoid those situations again? Maybe try to avoid that person at the networking group in future? As you get to know other people at the network group, would you perhaps share your experience, or watch whether that person does the same time and again? Is it possible to adapt what you do at offline networking events, and move it online social media networking? Simply, YES! For those of you with products and services suited to other businesses, let’s examine what you might do. The column on the left is what you would do offline, and the column on the right shows you how you might adapt that to LinkedIn:

Enter Network Room

Add connections, Join a Group, send an InMail, Comment on a status update

Introduce yourself

Introduce yourself – your profile is not enough, let people know your name, and business name (although it would be better not to do that on a connection request)

Make Small Talk – For those of us in Britain, we know that we ALWAYS talk about the weather, or ask if they’ve been coming to the group long etc

Make Small Talk – ie, how is your week going, are you making the most of the sunshine, what do you think of the latest budget (etc) (If it’s a connection request, let them know why you’ve asked to connect, and the reason must not be to sell them something!)

Ask the person you have met about themselves – the best way to make people feel valued is to ask them questions and listen actively to answers before asking more questions

Ask questions in the same way as you would offline, be patient, you may well be tempted to launch into a sales pitch, but don’t do it, build relationships first, as people are more likely to do business with who they like, know and trust!

Engage in conversations by keep asking questions, and respond directly to what they say, actively listen, be interested, do not lead the conversation to become a sales pitch – if you are interested in them, they will be interested in you – during the conversation, you might suggest meeting up outside of the networking room for a coffee/lunch as you don’t want to hog ALL of their time at one meeting – this is where you can talk far more about business!

Engage in conversations by keep asking questions, and respond directly to the responses that you receive. Do not be tempted to sell unless you are receiving very clear buying signals. As you don’t have body language to rely on, if you find what they are saying interesting, tell them! Keep conversation momentum by replying on timely basis (although social media is like email, a response is not expected immediately, so if you’re pushed for time, wait until you can provide a quality response) – if you feel that the conversation (over time) has been positive, then it’s time to suggest meeting up offline – this is where you can talk far more about business!

Conversations are a key way of making LinkedIn marketing work for you. If you can connect to the right people, and build rapport via engagement, then you are far more likely to be able to make arrangements to meet offline. If your first approach is a sales pitch, your target market will feel very much as you imagined in the scenario back at the top of this blog post. You may well have targets, and challenging ones at that, and the sales cycle may well take longer if you are prospecting on LinkedIn, but using the techniques above will provide a pipeline of prospects for you, and you develop relationships at the same time, meaning that not only do you do business once, but you’re likely to build a sustainable business relationship, and even more importantly, that person is far more likely to recommend you to their colleagues, partners, friends and family. Remember, it’s much easier for people to “disconnect” and block you from LinkedIn than it is for people to walk away in a networking room, so it’s even more important to focus on having quality conversations online and building relationships.