A few weeks ago, I started working with a new client from Los Angeles. This startup is in the financial industry and their mission is to democratize investing by bring the investment strategies from the ultra-wealthy to every investor, no matter how big or small. They’re also launching a new product in impact investing, which excited me even more about working with them.
Over the past months, they were trying to connect with CEOs of asset management firms in California to get them as clients and investors on board. They also tried connecting with industry influencers who have the potential to make their startup go viral.
Unfortunately, noting seemed to work. They tried cold calling, cold emailing, LinkedIn messaging and meeting these people at conferences.
Even if they met one of these influencers at an event, when they followed up afterwards, they rarely got a response.
So we looked at what did not work and adjusted the approach accordingly.
This article is an excerpt of the points we went through to get them in front of these CEOs and influencers who can make their startup go viral.
The Value of Your Network
If you simply add new connections to your network on LinkedIn and never follow up, it would be wiser to spend your time doing something else like reading a book or going for a run.
Having connections in your network on LinkedIn that you never talk to is the equivalent of the old days when people had huge piles of business cards in their drawer but never kept in touch with anyone.
All high-value relationships are built on mutual benefits. The benefit that you provide can be completely different from the benefit you get but the perceived value has to be the same.
You Don’t Have Permission to Ask
If you keep adding new connections to your LinkedIn account and never follow up, you will never have the permission to ask for referrals and introductions.
I see this every week. I get an email or LinkedIn message from somebody I don’t know who has just recently connected to me and asks for an introduction. I always decline because it’s impossible for me to introduce somebody I don’t know.
On the other hand, I have very regular contact with my most loyal readers and coaching clients because they care about what is happening and they try to make my life easier.
Some things they have done for me is introduced me to people I could potentially do business with, referred others to me who then became coaching clients, sent me an article that was timely and relevant and stated their own opinion on something I wrote. This builds trust, and over time, I introduce many of them to others in my network whenever I see an opportunity opening up.
If you genuinely follow up and keep in touch with the people you connect with on LinkedIn, over time, you have the permission to ask for favors like referrals and introductions.
Do Your Research
Even before you connect with anyone on LinkedIn, you want to do proper research. This can be as easy as going through somebody’s LinkedIn profile or as extensive as reading somebody’s book and watching his on-stage performance on Youtube at a keynote speech.
This will make it much easier for you to connect with somebody based on similar values, a passion or interests. A relationship you start this way will be much more likely to take off if you do your research.
Search for the person on Google, LinkedIn, Youtube, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and see if any of your LinkedIn connections know this person already.
The Basics of Connecting on LinkedIn
Before you can follow up properly, you need to do your homework and send a connection request in a way that the person you are sending it to is going to accept it.
The most important things to remember about the connection request are the following:
- Send a personalized message
- Never use the standard LinkedIn message
- Mention a very good reason for connecting
- Be clear with your intention and get to the point
- Avoid asking any questions
If you follow these points, most people will be very happy to accept your connection request. Once you have mastered this challenge, it’s time to follow up.
When to Follow up
I suggest you check your emails regularly and when you receive the email from LinkedIn that the person you wanted to connect to accepted your request, you follow up immediately before you forget it in the daily business. There is no reason to wait for a week.
3 Steps to Craft a Powerful Follow up Message
Now comes the part of creating that powerful follow up message. It’s not that complicated if you follow a few principles and add your creativity to it.
1. Thank You
First, you want to thank them for accepting your connection request. This is not only important so that you are polite but also because it’s easy to forget about somebody who connected with you on LinkedIn. This way you remind the person how you initially got connected.
2. Why Are You Interested in Connecting?
Now you can mention something that you have found in your research. Why are you interested in connecting with this person? If the answer is “Because I want to get them to invest in our business” or “Because she can promote our next product launch to her 1.5 million followers on Twitter” you may want to re-think your approach.
Before you can receive, you have to give first. This is a fundamental principle. It does not mean that you have to buy them football tickets or even do something directly for them. In many cases, being a remarkable individual to talk to or having your own strong opinion is enough of value to provide for the other person.
3. What Do You Want Them to Do?
Now it’s time for your call to action. If you want something to happen you have to ask for it.
This can be a simple question about their perspective on something like the future of your industry, an offer to have a phone conversation, lunch, coffee or anything else that suits the level of trust you have already established.
I usually recommend to ask for something very small in the first message like how they see the future of their industry or what got them started in business. If they can answer it in a few sentences, great.
3 Example Follow up Messages
To illustrate the three steps outlined before, let me give you a few examples here.
Thank you for accepting my connection request.
I saw that you founded company X and recently read about your planned expansion to the Middle East. It’s a very exciting topic for me because I believe there is huge potential for our industry in the Middle East.
Just curious, what sparked the idea to start this business in the first place?
Thanks for accepting my LinkedIn request.
I recently stumbled upon your book about The Future of Education that you published on Amazon and very much enjoyed reading it. I very much agree with X and Y and I have experienced very similar situations. How did you come up with the idea of writing that book?
Thanks for accepting my connection request on LinkedIn.
Just watched your TED talk and I love what you say about our need to revolutionize education in order to create a sustainable future. I believe we don’t need more middle-managers but more entrepreneurs in order to share a bright future.
I’d love to do a 10-minute interview with you as part of a podcast series on “Revolutionizing Education”. What is a good time for you to talk over the coming weeks?
Follow up: Take 2
If you are following the principles of providing value, giving first and being authentic in your message, you will have a high response rate with those messages you send out.
However, many people are busy, not everybody is always on LinkedIn and sometimes, a message simply gets skipped. It’s on you to keep track of your efforts and plan what to do if you don’t hear back from somebody.
If you want to have the highest chance for getting a response, apply these 23 Mental Triggers That Make People Say Yes.
I suggest you plan to send a second follow up message about one week after the first one. If you did proper research about the person and their business, you will likely be able to come up with something to write about.
You could congratulate them on a successful product launch, comment on an update the person made on LinkedIn, share a post from them and mention them on Twitter, or find other creative ways to craft a second follow up message.
For instance, when I work with my clients, we outline entire campaigns for each of their target contacts. We develop highly customized and outside-the-box strategies to contact these VIPs and build long term relationships with them.
It’s Always Your Turn
It’s always on you to follow up. Never expect that somebody will simply write back because you asked them a question. People are busy and your message needs to stand out. If you are mentioning a great reason why you are genuinely interested in connecting with the person and be authentic, you will stand out.
In April 2014, I delivered my speech at TEDx in Lugano. However, getting that gig was not an easy thing. I reached out to the organizer month after month without ever hearing back. It took me eight months to get a “Are you still interested in speaking at TEDx?”. It was hard work but well worth it.
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