The most popular justification for avoiding business-development activities is a lack of time. There are, however, a number of strategies that will allow you to execute and produce results in minutes — or even seconds. Follow these strategies and you may find that your challenge will become selecting the opportunity on which to follow up, rather than scheduling it.
Creating and sharing content is one of the easiest ways to raise your visibility and highlight your expertise. Of course, continuously producing original material can seem daunting, but looking through your portfolio of existing content and finding items that can quickly be re-purposed can allow you to create an array of items much more efficiently.
Start by identifying a presentation that you delivered alone or on which you collaborated. Simply export the slides into individual images (typically by clicking File and Export, then selecting the proper format). Now, you have a range of visuals that you can post to LinkedIn. Add a one-sentence narrative to enhance the appeal of your update.
If you co-presented, use this activity as an opportunity to reconnect with your colleague(s) and ask if they have any perspectives to add to the discussion. Also, be sure to tag them as a public acknowledgement of their contribution.
Your sample note might say: Sharon — You may recall our presentation at the XYZ conference a few months ago. I am going to be posting some of the slides as images on LinkedIn. Do you have anything you would like me to add or update?
Increase Your LinkedIn Connections
While you are on LinkedIn posting the cool PowerPoint images you just converted, review your connections and try this quick trick for increasing the number of them in seconds. Click on the My Network tab along the menu bar at the top and then the link on the bottom left for More Options. Follow the instructions and consider uploading a spreadsheet or a group of emails directly into your LinkedIn network. The system will automatically send each listed individual an invitation on your behalf. They will have no idea it was sent by a machine and it is an incredibly efficient way to reach people with whom you might not otherwise follow up, such as a group of conference attendees. (One caveat: Whenever possible, I like to send a brief note with my invitations because that process increases the likelihood that the recipient will accept my invitation; however, if you are not going to otherwise connect with the people on your list, then applying this technique is better than taking no action at all.)
Occasionally, this process may present an opportunity to reach out to an existing contact with whom you have lost touch. For example, you might send this note: Hi, Mel — I am updating my LinkedIn network, found your old email address, and thought of you. How are things?
Bond With LinkedIn Group Members
While you may experience serendipity and see a name that prompts organic follow-up, you can also generate that chance yourself by proactively reaching out to individuals with whom you already have a connection, albeit a small one. Log into LinkedIn and click on Work, then Groups. Select a group of which you are a member and study the membership list. Consider sending LinkedIn invitations to follow members you are interested in getting to know or with whom you would like to start a conversation.
You might write something like this: Beth — We are both members of the __ LinkedIn group and I would welcome the chance to connect. This simple note highlights your existing association and significantly increases the likelihood that the individual will accept your request.
“The rules on LinkedIn are the same as in-person networking: do it regularly; listen carefully; and share content that’s interesting and relevant to others,” says Andrea Miskolczi, the Chief Innovation & Business Development Officer at Wolf Theiss in Vienna, Austria. “With a bit of planning, you can easily develop your personal brand, broaden your network, and even generate leads.”
Grow Your Network By Asking for Permission
Once you formalize your connection and refresh your most important contacts periodically by sharing unique information they might find valuable, consider reviewing your mailing list and social media connections. Then identify five contacts to whom you can reach out for permission. You might write something like: “My firm periodically sends out guidance relevant to your business. May I add your email address to our mailing list?” or “Could I add you to the invitation list for ___?” You might even want to make a recommendation and ask for consent to do so, with “Can I recommend you for ___?” Asking these questions is a sincere way to foster a dialogue.
“In a more complex and connected world, professionals can no longer work in silos,” says Margarida Saragoça, the Director of Business Development & Clients at VdA – Vieira de Almeida & Associados in Lisbon, Portugal. “It is essential to open up to others and forge collaborative alliances.”
Search the Content of Your Peers
Another way to foster that dialogue is to study the content that your peers post and either share or comment on it. “Whenever I read interesting content on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, or learn of a new book or resource in my area of expertise, I am always thinking about who else could benefit from the information,” says Michelle Wimes, the Chief Diversity and Professional Development Officer for Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Kansas City.
Updates on LinkedIn are, however, like news headlines circulating along a ticker. They seem to disappear quickly and you often need to log in at the right moment to catch them. That said, you can strategically review the updates of your connections by visiting LinkedIn, clicking the search box, selecting Content, and entering search terms, such as “raising money” or “donation,” for example.
Refine your search by your first-tier connections and you will find material to which you can respond. You might send a note that says: Jillian — I saw the LinkedIn post about your fundraising efforts to support cancer research and made a donation in your honor. How are you?
“When it comes to networking, don’t try to eat the whole elephant at once; take small bites,” advises Abigail Fairman, the Director of Marketing & Business Development for Richards, Kibbe & Orbe LLP in New York City. “Set aside a few minutes each day to connect with your contacts through a personal message, an article that made you think of them, or a personal greeting.”
Time is always a professional’s most precious commodity, but the lack of it should not prevent organically connecting with peers. Consider employing these practical hacks to expand your network and enhance your business development prospects.
Ari Kaplan, a member of this newsletter’s board of editors, is the author of various books about marketing and teaches programs at law firms nationwide on getting published, branding, networking, public speaking, and reinvention. He is also the creator of the Lawcountability business development software platform and iPhone app. Email him at Ari@AriKaplanAdvisors.com for a series of infographics on how to gain publishing, branding, and public speaking advantages.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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