This is the second part of our blog series on how attorneys should use LinkedIn to get better contacts and introductions to more effectively develop clients. From our previous posting, we have shown how you build your contacts and search for new client introductions. This part of our series assumes you have read our previous blog and now have a list of connections that might be able to facilitate contact with your target client sorted by relationship.
Degrees of Separation
With two simple steps we’ve now generated a list of individuals who, in some way, connect you to your target. Because we’ve asked the site to sort by relationship, the top of your list should be populated by those having first- or second-degree relationships to the “company” we’ve searched (this is helpfully represented via a numeric designation next to each individual’s name). If you’re lucky, then your search will have generated one or more individuals having a first-degree relationship to your target entity. If this is the case, fantastic. It means that someone among your pool of LI connections works directly for, or with, your target. Now you might be thinking, “If one of my personal connections works for my target, wouldn’t I have known this without LinkedIn’s help?” The answer, often, is not necessarily. Lateral movement is just as ubiquitous in most industries as it is in the legal field. It can be easy to miss a colleague’s transition to a new company or position (although LinkedIn tries to help with this by emailing us every time one of our connections updates their profile) and a search of this kind will often yield a surprise or two.
But just as likely, your search will yield a string of second- and third-degree relationships—individuals who are not among your personal connections but are related to you through those connections. And this is where LinkedIn’s rubber really hits the cyber highway. Choosing any one of these profiles will yield a helpful little box graphically representing your relationship to the target via a series of arrows. You will appear at the top and the service will flow chart down through your connections to another LinkedIn member currently working for the target company. As you’ve probably guessed, 2nd degree relationships are those that link you to the target directly via one of your current connections and 3rd degrees link you indirectly via common connections between one of your colleagues and the target profile. In either case it’s now time to pick up the phone or compose an email explaining why you’re interested in your target and, ultimately, requesting an introduction from the relevant colleague. Again, this is why it’s so important that your connections are more than mere acquaintances; LinkedIn can provide you with the road map but, without willing colleagues, you’ll never make it to your destination.
Intelligence is Key
No, not your intelligence. You’re reading this blog, clearly realizing its value and seeking to learn more about a potentially powerful business development tool so your intellect is, obviously, beyond question! I’m talking about the kind of business intelligence needed to turn a prospective client into the real thing. Where did they go to school? What does their employment history consist of? What groups or networks are they currently affiliated with? The typical LinkedIn profile will answer many or all of these questions, often providing you with far more information than you’re likely to find on a company website. Coupled with the insight your connections can provide as to your target’s needs, concerns, recent and past dealings, etc., this should place you in the strongest position possible when that sought-after meeting finally arrives. Knowing your common ground (e.g. you’re both Berkeley alums or you each previously worked for Lehman Brothers – hey, I’m not saying you’re proud of that) can mean the difference between a fruitful first meeting and a series of long, awkward pauses.
But don’t limit your intelligence gathering to the prospective client. Learn as much as you can about your current connections as well. Ask yourself how you might be able to help them. Odds are you know someone who, while they haven’t been able to benefit you in any economically tangible way, could be invaluable to one of your connections. Never underestimate the power of reciprocity. When you reach out to request that introduction, don’t forget to mention your buddy in the apparel/finance/venture capital/music industry space that you believe he or she really needs to meet—and your willingness to provide the introduction. It’s an inescapable truth of human psychology: people are far more likely to return a favor rather than simply do you a favor.
Of course, the information age will only take us so far. Once your LinkedIn connections have worked their magic, it’s time to rely on those real world elements that will probably always be the cornerstone of how we conduct business: the phone call, the hand shake, the sit-down, the pitch.
My hope for this blog is that it evolves into a conversation, not just a monologue. Please feel free to contact me with your questions, comments or criticisms (we are also happy to take praise) and I’ll do my best to address them in future installments. Until then, be well and work happy.