According to Seth Godin,
“Your network is real if there are people you would go out of your way for and they would go out of their way for you.”
In this article I’ll address a LinkedIn feature that has the potential to supercharge your network. When incorporated, it provides insight and a reality check into the strength of your network.
Power of Your Network
One thing determines the power of your network. It comes down to quality over quantity. We often see sales professionals with massive LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ accounts. At first glance, some of these networks look very impressive. The sheer number of connections is astounding, but the question comes down to whether a person can leverage them. If not, it’s just like having a shiny Corvette you can’t drive. Fun to look at, but that’s where the fun stops.
Wise words from Seth Godin about networking:
“What matters is where the real relationships are.”
“Networking is always important when it is real and a useless distraction when it’s fake.”
“Are there people (in my network) who I would go out of my way for and who would go out of their way for me?”
There is no doubt LinkedIn is a powerful tool for professional networks. However, if you’re simply using it to capture contacts, then it’s not much more than a digital Rolodex. A strong network can be a powerful ally for anyone in business. Friends (or connections) want to help friends. There’s also the hope that if someone helps you today, you’ll help them in return someday. As a result, building your real network will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your sales performance.
Properly leveraging your network isn’t difficult, but it does take time and effort. It takes time and effort. You will essentially get out of it what you put in. If you need additional insight on leveraging your LI network, I recommend you read Dan Bernoske’s blog: How Top Reps Use LinkedIn to Create Buyer Personas.
Know Who’s in Your Network
As you continue to build your network, you risk information overload. You get so many connections that you lose track of who’s connected and how they can help you. The first step to leveraging your network is getting a handle on who is real and who is not. Meaning, who adds value and who doesn’t.
The LinkedIn feature I alluded to earlier is called tagging. It’s essentially a way of categorizing your LI network for insight. Tagging involves sorting your connections in logical categories (ie: buyer personas, sales professionals, affiliations, etc). By tagging these connections, you begin to see trends among them. For example, your contacts might be:
Uncover the strength of your network by downloading the LinkedIn Tagging and Mapping Guide.
It quickly becomes very clear whether a connection adds value, or just contributes noise. Here’s a quick example scenario of how this can benefit you as a sales rep:
Consider two sales representatives from the same firm. Julia has 200 LI connections and Jim has 500+. At first glance, Jim’s network appears more powerful and influential than Julia’s. Both take the time to tag their connections. This additional sorting uncovers that Julia has a high degree of buying personas and influencers (70% or 140). These are individuals who represent power in customer and prospect accounts. She could reach out to many of these for a favor. In contrast, Jim’s network is heavily weighted with friends, family, colleagues and old chums. The total number of buying personas and key influencers is around 20%, or just 100.
The goal of your Linked In network should be to improve your professional life. As you categorize your connections, ask yourself what value that connection adds. Unless you specifically take the time to tag your LinkedIn connections, you won’t truly know the power of your own network.
Action Item: Address Connections as Buyer Personas
It’s likely that as you tag your connections, you’ll notice your buyer personas begin to appear. Whether your key personas are CEOs, CFOs, Head of Legal, or HR you should be able to leverage them. As a sales rep, personas should be one of the Linked In connections you target specifically.
For those of you who are inclined to visual learning, you may want to map your LinkedIn network. An LI map provides a visual perspective on where connections overlap and are grouped. I provide more info on mapping in the LinkedIn Tagging and Mapping Guide.
When you understand which personas are in your network, it becomes easier to target your message. You can listen to market trends, and share poignant content to specific groups in your LI network. Tailor these messages to your personas with eye-catching titles, target specific functional areas, and so on.
A little organization and structuring can go a long way. We’ve said many times on this blog that the difference between ‘A’ Players and everyone else is often organization. Stay on top of your game and ahead of the curve. This makes it much easier for everything else to fall into place.