MY LAWYER CLIENTS often shy away from using LinkedIn to grow their practices because they don’t know how to “get clients” from LinkedIn. Is it soliciting? Is this where their ideal clients hang out? If it is, how exactly does one ask whether a person is expecting to get divorced, face criminal charges, or plan for his or her impending demise? That’s probably not going to go over well in an InMail.
The mistake I see rainmakers make over and over again is avoiding LinkedIn because they think LinkedIn, or any social network, functions like a direct sales marketplace where you meet someone, make a pitch and ask for the sale.
One peek in your in-box, and you’ll see that notion is not reserved for lawyers alone. Not a day goes by when I don’t receive a straight-up pitch from a random person who just connected with me. Besides, direct solicitation is a no-no for reputable lawyers. And who wants to do that anyway?
The issue is not LinkedIn per se. The issue is misunderstanding how to use one of the largest, if not the largest, social network for business to properly grow your referral network. If you’ve been confused, then you’ll want to sit-up and start paying attention because I’m about to tell help you get some clarity.
- Reconsider Your POV. Shift your viewpoint from “getting clients” to building a network of referrals. That’s really what most professional service providers want, anyway, isn’t it? Practically every lawyer I’ve ever worked with, when asked where they get their clients, will tell you “mostly referrals.” (Most, then, will tell you they have no system for actively cultivating referrals, but that is a post for another day.) If you understand your goal is not to find that very person who needs your services that day, but to cultivate a large network of people who know, like and trust you and would refer you business any day of the week, then you are catching on.
- Upgrade Your Profile. Make sure your profile is the best you can make it (without spending too much time caught up in perfection syndrome). Have some professional photos made, make a good argument for why someone will want to work with you–this is your place to brag a little about all your accomplishments, but with a focus on how those credentials help you serve client needs better. Check out other people’s profiles, particularly the ones you find most compelling. Take inspiration from those. If you look at my profile, you’ll see it is written, not like the resume of someone looking for employment, but as a consultant interested in helping clients. This style can work for attorneys, too, perhaps with a few modifications.
- Expand Your Reach. Yes, I know Mother said not to talk to strangers, but in this case, you definitely want to meet as many new people as you can. Don’t be afraid to connect with people you do not know. It’ll be okay. You’ll quickly learn to identify the markers of weirdos and hackers, I have no doubt about that. If you are not sure what to watch for, send me a message, and I’ll help you out. Other than that, connect with all sorts of people in all sorts of industries. You never know who they know. The more connections the better. There are many reasons for this, but at this point, I ask you just to think of it like one giant networking event where you never know who is going to be that guy or gal to introduce you to your next big client.
- Be an Influencer. Publish articles about how you help people, create a quick teach video, showcase your expertise in your area of practice, and be generous in sharing your knowledge. Also, engage with other people’s posts by liking, commenting and sharing. Schedule a little time every day to play around on LinkedIn. And don’t tell me you don’t have time. How much time would you spend to get $1,000 worth of new business? What about $5,000? $10,000? $100,000? Surely, it’s worth15 minutes of your time in the morning, and another15 at lunch or in the evening.
- Be a Joiner. Join groups where potential referral sources hang out, and then participate in conversation there. Better yet, START conversations. Be the virtual host of the party. Show others how to engage with you, both on- and off-line. If you are not sure how to engage in conversation in groups, join several first and watch what the best networkers do. Start by contributing to existing comment threads.
- Move the Conversation. Liking, sharing, commenting and publishing are very important first steps to relationship-building. The real magic happens, though, when you learn how to move the conversation forward. You can do this by messaging people in your network and asking them more about what they do. Caveat: Don’t use this as an excuse just to tell them what you do. You’ll get much further with genuine curiosity and an interest in getting to know others with no particular agenda. Yes, we all are here (presumably) to “network,” but that doesn’t mean that everyone is your ideal client or referral source. Your focus, then, should be on ASKING QUESTIONS and then LISTENING FOR THE ANSWERS to find out a) how you might be able to help the other party, b) whether you have mutually beneficial interests, and c) whether you both might be interested in moving the relationship forward. That’s it. You are not asking for business. You are not asking for referrals. You are not jumping from “Hi, nice to meet you” to “Let’s get married!” If you aren’t sure what, exactly to say in an InMail to someone in your network, shoot me an e-mail and we’ll set up a time to discuss it.
- Take Bold Action. If you really are feeling froggy (and are dead serious about expanding your network and growing your practice), then do this: Look for your most recent connections, open each of their profiles as separate tabs (maybe up to 10 or 20), and then start moving thru profiles, finding each person’s phone number and then calling him or her right then to ask if he or she would like to join you for a virtual coffee. What?!! I know!! It’s crazy, picking up the phone and calling people you are connected to on LinkedIn. Most likely, they won’t even answer the phone. That’s okay. In fact, that’s even better because you can leave them a message and ask if they have time for a virtual coffee later that same day. Tell them how to get back in touch with you if they are interested. Tell them you are doing this because you are tired of being connected to a bunch of strangers and you really just want to get to know everyone in your network. Schedule 15 minutes for a video conference so you can see them and they can see you. You’ll have your coffee in hand, they will have theirs, and it will be just like you are meeting up at a coffee shop except without all the wasted travel time. Have some questions written down you might want to ask them. Your only expectation is to get to know the other person a little bit more. Do this three or four times a week, and then come back here and tell me how it worked for you. Better yet, invite me to a virtual coffee.
If you find these tips helpful and want to know even more about how to be a master connector and “LinkedIn Lawyer” be sure to let me know by connecting with me on LinkedIn and sending me an InMail, or e-mailing me directly.