She sends me a LinkedIn invitation. I accept. Maybe I write a nice personalized note.
I reply, “You’ve got a really well-written profile.”
Or, “I see you’re from Canada – I lived in Manitoba for five years.”
Or even, “As a copywriter, I really admire your tag line. We get a clear idea of what you do.”
And then she kills the deal.
She writes back, “Let’s get together on the phone and get to know each other better.”
And I get that “Oh no” sinking sensation.
Back in the day when we could meet IRL in a live coffee shop, we had to expend a fair amount of effort.
Trying to look presentable. Remembering to fix your hair and face. Getting there. Getting back.
And if we’re not in the same city, it’s a non-event.
BUT…even a phone call with a new contact will use up time and energy.
If you get 3 or 4 of these invitations a week, you’re looking at a fair amount of time. You’re not relaxing with an old friend. You’re always “on.”
People who invite me to those meetings have good intentions. They’re just following bad advice.
No doubt some well-meaning business coach told them, “Set up some get-acquainted coffee meetings. It’s the best way to build relationships.”
They were half right. Here’s the whole story
(1) If you decide you want to engage with your new connection, take five minutes to look at their LinkedIn profile. If they list their website, go there, too.
Your first exchange should be relaxed, friendly, and non-sales-y.
There’s nothing worse than getting a message from a new connection that shows they haven’t bothered to do this.
Last week someone wrote:
“I think you would enjoy my online marketing group where you’d meet other people who are just getting started on the Internet.”
A quick glance at my profile would reveal that I’m not just getting started…and it’s too early to pitch your group for me to refer potential members.
Almost as bad: The “how are you doing” question
Anyone who asks, “How are you doing?” Or, “What are you up to these days?” hasn’t bothered to look me up. They’re sending out canned messages. Anyway, how do I answer questions like this without context?
(2) After the first exchange of messages, you could suggest a one-to-one phone conversation…if you’ve got a specific agenda.
Once I got a call from the VA of someone who was coming to Philadelphia to hold a seminar.
“I represent Ms. Famous Lady,” she said. “She’d like to meet you for coffee and get to know you.”
“Does Ms. F.L. have a purpose? An agenda?”
“She has to get to know you first. Then she’ll know what to talk about.”
“Has she been to my website to see if there’s anything we might do together?”
“Well, if that’s your attitude…”
To this day, I have no idea why Ms. Famous Lady was willing to set up meetings without doing her homework first. If she’s got so much time on her hands, she’s a fake Famous Lady.
(3) Follow basic telephone etiquette.
Once I asked someone on LinkedIn for some information and (in typical social media fashion) forgot about it.
So one day I foolishly pick up the phone with an unrecognized number. An unfamiliar voice asked, “Is this Cathy? So how are you today?”
Normal people begin with, “Hi, is this Cathy Goodwin? My name is Helen Smith. We recently talked on Facebook and you asked me about my new report. Is this a good time to talk?”
For some reason, companies train salespeople to ask, “How are you today?” before entering into the conversation. I’m always tempted to say, “I was doing great till you called.”
Sometimes I do.
Needless to say, this LinkedIn connection was totally offended when I responded rather unkindly, believing she was cold-calling me.
(4) Suggest a reason for us to get together one-to-one.
Unless we’re on a blind date from an online dating service (not something I’m likely to be doing soon), I don’t want to “get to know you.”
And you don’t need to get to know me. You need to know what I offer in my business and any possible synergies between us. You can get 90% of this information from my website, LinkedIn profile, and my Instagram.
So it’s a good idea to replace “get to know you” with a specific agenda item. For example:
“Can you set up a deal for me or my clients to work with you on a retainer basis?”
“I think my audience would buy your courses. Do you have an affiliate program?”
“Would you like to do a podcast gig on branding with storytelling?”
“Can you give a special webinar to my clients on using stories in their business?”
“Can you rescue me from an evil web developer and get my website up before my big event?”
(5) Forget about how we might work together “someday.”
People have short attention spans. We could have a long talk about how we might work together.
Then, when the time comes, we’ve forgotten we ever talked. Lots of water under the dam.
Or we’re not the same people. I don’t accept the same kinds of projects I did even a year ago. You probably don’t either.
And if you’ve got time to set up random meetings with people who might (or might not) be a good fit for your business, then you can use that time to develop a strategy and start list-building.
I’m Cathy Goodwin, and helping small business owners apply storytelling strategically to get better results from their marketing.
By the way, if you’d like to explore working with me, promoting my products as an affiliate, or inviting me to a guest speaking gig, you can connect right here.
And if you’d like to learn more about what I do, download this free ebook about branding with stories. You’ll also be added to my email list for updates, notices, and useful tips.