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Women In Business

Improve Your LinkedIn Network

Hey goal achievers, Kristin here. Recently, I introduced my Elite Achievement audience to Lindsey McMillion Stemann, speaker, writer and prospecting trainer. Lindsey owns McMillion Consulting and specializes in teaching executives, leaders and teams how to leverage LinkedIn to drive revenue. 

I start by sharing with Lindsey just how fired up I am to talk with her. I remember very vividly when we were connected through a referral. Our initial conversation was filled with so much energy, excitement, and a lot of focus on growing businesses. Before we dive in, I ask Lindsey to share how she became known as “LinkedIn Lindsey.” 

Ok, so I have to start with the funny part of the story,” Lindsey begins. “I have a great friend and mentor who several years ago was challenging and pushing me out of my comfort zone. And you could literally see the light bulb go off above his head, like a eureka moment. He says, ‘LinkedIn, Lindsey,’ and I looked at him kind of like that tilted head look and said, no, no, we’re not doing that. That’s just too cheesy. I’m just not going that route. No way. Even though he thought it was memorable and great, I fought it, admittedly for a few years. And candidly, when I launched my Instagram business account, I thought, what should this name be? And sure enough, LinkedIn Lindsey just made sense. He was very happy when I gave him a call and let him know that I was fully embracing LinkedIn Lindsey and it has stuck.”  

Lindsey continues, “Prior to that, I have been teaching sales professionals, leaders, executives, recruiters, young professionals and students how to leverage LinkedIn as a business tool for over eight years. So, thousands and thousands of people later, it’s pretty wild. I always tell people that I’m not a social media expert because a lot of people think, ‘Oh cool, LinkedIn, like Facebook to Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok.’ I’m like, whoa, whoa, no, LinkedIn is the sandbox I stay in.”

I smile as I admit that I don’t even know how TikTok works. And that might make me really uncool, but it’s the truth, to which Lindsey immediately reassures me that she doesn’t either.

I find Lindsey’s story so interesting, including how her mentor gave her that feedback. It definitely distinguishes her in the consulting and coaching world. It’s obvious from the name LinkedIn Lindsey that she is an expert and I ask her to share her perspective on whether or not LinkedIn is still relevant today in light of all the other social media platforms. 

Absolutely, it’s a great question. And it’s one that I get pretty often. There are a few things to think about when you consider LinkedIn as a current tool, things that you might be using but not really maximizing. And also a few things I want to share. One is that LinkedIn is actually older than Facebook – many people don’t know that. They were acquired by Microsoft, a massive global company, for $26.2 billion in 2016, which means they’re here to stay.” 

Lindsey continues, sharing that two or more people joining the network every two seconds.  She also introduces an idea about LinkedIn’s corporate vision, to create the world’s first economic graph. “When I first heard the term economic graph, I had no idea what that meant,” says Lindsey. “But ultimately, their vision is that the roughly 3.1 billion people who are working would be represented on their platform. And that number is changing all the time. We have 725 million members globally, 55 million companies represented, over 25 million jobs listed and over 125,000 schools. So many people don’t even realize that young people can join LinkedIn as well. My nieces and nephews who are in high school, some already in college, are using LinkedIn as high schoolers to build their professional footprint early on, which is so cool. They’re using it to vet colleges and universities, and they’re using it to get into organizations that they may not have otherwise gotten access to.”

Lindsey sums it up, “the short answer is, yes. Linked In is absolutely relevant today.”

I love the insights Lindsey shared because I have never thought about LinkedIn as a platform to help students get connected to colleges and universities. I’ve always thought of LinkedIn as a professional networking site you go to connect with other professionals or promote products and services or even find careers. I had no idea there were so many other uses for the platform. 

“Absolutely,” Lindsey agrees. She explains how many of her clients have kids in college and ask for help to get their daughter or son established on LinkedIn. They go through the profile transformer experience, just like other clients. Lindsey shares one of her favorite stories about a young female student. “She was a young professional at this point and launched her LinkedIn profile. Within three days of us going live with her LinkedIn profile, she had five employers reach out to request an interview with her! I mean, how amazing is that? Employers are seeking young talent, so when they find them on LinkedIn already, they snatch them up.

I ask Lindsey to elaborate on establishing a personal brand on LinkedIn like these students are doing. 

I’m going to answer this a little bit more creatively than I normally do,” she says. “I recently wrote an article titled, Give Them a Reason, where I’m challenging readers to give people who find you on LinkedIn, or who show up in a search result, a reason to follow and engage with your profile – with your digital reputation. And it really starts with two questions. The first is, who do you want to attract professionally? And the second question is, what are those people challenged with personally and professionally? And yes, I said personally, because if there’s anything that we learned in 2020, it’s that our personal and professional lives are intertwined, more than we’ve ever realized. So, it’s asking the question, who do I want to attract? Who do I want to do business with? And what are they challenged with professionally and personally? Through that, going through your questions of establishing that personal brand, you build out your LinkedIn profile to tell that story. A lot of folks think LinkedIn is just an online resume. And sure, there are aspects of your profile that are like a resume. But LinkedIn has really evolved over the last five to six years to allow members to create a narrative. Why do you do what you do? How did you get to where you are, what drives you, what motivates you, who are you trying to connect with? It is much more than a resume today and those are just a few things to think about as you’re establishing and really improving your professional reputation and digital footprint on LinkedIn.

I appreciate Lindsey’s response, specifically shifting the focus to think about who we want to attract. It connects deeply with my belief around clarity and how we need to have that level of clarity and intentionality to achieve our goals. I built my first LinkedIn profile several years ago when I graduated college. I wasn’t thinking at all about who I wanted to attract. I was thinking this is an online resume. It’s fascinating to hear how powerful the platform really can be for users and I’m curious to learn more about growing or evolving your network on LinkedIn. I ask Lindsey for her thoughts on what I could do to grow and evolve my network if I knew that I wanted to pivot or change directions. 

Lindsey is happy to answer the question and shares that oftentimes, people get frustrated by LinkedIn. She shares candidly that sometimes she does too because it’s never in a state of perfection as an online platform. She shares an idea she used with clients about doing sprints. 

“Set a timer on your phone for three minutes and ask yourself who should be in your LinkedIn network before you start that timer. Who do you want to be connected with? And then you go through a series during that three minutes, jotting down every type of person and individual you can think of. It might be your alumni, it might be friends from college or high school, it might be your neighbors, it might be vendors, clients, potential clients – the list could go on and on. Once you’ve done that sprint and identified who should be in your network, then you go through these four simple steps. The first step is finding them on LinkedIn. Sounds pretty simple, right? The second step is to connect with them. You have permission from LinkedIn Lindsey to find them on LinkedIn and connect. Step three is you follow up with them. It’s a very simple idea. And just like anything in life and in business, LinkedIn is no different. Once people accept your invitation, you must follow up with them. Step number four is staying in touch with them. It’s really easy!” 

Lindsey continues with another thing she sees all the time, “I work with lots of very busy, busy business owners and executives who have a lot of people in their first-degree network of LinkedIn connections. But they don’t know what to do with them. Frankly, they might not even know who many of them are. If you fall into that camp, I would say it is a worthwhile exercise to put on your goal list before the end of quarter one to assess your LinkedIn network. Who are you already connected to? Who do you need to trim out a little bit? Who’s missing? Because I always say, if you’re in business, one of your primary roles is to bring in new business. If you’re not connected to your clients and your potential clients, your competition will be – period. They might already be, in addition to you. So, we have to make sure that we’re using LinkedIn as another way to stay in front of people that we care about most.”

I’m curious what Lindsey suggests when connecting with people and ask her if she recommends personalizing a connection request.

“It’s like I paid you under the table to ask that question,” says Lindsey with a smile. “Yes, always. Here are a couple of quick tips. First of all, in the desktop version of LinkedIn.com, the only blue connect button you should click is within somebody’s LinkedIn profile because we know without a shadow of a doubt that LinkedIn is going to allow us to add a note and personalize that invitation. Now, here’s the catch with building your network through the mobile app. You have to take one extra step. You don’t click that connect button, you have to click on “more” or the three little dots, and then personalize your invite. So, it’s a quick distinction, but very important. 85% of the people who receive a personalized invitation from you are going to accept your invitation – 85%! You’re standing out in their inbox. I’ve seen a lot of companies popping up in the last 18 months that provide automation services. And those can be a great tool. They can also be a not so great tool – it depends on their approach. With a personalized invitation, not only do you have an 85% chance of someone accepting it, but LinkedIn is smart. They incentivize us to personalize because when that person accepts, LinkedIn is going to give us an unread message in our LinkedIn inbox, which is our cue and prompt to follow up. And that’s our third step. So, you first find the people you want to connect with, personalize your connection request and when they accept you, follow up. If you do not personalize your invitations, LinkedIn is not going to prompt you to follow back up with them.”

I find this interesting because I’ve never noticed that difference. And of course, now I’m wondering, what do you say in the connection personalization? I’m sure it’s individual, but I also know sometimes I get a little caught up in striving for perfection, as I think a lot of my clients do. I ask Lindsey what to say – keep it light, keep it simple? 

Yes, and yes, light, simple,” confirms Lindsey. “I would say the number one tip is do not ask a question in your invitation. I always give the example of this sales professional that I trained a few years ago. We built out his LinkedIn profile and his confidence skyrocketed. He knew he looked great on the platform and he was using it consistently. But he came back to me and said, ‘I’ve got a great profile. I’m reaching out to people and nobody’s responding.’ I was wondering what he meant, and he said they were accepting his invitation but not doing anything. So, I told him to wait a second, to pause before asking any questions. Their action is accepting your invitation. I joke that if you ask a question, and you send that invitation all in the same activity, you’re almost going in for the marriage proposal before they’ve accepted the first date. So, they accept the first date by accepting your invitation. Then you have a ping pong match – short, sweet quick messages back and forth. Something like, ‘Thanks so much for accepting my invitation. I noticed fill in the blank on your LinkedIn profile,’ or ‘I noticed we’re connected to an X number of common connections. This is the type of work I do, and I like knowing the people in my network so that I can be a better resource to them.’ Don’t ask for the meeting in your invitation. That is a really big best practice for people to consider when they are sending those invitations out.

I agree and ask for clarification. Should someone ask for the meeting after being accepted and then follow-up? Lindsey explains that it depends on your goal and what you’re trying to do. Some people may prefer a few ping pong messages first before asking for a meeting. And others might be surprised to send an invitation and the person responds favorable and immediately starts a dialogue. It makes sense to assess each case by case, but as a rule, it is ok to ask for a meeting or quick call, depending on how you tee it up. 

I hear Lindsey say the most important part is having a process and consistently growing your network with a personalized connection. Then, send a follow-up and use your best judgment on asking for the meeting right away versus having some ping pong dialogue. I think a lot of times, people probably give up too quickly before they can see this process really come to fruition. And that leads me to another thought, which might start to become obvious, but I ask anyway. Once you’ve grown your network, how can you leverage it to promote your services or grow your business?

“It’s a great question,” says Lindsey. “I think a lot of people just use LinkedIn as a stalking tool. The number one activity on LinkedIn is looking at profiles, so you’re right on cue if you’re using it as a research tool. But what I encourage LinkedIn members to do is think of it like an online networking event. I can only manage so many relationships, so I use LinkedIn as my 21st century Rolodex. Every day LinkedIn is feeding me real-time activity and things happening to people in my network who I care about – working anniversaries, promotions, job changes, what they’re posting. It takes a lot of work to put valuable, interesting, engaging consumable, informational, inspirational content on the platform. LinkedIn lets me know that my network is posting this type of activity and I should go check it out, see what they’re saying, engage. Your LinkedIn profile is foundational, that is, hands down the most important piece. But then as you start building up the house, building your network, putting the things inside of a house – that actually is building relationships, asking for introductions, bringing value to this network that you’ve built by sharing content that is interesting, valuable, educational, informative. Other people’s content is another great way to bring value and promote not just your own business because we don’t want to be a billboard, just showing off your products and services. It’s really about becoming a subject matter expert and bringing value.”

I’m learning just how much you can do on LinkedIn. And I know Lindsey and I both serve and work with busy professionals in sales roles, with a lot of activities they need to do on a day-to-day basis. I ask for her opinion on just how active someone has to be to have a strong LinkedIn presence.

“This might be painful for some people to hear,” begins Lindsey. “But I’m here to bring truth, honesty, and tough love. The answer to your question is daily. That daily activity can be a combination of many activities in smaller bite-sized sprints. Or that daily activity can be very focused and intentional on a smaller set of activities. Let me give you an example. I trained a client many years ago, who was incredibly disciplined in getting on LinkedIn. He was getting in there every day. But on Sundays and Thursdays, he got onto LinkedIn for one hour, and he had specific activities that he was doing. He kept it very simple. He was building his network through personalized invitations, and he was following up with people. That is the only thing he did on Sundays and Thursdays. The balance of that week could have been a series of very focused activities. So, if he was using a paid subscription, a paid premium version of LinkedIn, such as Sales Navigator, he might have been hopping on to look at his saved searches. Once a week, he might have been intentionally posting and engaging with other people’s activities. It’s a hard habit to create. But again, a lot of people give up too soon. If you can get in the habit of asking yourself what you are trying to accomplish before opening LinkedIn, that is so helpful. Otherwise, I go down this rabbit hole and 35 minutes later, I look up at the clock and I have no idea how I spent that time. It’s really being intentional with what you’re trying to accomplish before you get inside of the platform because it can – just like any website or any online social media tool – become this black hole and time suck if you’re not mindful, intentional and disciplined.”

When I heard Lindsey say daily, I immediately thought how I am so not on LinkedIn daily. And yet I know there is always time in a day to do the things that are important to you. I don’t always have a plan for LinkedIn. And I love how Lindsey brought up the intentionality and knowing what activity you’re accomplishing, who you’re trying to reach and what impact you want to make. From there, building time on your calendar to work your plan can help you be successful, just like it can for many aspects of your business. 

“I had a client say to me one time that in a perfect world, they wanted to go into LinkedIn once a week for 60 minutes. But the problem with going in only one time a week is that you have missed six days of activity and things happening in your network, with the people who you care about most,” describes Lindsey. “Only going in once a week is not enough time to know the challenges your network and the people you want to attract are facing personally and professionally. He and I made a compromise. We took that same amount of time, 60 minutes, and we parsed it. I mean, kind of tongue in cheek, we took 12 and a half minutes, Monday through Friday, so that he could actually start to get in the rhythm of getting in there and showing up consistently. LinkedIn is changing so frequently that it will become very overwhelming if you’re not consistent. Many clients will get into LinkedIn after a while and say that it looks totally different. Guess what? It wouldn’t look that different if you were getting in there more consistently. So, you by nature, become more confident inside of the tool when you’re in there and show up more consistently.”

I ask Lindsey to keep going with some additional success strategies she recommends.

“The first thing is mindset. LinkedIn is not going away. So, showing up and really taking this tool seriously is important,” says Lindsey. “I also have to give this tough love. But if you’re not going to take it seriously, you might want to consider getting off of it altogether. And that is just painful. Some people’s mouth drops to the floor when I say this. The reason is that LinkedIn and Google love each other. So, when you search your own name on Google, one of the top search results will be your LinkedIn profile. And people do not have to be connected with you to see that LinkedIn profile because it’s public. So, I think mindset is the first strategy to really think about. Ask yourself if you’re going to take this seriously. And that leads to the second strategy of investing in your LinkedIn profile, potentially investing in a premium subscription. A lot of people say they paid for LinkedIn once and it didn’t work. But, did you use it? Investing in your profile, investing in Sales Navigator, investing in training, investing in heck, someone like me who can take the questions, confusion and anxiety out of the equation for you is valuable. That’s why we have the profile transformer. It’s our premium service where we interview you, write your entire LinkedIn profile and launch it for you. Soup to Nuts, start to finish – you can take that heavy lifting off your plate and we do it for you. Investing is absolutely critical to strategy and LinkedIn working. And the third thing I would say that we’ve talked about a few times is showing up consistently. So, mindset, investing and showing up consistently would be my recommendations.

There are so many parallels to how we achieve goals and how we build a business. It’s a pretty consistent theme around having the right mindset invest, whether you’re investing from a monetary standpoint or a time standpoint. And then that consistency playing out over and over again. So now I’m curious, what are some of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to LinkedIn?

“Not taking the LinkedIn profile seriously,” Lindsey says confidently. “I had a call recently with a person who really thought that what they wanted was a strategy to get more leads and promote a new product that they created. And what they really needed to do was get back to the basics. What they really needed to do was build out their LinkedIn profile because it was outdated. It didn’t talk about this new product and service that they were trying to promote. They weren’t showing up consistently and providing value to their network. They wanted the magic wand. And I wish there was a silver bullet, but anything worth doing takes time. I believe anything worth doing takes investing, consistency and the right mindset.” 

Lindsey is great at reminding us to get back to the basics, even when it’s easier to look for a quick fix. “I don’t think it’s what that person wanted to hear from me,” says Lindsey. “They wanted Lindsey, the expert, to provide this strategy to get all these leads and sell a product. And I can, and they can get there. But we have to start on page one, to make sure you can get all the way to page 14. So, I would say that that’s the most important thing. That is why we have the profile transformer and why we write nearly 100 LinkedIn profiles every year. And it’s also why we created the complete LinkedIn profile course. The profile transformer is a premium service that is not accessible to everyone because of the price and commitment to do that project. But the complete LinkedIn profile course is something that we created with the intention of giving people an opportunity to do it at their own pace. With the guidance of me along the way, building out their profile the right way so that they can take that confusion, overwhelm and uncertainty off the table.”

I am reminded of another business fundamental when thinking about going back to the basics. How, often, we think we need a creative a new idea, a strategy, something flashy and fun. In reality, it’s often much simpler. I ask Lindsey to talk about some of the growth she experienced last year and what she is looking forward to in 2021. 

“I appreciate you asking! As you know,” Lindsey starts, “2020 was obviously a wild year for all of us. And we are very fortunate that the platform that we teach is an online platform. So, we were already virtual, we were already digitally connected so we saw a huge uptick. And a lot of aha and eye-opening moments from clients who realized maybe they should start taking this LinkedIn thing kind of seriously, maybe really look into investing in it and changing a mindset. So, the growth that we had in 2020 was completely unexpected to be honest. We grew our team, released the first launch of the complete LinkedIn profile course. When we opened enrollment, we had a great turnout and we closed enrollments so that we could let those initial students get through the course. We’re launching it again here soon. One thing I would say that was such a great reminder for me last year as the leader of McMillion Consulting was how important it is to be adaptable. And also, to have the courage to reinvest in myself, in my team and in what we were doing. As an example, we had our course professionally produced and it’s beautifully executed. It is just really top-notch and we’re proud of it. But it didn’t start there. It started with my team and I sludging through the mud for 10 hours setting up all of these different scenarios with lighting and sound and it was, frankly, a disaster. And I realized that I never even got an estimate or a quote for what it would be to hire a professional to help us do this. Like shame on me, I just assumed it would be a $10,000 to $20,000 investment. And it turns out, it wasn’t. Thankfully, we invested in the professionals to help execute an amazing end product that we could not have done on our own. So, it was a great lesson from 2020 that we’re definitely taking into this new year.

Lindsey’s point is a fantastic one. Sometimes, we assume it’s going to be way too expensive or way too hard. And we don’t even get in and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together to learn that, wow, this is a real option. I close our conversation by thanking Lindsey for sharing so many insightful tips for leveraging LinkedIn and tips for business in general. I’m hoping that all of us leave the conversation with the confidence to grow our network using the sprint model to find them that Lindsey shared. And, to connect with them via a personalized message, send that follow up and then continuing to stay in touch. And also, with the perspective that to excel, on LinkedIn, in business, in sales, you can apply your mindset, investment and showing up consistently beliefs across the board to achieve success. I ask Lindsey to share the best place to connect with her.

She suggests LinkedIn and her Instagram to connect personally.

She also shares that she has created a special freebie that can be found at linkedintoit.com/elite.

With that goal achievers, keep celebrating your weekly wins, learning from your lessons and identifying your priorities. So, you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.