By Rick Itzkowich
When people ask me how I became the “Rick I – The LinkedIn Guy,” I take them back to 2007. When the recession hit, I was searching. Like most people who originally sign-up for LinkedIn, I wanted to generate new referrals. Connecting on LinkedIn was free so I signed up. But quite frankly I had no idea what to do with it. And I didn’t do anything with it other than invite a few people to join me on it. That was the extent . . . for a while.
Then one day during my BNI – Business Networking International chapter meeting, a member requested an introduction to an individual. Since I didn’t know the person, I wrote down the name. I thought to myself, “Maybe they’re on LinkedIn.” I went back to my office, and I did a search. And sure enough I found him. To my surprise, I not only found him, but I also found that he was connected to two other people that I knew. I asked these individuals if they would be willing to facilitate an introduction. One of them introduced me, and I got my first taste of the awesome power of LinkedIn. The short story is that my BNI colleague ended up doing substantial business with this person, and that’s when the light bulb went on. The purpose of LinkedIn had worked through me in a big way. I began to realize it’s tremendous potential.
Technology is a means to an end—not an end in itself. New technologies emerge all the time. And this can be totally overwhelming. But, there are certain aspects of technology that are allowing us to advance in our networking. LinkedIn is a valuable technology that offers speed and convenience in today’s busy business world. It fosters relationship building and the ability to start conversations with people based on your connection.
LinkedIn gives you insight and visibility into the connections that people who you know have. It offers you this untapped potential that most people do not even know they have available to them. Plus, it helps you organize useful connections for you and those you know.
Here’s an example. Let’s say somebody who wants to meet Mike Smith doesn’t know that I know Mike. But they do a search on LinkedIn, and they find out that Mike is a second-degree connection to me, Rick Itzkowich. They ask, “Hey Rick, I see that you’re connected to Mike. I’ve been trying to connect with him because of his asset protection specialty. Do you know him?”
I can tell that person, “Not only do I know him, he worked on my estate plan. Let me introduce the two of you.” Before LinkedIn, they didn’t know that I know Mike, and I didn’t know they wanted to meet Mike. LinkedIn makes that possible in a very logical and reputable manner.
Now, there are three potential obstacles that need to be acknowledged so that the intention of LinkedIn is not misunderstood. First off, people mistake LinkedIn for a traditional sales channel. They assume that you meet people on LinkedIn to direct sell to them. They think it’s Facebook for business and may engage in an unprofessional manner or use pushy sales tactics. As LinkedIn is all about nurturing relationships and building your credibility and trust with your connections, a direct sales strategy creates ill will.
Another factor to consider is that you do need to spend time on LinkedIn. Not a high volume of time — just putting in 30 to 45 minutes per week can pay off big time. I like to allocate just 10 minutes a day. I might send out five invites to connect and write two recommendations for colleagues over my second cup of morning coffee.
The last obstacle is that there is no LinkedIn guide, and unfortunately there is a ton of noise out there about how to make LinkedIn work.
Let me offer ways to avoid those obstacles: focus on your profile, network, and activities. You need to have an effective profile. Be sure you include a professional head shot and in your profile copy speak to your audience in the first person about what sets you apart in a way that doesn’t read like a resume. Keep your profile complete and up-to-date, as it is your mini sales webpage. You need to build a large diverse network. Send out invitations. Ask for names and add them to your LinkedIn. Discuss LinkedIn so others know to find you there. Your activities need to have some congruency as well as a strategy for growth. If you already did an impressive job of having a thorough profile that actually targets specific things related to what you are wanting to accomplish, complement that by actively staying involved on LinkedIn and clearly speaking to target individuals. This way, others feel like you are real, that they know more about you, and that you know what you are talking about in your industry.
I’ll let two Vistage Chairs tell you in their own words how my LinkedIn guidance worked for them:
“I am in countdown mode for my upcoming event. Of my 31 RSVPs, all but two, are from LinkedIn. Your system rocks and worked perfectly for me, especially since my husband and I have only been in Scottsdale since September. You rocked IT! The referral system and my tenacity with LinkedIn outreach has given me a good start. I am anticipating 20 out of the 31 who signed up. Thank you for introducing your system to me. It’s been a terrific experience.”
—Susan Giles Bischak, Vistage Chair
“I did two sessions with 17 referrals and [received] three immediate responses. One appointment for one-hour worth of work. Priceless.”
—Tom Rodell, Vistage Chair
These types of results are typical when you have guidance on how to tap into the power of technologies such as LinkedIn. Furthermore, you can link other technologies and find more relationships to foster. With the mindset of a technology-empowered connector, you keep your connections alive through referrals.
In addition, LinkedIn supports trust-building and that’s why it’s effective when it comes to referrals. LinkedIn is used as a first point of referral contact that gives you visibility and reach. For my line of work, when I meet somebody offline, my first action is to send them a LinkedIn invitation to connect. I use LinkedIn to gather some basic information, and then use my invitation and LinkedIn’s messenger to start a conversation. Once we are connected, LinkedIn allows me to be visible to that person’s connections as well as allows me to search for professions connected to my new contact. Essentially, LinkedIn is a giant database that allows you to find more targeted people via a variety of filters. As you can see, if you use LinkedIn effectively, it will give you the opportunity to identify mutual connections and people you want to do business with.
Lastly, LinkedIn’s feature of being able to give people recommendations adds trust. A recommendation on LinkedIn is different from many other places because it can be traced back directly to the individual. If you leave me a testimonial, somebody can click on that and know that you exist. They can read your profile, which gives them confidence that this was a real recommendation, a real testimonial as opposed to one that was made up. In addition, you cannot change a single word of a recommendation or testimonial, which adds validity.
So, it’s not just having your profile up on LinkedIn, but it’s utilizing LinkedIn to the max. I am happy to give you my How to Monetize LinkedIn in 10 Minutes per Day guide at no charge. Click here to download the 15-page PDF or paste this into your browser: http://ntwrk.biz/monetizelinkedin
In closing, let’s connect on LinkedIn! Send me an invitation at www.linkedin.com/in/ritzkowich and feel free to ask me questions.
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Rick Itzkowich (It’s-ko-witch), aka “Rick I – The LinkedIn Guy” is a Vistage Chair and founder of 501 Connections, Inc., a San Diego-based business, networking, and referrals coaching company. Rick is a genuine people connector. He helps people bridge the two worlds of face-to-face and online networking. As an official member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council and successful entrepreneur, Rick coaches, writes and creates turnkey products that meet today’s demand for tools to increase profits through referrals. His products QuoteActions, Link Power Now and Rock-IT! Referrals have generated millions of dollars in revenue for businesses worldwide.
Rick is a sought-after author and speaker. He presents to a diverse group of sales, networking and professional organizations, and is a regular SCORE® speaker. Internationally his YIKES! LinkedIn workshop earned the Best Speaker Award at the Dubai “You Learn Twit Face” social media conference. As a former CEO and business owner of two successful companies, one manufacturing and the other in professional development, Rick has logged more than 30,000 hours of corporate training. Rick was born and raised in Mexico City. He speaks five languages and has traveled to 43 countries facilitating learning vacations. He resides in La Jolla, California. And, in his spare time Rick plays on a nationally ranked tournament baseball team.
Contact Information: Rick Itzkowich, Vistage Chair, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Author, (858) 456-7653, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rickitzkowich.com, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ritzkowich, Twitter: @thelinkedinguy
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