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Consultants, Here is How You Can Network Successfully on Linkedin

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April 29, 2022
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6 minutes
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

“Networking for consulting” should probably be the name of a compulsory training program for all aspirant consultants.

No matter your background, networking will bolster your chances of success with hiring managers, build your links with other consultants, and find you mentors along the way.

We may think that everything depends on our resume or interviewing skills. But these won’t matter if you cannot get noticed and no one wants to interview you!

LinkedIn is the biggest business-to-business social network in the world. Moreover, if you have developed good LinkedIn networking skills, it may be the route to getting your consulting business established.

However, LinkedIn has a significant three-step barrier to successful networking: Prospects must see (and not delete) your invitation to connect, they must accept it and ideally respond to your invitation message.

Assuming you get past step one, prospects will check your profile. They will look at your photos, your job, and what you are about. Then they will make a split-second decision whether to continue and accept your invitation.

So how do you ensure these three elements are compelling?

#1: Optimize Your LinkedIn Photo

You want to look friendly but professional? Thus, oversized sunglasses and lots of jewelry that might work on Instagram won’t work for networking on Linkedin.

  • The photo must be a close-up, with you looking straight at the camera
  • Smile
  • Have a neutral background

You might try a service like Photofeeler where people rate your photo on likability, influence, and competence. It’s free if you take some time yourself to rate a few pictures.

The score for my LinkedIn photo came back like this:
Competent: 7.5
Likable: 8.6
Influential: 7.3

There’s no correct score - you must decide what impression you want to make. I was happy, as the scores were reasonably balanced, and likability works for me.

However, keep submitting photos till you get the balance you want.

Pro tip:

Did you know that you can change the background behind your picture?
The default is a bluish color. Change this for a more professional look. You can even add your own tagline.
I liked what a strategy consultant did. She changed the background to a bright yellow and put the sentence “You need a strategy” across it.

“Start by knowing what you want and who you are, build credibility around it and deliver it online in a compelling way.” ~ Krista Neher

#2: Optimize Your Headline

The headline is the text just below your name. The default option is your job title. However, you can use this almost like an advertisement to draw people in to you Linkedin Profile.

The headline is one of the most visible sections of your profile and would be helpful for networking.

  • It introduces you on LinkedIn job applications, newsfeed posts, and the “people you may know” section.
  • It is a critical part of the search algorithm.

Here’s an example if you use only the default:

Web Developer at Company X

Enhance it by adding keywords that relate to hard skills, specializations, or goals. This makes it easier for recruiters or hiring managers to find you:

Web Developer at Company X | Full Stack Engineer | Front End Specialist | HTML5, CSS3, Bootstrap, JQuery, PHP

Moreover, you can also add a bit of zing by including your unique selling point. This might be an achievement, the ability to solve specific problems, a particular skill, or years of experience. Remember that people will be asking WIIFM: what’s in it for me? They want to know what value you will add to their lives before they decide to accept your invitation. Here are some examples from LinkedIn:

Freelance Marketing Consultant |Generating growth for clients for 10+ years through robust marketing initiatives

Project Manager | AT5 | Delivering 5 M+ Projects to High Standards for Over 10 Years | Financial Management Specialist

Recruitment Specialist at XYZ Company | Empowering people to change their lives

Positioning Businesses at the Forefront of Their Industry for 18+ Years | Change Management & Transformation Specialist

You get 120 characters, so make them count.

#3: Optimize Your Message

How many times have you opened your mail to find the message, “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn?” Honestly, how many times have you bothered to look at the profile? Customizing the message tells the person you have taken some time and want to connect with them.

  • If the message is addressed to someone you know well, reinforce the relationship - say something nice.
  • If it is to someone you don’t know well, you can give a reminder about how you met.
  • And if you don’t know the person at all, remember this is your only opportunity to convince them to accept.

The quickest way to get started is to use a LinkedIn message template. Some you might try include:

  • Linkedin message template to hiring manager or recruiter
  • Linkedin message template to new connection

Here are some tips that work:

  1. Keep the language casual but professional. Formal, stilted language is off-putting.
  2. “Hi, John. I saw your article on digitalization in manufacturing and really enjoyed your perspective on XYZ.”
  3. Keep information to a minimum, just enough to get their interest. Lots of attachments and lengthy explanations are likely to be ignored. Your goal is to get a response and a meeting.
  4. “I’m starting a consultancy in …… after spending ten years as ….. . I may be able to help you with ……… that you spoke about.”
  5. Have a clear call to action. Say what you want the person to do. Send a link to your calendar and ask them for a suitable time to talk. Avoid phrases like “let me know” or “perhaps we can meet for coffee.”
  6. Follow up. Not everybody will see your invitation when you send it. You can expect about a 3% return at first (so make sure you send out enough invitations!). You can increase this rate to between 10 and 25% if you follow up three times, with a gap of 3 to 7 days between each one.

#4: Keep Yourself Top of Mind as Someone in the Know

As you start to have more followers, you need to stay visible. The best way to achieve this is through frequent posts. The questions are how often and what you should post.

How often to post

Anything you post has an expiration date. There is so much happening on social media that it is difficult not to drown.

Here are the stats for a post’s lifespan:

  • Twitter: 18 minutes
  • Facebook: 5 hours
  • Instagram: 21 hours
  • LinkedIn: 2 days

So you need to post at least two to three times per week. Tuesday to Thursday between 10:00 and 15:00 are the best times, when business people are most likely to look at their messages.

You are unlikely to overload individuals. LinkedIn sends out a post to only about 10% to 15% of your contacts and will only send more if there is good uptake.

What to post

The rule of thumb is 4:1:1.

For every self-serving post (about you or what you offer), you should forward one relevant article and share four pieces of relevant content written by others. This soft marketing approach creates trust and allows others to see you as a helpful expert.

How do you know what is relevant for your audience?

One way is to consider common problems for your audience and find helpful videos or blogs that offer solutions.

LinkedIn has a handy service to find the trending topics and most popular articles and videos.

  • Log in to LinkedIn and go to the page you want to manage.
  • Click on “content suggestions” at the top of the page
  • Choose the industry, location, and seniority of the people you want to attract
  • Find the items you’d like to share with your followers

Pro tips:

  • Add a comment before you share. Use the first person to make it personal.
  • Ask a question so that you get some responses. Use closed questions, requiring an easy answer: Yes/No or Agree/Disagree.
  • Be on the lookout for articles that have pictures showing the faces of ordinary people since we are naturally drawn to them.

Key Takeaways

We generally recognize the importance of networking for consulting success.

Mastering the skills of LinkedIn networking can set aspirant consultants on the right path. Some of these skills are to optimize your profile and understand how to post from your home page.

LinkedIn has online help resources. You can look for them under best practices.