I got a great question from a JibberJobber user/reader:
I have identified (on LinkedIn) more than 100 names of people that I would like to connect within my industry in order to network with and expand my personal connections.
I am struggling with how best to connect with them. I have not met any of them. What do I say to make it sound a little more personal and hopefully get a positive response?
The textbook thought is “get an introduction.” But I know that is not always possible (timeframe, weakness of relationships, non-priority by others, etc.). And, getting introductions to 100 people could become a management/organizational nightmare (of course, you would use JibberJobber to help with that, right??). Let me throw out some ideas on how to cold contact people you find on LinkedIn (or any other database system). Note these are not necessarily to ALL be one in one communication, but some of them might help construct an outbound message to one of those contacts:
1. Be Honest
“John, I found you on LinkedIn while looking for experts in the automotive industry. In your Profile I see______________________…”
This approach puts your cards out on the table without any question. I hate getting messages from people who act as if we are BFFs, but I have no idea who they are… have we met before? Just letting me know that you found my Profile while doing research I think is a good approach. Honesty is always good.
2. Give Relationship Context.
“We are both connected to a few other people in our industry, including Sally Doe and James Finley. Do you know them well?”
“We are both members of a few Groups on LinkedIn, including Automotive Daily and Automative Nerds…”
This helps people know that you have a legitimate reason to reach out to them.
3. Give Message Context.
“I want to talk to you because of what’s happening in our industry, and to get your perspective. I’ve been in this industry for 20 years but haven’t seen these types of changes for a long time. I have some ideas and would really like to hear what you think.”
This helps them know that it isn’t just a “pick up the phone and jaw” thing… you really have a purpose, AND you respect what they are bringing. If you don’t give message context I think many people would be inclined to ignore your message.
4. Give Next Steps.
“Can we get on a phone call in the next week or two? I would like to talk for 15 to 20 minutes about this.”
I also give the option of doing it over email, and I give my office line and my email address in this message. Notice I put in two time elements here: one is to show my sense of urgency (sometime in the next couple of weeks), and one to show how much time they would commit to (just 15 minutes).
5. Critical: Keep it CONCISE.
All of this should be done in one or two short paragraphs. The purpose of the initial message is not to tell them all about you, or your ideas or philosophies, or to go too deep. The purpose is to get to that next step… a phone call. Keep this message short and on-task or I am not going to read it, or it might be too complex to respond to.
What do YOU think? Does this feel right to you? What would you do different?