How to Start a Conversation with Someone New on LinkedIn

How to start a conversation with someone new on linkedin

[ More than just sending connection requests out, you want to develop a relationship ]

What do you typically say when you send out a connection request? Do you consider this first step an important part of the process of building a new connection?  And when the other person decides to accept, how do you typically respond – if you do respond at all?

Recently, I received an email asking for advice. I’m sharing this together with some ideas that may work  (they’ve worked for me) and I hope you will explore and share with me the results you’ve achieved.  This is the question received:

“I need help specifically with how to communicate ie how to start a conversation with people online. Often, when I reach out to make a new connection on LinkedIn, I have to get brave and say hello but then the conversation ends shortly thereafter. After that, I don’t really know what topic to engage in conversation about. I have a background in finance but want to get into the events industry because of my love for travel and because I’ve been working to get more skills in this area. I am passionate about the events industry and really want to learn more about it.  I have looked online for a number of companies in this space and I’ve applied for jobs within. I also reach out to connect, on LinkedIn,  with people with event industry experience. The thing is, I’m just curious to know more about the industry as well as to get a job. Usually, people are quite nice. They reply to me but then it stops there. I don’t know why this happens. Am I the problem? Do people think it’s a waste of time to explain things to me? I don’t just want to apply for jobs, I want to be able to speak to these people and learn from them. What should I do?”

Understand the WIIFM

The acronym stands for: What’s in it for me? In this context, it means you step into the shoes of the person you are reaching out to and try to understand where they are coming from. We know that most people are time poor and stretched. We also know that people are bombarded daily by text messages, advertising, emails and social media. With all of this coming at us, we tend to filter most things out because there’s simply too much. Not to do so would mean having to deal with everything and we simply cannot do that. So, when you’re reaching out, you’re having to deal with an attention deficit.

How do you manage that? Do you ‘scream’ louder than everyone else? Do you ‘scream’ more than everyone else?  Think of it this way. Naturally, that which attracts us are things we are interested in, things we are involved with and things that stroke our ego. So, if you are able to find a way to trigger any of this in your reader, you’ve managed to attract his/her attention.

Much as in real life except for the advantage of online connections

The idea here is that there is no 1-2-3 formula. You’d want to do this pretty much the way you’d approach someone in real life. So for example, when you meet a stranger for the first time, at a party or networking event, do you typically introduce yourself and ask for a job or referral?  I didn’t think so. It’s very much the same online. You introduce yourself and you engage in a little small talk. You show a little interest in the other person and look for things that could potentially connect you both. The point is to build a deeper connection.

What makes the online reaching out significantly better is that you have a golden opportunity to discover more about a person before you reach out. You don’t really get that chance in face to face connections. Online, you can take the opportunity to check their profile, do a bit of research on Google or simply explore mutual connections through LinkedIn. What a goldmine!

Instead of asking ‘what can they do for me?’, change this to ‘what can I do for them?’

This is a big shift and let’s be honest, it is neither easy nor for everyone. Being other-focused takes time and practice but it is powerful. Changing the question you ask of yourself changes everything. It’s only human to perk up and take notice when someone wants to help you out or wants to see what you need.

If you’re not convinced of how powerful this can be, if you’re asking yourself, “Why should I care?” or “Why should I start with what I can do for them?”, then realise that they too will be asking the same question of themselves.

So, how would you begin to do this? You start with finding out more about who they are, what they care about and what they do. But you’re simply having a conversation, it’s not an interrogation. Go with your gut

You start with finding out more about who they are, what they care about and what they do. But you’re simply having a conversation, it’s not an interrogation. Go with your gut feel because different people respond differently. Some are happy to engage in online banter, some may prefer to meet up. Sometimes, these things move at a quick pace, sometimes they don’t. The idea is to be genuinely curious about who the other person is.

Build a body of work – let your work add value to others

If you’ve been specialising in a particular domain, share what you know. You may believe that it does not mean much but we all learn differently and we are at different stages of our learning journey. The combination of our skills and rich experience create varied learning results for us. Therefore, what you have to offer will mean different things to different people and will be of value.

You may ask, “What happens if I am making a career shift or exploring a new domain?” Am I not too inexperienced to add anything of value? Not necessarily. When you share your learning journey, when you share your takeaways, these in itself present unique experiences which can add to the collective.

So, what is this body of work? What does this mean? Typically, it refers to the total output of an artist or writer. But this does not need to be limited only to artists. We are all capable of building our body of work. Some of your work is captured internally in organisations,  conversations, email exchanges and confidential documentation that you are not at liberty to share. Your work is also captured within you. Understand that you’re not capturing the intricate details of a given deal or particular occurrences. Instead, you are doing two things.

First, you are learning to articulate what you’ve worked on, developed or been a part of. Learning to do this helps you to speak more authoritatively about who you are and what you do because until you learn how to articulate this, it stays fuzzy within.

Second, when you then share your work, you share your journey and teach others who may be interested or who may be at a different stage of a similar journey. This sharing helps others to make sense of things, give them a new perspective to consider as well as provides a feeling of camaraderie. Your work can be captured through blog posts, guest articles, slide-shares, books, infographics or through speaking opportunities. Each medium offers a different experience and a different potential audience.

You don’t need to be an expert

Reading this, you’re likely to think that you’re not in any way ready. There may be more excuses than excitement about delving into something like this. I’ve never written before. What do I know? People will see right through me. Who am I to tell people what to do? They already know what to do, what new thing can I possibly say? We could go on and on here. But let me help shift the way you look at this.

Take the story of Marcus Sheridan, a blogger, podcaster and keynote speaker who specialises in content and inbound marketing. Marcus nearly lost his swimming pool business during the 2008 market crash. With no money, he knew that he had to do things differently. He needed to generate even more trust, traffic and sales. And he did this by addressing prospects’ questions, issues and fears. They asked questions and he provided answers and this was how he turned his business around totally. Google him and read his story.

What do you think? Do these suggestions make sense?


If you like this post, I hope you will share it. If you need help with your writing, with getting published or with strengthening your brand, feel free to reach out. Let’s have a chat.

#writing #LinkedIn #communication
Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

One Reply to “How to Start a Conversation with Someone New on LinkedIn”

  1. […] a LinkedIn profile and then, creating a compelling presence.  I’ve also touched on how to start a conversation with someone new on LinkedIn. Here, let’s examine how to better engage with the community on LinkedIn, whether they are […]

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