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December 15. 2012 8:25PM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Keep your network warm


 
I'm always amazed at the power of a network. If you're one of the millions of people who use LinkedIn, you should be amazed, too. When it comes to success in sales and business, it's no secret that the people you have met throughout your career are a critical part of your future success.

The top-performing sales professionals I know are experts at leveraging people in their network to get introduced to new contacts. It's an effective and nonintrusive way to meet new people and, most importantly, leverage your past success to get off to a good start with someone new.

I took a look at my LinkedIn page recently and noticed that I was connected to 949 people. I think that's a pretty good number. I've been using LinkedIn since it was launched in 2003, so I've had a lot of time to build my network. A recent article I read on Entrepreneur.com written by Ted Prodromou cited a Nielsen study that stated the average LinkedIn user has about 60 connections. That seems low to me. I see a lot of people with 500-plus connections, but I suppose it depends on the type of people you are connected to.

Personally, I think LinkedIn is a great tool for everyone, regardless of your profession. And it's even more valuable for those of us in sales and business roles. It's not only an enormous database of contacts; it's visibility into who you are connected to through people you already know. And there are only two ways you can find that out, through LinkedIn or actually speaking to someone about it.

I receive a lot of requests through LinkedIn from people in my network asking for a favor. Typically people have found someone in my network that they are trying to get in touch with for business reasons. The majority are trying to sell something, and I certainly respect that. They ask me for an introduction or ask for my time to pick my brain on what I know that may help them.

I usually have no problem doing this for people I know, but there is one thing that irritates me. I can't stand it when people I haven't talked to in years reach out to me and ask for a favor. If I haven't talked to you in a while, there is probably a pretty good reason for it. If you want to help each other out, I am completely open to that and enjoy introducing people who are a good fit for what they each do. But don't think I am going to introduce you to someone just because you ask.

I am a big believer in mutually beneficial relationships. Business relationships are a two-way street, and that is also true for people in your network. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep your network warm and not be one of those people who expects something for nothing.

. Do something positive unsolicited. Unsolicited actions are always appreciated. Instead of asking someone for something, be proactive and help someone without being asked. Introduce them to someone you know without them asking you. Send an article on a topic you think may be valuable to them. Share information with them that you feel could be helpful. Write a recommendation about them. The point is, if you help others, they're more likely to do the same in return.

. Stay in touch. I try to make it a point to stay in touch with key people I have worked with or met throughout the course of my career. Take a look at your contacts and identify people you haven't spoken to in a while. Reach out to say hello and see how they are doing. Staying in front of people and keeping your name fresh in their mind will increase the chance that they will refer someone to you.

. Post valuable information often. When it comes to social media, I'm guilty of being an observer. I don't post updates as much as I should. However, I always appreciate and value when someone shares something that benefits me. Valuable news articles are a great way to start and fairly easy to come across. Just make sure they are relevant and add value.

Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.

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