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How do I build relationships on LinkedIn that lead to sales for my accounting firm?

Feb 22, 2019

LinkedIn

Using LinkedIn to “get more business” can work, but it needs to be a backwards approach. Instead of focusing on sales, and what you can get out of it, start by thinking about LinkedIn as your opportunity to connect to people. To humans. Sales can come naturally from that when you approach it well.

LinkedIn is like a global networking event, online.

Every social media platform has a different feel. Instagram is visual and creative, Twitter is a mix of formal and informal, and LinkedIn has more of a professional feel. That’s actually why most accountants prefer it as their social platform of choice. Oddly enough, it’s because it’s….less social. To be fair, some of the changes in LinkedIn have actually enhanced its more social and personal aspects, and that’s a good thing.

Think of LinkedIn as a massive networking event online. It’s full of people who are there to do business in one way or another – or who are connected to people your ant to do business with.

Talk to these people as you would at a business event! Be real and human. Comment on what they say. Ask questions about them, their business, show curiosity. Then naturally they’ll show interest in you.

You do not want to use LinkedIn to sell right away. The people who do that (in live networking or online networking) look pushy and don’t build relationship.

Using LinkedIn direct messages to start building relationships with clients, prospects, and potential employees

The biggest opportunity on LinkedIn is the private messaging service, but you don’t want to jump right in here to sell your services right away.

Remember the ‘building relationship’ concept. You want to start a conversation about something relevant, related to that person. LinkedIn is only a part of your marketing strategy, and you can use it to build the right connections, and start to develop trust by engaging with them while showing your expertise.

When someone posts something that you can help with (e.g advice on submissions to HMRC, or MTD), or you find what they’ve said interesting (even if it’s not accounting related) you can take the conversation from public to private. Start a one to one conversation through a LinkedIn message to start building that relationship.

We’ve had this happen at PF many times. Someone comments on a thread, shows an interest, mentions something we agree with. Depending on the topic and the relationship, we might send a private message to say “Hey I really appreciated your comment on my post. Have you seen this happen for your firm lately?”

It opens up the opportunity, if the other person wants to take it. Remember to be respectful of their time and their level of interest in a potential relationship. If you get a short answer, a thumbs up, or even no answer, don’t worry. These things take time. Don’t annoy them, but be available when and if they’re ready.

Use personal messages to enhance connection requests

Another way to use personal messages on LinkedIn is at the very start of the relationship – when making a connection request.

You’ll have experienced this yourself. You get a notification that someone is wanting to connect with you but you’ve no idea who they are. Maybe you met at an event (and have forgotten) or maybe it’s a sales person?

If you have time or are really curious, you look at their profile and find out what company they’re connected to, or who they know, or what their experience is. You might even glance at some of their recommendations.

For me personally (Karen) I’ll accept ANY request from an accountant, a bookkeeper, or someone who works with accountancy firms. I don’t need to know yet who they are or where they are or if we’re going to have a personal relationship. I love helping accountants, whether they’re my clients or not, so I’m happy to be connected to them. (If we’re not connected yet, and you’re in one of those categories, go ahead and do that now!)

Now, if along with the connection invite you also get a personal message, you’re far more likely to accept faster. If they say “Hey, great to meet you at the business growth event, thanks for the info. I just wanted to connect and stay in touch.” then that triggers your memory. (Conversely, if they say “Hey I saw your profile and thought we might have something in common, would you like to have a coffee”…that could show they’re just trying to drum up business and aren’t really interested in you personally.)

To add this personal message when connecting, choose ‘Add a note’ after you’ve clicked “Connect”. (Sometimes on a desktop you’ll need to click the ‘more’ or the three dots to ‘personalise invite’.) If you merely click connect from the search screen results, you can’t add a personal message.

Naturally if you know the person already, then just ‘connect’ would be fine.

When sending the customised note along with your connection invite, think about how it will appear to them. Keep it brief, make it personal, and give them a reason to accept the connection.

Remember too that their accepting it doesn’t mean you’re best friends or they’re ready to do business with you. Sometimes people are vaguely interested enough to connect, but they aren’t ready for any in depth relationship yet. You can follow up with another note a few days later, but if you get nothing, stop. Don’t spam them or pressure them.

Build your network by making connections with people you already know

There are so many people you could be connected with on LinkedIn that you aren’t yet. Have a look through your inbox and CRM and start connecting with:

  • Clients
  • Prospects
  • Strategic partners
  • Friends
  • Family
  • People you’ve met at events

The more connections you have, the more people will see your posts and the higher your chances you’ll be able to connect and find potential clients.

Rather than search each client individually you can connect your email to LinkedIn to pull through all your contacts and you can then select who you’d like to add.

Once you’ve done that as a one-off, we recommend making it a habit to connect with people via LinkedIn after connecting with them elsewhere. Met someone at Xerocon or QuickBooks Connect? Send them a LinkedIn request quickly before they forget who you are.

Oh – and there is a super clever way to use your phone as a digital business card. Make sure you have the LinkedIn app on your phone before the next in person event, and when you meet someone and have one of those “we need to chat/meet/stay in touch” conversations, you can connect with them instantly on the app.

To do this, both you and the other person will need to open the LinkedIn app on your phone. Look for the QR code symbol (it’s up at the top right of the ‘search’ box). Tap that, and then tap ‘My Code’ if you want to share yours, or have them do that. Then the other person taps “scan” and they scan your code and….voila! You’re connected instantly, without the need for personal messages to remind them of who you are!

We use that all the time at events – we got PF business cards designed when we rebranded, but lately have found we simply don’t use them. It takes too long. Instead we connect on Linkedin using the app, and it’s instant.

LinkedIn App

Is it worth investing time on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is super powerful as a networking tool and it’s 100% worth staying on top of it. You’ll build awareness for your firm through your own articles, videos, and content, and you’ll also continue good conversations with clients and potential clients.

Always think about how you’d act in person, how you (actually) speak to people or how you might help them during a live event or in a meeting. Then apply that to LinkedIn.

You’re already human: show that humanity. Build relationships. Invest a tiny bit of time here and there, and you’ll get higher quality conversations, and better leads, than if you simply mass-add people and hope they get in touch.