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Making Your LinkedIn Business Network Pay Dividends

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Making Your LinkedIn Business Network Pay Dividends
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    Haven’t made a dime on LinkedIn? A lot of people on LinkedIn haven’t made a dime from it. Chances are you haven’t made anyone else money either. In expanding your network, the main point is to help you phone or meet someone who may be able to help you in whatever it is you are trying to do. The flip side is you need to help others meet their needs too. Until you think of helping others get what they want, you won’t likely get what you want.

    LinkedIn is just a tool, albeit a powerful one if you have a use for it and know how to make it work. If you are good at what you do, it amplifies it. If you suck, it amplifies that too. We’ll assume the former and give some pointers on how you can make it work more effectively for you. If you find yourself wondering how to better use, derive benefit or get value from this tool, the following suggestions might prove useful. Don’t forget the basic rule of being of service to others.

    Online is online. Compared to meeting someone in the real world, it is much easier to connect with someone online. The flip side is that it is much harder to develop a relationship. Always keep this in mind and prepare to put in a solid effort to turn what looks like a good connection into a relationship.

    The key is to then connect on the phone and in person if possible. One strategy is to email new contacts or call active LinkedIn members if you are in town for a conference or meeting.

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    But remember that sending an email is not going to be enough to get you business.

    Focus is key. There are hundreds of online networking sites and tools so you should focus on one and put in a solid effort to make it work.

    If you choose LinkedIn as the one, then develop a strategy around it. This does not mean that you should not use other online networking sites. If LinkedIn is your main one, as part of your strategy, you should have all your other profiles point to LinkedIn. Go to Web2List for a list of networking sites in case you want to see some others.

    As part of your strategy, have a public profile and include your LinkedIn profile on your signature footer and other communication documents you use (ie. fax, website, blog).

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    Focus on actively connecting with people you want to know through those you know and start building productive relationships.

    Share, share, share. The more information you share on your profile, the more searchable you become in the database and more chances you will be able to make a real connection with someone. There is a weird non-linear effect that kicks in. One you get past a certain threshold by putting enough good searchable content in your profile and get enough active connections going, the search engines start giving you a better ranking. The higher ranking increases interest in you and your traffic goes up so you add more to your profile and there is a snowballing effect that works to your benefit.

    Some specific tips:

    • You should also customize your public profile URL to be your actual name
    • Use LinkedIn’s new Answers feature to help others and gain exposure
    • Include your LinkedIn profile link on your blog, faxes, letterhead, business cards
    • Utilize all the links you are allowed to incorporate on your profile.

    Set a policy and process and get a life! You should establish a policy and think in terms of running processes to achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself while helping others achieve their goals.

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    Here are some policy suggestions:

    • Send only customized requests for connections,
    • Forward requests only if they are specific and contact the recipient in advance before forwarding any such requests,
    • Spend no more than 1 hour a day on LinkedIn,
    • Read people’s profiles before contacting them.

    Here is an example of a simple 2 step process based on the policy you have set:
    1. After you meet someone at an event, check your LinkedIn network to see if you know anyone in common or share a common interest,
    2. Send them useful information that is relevant to their business and request a meeting or ask for their permission to connect on LinkedIn.

    Get involved on forums, read books and interview people on how they benefited from LinkedIn. There are advantages to becoming involved with some of the behind the scenes activities. Join the MyLinkedInPowerForum on yahoo and interview people with more than 5 endorsements and 100 contacts. This is a place you should feel free to ask for help.

    Get Endorsements for your profile. You should think of getting at least 10 endorsements on your profile. These third party endorsements will carry weight, especially if the person checking your profile holds the person giving the endorsement in high esteem.

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    Create a list of ways you can use LinkedIn to your advantage. Most people focus on selling and miss out on a many great benefits that include:

    • contacting or identifying media,
    • proactively helping others in your network,
    • researching competitors by contacting former employees (by a company search),
    • reconnecting with past colleges,
    • gaining competitive insights into the company by interviewing past and current employees,
    • learning a company’s buying habits and policies by interviewing current or former staff.

    You won’t make money from LinkedIn without being clear on how to use this highly effective networking tool. Turning connections made online into productive relationships is something you need to know how to do effectively and work at. LinkedIn provides a great shortcut to make initial connections with people who can help you, but you need to do extra work to make the connection something more than an email exchange. And don’t forget that givers gain.

    Tatsuya Nakagawa is president and CEO of Atomica Creative Group Ltd., a strategic product marketing company based in Vancouver Canada. He is a big fan of LinkedIn, yet uses it no more than an hour a day. He has thousands of connections, plenty of endorsements, maintains his profile diligently and gets great mileage. Peter Paul Roosen has an engineering background and founded numerous companies including firms involved in locomotive and plastics manufacturing, computer software and marketing. He is another kind of LinkedIn user, more of a leech. He uses it occasionally, hasn’t filled in his profile after two years on it, prefers to approach rather than be approached and believes he is not alone in this.

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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