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Reach for the Top
How to Connect to CEOs on LinkedIn

December 2016
Advice for the CEO
As the CEO or business owner, you are the people that business development, salespeople, consultants and job seekers need to reach. You can’t possibly talk to everyone nor should you. You need to be discerning, and you need to manage those parameters. But you may also need help, advice, new solutions or products, and these business development/salespeople, consultants and job seekers have what you may need.

One of the primary reasons business development folks push to get in front of you is evident. You are the final authority; you sign the checks. But the best business development and sales folks are here to bring value and insight to the conversation they have with you.

Manage how people reach out to you on LinkedIn. There are ways to manage how you show up and whether people can reach you.

-Spend 15 minutes reviewing your Privacy & Settings (upper right corner under your photo or silhouette)

-What kinds of messages, opportunities and advice do you want to receive? Add a disclaimer to the Advice area explaining how you will use LinkedIn. This information shows up on your Profile.

-Choose who can send you invitations. If you prefer to keep those invitations limited, choose from two or three.

-Decide if you have an open or closed network

-Rather than accepting an invitation, click on the reply arrow and send them a quick message saying you prefer to know the people you connect with and ask why you should connect, suggest a conversation.

-Rethink your headline area. Rather than your title, or in addition to your title, add keywords related to your industry, value proposition or specialty. Your title will appear in the experience area.

Colleen McKenna launched Intero Advisory, a LinkedIn consulting, coaching and training firm, for businesses focused on increasing their sales and talent initiatives. Since 2011, it has worked with more than 240 companies by shaking up the status quo with a ‘personal’ approach to business by maximizing an individual’s network, personal brand and expertise.

“Why do I get so many random invitations?” someone asked. I think everyone in the room nodded in agreement.

Most people, especially CEOs and business owners, don’t like those constant, random invitations. CEOs get more than their share of invitations, no doubt.

“You’re the CEO; people want to know you and connect with you. You make the decisions, and you authorize purchases,” I answered. It’s reality and the truth. People may not connect with the CEO because they want to know you. It comes with the title, period.

Other things I heard throughout the morning included “Uggghhh, how do we work around that? I don’t want to be a jerk, but I get too many invitations from random salespeople to respond to.”

“Is it better to just delete them or should I answer them?”

“They only want something from me. These people are just trying to sell me something.”

“Don’t they know I already know a dozen financial planners, insurance people, printers, IT providers?”

“I don’t want them in my network trolling around.”

There’s truth in each of those statements. I get it. And, CEOs and business owners should read this with their salespeople in mind. How are your salespeople reaching out to other people just like you?

If you are in sales or business development, your job is to get in front of decision-makers. Period. And now, you use LinkedIn. Good work. But think about your sales process. You have a quota, you have a list of prospects or customers, and you need to make a certain number of calls, appointments and actual meetings in a week and month. You are diligent, often aggressive and you reach out via every means possible.

If you were the CEO, would you take your call, respond to your email, accept your LinkedIn invitation?

Be honest. Have you provided enough reason, value or earned enough trust to warrant a response? Do you have enough status, power or known celebrity to justify a CEO of a company to want to talk with you? Stop trolling and start putting some effort into to working on their behalf. A well-crafted, deliberate and thoughtful business development process is best when personalized with real research, an introduction, a great referral and a proof-based value proposition.

Consider the CEO’s perspective. They are smart people and have trusted go-to advisors. They probably have insurance, financial advice, networked printers, and most everything else it takes to run a business. Once again why should they connect with you? CEOs know people, know how to reach out to those they want to do business with and are careful about inviting new people in without a reference or referral. Initially, at least, you represent a learning curve, change and risk.

Many of today’s CEOs are not comfortable online. They did not necessarily come of age in a collaborative, open networking system. They are concerned about privacy, breaches and the list goes on. Younger CEOs are far more likely to be open to connecting. Know your audience.

Everyone says to start at the top. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t. It can if you develop your brand, hone your value proposition and build an influential network.

Here are three ways to earn trust and make the most of your current network:

1. Ask for referrals. You may or may not receive them but at least you asked. Consider whom you are asking and why they would refer you in. Have you treated them well?
2. Be good at what you do, do more than what was expected, and create a reputation that begins to precede you (can you find a market niche, for example). You will receive some good referrals.
3. Be so good, you receive referrals without asking for them. This is where you have earned the trust in an area, geography and market.

To all sales, business development people, consultants and job seekers: Act like an owner, think like an owner and reach out like an owner. Make it count, be valuable and memorable in the best possible way. I95