This strategy involves face-to-face contact with people you already know, and thus isn’t technically an example of digital prospecting. Even so, it’s a best practice we use and have coached others to use as a means of generating substantially larger numbers of referrals via LinkedIn.
When you schedule a meeting with one of your contacts to meet one-on-one for networking purposes (or any purpose!), consider saying something like the following during the phone call that precedes that meeting.
“Jim, I’d like to bring along a list of ten or twelve first-level LinkedIn contacts of mine that I think you might be interest in connecting with. If the list looks okay to you when we meet, I can then send an email that serves as an online introduction. Would that be all right?”
Of course, Jim will agree to this. When he does, you say something like this:
“Great. Would you mind doing the same thing on your side – looking at your contact list and identifying ten or twelve first-level contacts of yours that you think I might benefit from talking to?”
Nine times out of ten, Jim will agree to this instantly, as well. It’s simple common courtesy. What you have offered to do for him, he will almost certainly agree to do for you.
Thank Jim and conclude the call. Once you’ve hung up, do both the homework you have promised to do on Jim’s behalf, identifying ten or twelve people on a list that he is going to review … and also Jim’s homework that he said he would do on your behalf. You read that right. You are going to head over to Jim’s LinkedIn page and create a list of ten or twelve contacts that you’d like Jim to introduce you to. (Or as many as you feel would present the potential for a good conversation.)
Here’s a prediction. When you meet face to face with Jim, and pass along the list you’ve created for him, he will shift uneasily in his seat and make a confession: He didn’t have time to create your list.
That’s when you say: “No problem! I knew you were busy this week. I took the liberty of looking at your LinkedIn page. Here are ten (or however many) people I think might appreciate getting a call from me. Would you mind setting up an email introduction?”
In the vast majority of cases, Jim will be so impressed with your initiative (and your thoughtfulness in preparing the list of contacts for him) that he will quickly agree to do this. Congratulations! You’ve just leveraged LinkedIn to generate ten high-quality referrals!