How CEOs Can Use LinkedIn to Strengthen Business Relationships
Listen to Episode 159:
Episode 159 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and sitting right across from me, as usual, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s terrific to join you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio, and as always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of game-changing innovation, growth, and success.
Now, Pam, we’ve spoken in previous episodes about the importance of strengthening business relationships, not only in person but through social media as well.
Pam Harper: That’s right. Take LinkedIn for example. Now, more CEOs and C-suite executives are developing LinkedIn profiles to connect for career opportunities. But it can be so much more. LinkedIn can be used very effectively as part of a bigger picture strategy to strengthen business relationships, and this can lead to opportunities that can impact your business in potentially game-changing ways. Now someone who over the years has developed strong expertise in using LinkedIn for a variety of objectives is our friend Sid Vaidya, MBA.
Sid is a commercial banking professional with over 10 years of experience working with middle market businesses on growth and efficiency strategies. Prior to that, he helped run a family food business for six years. Sid holds an MBA from Quinnipiac University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Berkeley College. Sid is also an active networker and dedicates time to the business and social community. This includes running a networking event called Switch. He also co-chairs the corporate growth and awards committee for the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) of New Jersey and is a board member with the Boys and Girls Club of Union County, New Jersey. Sid, welcome to growth igniters radio.
Sid Vaidya: Thank you, Pam. Thank you, Scott. It’s a pleasure to be here, and thank you for the wonderful intro.
Pam Harper: Oh, you’re very welcome. I was thinking about how we met, and it was in fact through networking. You were on my committee for the corporate growth conference for ACG. It’s amazing how opportunities have been created as a result of this, and of course, that was all in person. But now we’re talking about LinkedIn, and one of the common ways that C-level execs use LinkedIn is for career and job search. But you believe that it has the potential to be much more than that. What is the underused potential of LinkedIn versus other forms of social media that many senior executives are missing out on?
Sid Vaidya: That’s a fantastic question. From my point of view, the potential for networking between C-level folks is the biggest thing that I’m recognizing that LinkedIn hasn’t been utilized as well. So there’s a major potential on LinkedIn and when you think, what is it that you’re saying, “Sid, that C-level people aren’t connecting with each other, why? What’s going on?” I’m telling them, “Well look, you know what, you got to go back to your college alumni base via LinkedIn. You’ve got to potentially filter within an industry. A lot of folks, business owners, entrepreneurs, C-level people, they just don’t know. So a lot of my outreach, particularly when I’m talking about LinkedIn, is just teaching them how the filtering process works. Because a lot of them think, “How am I going to get to the other person?” So you’ve got to get through this hurdle first.
Scott Harper: So you have to first find the people and then develop relationships. So how did you come to start using LinkedIn in this more sophisticated way?
Sid Vaidya: Look, I’ve had LinkedIn for over 10 years. So when LinkedIn first came out, I saw some level of potential. I said, “Wow, you know, there’s an opportunity here to go in, it looks like social media, but there’s a level of professionalism.” This is also when I was in the job searching market, looking for opportunities out there. LinkedIn was very popular back then for headhunters, like you just mentioned. So I’ve had it for over 10 years, but roughly about three years ago, probably four now talking about it, I recognized that LinkedIn, there is more people coming onto that platform and there is networking and prospecting opportunities. This was also roughly around the time that LinkedIn started introducing really more of the premium service, started introducing sales navigator. They were really trying to launch and push themselves out there because Facebook started seeing a little bit of a drop, and so LinkedIn started coming into the picture.
Sid Vaidya: So I told myself, I said, “You know what, I gotta figure it out at this point.” It was roughly about three to four years ago is when I really started putting some time into the development of LinkedIn. At that time, honestly, I had probably 200-300 connections. Now as of yesterday, or this morning I’m over 8,600. so definitely it’s added values but it takes time. With anything in life, it’s what you put into it, you’re going to get some value back out.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. So let’s talk a bit about what of these potential opportunities are that go beyond career search. How else could somebody benefit that goes beyond finding a new job?
Sid Vaidya: Perfect. This is a very good question because I myself have met hundreds and hundreds of people via LinkedIn. When I say “met”, I’m talking phone chats and in-person meetings, because of LinkedIn. It’s because I’ve done the outreach as an introduction, and then after that, you follow it up. So historically if you think about it and, and particularly … You may not consider yourself in any level of a sales role, but I see every single person in any organization at some level to be part of a sales role because you’re always trying to sell something. Maybe your company, your brand, something. Well, historically you’re just sending an email introduction, maybe a direct mail or a phone call, those are value adds, no doubt. But I’m recognizing that when I do a LinkedIn request, and I’m very methodical and I write out a nice little request rather than just clicking the connect, that request goes directly either into the email, but more importantly, it actually gets into a notification.
Sid Vaidya: So if you have an Android or Apple device, which I think 90% of the world does probably, it shows up as a notification on your page. So now all of a sudden Sid, who’s been calling me for six months, all of a sudden just came top of mind because Sid sent me a LinkedIn request or LinkedIn message. That was the power of the LinkedIn, to hit the notification on the phone. So now when I tell people, I say, “Look, take it out of just the context of just connecting with somebody, and utilize it as a sales. Utilize it as a networking tool, and utilize it as a way to connect with people. True connections. But don’t just stop at LinkedIn. Now request the next thing,” which we’ll talk about further.
Pam Harper: So it can be much, much more than just going out for job search. We’re going to talk more about that, but first, we’re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we’ll talk more with Sid Vaidya, social networker extraordinaire about how CEOs and other C-suite executives can get even more value from LinkedIn for building business relationships. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to ignite, sustain, and boost the momentum it takes for game-changing results. We’re on the web at businessadvanced.com
Pam Harper: To everyone listening, welcome. We’re glad you joined us, whether it’s because you’re a subscriber, or you’ve just found us wherever you pick up your podcasts. But there is a special reason to visit growthignitersradio.com. This is the only way you can access all of the previous podcast episodes from the past five years.
Scott Harper: So listen to some of our other great episodes and check out the show notes and other features with award-winning CEOs and bestselling authors. Go to growthignitersradio.com today.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper — that’s me — and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are speaking with Sid Vaidya, a commercial banking professional and professional networker, about how CEOs and others can go beyond the basics of LinkedIn, and use it to build and strengthen business relationships. Sid, how can people find out more about you?
Sid Vaidya: Oh, thank you, Pam, for having me on the show. Thanks, Scott, as well. The easiest way to find me is LinkedIn since we’re talking on the topic of LinkedIn. Search for “Sid Vaidya”. You can’t miss me. I’m one of three in this entire, I think country, or at least on LinkedIn that I’m aware of. You can also catch me on Twitter at the handle “iamsidvaidya.” Those are the easiest and fastest ways to connect with me because you end up directly into my notification on my phone. So I’ll see you front and center.
Pam Harper: So now everybody’s going to be reaching out to you. Let’s go back to our conversation here. We’ve been talking about how there is much more potential to LinkedIn, and of course, the first step is that you have to collect your connections. Of course, that’s one thing, but using them effectively is another. So going from that superficial to the more in-depth, what is a realistic objective for developing a connection with someone using LinkedIn? Is it to move to a phone conversation? I mean, why are we doing this?
Sid Vaidya: Wow, you guys really have some fantastic questions, because these are questions that actually I get asked all the time in different manners. So I’m more than happy to explain it. So whenever I make a new LinkedIn connection and look, I’ll tell you openly this morning I woke up, I saw four new LinkedIn connections, brand new. They were requesting me. So the first thing, of course, I’m looking at the bio, profile, seeing what’s going on. The next thing after that is my intro message back to them. And the intro message is always, at least from my perspective is, “How about we get on the phone or let’s set up an in-person meeting If you’re within my geography,” because this creates one, an action point. It also confirms if the other person on the other side, who’s now requested me or vice versa if I requested them, is serious about making the connection.
I’ll give you guys a fantastic example that happened actually last night. So I was at a food conference — you know I have a big background in food — I was at a food conference and I saw this one company, fantastic company. Wow, this is definitely next gen. It was a young company. So I said, “Alright, let me get onto LinkedIn and just congratulate the owners.” I said, “Fantastic company, want to introduce myself.” And that’s all I started off with. The person accepted my connection, and so the next point that again, that touch point, that action point is that I provided a, “Hey, can we get on the phone briefly?” Or, “Are you in this Metro New York marketplace that we can connect?”
The guy said, “Listen, I really appreciate the connection, but I’m not interested in any services at this point.” Which, that’s understandable. Then I said, “Beyond the services, I was really impressed with your product, and as well as the team that was behind the product. And I checked out your website.” This is all directly in the message. I think I replied back saying, “Oh, that’s the reason you’re interested in talking with me?” I said, “Yes, I actually really impressed and I’d like to get a better understanding being that I was in this space.” And all of a sudden we set up a coffee meeting.
Pam Harper: That is fabulous.
Sid Vaidya: So I took a person who was not interested in looking into a coffee meeting, because people, they have habits and people understand as a business owner, I remember those days when I get a random person who reaches out to me and says, “Hey, you know we can do this for you, that for you.” And we don’t have the time of day at that time, I think. I respect these people’s time, but at the same time, I hope to add value in their life.
Scott Harper: This is really important. I want to dig deeper into this because when you’re connecting with someone that you don’t know — you’ve made a connection on LinkedIn one way or another, where there’s no personal interaction — Getting from that to a relationship can seem really daunting. You’ve already started with this example. Let’s dig deeper. How do you create a conversation that is real, and actually meaningful and relevant to both parties, so you create a relationship and you can go forward with that?
Sid Vaidya: Right. So LinkedIn is very good; when you fill out a profile they tell you 100% how to tune your profile. Like if you’re missing the college section, if you’re missing this section, they’ll alert you. There’s so much data that you have to pre-fill a LinkedIn profile with. So my touch point or my way is, if I’ve never had communication with that person, is to find that touchpoint. Maybe it’s the industry they’re in. Maybe that’s the college or university they attended. May that be even if somebody complimented them and said, “Hey, you know what? I recommend this person for commercial banking services.”
Sid Vaidya: I’ll connect with them reading that, and that will be my intro. Because all of this data is readily available as long as the person is not living a 1930’s lifestyle where they block all this data. Most of the data for the average person is readily available, and now I take that data, and I create a conversation because in our lives, if you really go back to every little thing that you’ve done, you’ve probably had touch points along the way that you can kind of relate to. But that form of relatability is very important, and LinkedIn does a good job providing that data. So the data is there. Now you have to bring that data in into the picture and make use of the data.
Scott Harper: Okay, so you have to build on that. Now, what if the person doesn’t respond at all? You send something out and maybe they connect and you follow up with a message, you’ve done a little research. And crickets, nothing happens, what then?
Sid Vaidya: If you think about the phone calls, if you think about the email, all of this is depending on what purpose you’re trying to network for, of course. If I’m doing it purely for prospecting, the numbers are very low. It’s the truth. If you’re a thought leader and you’re trying to connect with another thought leader, and you’re putting data out there right in the center and people read it. It’s not like … If somebody says, “I don’t get onto LinkedIn much,” or, “I haven’t seen it,” I’m telling you, I speak with people and they telling me that and I’m like, “Yeah, but how is that possible?” With Apple or Samsung, they automatically set up notifications, how is that possible? But if somebody is not responding then I give it time and there is a level of follow-up that needs to be done.
Sid Vaidya: I give it about two to three weeks. Because of course I could do it faster, depending on the urgency, but generally I’m giving two to three weeks. The other thing is, you’ve got to also account for things that that person on the other side may be involved in. They might be involved in a big project, this is not the right time, whatever the story is. So a little bit of it requires patience, but there is also a level follow up as well. I give it two weeks, and this is down to my principles because on the phone I do the same thing, by email I do the same thing. So I’ve integrated LinkedIn into my strategy.
Pam Harper: So, Sid, we’re talking about relevance and there is so much going on in our lives, that we have to make the time to do the things that are most important. We have to find ways to communicate where we’re most impactful. So what’s been the most impactful thing you’ve ever done to stay top of mind without being perceived as spam?
Sid Vaidya: This is something I actually am fairly … I’d say maybe about a year into it, is LinkedIn has become an avenue or a medium really, for me to get out there and present myself, who I am. And also just data about what my knowledge is. I make short videos. They’re generally no more than five minutes. When I first started the average video, I was getting about a couple of hundred. Now my average video is getting over 1,000 to roughly about 3000 views.
Sid Vaidya: So, the videos are generally tied to networking, time management, and other self-development strategies. Because me, even though I’m a commercial banker, I do like to talk on these topics, and also it’s a conversation starter or an icebreaker. But what’s even crazier is I’m telling people now is when I make these videos, roughly about 20-30% of my audience actually sees this.
Sid Vaidya: So I’m telling people to comment on my videos now, because if 20-30% of my audience, which is 8,000 people, that’s a big number. So now those people also see that, oh, Pam commented on this video. Interesting. Who’s Pam? Let’s dive into who Pam is because Pam is connected to Sid. Also along that way, most people that see my video and don’t actually know who I am will actually go onto my profile. So now I have access to see who actually went onto my profile. So if you Pam, looked at my profile this morning, I can see that six hours ago Pam looked at my profile.
Pam Harper: And you care about who Pam is; yeah, I see.
Sid Vaidya: Exactly. Because the next question is, why did Pam look at my profile? And so a lot of people may just be what I would call window shopping, just to look and see who this person is, because somebody either told them to check it out, or they may have seen my video as a third party. And so when you talk about impactfulness, that’s been the most impactful because I’m getting so many inbound connections. Versus me doing the outbound, reaching out to people, I’m getting more people that actually saying, “Hey, I need to know Sid.”
Pam Harper: Well, so it brings it all together then. You’re reaching out, and they’re coming back to you. You’re developing that relationship the way you need to do that. So we’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, Scott and I will speak more about ideas that CEOs and C-suite executives can immediately use for strengthening business relationships on LinkedIn. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, and we focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game-changing results. We’re on the web at businessadvanced.com.
Pam Harper: One of the big advantages to building strong and varied networks, is that some of your relationships can develop into actual business relationships, including various types of alliances and other partnering arrangements.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: If you’re thinking along these lines, we invite you to download our free special report on building powerful strategic alliances. We developed our findings and conclusions from a study which gathered responses from senior executives in over 15 industry sectors. While strategic partnering is becoming more important than ever before, over half of the senior executives we surveyed actually dissatisfied with the outcomes. Find out why and what you can do to increase your return on your partnering investment.
Scott Harper: Learn more by going to growthignitersradio.com episode 159, scroll down to the resources section and click on the link, download strategic alliances report.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been speaking with Sid Vaidya, a commercial banking professional and professional networker, about how CEOs and others can go beyond the basics of LinkedIn, and use it to build and strengthen productive business relationships. Sid, tell us again, how can people find out more about you?
Sid Vaidya: Sure. So since we’re on the topic of LinkedIn, the fastest way to find me is on LinkedIn. I see the connections directly on my phone, and that’s the fastest way. You just search “Sid Vaidya.”
Pam Harper: Okay. Now you also run a networking event called Switch. Can you tell us real briefly what that is?
Sid Vaidya: Yeah, sure. So I’m very passionate about networking. Started this many years ago, that the concept of networking, and what I’ve been doing, and I wanted to bring it all into one picture. So I’ve been part of multiple networking groups, big and small. I ran a couple as well for other folks. I said, “You know what? I’d like to merge all of this into one little piece.” So the concept is really open networking upfront, and open networking at the end, and in the middle, it’s my Switch agenda. That agenda is really only for the people that actually come to my Switch meeting. So I did a case study, me and my contact who we started Switch earlier this year. Two months ago we did a random phone call to six individuals, didn’t know that each other were getting phone calls. We said, “Hey, out of these people who have you met?” Four out of the six actually met after our meeting. And that’s a fantastic number.
Pam Harper: This is a great example, and we’re going to leave the details for people to contact you through LinkedIn, that way you can share more. It’s a really interesting idea and another example of what you can do when you actively put your mind into making and deepening business relationships.
Sid Vaidya: One more little plug if you don’t mind. So I actually have a Switch group on LinkedIn as well, and I’m merging actually LinkedIn into my model as well. So just plug out there for that.
Pam Harper: Ah, okay, I’m glad you mentioned that. So let’s talk a little bit about these immediately useful ideas. The first one is what would be an immediately useful idea for making relevant introductions? I hate it when somebody just throws introductions at me, and there’s no relevance and I never want to do that to anybody else.
Sid Vaidya: Well, in order to develop that relevant introduction, you need to make sure there’s relevancy in the connection as well. So what I’ve been recommending and I do it religiously, is when I want to go and connect with somebody, and I have no idea who I want to connect with, I figure out filters. So may that be in the industry. So if I’m trying to target the tech industry, well within tech what particularly? So I use the filters feature on LinkedIn, and it’s done me wonders. But that has been my biggest driver in introductions. If you’re trying to find a way to meet this person, figure out those relevancies within LinkedIn. You can do it two ways. One is by the filter feature or two, if you want to particularly network with that one particular individual, it’s getting onto their page, and reviewing the data, and trying to find that relationship. Which we can hopefully talk about for wrong.
Pam Harper: Okay. So for example, if there’s somebody in the food industry that I think could benefit from talking with you or meeting you, I would tell them and connect the two of you through a mutual LinkedIn connection, right?
Sid Vaidya: Yes, which I do. I call it my thankful Tuesdays and I do it every Tuesday. I pick one person from my LinkedIn network, or my general network and I make it their day by connecting them to multiple people on my LinkedIn page.
Pam Harper: It’s a wonderful thing.
Scott Harper: So Sid, another immediately useful idea. We were talking about changing these casual contacts that you don’t really know, to a mutually beneficial relationship or conversation. What is the first thing that somebody can do to actually get that started?
Sid Vaidya: Yeah, so I actually did a … You can call it a test case. So I deal with a lot on the food side, but I also deal with a lot of transformational logistic companies as well. A little bit of background in the past with that space as well. But I find topics … I find data … I’m very big about adding value. That’s a very big thing about me and hopefully, this whole thing is adding value to your folks that are listening as well as you guys.
Sid Vaidya: But really find a topic, and I’ll give you an example. Roughly about a month ago in the transportation industry, there was a very large player in the northeast that filed for bankruptcy. So I was actually interested in getting feedback from other C-level people in this industry, within that transportation, that space. So I reached out to him. I said, “Dear Miss, Mr so and so, this company has recently …” This is a story. “I’d like to get your opinion on what went down.” Or, “How did it happen, and what do you see as the outcome and are you guys affected? Because I have clients in this space and I’d like to learn more about this.”
Sid Vaidya: The crazy point, I did this to about 20 people, 20 C-level connections, 16 of them connected with me and replied back.
Scott Harper: Okay, so you’re making it relevant and specific, and that-
Sid Vaidya: Very specific, and it got them to talk to me. Look, it was actually really more for my knowledge because I have clients in that space and I wanted to make sure I stay top of mind. Who better to ask than those people that are already in the trenches, because I remember as a C-level person myself in my family food business, that I was down in the trenches. So when somebody wanted to ask me these types of really hard, very complicated questions, I was so open to talk about it.
Scott Harper: And it didn’t feel like a sales thing. So that’s very important.
Sid Vaidya: Not at all. A couple of them said, “Hey, let’s talk back in a couple of months.” They weren’t ready for my services by any means, but it was really more of an introduction and they appreciated it.
Pam Harper: So the idea is that over time you’re creating value, you’re deepening the relationship. That goes to our third immediately useful idea because you’re going to need to stay top of mind, but you want to do it in a respectful way. So what would that be?
Sid Vaidya: The easiest way to stay top of mind with people is to begin creating content. Content means video and picture posts. I’m talking also writing articles, I’m talking commenting on other people’s posts. A lot of people just click that like button and move on. Do you know there are now six features to the like button, and I did a post on this as well two weeks ago? Telling people that, “Hey, don’t just do the like, go and do the celebrate. Go and do the insightful, go and do the curious.” There are other buttons now tied to the like button. But more importantly, beyond the likes, I’m telling people, comment. Because commenting will get your name out there with me. So I become your medium pretty much. But creating content is the fastest way to stay top of mind within a respectful form and without actually harming any relationships.
Pam Harper: This is great. Sid, you’ve certainly created value today. And here we are at the end of our podcast. Any final thoughts that you’d like to leave us with, with regard to deepening relationships using LinkedIn?
Sid Vaidya: Sure. LinkedIn is definitely a place where I see a very big opportunity for building and strengthening business relationships. It’s also one of the quickest ways because it gets right to the phone, which unless you’re living a stone age lifestyle, you have a cell phone that usually has these type of apps.
And I’m also telling people to focus on providing value in knowledge. Take it that extra step. Teach somebody something new. For me, teaching people how to network, teaching people what time management is about, that’s also building up my connections. Some people may say, “But you’re on the financial service space.” I say, “Yeah, but that’s also developing the conversation. It’s an icebreaker, right?”
And also with LinkedIn, it takes time. So if you know, if you’re not getting the right amount of connections, remember that it took me time to develop this out. You have to test it out, you have to learn it. If that requires a little bit of time, that’s the amount of work you’ve got to put into it. Then you’re going to get the value back, and it’s definitely worth it.
Pam Harper: Well Sid, thanks again for joining us on Growth Igniters Radio.
Sid Vaidya: Thank you, Pam. Thank you, Scott. And thank you to the audience.
Scott Harper: Thanks Sid, and thanks to you out there for listening. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to growthignitersradio.com episode 159
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper.
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to consider.
Scott Harper: What are three things specifically that I can do in the next month to strengthen my relationships with people on my LinkedIn network?