Amy Slater is the Vice President of Inside Sales for cybersecurity company, Palo Alto Networks, a published author, and a frequent speaker at major conferences around the topic of leadership. She has over 25 years of leadership and global sales experience, with a passion for empowering people to get extraordinary results and ultimately grow revenue. She also has a fascination with personal branding. Our three-part interview series with Amy covered the reasons you need a personal brand and her M.A.G.I.C. formula for personal branding. Here Amy gets into the “boots on the ground” details on how to bring that personal branding impact to your LinkedIn Job Search.
MAC: What are some tips that you can give us on LinkedIn specifically, how to connect with a differentiated message and be authentic? How do you make connections in a world where people send connections because they like the title and need to know someone?
SLATER: The thing about a social platform, a business platform like LinkedIn, it's not just about what you put on your profile page or how many connections you have. Are you active? Are you actively engaged in dialogue, in conversations with people? There are different groups. There are sales groups. There are leadership groups. There are industry groups, things like that. Get engaged in the conversation. You can't be self-serving. It's not, “ooh, I'm going to see how many contacts I have”.
What are you doing for other people? If you put other people first when you're on LinkedIn, you're going to grow an amazing community of people. What is irksome to me is when someone reaches out to connect with me without saying anything in their message. I mean, complete strangers will reach out to connect. I wonder why it is.
I've been starting to hesitate more to accept things because as soon as I do, within 15 seconds, someone's trying to sell me something. It's very inauthentic. They say, "Oh, I want to connect with you "because we have like minds and maybe I can help share some of my network with you." Then two seconds later, they're trying to sell me something or pitch me something. "Do you have 15 minutes to talk about this?" I get it. We all have to make connections but do it in the right way. Do it in a meaningful way. Get to know people before you slam them for a connection. Get to know them and ask, "Is it okay? "May I be a part of your network?" Here's why. Don't request a connection just because you want them to do something for you. You need to do something for them.
MAC: What is your take on what they call LIONs, the LinkedIn Open Networker? What about those people that just literally connect with anyone for any reason? Does that devalue your network and dilute your personal brand on LinkedIn?
SLATER: I don't know. I think “how do you feel about yourself if you're just connecting with anybody?” I don't know that anybody else really cares. It doesn't have as much value because then what will happen is people will say, "Oh, I notice you're connected with so and so. Would you mind introducing me?" Then you'll say, "Oh, I don't really know them." So, it depends on how many times that happens. I probably know 75% or 80% of the people. I mean know them in a way. I'm proud of that because I take the time to make sure that I know people, or I know at least why we're connected even if I don't know them. However, I think it's so important not to abuse something like this.
I've had complete strangers reach out to me and ask me if I could recommend them for a job. I thought, "I don't even know you." These are not even first connections. They're second connections, so be respectful. That's how you build your brand, especially on a social selling platform like LinkedIn. Be respectful of the people that you're connected with.
It is an amazing tool. One of our business development reps here just two days ago noticed I was connected to somebody. He'd been trying and trying and trying and trying to get into this account. He noticed I was connected to someone. He said, "Hey, I was wondering if you could help me make a connection?" He came to me, and I said, "As a matter of fact, I'm doing something for their company. I probably can ask them to help you out." I sent them an email through email, not through LinkedIn. I said, "Hey," and then I told the story. I said, "Would you be open to making "this connection for somebody on my team?" "Absolutely." So, leverage it in the right way, not in an abusive way. For example, he didn't just go straight to the person and say, "Looks like you know my boss or my boss's boss's boss." He came to me and asked me to make the introduction because he knew that that was the right thing to do, not just to throw my name out there but to see if I could help him. Now he has a meeting next week.
MAC: If someone is in an organization, and they have done their homework, and they genuinely believe that they can be valuable to your organization and your team, what's the best way to reach out? What do you personally respond to and how could they get your attention? What can people learn from that as they try to replicate that outside of your organization?
SLATER: Number one, be creative. There was one day when I had two back-to-back InMail messages on LinkedIn. They were identical, so much so that I asked my friends at LinkedIn, "Are you giving people templates of what they should say on LinkedIn?" They were identical and super insincere. I just deleted them. There is one great example of how to connect. I tell the story about a company that was very creative and sent me an InMail with the subject "Giants wager," and said, "Hey, did you know your Giants are playing my Red Sox tonight? Can we place a bet? If the Red Sox win, you'll give me 15 minutes of your time. If they lose and the Giants win, I'll buy you a sweatshirt, and you don't have to meet.”
I said, "You're on. What you don't know is, I'm a huge Red Sox fan, but I'll sacrifice that for my home team, the Giants. So that night, the game wasn't televised. I kept looking on the internet to see what the score was. I kept writing back. The guy said, "0-0, 1-0, looks like you're losing 2-0." Finally, the Giants won. I said, "Because of your creativity, I know you said I don't have to meet with you. I will meet with you, but not for 15 minutes, for 30 minutes.” Then he came, brought me the sweatshirt and cupcakes for my team meeting. The most interesting thing was that he knew I wasn't even the buyer. I was an influencer. It was incredibly creative.
I've had people send me books on leadership, saying, "I read some of your stories and some of your articles. I thought you might appreciate this book. If you have some time in the next several months, could I have a chance to meet with you?" The next several months! That person was willing to wait. I get people that send me a message and say, "Do you have 15 minutes this week?" I'm booked. Typically, vice presidents have full schedules. To ask for 15 minutes in the next two days, the answer is always going to be No.
Be respectful. That's what gets me is somebody who is willing to go the distance. Sometimes, your potential buyer might not buy from you for a year. Is it worth the wait then? You have to nurture that relationship. People that are willing to take the time to get to know me as a human being, they're going to get my business. On LinkedIn and in person, this is how you bring your personal brand to the table in a way that makes a difference.