Most government contracting professionals know that the federal procurement officers are on LinkedIn in significant numbers. My annual census shows over 2.5 million feds (Defense Department, intelligence, civilian) are on LinkedIn.
Further, I have identified 552 “company pages” for feds, meaning that departments and agencies have company pages, as well as most operating divisions and many offices. This makes finding key influencers much easier.
FACT: LinkedIn is the first place business professionals are vetted.
How are you presenting yourself?
The first step is always to make certain your profile is a destination, not a parking lot for your resume. A “destination” profile is one that clearly states who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and maybe why you do it, especially if you have passion for your work.
This is the minimum price of entry. You can do this through your headline, the background graphic, and the “About” section and in your job description. If your profile doesn’t incentivize connecting, you probably aren’t going very far.
A more robust profile makes feds more comfortable and confident about connecting.
FACT: LinkedIn is the #1 venue where business content is shared.
The second step is to make certain your profile is an information outlet. There is no shortage of good information you can share if you don’t generate your own content. Most companies have content for employees to share, yet many still don’t do it.
Sharing content that is germane to your audience is a major factor in attracting influencers and then getting them to return with some regularity. However, when you post content that is not yours, you should curate it, telling your viewers why you posted this and why it is important or noteworthy.
A common complaint I hear is that sharing content takes too much time. Well, get over it. The entire business development process, done well, is time consuming. Sharing content that is germane to a targeted audience can expedite your credibility with them.
As you share information that is germane to your prospect audience, you build trust. As you curate the content, you further demonstrate an expertise about the client and the issues they are facing. Credibility is a major factor in building relationships via LinkedIn.
FACT: Over 90% of connection requests are the LinkedIn form letter.
The third step is reaching out to connect with context. Most of the feds I have spoken with, especially the more senior people, are offended by receiving the LinkedIn connection “form letter.”
Contextualizing your connection request isn’t difficult and it doesn’t take that much time. Review their profile for things of interest. If they have posted recently, mention the post. If you have been working with their agency for a long while, say so. Find something that adds meaning to the recipient, something that tells them you know something about them and their work.
Business development professionals usually have accounts they are targeting, so they probably know a fair amount about them. Sharing some of that knowledge in a connection request could build a comfort level for the recipient. This can be the beginning of a relationship instead of a simple “connection.”
Nearly all of the senior feds I have spoken to about connecting take offense at the form letter. It’s as if they aren’t worthy of a personalized note, so they don’t accept the connection. The same applies to more senior technical staff and program managers—they want to know that you know something about the problem areas they face.
OPINION (based on experience): Everyone likes their milestones to be noticed.
Step four is nurturing your network—outreach for no overt reason, also known as social selling. One of the most powerful things you can do is comment. Your LinkedIn notifications page provides job migration and promotions, birthdays, your first-degree connections commenting on other posts, and more. Take advantage of these hooks and comment, but do so with context.
Commenting improves your visibility on LinkedIn as well. LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards those who comment more than those who post, so imagine what it does for you if you do both. Tag people and use hashtags for companies and concepts to attract more viewers.
Of my nearly 11,000 connections, about 5-7% are feds, many in senior roles. More than half the time I make note of a milestone, they respond, which means I am once again on their radar.
Social selling is about being on the radar of key people you need to influence, and doing so in a non-intrusive manner.
COMMON SENSE: Look at the data and make adjustments.
The final step is to monitor your progress in terms that matter to you. How many new connections have you made at current clients? How many at prospect organizations have you reached out to? Did you add any SME connections?
How many posts did you do? How many comments did you get on each post?How many profile views did you get?
Use this information to fine tune your GovCon relationship building.
The goal should be to build both findability and credibility with the audience you seek to influence.
I have been coaching companies and individuals on leveraging LinkedIn for over 12 years. Invariably when LinkedIn is used well, profile views increase, connections are easier to make, and your business portfolio grows.
Done well, time on LinkedIn is time well spent.
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Mark Amtower is a GovCon consultant, author, radio host and LinkedIn coach. Find him at www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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