You did it. You got the meeting that you’ve been pursuing for months with a prospective client, business partner, or investor. You’ve got your pitch rehearsed and your presentation rocks. You’ve got your best outfit back from the cleaners. You are ready to go.
But hang on a second. There’s something else you can do – that you should do – before you go into that meeting. What do you know about the person you are about to meet? There’s a saying that most sales are won or lost before the conversation ever starts, and that applies to all sorts of business meetings. Spend some time researching the person you are about to talk to. Going into a meeting blind is a rookie mistake, and one that you can avoid easily thanks to social media.
Even though it has a reputation of being one of the unsexiest social media sites, I think LinkedIn is a must-visit before you start your next business meeting. When you visit someone’s LinkedIn profile, you have access to a wealth of information that will make your conversations richer and more effective. Here are three things to look for in a LinkedIn profile to take your conversation to the next level:
Find a connection
Don’t underestimate the power of a common background. Don’t manufacture a flimsy connection just to have one; but people like people who are like them, so help connect the dots. Think about the last time you met a stranger who happened to go to the same school you did or was from your hometown – you want to create that same warm feeling in your meeting. Before you meet with anyone look at the schools, employers, and organizations that populate their career because you might have an overlapping experience. Even if there isn’t a direct match-up you can still draw a link between the two of you. Maybe you both went to a Big 10 school, or maybe you worked in the same industry.
By the way, you don’t have to be creepy when you bring up this information. It’s common practice these days for people to research using LinkedIn; so simply say, “I had a chance to look at your LinkedIn profile before we met, and I noticed _____.” It shows that you cared enough to look them up, but it reinforces that you weren’t stalking them online.
Find a question
One of the best ways to start and deepen a conversation with someone is to get them talking about a topic they care about. Even though you are walking into a meeting with your own agenda, when you focus the conversation on them in the beginning you can win major points. It’s like a first date – if all you do is talk about yourself it won’t go very well.
The trick here is to be genuinely interested. You can ask about their professional background, or it might be something a little more personal that comes through in their profile. For example, “I saw that you worked at Company XYZ, what was that like?” “What made you choose to study History at University ABC?” “I saw on your LinkedIn profile that you ran the Chicago Marathon, what was the hardest part of the race?”
Find a referral
It’s great that you got the meeting, but pros think towards the future…and the next meeting. If you are fired up to talk with this person, my guess is they know other people that you would want to meet (because people tend to spend time with people like themselves). Use their LinkedIn profile to see who else that they are connected to and use that information to ask for a recommendation.
Again, you don’t want to be creepy or pushy. But if you feel the conversation goes well, ask for an introduction. Make it as simple as, “I saw on LinkedIn that you know _______. How do you know her? I’d love to meet her because I think we’d be a good fit with her company – would you feel OK introducing us?
Even three minutes on a LinkedIn profile can give you the information to take your next business meeting from good to great, don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a RockStar!