According to the most recent Wasp Barcode Annual Survey of Small Business Owner Challenges, the number one challenge is hiring good people. If you are looking for good people, you’re not alone. Most businesses who are looking to hire probably get great results utilizing reputable staffing firms, online job websites and referrals from employees and business partners.
However, there might be another resource in your toolbox that is fully stocked, just waiting for you to utilize it. If you’re old enough to remember what a Rolodex is, you probably also remember that if you ever lost your job or left a company, besides family pictures and your personal belongings, one of the most important things you’d tote out of your office as you packed up your things was your Rolodex. It may have contained a lifetime of friends, past customers and employees and their contact information. If for any reason you had to start over in business, you could leverage that little card file to get you back up and going - quickly.
While the physical Rolodex may have vanished from most offices, a virtual Rolodex has not only replaced it, but in a major improved way. That tool is the B2B social media tool, LinkedIn. As of the 4th quarter of 2016 there were over 467 million users of LinkedIn. Whether you are a user of LinkedIn or not, it’s undeniable that LinkedIn is a dominant and pervasive B2B social media platform.
Many people are “on LinkedIn, but not sure why I’m on there.” For others, “I use LinkedIn as a way to research customers and vendors I might like to work with.” Both good uses for LinkedIn. Here’s what you might not have identified with LinkedIn; it is the Rolodex of the new millennium.
Here’s an example: Bob is looking to replace the operations manager for his manufacturing business. It’s been difficult for him to find the right candidate with enough experience and knowledge of his specialized manufacturing niche. He’s tried all of the traditional channels of recruiting and still hasn’t interviewed anyone who got him excited. Bordering on frustration, Bob reaches out to several of his business associates that might know candidates for the role he’s looking to fill. He struck out when all of the people in his circle said: “I’d like to help you Bob, I can’t think of anyone right now, but if anyone comes to mind, I’ll send them your way.” Definitely well-meaning intention from Bob’s friends in business, but unlikely to yield a candidate.
Absentmindedly, Bob has slowly amassed 267 LinkedIn connections over the years, most were people who reached out to him to connect and were past and current customers, vendors and even friends and family members. Clicking on the connection button he never figured they would have any value to him as a social media connection, however someone along the lines suggested, “Bob it’s the 21st Century, you SHOULD be on LinkedIn.”
Had Bob turned to his LinkedIn connections first (his Virtual Rolodex), his efforts to get a referral could have gone like this. Searching for the person with the exact same title as he is looking for, in the exact same industry, his search yields 122 people. Of those 122, he is surprisingly connected with two of them as “1st Connections,” which means he knows them. One was a former employee whom he would not rehire and the other is the son of his largest competitor who would be unwilling to make a move. However, Bob is surprised that he had forgotten about the competitor’s son. “Hmmm…maybe there could be some possible candidates here in my LinkedIn connections.”
Of the remaining 120 people Bob is a “2nd connection” to 26 of them. A “2nd connection” means that Bob knows someone who knows the person (candidate). Scrolling through the 2nd’s, Bob finds three interesting people and proceeds to click on those folk’s LinkedIn profiles and to see how he is connected to each of them. Bob finds that one of his largest clients, Dale, knows one of the candidates with an ideal profile.
If Bob had called Dale and asked if anyone came to the mind for the opening there’s a strong possibility Dale may have said, “I’d like to help you Bob, sorry, can’t think of anyone off hand.” With access to Dale’s Rolodex, Bob can now call Dale and have a conversation like this.
“Dale, it’s Bob over at BRB, I wonder if I could ask you a few questions about how you know Richard Grant at Blackstone Manufacturing?” With Dale’s permission, Bob asks some questions and finds out that Dale has never worked with Richard at Blackstone but that the two of them worked together in a former career. Bob learns a great deal about Richard from Dale, that he would be an excellent candidate for Bob’s opening and a ‘happy to oblige’ commitment from Dale to introduce the two.
While there’s no guarantee that Bob will hire Richard, it took Bob all of 10 minutes to search LinkedIn and two 15-minute phone calls to line up a ‘get to know you’ call with a great PASSIVE job candidate. Passive candidates are those who are gainfully employed elsewhere and often a better bet than an ACTIVE candidate who is either unemployed or disgruntled and looking.
While the author of this article has no agreement with LinkedIn to promote their platform, we ourselves have seen amazing connections that we believe never would have taken place without LinkedIn. Sure, social media can be frivolous and a bit of a mystery when it comes to leveraging its value. However, if you change your mindset to view LinkedIn as an old-school Rolodex, I’ll bet you can find 100 other productive ways to leverage it!
For the free whitepaper ebook, 10 Ways You Can Use LinkedIn to Prospect More Effectively, contact Bob Bolak at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Bolak is President/CEO of Sandler Training in the Greater Denver Area. As an accomplished leadership, management, customer service and sales consultant and trainer, he brings two and half decades of leadership, management and sales experience to the table, with a consistent track record of double and triple digit revenue and profit increases. Sandler Training has authored over two-dozen books on effective leadership, management, customer service and sales.