Knowing Who knows Who

LinkedIn is a great source of business intelligence. That’s what it’s really meant for when you’re using it right. It’s like the old school “ear to ground” except amplified for the digital age.

When I was selling office furniture I’d use LinkedIn to find how who was putting up a new building in my area. That’s one of the ways I’d figure who might be in need of a new supplier. I’d figure out those types of buying indicators and then I’d look to see who did I possibly know that might have a connection to an officer at one of those companies.

That was actually how I made my first sale. All from knowing who knew who and doing some smart thinking!

It wasn’t just that I had a social connection that got me in the door, it was how my name and my company was referred to my customer. The referral source matters a lot and your social network can make or break you these days.

When you go onto somebody’s LinkedIn profile it will show you whether you are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connections. The 1st degrees are people that you are already connected to, so likely people you’ve known offline in some way.

Possibly friends from college, colleagues from past jobs, and people you’ve done business with previously to name a few examples of who they might be for you. 2nd degree connections are people who are within your first degree’s social networks but aren’t in yours. Also known as friends of friends.

Then the 3rd degree connections are a step removed from those and that’s the farthest out LinkedIn will reveal to you. If they don’t list any degree of connection then that contact is at least 4 or more degrees away and if you reached out to them it’d be a total cold call.

Working The Relationship Pyramid

Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the more first degree connections you have the better.

This gives you access to a bigger slice of the social network pie, but there’s over 400 million users on the platform and being connected to everybody just isn’t practical.

Ideally you want to have as many strategic connections as you can. You will likely get requests from people you’ve never heard of who are just eager to add your email to their list, I don’t recommend following up on those. What I do recommend is connecting with people who are in your space, as well as your social community.

This can be your customers, people from your community, your church, your sports league, etc.

Getting Business Referrals On LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be great for bringing you tons of new business. You just need to know how to ask for it. Even among the people who know you well, they may not know what you’re looking for on LinkedIn!

You need to make sure your profile is set up correctly to advertise what you’re looking for.

You also need to be connected to your good referrals sources. This means your customers, as well as people invested in business development. Accountants, attorneys, insurance reps, experts, or influential people in your community. Anyone who is bumping elbows with your target audience is part of this group.

When you connect with a new person on LinkedIn shoot over to their profile and click on the magnifying glass to search through their networks.

Search for keywords like companies and job titles. This is how you can figure out exactly who your contact knows who would be a great next connection for you. Develop a short list of names to give to that person the next time you meet with them.

This is how the power networkers are doing it today. Don’t get lazy, do your homework, LinkedIn makes it easier than ever before.


Action Steps

  1. Build up your social network on LinkedIn by connecting to people in your space and community.
  2. Advertise what you’re looking for on your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Make sure you are connected to influencers who also have relationships to your target client base.
  4. Use the magnifying glass and search for keywords within their network.
  5. Set up a business meeting with your contact and ask for a referral to a short list of these contacts. Ask for 5-6 names maximum. Do your homework and be specific.


Result You Will Achieve

Where to go on LinkedIn to find out who your current network knows and how to ask them for a referral.

Mentor: Wayne Breitbarth

CEO at Power Formula LLC, sold over 100,000 copies of his best selling book “The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success” since the first edition was released in 2011.

This article is based on an EHQ interview with the mentor.