I was a new business owner starting out for the first time on my own in New York City. I’m originally from South Africa, so if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, right?
I had no idea what I was doing back then. But I knew I wanted freedom to make my own decisions after 15 years working for large multinational corporations. I had skills in educating others in technical topics and bringing together multiple disciplines, like instructional design, filmmaking and technical topics like cyber security. So I started a training production agency of my own to create beautifully unique training courses for other companies.
One of the great things about working for big companies is that you develop a large personal network. This was a tremendous asset when I first started, as my small handful of new clients all grew from prior relationships I had.
I wanted the freedom to make my own choices about my business, but I also wanted financial freedom so that my new wife and I could confidently start growing a family together. After I wrapped up the first few projects, I remember thinking that things were going great.
Until I got my first rejection.
Not from a prospect. I’d had a few of those already and you have to have them on the road to getting a new client.
This was a rejection from an existing client. A polite rejection, of course. It wasn’t like we were doing a bad job. They just didn’t need another training course designed for them.
I suddenly felt hopeless. If these folks who knew me well didn’t need my services right now, how was I going to keep making money? Had I made the wrong decision? I was becoming desperate. I had no idea how to prospect for new business from strangers. Sure, I attended conferences and networking events, but meeting a handful of people at a time wasn’t going to sustain a business that needed to support a family in New York City. The thought of cold-calling didn’t appeal to me. I mean, when have you ever responded favorably to someone calling you out of the blue?
It was early January of my 2nd year of business, and I was scared it would be my last.
Then I received the LinkedIn message.
It was from someone pitching me a service to generate high quality leads from Fortune 500 companies using LinkedIn. I was very skeptical about LinkedIn. I had tried the premium Sales Navigator 30-day free trial, which resulted in exactly zero new business opportunities. This pitch sounded a little too good to be true, but I was curious so I took the call. (I guess her methods worked).
In the space of 30 mins, I listened intently and asked a bunch of questions. What she was saying made so much sense. It had clearly worked on me. But I also knew I could do it better myself. For some reason, right at that moment, I knew I could set up a system like she was describing and make it more efficient and more effective. I don’t know why, but I just knew.
I thanked her for the call and told her I couldn’t afford the $5,000 per month she wanted to charge (I seriously couldn’t). As soon as I hung up the phone, I began sketching out how I would build my system. My whole world had just been opened up to the idea of generating the kind of relationships that I knew I could convert into business, but at scale!
I built up my system in the space of a few weeks and immediately began testing it. The core of the system relies on finding the right people and sending them the right message. But the secret to the success of the formula is doing this consistently in a routine way. Over time your efforts compound and eventually your LinkedIn profile can become a reliable sales funnel for your business.
I first started seeing results after a few weeks. I couldn’t believe it! For every “no” response, I would receive 2 or 3 positive responses. Some new contacts commented that they got connection requests like this all the time, but mine stood out. That’s when I knew I was on to something. That’s when I knew I had a business on my hands.
So I started my second company, Leadstream.
That’s when trouble hit. What had worked for me, didn’t work as a perfect blueprint for all my early clients. Each one of them was different, so we had to tweak the system to apply to other businesses. We also had to deal with Linkedin’s forever changing algorithm, and strict community guidelines. I went from generating a solid pipeline of leads for my first business, to building a second scrappy business that faced challenge after challenge.
I almost lost everything one day.
I woke up on a Monday morning to emails from client’s in Europe letting me know their LinkedIn profiles had been restricted. Over the course of the next 36 hours, EVERY SINGLE ONE of my clients had their LinkedIn profiles restricted. We had gone too far. We were violating LinkedIn’s terms of service.
I will never forget that week. I gave every client the option of a refund for the remaining weeks in their contracts. About half of them took me up on this. Others chose not to renew expiring contracts. We went from 21 clients at our peak, to 6. We changed our entire system (again) and revamped our operations to reduce risk and be more flexible.
I will never forget that week because it was also the best thing that happened to my business. The clients that stuck with us were 6 of my best clients. We were doing great work for them, and they were converting our leads into sales at a steady clip. We were learning as we were going, building a better system every time.
We also had some incredible early successes, including one client that landed a $100,000 contract using our system. My first business has closed more than $250,000 in new business from contacts made through LinkedIn.
But the best thing about implementing this system on my LinkedIn profile and figuring out how it worked, is that I went from a business owner running a company that relied on me, to an entrepreneur, running a systems-based business that can continue on without me. This has given me even more freedom – both in decision-making, and financially. I spend far more time with my wife now. We travel the world, which is one of our favorite things to do, and we are more confident now that we can provide for a family when that time comes.
You don’t realize the power of your true potential until you put yourself out there again and again. In LinkedIn, we all have free access to the largest gathering of professionals the world has ever seen. What better place to discover that potential?
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