When you join a dating agency you will probably pay a subscription fee; but this doesn’t guarantee you’ll find love. Are you clear in your mind about your ideal match?

What is important to you – looks or personality? A mixture of the two? Do joint interests matter, or is it a case of ‘opposites attract’?

Similarly, when you take the time to attend a networking event, you never know who you are going to meet. I would guess you are generally hoping to either meet your ideal client (if you have clearly defined them) or make a new strategic alliance.

Time is a very valuable commodity and should not be underestimated. When I start work with my clients, I often explore with them their ideal partnership and their key business attributes. Does it appear on paper that they share the same values? Does the business they’re hoping to partner with sell something that goes before, alongside or after their product or service?

Strategic alliances are a very effective way of potentially gaining access to new customers. An ideal strategic alliance would be with a business that is not in direct competition with you, but which sells to the same audience as you. You are therefore of potential benefit to each other.

Strategic alliances I have made for my clients include:

  • A Financial Advisor forming alliances with Solicitors
  • A Mortgage Advisor forming alliances with Banks
  • A Maternity Photographer forming an alliance with a 3D foetal screening clinic/hypnotherapist

After discussing closely with my clients the type of strategic alliances they would like to make, I search initially through my vast database of clients. If I know both parties, I can easily assess their respective needs and ensure that the meeting is productive.

Alternatively, I can use LinkedIn’s Advanced search facilities to search for the right strategic alliances within a given sector/locality and report back to my clients with a comprehensive list.

Initial stages of courtship

Once you’ve found your ideal match, then you need to deal with the initial courtship. What is your opening line? Words can often be misunderstood or have double meanings. Perhaps you are out of practice and have no idea where to start …

Many of my business clients also share the same concerns. They are not sure how to apply the art of ‘Social Selling’. How do I connect on LinkedIn? How can I ensure that my ideal strategic alliance even accepts my connection request? I assist my clients with this scenario by a combination of bespoke LinkedIn training on this topic and/or managing their LinkedIn accounts – doing this means I can send out personalised connection requests to their ideal business contacts on their behalf. As an aside, one thing you can do to make first impressions count, is have a professional photo on your LinkedIn profile.

So your invitation to connect has been accepted, but you don’t know what to say next. You would like to secure a ‘date’ so you can get to know them better.

When using LinkedIn, you have to consider how to move the business relationship forward. What do you actually say to them after they have accepted your connection request? How do you commence this business relationship to ensure it starts off on the right footing and hopefully leads to a telephone conversation or meeting?

I recommend reviewing your ideal business contact’s profile and in your initial message highlight something that they would not have expected you to notice, such as their interests or a particular project/award/honour. You could also highlight shared connections. Have you reviewed their latest blogs and their recent activity?

As you can see, courting on a personal or professional level is far from straightforward!