Creating connections is what drives us in life. The same thing can also be a path to professional success. Join Rosie Zilinskas and her guest, Susan MacConnell, the co-founder of Diversified Sales Solutions. Susan discusses how communication and emotional intelligence can work for you, and how building a network can inspire success. Tune in for great insights from women who make things happen and make your own way to success.
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Creating Connections With Susan MacConnell
In this episode, we’re going to be talking to Susan, who is an expert in sales and LinkedIn. Susan MacConnell is a LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategist and President of Diversified Sales Solutions. She is also the Creator of the Client Connector Method. Susan’s corporate sales career spans over twenty years. We’re going to have Susan talk to us about emotional intelligence in the workplace, and I’m going to pick her brain on how to properly use LinkedIn when you are searching for a job. Here is Susan.
Susan, thank you so much for being on the show. Susan, you and I had a conversation, and you were in corporate years ago. There were some catalysts where you decided that you could not be part of corporate anymore. Could you tell me a little bit about what that catalyst was?
That’s so interesting. It’s so fun that you brought me back that many years. Thank you for doing that and thank you for having me here. This is great. I love the mission that you have, and I love everything about what you’re trying to do to help us all do things the right way. I’ve worked for 2 or 3 big companies. When I first started, I was in sales, and I worked for a smaller paging company that was owned by the Providence Journal. We were on our own so we weren’t what I call a large corporate but yet, we were part of corporate.
I moved to a larger company and sold cell phones back in the day before they were like now. They were huge. The thing about it was we had lots of layers of management in that company. The thing that I had a hard time with was the different levels of management and being able to express your needs, and wants and doing it in the right way. When you’re helping everybody, you’re trying to get things done the right way and make things better for everybody, but get it’s a direct report relationship.
If you don’t understand that direct report, I ended up talking to the president of the company about my suggestion or what it was. I ended up hearing back from my manager and they were like, “You shouldn’t have gone that director route. You should have come to me first to talk about this. I don’t appreciate that.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t like I planned it. It was a conversation that I was having with him in general. I wasn’t done on purpose. I’m sure there were a few other things that happened along the way on that whole level of layers of management. For me, it was hard because I like to tell things the way I see them, and yet, that’s the reason why sometimes you don’t say things and not feel like you can. I found that hard.
I’m asking that because there are many women in the corporate world who are reading that may feel the same way. Unfortunately, some companies do require you to file that hierarchy. Whereas you should have talked to your direct report or to your direct manager, and from there, they talked to the higher ups and all that stuff. It’s unfortunate when there are that many layers but at the same time, I like the fact that you were using your voice to ask for what you needed, and what you ultimately needed was for you to exit the corporate world and for you to start your own business. That’s interesting. Many of us can relate to some of those corporate challenges. When you were in corporate, how did you deal with the red tape of having all those layers?
That was hugely frustrating for me to deal with. It was hard because you spent more time trying to figure out how to get through all the red tape and do the things you needed to do to get things to move forward. That’s what I found frustrating. In a company, I felt like things move slower. To get something done, it took you so much longer in a larger company than in a smaller company saying, “Let’s make this a policy.” Everyone talks about it and it happened, but in a company, “We want to make this policy,” and then you’ve got to talk to this one, talk to this one, we have to have a meeting, and then someone else is going to make that decision, they’re going to change it, and then it’s going to come back to you. You’re like, “We didn’t want to do that.”
I felt like things took longer to do. From some of the people that I know who work for companies, I feel that company cultures are starting to change because we’re now experiencing what I call the Great Resignation. People are leaving and people are finding good jobs. That’s a good thing. Some of this is changing, but then again when you have that many people in a company, there has to be some protocol, and maybe understanding it would be different for me.
Company cultures are starting to change because we're now experiencing the Great Resignation. People are leaving and people are finding good jobs, and that's a good thing. – Susan MacConnell Click To Tweet
Along those lines, you know a lot about emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is something that could be useful in corporate. Can you tell me what emotional intelligence is and how you think it could benefit people in the corporate world?
I say emotional intelligence on what I call a high-level because emotional intelligence for some people is your emotions. You’re learning how to deal with your emotions so that in a situation, you don’t overreact, and you’re able to manage the conversation without either becoming happy or sad. Those are two emotions, but without having emotions be brought into it and have an intelligent conversation and having it go well.
I spin that because I’m in sales, so I teach the opposite of Reverse Emotional Intelligence. It’s thinking about the person that you’re talking to and putting yourself in their shoes and making the conversation about them because if you make it about them, then you’ll be able to get a little bit further. If you’re using it, it works well because if you’re asking questions and you’re trying to gather information, it’s emotional intelligence on a different level.
I like the second piece first because if you’re having a difficult conversation with your manager, it would be good for you to try to put yourself in their shoes, so maybe you can try to figure out where they’re coming from, versus being defensive or starting to get mad or feel all those emotions. It is necessary, but difficult to keep your cool whenever someone’s giving you some constructive criticism or what you would call negative feedback. You’re absolutely right. We have to keep it in check. Does emotional intelligence also work with spouses when you’re trying to put yourself in their shoes? I imagine that it would.
It’s interesting that you say that because it does. I have partnered with another person who is a high-level professional development person, and he takes emotional intelligence to a level called Conversational Intelligence, and then Relationship Intelligence. It does work because if you’re in a conversation, you’re controlling your emotions, and you’re trying to tap into theirs, and then you’re also thinking about these conversational intelligence skills that he teaches, it does.
I was talking to my boyfriend once when we were having a thing and I started. I don’t typically go there but in my head, “I’m going to see if I can use some of these skills.” I started asking him questions like, “Why do you feel that way about this? Why do you think this? What made you think about this?” He slips, turns around and goes, “I know what you’re trying to do.” I said, “I’m trying to have a conversation.” It’s funny because sometimes it’s not how you normally talk or act, but I do ask a lot of good questions. It’s true because if you use it in your personal life and in your life, it becomes a natural thing for you.
You do a lot of business, particularly with LinkedIn. Tell me a little bit about what you do, and then I’m going to follow up with a couple of questions after that.
What I do with LinkedIn is teach people how to engage on LinkedIn. I mostly deal with consultants in small sales teams, but everybody can benefit from this because when you use emotional intelligence like I teach it, you get more people to engage with you. What this is all about is to get people to engage with you not to have them be a connection. I try to build a community. When you build a community, it’s what you have. It’s a community. It’s the people that you have in your community. There’s no I in team. You have somebody to reach out to. I have some statistics that you’ll find pretty cool. It says, “51% of companies acquired a B2C customer through LinkedIn. LinkedIn generates more leads for B2B companies than Facebook, Twitter or blogging individually.”
That’s pretty huge.
There’s one more that’s cool, “LinkedIn is responsible for 64% of all visits from social media channels.”
The reason why I was asking you that was because what I would like to know is for someone that is still in the corporate world and they’re looking for a job, a lot of people are always like, “Go on LinkedIn and start networking.” What does that mean when it comes to you looking for a job?
I’m going to add one more thing because I was working with someone. When you are looking for a job, the first thing you want to do is you want to take your profile and you want to comb through it. You don’t want to look like a résumé. You want to look up the jobs that you want to take to have to go for. You want to look at some of these job descriptions. You want to look at what they’re asking for in the job descriptions, and you want to make sure you have that in your LinkedIn profile. That way, you’re searchable and they can come to you one way.
The second way to do this is to take a look at the job that you want to go for. Look at the company and try to find maybe 2 or 3 people in that company. Reach out to them and say, “I was thinking about applying at your company. Would you mind connecting with me and letting me know what your experience has been?” You’ll find 2 or 3 people maybe not in the department that you’re trying to go work for but in a different department. Most people will talk to you when you ask nicely. You can get someone to talk to you. It’s about asking good questions.
Is it a matter of me reaching out, or people reaching out to say, “I’m interested in your company. Would you mind having coffee?” Give me 2 or 3 sentences that you would use for that communication.
When you're connecting with someone, keep it simple. You don't have to read their profile up, down and sideways to connect with them. – Susan MacConnell Click To Tweet
When you’re looking for a job, it’s different on a level where you can ask that question pretty quickly. First, you want to connect. The way I teach it is when you’re connecting with someone, keep it simple. You don’t have to read their profile up, down, and sideways to connect with them. It’s more like, “Your profile came up with my suggestions and I hope to connect with you.” Say your name.
It’s not wasting time, but if you’re taking the time to read their profile, you’re taking a lot of extra time that you don’t need to take. What if they don’t answer? You’re better off talking to them in the second mess once they connect, “Thank you for connecting with me. I love your company. I love what your company does, and I was thinking of applying there. Do you have time to set up a short conversation with me?” If you’re looking for a job, you can say that right away.
The way that I teach it when I want to take it a little further with somebody, the typical thing I say in the second conversation once they connect is to look at their profile and look at what they do, and I look at how many jobs they have. Let’s say I’m talking to a CFO, “Jim, thank you for connecting with me. I noticed that you have been a CFO for seventeen years. What has kept you intrigued about being a CFO for that many years?” It’s not about you. It’s about him.
You connect with a paragraph. You can take that conversation where you want to go. If you’re that uncomfortable, and you’re a little bit more reserved, that’s the first thing you can ask them and then you can say, “I was thinking about applying at your company. Would you mind?” It’s pretty easy and then you can take that conversation from where it goes when you first start it and make it about them.
I want to go back to what you said as far as looking at jobs that you want. When you are targeting jobs that you can see yourself in the year, you said to go through the profile and identify the skills. Did you say don’t buy the skills? What did you say?
On LinkedIn, you can search for jobs. The filters for searching for a job are amazing. Filter down exactly to the jobs that you want, and then you have X, Y, Z offering this job. You open it up and you look. It says, “We’re looking for these requirements for the job.” I looked at 4 or 5 and there were bullet points, “We’re looking for this person to do this thing, this thing, and this thing.” If you can do all those things almost exactly the way they said, it should go in the About section of your LinkedIn profile.
That’s what it was. Sounds good. Those skills should go in the About section.
It’s taking the skills that they’re looking for that you have, and making sure you have them in your profile.
Interestingly enough, I found a fun quirky thing to do when you’re looking for a job. You know the word cloud, the big cloud that comes up with all these different kinds of words. The tip that I heard was to take the job description and put it in the word cloud. The biggest words that pop up in the cloud are going to be the keywords that you want to put on your résumé. I was like, “That’s a completely new thing.”
It’s the same thing on LinkedIn. That’s why I’m having you put it in the About section of your profile and then maybe in some of your experience section. Break it out by the different jobs. You’re stuffing it with keywords because you’re searchable. If you have keywords in there that are not doing it anymore, take them out. I noticed this one girl in the skill section had 30 skills. I was like, “Do you do all these 30 things?” She’s like, “No.” I go, “Go get rid of them.” You don’t want to be searched for something that you don’t want to do.
We’re talking about networking. What are the overall general benefits of networking? Let’s say you may not be ready to find a job right now but you’re trying to expand your network and connect with those individuals. What are the benefits and how can you do that well?
The benefits are, one, you’re building this community of people. In building this community of people, you want to find maybe some people that do a similar job to you and other companies, because maybe they’re doing something one way that they can teach you something. Building your network brings you to some of these people that you may never have ever connected with, and you might have some commonalities. It expands your horizon of knowledge. It’s a good thing to do because you want to learn and you always want to be learning new things.
We talked a little bit about soft skills and how in the corporate world, a lot of people can do their job the correct way but yet, soft skills are a little bit lacking. There are many great people on LinkedIn that can teach and give you ideas on how to improve your soft skills without having to take a ton of time. It’s building that nest of people that you can go to. If you’re looking for a job in a year, you find people in other companies that maybe you can contact in a year or two, and collaborate with them during the year and help each other.
Just because you’re not looking for a job right now doesn’t mean that you may not be looking for a job in a year or two, so it’s always good to keep that conversation going with people on LinkedIn. What are some other trends that you’ve seen with networking, and anything that you think might apply to people in the corporate world?
It is not about perfection. It's about progress. – Susan MacConnell Click To Tweet
Networking is a lot of hybrids now, so you have a lot of networking events that are on Zoom, which is great because you can go to more. There are a ton on Meetup.com, Eventbrite, and also a ton on LinkedIn. Go into the Events tab. You want to pick events that have different people. You don’t want to have all marketing people and you don’t want to have all salespeople unless that’s something that you want to do. Try to find groups that have different people that have different things that they’re doing than what you are currently doing so you can spread yourself a little bit wider.
There are a ton of events listed on LinkedIn. In the next months, LinkedIn is going to hopefully be spreading the word or increasing the people. It’s called LinkedIn Audio and it’s a lot like Clubhouse. What’s cool about that is you can now go into an audio event like Clubhouse. In an audio room, there could be 40 or 50 people. You get to sit there and while you’re listening, go on all of their profiles and decide whether you want to connect with them and say, “How did you like the audio today?” It’s going to be great when they release it. It should be happening. LinkedIn groups are another way to network as well and find out about good events.
I was looking at your profile and I noticed that you had a video on your picture. I have not done that yet on my LinkedIn. I saw your profile and I was like, “That’s pretty cool with the little video.” I didn’t realize that you could do a video on your profile.
You can, and it’s interesting. It’s a 30-second video. I tell people to not say their names because everybody sees their names. You want to say what you do, “I help people find new clients on LinkedIn,” or, “I do marketing and negotiations for so and so company.” Whatever you do, you say it.
That’s like a little pre-interview because then people see that you’re personable, excited or whatever, so that’s a great first interview.
For someone looking for a job, get it done, do it. Do that, “I’ve enjoyed working in the finance world for the last fifteen years. I’ve done this, this, and this. I hope you reach out to connect with me for any open positions.” Say it. Next to your profile is a pronunciation thing. It looks like a little microphone. It’s a ten-second audio, whereas the other one is a video. In ten seconds, you can do the same thing, “Thanks for coming to my profile. I’m looking for a job. Reach out.”
I do have that one because my last name is Zilinskas, and people can never pronounce my last name. It’s my husband’s Lithuanian last name. That’s funny. Susan, what are some things that you, as a business individual, see? You primarily coach businesses. When you think about the corporate world, are there any services that your company can provide to people in the corporate world as far as their LinkedIn profile? I’m curious.
Everybody can improve their LinkedIn profile because you are 40 times more likely to have someone connect with you if your profile is filled out correctly. I have started working with a few sales teams, and it’s interesting because it’s a function of how sometimes they think they’re part of their company so all they ever do is share their company posts and things. You have a personality, and you want to make your LinkedIn profile your personality within that company. If you have your profile set up with your personality, and you learn how to maneuver it, then you’ll find a better community.
You’ll build your network with people that you can help and the people that can help you. It’s good for anybody to do this on LinkedIn. You can also support your company by liking and commenting on their posts as well. A lot of people don’t take the time, and a lot of people are looking for things on LinkedIn. They don’t take some time to engage. Don’t spend your entire day engaging, but settle twenty minutes a day, and then get off.
I love what you said, but I’m going to pick your brain a little bit more about the word ‘engage.’ We hear that word all the time everywhere that you have to engage. What does engaging truly look like? What are the benefits of engaging?
The way you engage on LinkedIn, one was we talked about direct messaging, connecting with people. That’s engaging. A second way is to like and comment on posts. That’s also engaging. There are groups so you can engage in groups. In your main feed, which in LinkedIn is that home feed, you can spend a ton of time doing that.
If you find 2 or 3 influencers in your market, you can go to their posts and they have more connections. Let’s say, Tony Robbins, for example. Tony Robbins has 7 million followers. When Tony Robbins does a post, and he does a high-level, I do a long post comment on his post, and his audience is going to see my comments. That’s engaging. I’m taking advantage of someone who has a huge profile and a huge following, to try and build mine.
I imagine if I am interested in a certain company for a future position and they are active on LinkedIn, I can be engaging with them by commenting on their posts. That way, my name is attached to that company too, right?
Yes. It depends if it’s coming from the company or the person in the company. I would look for someone re-sharing a post from a company because if it’s a company post, it’s usually done by the marketing department and they may not be checking. I would watch because if there’s low engagement, it’s a company you want to work for, definitely do it. If it’s like someone that has 500 likes on a post, look for the other people in the company who are sharing the posts.
Women moving forward and up in business is going to start to happen. We see it happening now. – Susan MacConnell Click To Tweet
That’s good. I know that there are many different things about engaging, but the way you explained it definitely makes much more sense again, especially for those that are looking for different jobs. A couple of other things, I wanted to know if you can give us any characteristics from your long experience now in sales because as an employee, I’m constantly trying to come up with my value so that I can justify a salary increase or a promotion. Can you think of maybe 2 or 3 characteristics that people that are constantly promoting themselves have in common so maybe some of our readers can relate to how they should be promoting themselves?
This is interesting and I’m not sure, but this applies. People are so hung up on perfection doing things like, “I’m not going to do this until it’s 100% perfection.” I had a coach and he said, “Susan, it is not about perfection. It’s about progress.” It’s about doing something and almost doing it perfectly, and then taking it back and making it perfect. That’s going to get you further down the road because you tried it. You tried something and someone saw that you tried it and they said, “That’s great but maybe this.” People in this day and age don’t feel as though, “You made this tiny mistake.” Try different things. Try different ways of saying it. Try learning different ways to do things and go do it. Try it.
That’s good because perfectionism sometimes paralyzes people. You’re so afraid of making a mistake or you’re so afraid of getting criticized or judged. Honestly, who cares? You made a mistake so try again. You have your podcast which is on LinkedIn and you go on once a week.
I go on every Tuesday on LinkedIn Live. It went down. For some reason, they were down, and then I saw that they sent an email so I had to repost them.
What is your podcast specifically about as far as business, because I know it’s like dangers in business?
It’s called Dangerous Conversations About Business. The reason that it’s dangerous is that I want people to dangerously get better. I want my community to learn from the people that are on my podcast about how we all can do business better together. I’ll do one little quick LinkedIn tip, but this one is not about me, it’s about my community, everybody learning from each other, growing and developing. That way we all win when that happens.
That same concept can be translated into corporate, so if you’re in corporate, gather a few people that you can converse with, have different challenges as far as what you’re trying to do, share goals, or anything like that to bring each other up together. That also applies in the corporate world. Before we close, I’m going to ask you to share two tips that would be good tips for people to apply in their corporate world and can implement right away.
You and I talked about this a little bit earlier. It’s the soft skills. As Mark tells it, it’s conversational intelligence. It is learning how to have conversations and not necessarily good ones, difficult conversations and there is a way to do it and skills around it. I’ve been listening to podcasts on it, and I’m amazed at how I’m the worst at difficult conversations, and I’m in sales.
I can sell somebody and I get the whole objection thing, but when I have to tell someone that they did something wrong and try to get them to do it right, that is so hard. Those are soft skills that many companies overlook. If we all had better conversations with each other, maybe some of these things would disappear. Maybe more people would be getting promoted or more people wouldn’t misunderstand things. That’s my tip.
Soft skills sounds good. Is there a second tip?
Be active on LinkedIn. You never know where your next job will come from.
I like that one. Easy enough, and you can do it right from your phone.
Connect with five people a week who you think could expand your horizons. 5 a week is 20 a month times 10, so in a year, that’s 200 people that you’ll add to your community.
That’s huge. Susan, before we go, are there any other words of wisdom that you’d like to share, or is there anything else that you want to share about your business or anything like that?
Corporations now are starting to be a little more flexible and starting to go down that path. This is a good time for us to all learn and grow. It has been incredible. Women moving forward and up and in business is going to start to happen. I see it happening. If anybody would like to have a profile analysis, they can reach out to me on LinkedIn and message me. I’d be happy to do a quick fifteen-minute profile overhaul for them. Thank you.
Everybody, that’s a wrap with Susan. She provided us some great information on how to take advantage of LinkedIn so that you can engage and also build a community. The last thing I’m going to do is recap Susan’s two tips. Tip number one was to work on developing your soft skills. An example of that would how to better have difficult conversations. Tip number two is be active on LinkedIn. We talked a lot about engaging properly and being able to build your community. Those are some good tips. If you have any suggestions on any topic about career development, please go ahead and email me or send me a DM. With that, remember to be brave, be bold and take action. Until next time.
- Diversified Sales Solutions
- Dangerous Conversations About Business
About Susan MacConnell
Susan is a LinkedIn lead generation strategist & president of Diversified Sales Solutions, Smarketing CONNECT & creator of The Client Connectorᵗᵐ method. Susan’s corporate sales career spans over 20 years.