I have around 11,000 connections on LinkedIn. It’s a reasonable network spanning across several different industries (all connected through finance and banking) and I’m still connecting with new requests each day.
I have around 11,000 connections on LinkedIn. It’s a reasonable network spanning across several different industries (all connected through finance and banking) and I’m still connecting with new requests each day. I see value in expanding my network, both within my current industry (SME, funding and accounting) and outside. In fact, I’ll accept almost everyone who reaches out.
This may be where I sometimes have an issue. LinkedIn can be a great way to reach out to a business decision-maker. Be it CEO’s, CFO’s, CTO’s, head of departments and more - all at the click of a button and, best of all, there’s no gatekeeper, no receptionists and no email filters to dodge through. Just a straight line directly to the person you are looking to speak to, and at a time that suits them. The temptation is then, to make the most of this opportunity and jump straight into the pitch for whatever product you are selling. Well, don’t.
Very few people will buy what you’re selling this way and In fact, this sub-cold call approach does nothing to build your credibility or expertise. You can end up falling into the same category as those remote dialers we all hate. You know the ones... “Hi my names Becky… Our records show us that you have recently been in a car accident that wasn't your fault”... and we all know how they usually end up.
Here’s an example of an actual connection request sent to me:
“Dear Phil Hobden,
We are contacting you because of your franchise experience shown in your profile. If you are considering to further diversify your franchise activities with a unique international franchise system that deals with digital education, pls, accept my contact request.”
Let’s take a closer look. Firstly, I’ve never worked in franchising. In fact, if you search my profile I don't even have the word ‘franchise’ listed at all. Straight up then I’ve learnt you haven't read my page or done any research into the business I work for. Not the best start. But moving past that, the next sentence jumps into a pile of assumptions and doesn’t really give me a clear idea of what they’re selling. Or why I need it. Even if I was a prospect and you’d contacted the right decision-maker, chances are I would have already moved onto the next message. First impressions are made within the first few seconds.This is even more the case with cold emails or LinkedIn messages.
So I guess there are two things to unpack. Can you use LinkedIn to sell (and if so how) and secondly, how do you deal with cold LinkedIners?
First up, yes. You can use Linkedin to sell and it’s a powerful tool for sure (when used correctly). However, you need to look at LinkedIn as a long term play rather than just an opportunity for short term gain.
To successfully engage with the right crowd on LinkedIn, you first need to do the following:
- Be a thought leader - share content, start conversations, be seen as an expert in what you do. This will attract people to you.
- Create content. LinkedIn LOVES original content, especially those without external links. Add the right #hashtags and you could even get ‘trending’ (this happens more often that you may think!)
- Tag people. This one is riskier but the more your content is seen and engaged with, the bigger the reach. Tag people you know in that market, start a conversation and get them talking about what you’re doing.
- Don't sell. Educate, advise, support and interact. Don't go out there with “my product is this and it costs that”. The posts that get the best engagement and views are the ones that start conversations. I’m more likely to connect with a good story than a cheap price.
- Engage. If you have identified a prospect, engage with them. Comment on their posts and respond to their needs. LinkedIn is (well at least should be) a two-way thing.
- And if you ARE going to reach out, at least read the person’s profile, work out what they may need and come up with a killer, tailored and personal pitch. (On this leading with ‘Hi xxxx’ or ‘Hi John’ when my name is obviously neither is probably not the first impression you want to make)
Secondly then how do you deal with cold LinkedIners? Well, you could just delete the message and ignore it. You could report it (it is technically spam). I, however, always think a spot of coaching is worthwhile. Someone reaching out cold to me on LinkedIn reminds me of one of my favourite scenes from a film. The classic “sell me a pen” scene from Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street. You know the one,when Leonardo DiCaprio, as future convicted felon and motivational speaker Jordan Belfort, asks his soon to be Stratton colleagues to ‘sell him a pen’. It went something like this:
Jordan Belfort: “Sell me this pen”
Strattonite: “This pen is a lovely pen. It has a rubber handle, is perfectly weighted and writes beautifully. It’s one of a kind and will last for months”
It’s a feature dump approach that does nothing to connect with the buyer or establish their needs. See the similarity here? It's almost the same as reaching out cold on LinkedIn. It doesn't ask any of the core questions. Who are you selling to? Do they need a pen? What pen do they like? Do you have a pen suitable for their needs? Do they even write?
In the movie the scene carries on as such:
Jordan Belfort: Sell me this pen.
Brad: Write me your name on this napkin.
Jordan Belfort: I can’t, I don’t have a pen.
Brad: There you go, it’s a matter of supply and demand.
It’s a good lesson and there’s more than a few different takes on this (none of which involves feature dumping).
That's what I do. I share a link to that scene. A simple spot of coaching for sure but hopefully an effective one. After all, you only have one chance to make that first impression, and those impressions can last.
Also it's a great scene in a brilliant film so also worth sharing just for that!