A few weeks ago, I received a LinkedIn message from a user (let’s call her Sally) that I had never met, didn’t know, and wasn’t remotely connected to.
Here’s what she had to say:
“We provide an inside sales solution that is tailor-made for your particular needs and objectives. We identify your potential customers, contact their decision makers, qualify them, and put you right in front of interested prospects to make the sale through our professional inside sales solution. You can view our basic package here.”
Sounds like a typical email prospecting campaign, right?
I’m sure that was Sally’s intent. Unfortunately for Sally, however, she didn’t really do her homework, nor did she consider the medium she was using to reach out to me. As a result, her message ended up annoying me more than it interested me.
The truth is, LinkedIn is a personal network, not unlike meeting someone at your local Chamber of Commerce. You wouldn’t go into your monthly Chamber meeting, walk up to someone you’ve never met, and say:
“Hi! My name is Michael Barnhart and I wanted to see if you needed a marketing solution to generate warm sales leads and set business appointments with potential clients. Here’s my card with a link where you can view our basic package.”
Unfortunately, however, I’m seeing more and more people take exactly that approach on LinkedIn. They treat the professional network like just another cold prospecting tool, and they end up engaging their prospects in a pretty abrasive way.
While I firmly believe you can (and probably should) use LinkedIn for prospecting, it’s critical that you tailor your approach to the medium.
So, what should you be doing to prospect more effectively on LinkedIn?
Here are three tips that I will help you start more meaningful conversations with prospects on LinkedIn:
1. Think of LinkedIn like you would a personal networking opportunity.
If you ran into a prospect at a Chamber meeting, or met a prospect at a conference, what would you say? You’d probably engage in a friendly conversation that centered on some relatively basic information – where they’re from, what they do, what their background is, etc. LinkedIn is no different. You need to ease into LinkedIn prospecting and establish context (and relevance) before you jump in and try to set up a sales meeting.
2. Do some research and start small.
With LinkedIn (and all of social media, for that matter) you actually have more access to information about your contact, which should make it easier to find common ground and create context. If you’re connected with a prospect, you can tap into their complete profile, recommendations, and the groups that they are involved with. You can also search Twitter and Facebook for even more insight into what they care about.
3. Create a positive first impression.
Like almost any prospecting activity, your goal with LinkedIn should be to create a positive impression with the very first message you send. After that, you can begin an email conversation that builds the foundation for a more meaningful relationship down the road. Then – and only then – is it acceptable to explore opportunities to work together.
The bottom line is this: Your LinkedIn approach has to be softer. If it’s not, you’ll fail. Miserably.
Now, that’s not to say you should be subtle, because that implies that you’re being crafty or devious. But you do need to be genuine in wanting to get to know your prospects before you sell to them. Otherwise, you run the risk of being what “Sally” ended up being to me – an annoyance.