LinkedIn - The Ultimate Prospecting Tool???

If you're like me you're noticing an ever-increasing barrage of connection requests from every corner of the globe which, if accepted, immediately lead to a sales / marketing engagement attempt.  Some don't even wait for you to connect, they just send you some inane sales message.

On one hand, from the perspective of a marketing & sales leader, I applaud the ingenuity.  As someone who is having their day interrupted, my instinct is to reach for the “Delete / Block” button.  Wrestling with this from both perspectives I thought it would be worth a more thoughtful discussion…

So How Did We Get Here?

The short answer…technology...  For those of us with a bit of gray hair, we remember a time when people answered the phone, with the goal on both ends being a meeting to identify mutually beneficial opportunities.  Sometimes you had to get past a receptionist or administrative assistant, but you could at least have a conversation with them, giving you an opportunity to establish a rapport.

Fast forward to the advent of the auto-attendant phone system and email and you began to establish faceless, nameless gatekeepers that couldn’t be bypassed with charm and a fruit basket.

Working Around the Gatekeepers

At the end of the day business is next to impossible to conduct without actual human interaction.  The “bulldogs” in a business (the sales and marketing teams) invariably have to overcome the gatekeepers.  Over the past 20 years this has led to the development of a number of tools and techniques:

  • Email / Nurture Campaigns – keep pinging people and feeding them offers and eventually they will respond.  But then the inbox filled up and spam filters and cognitive dissonance led to everything we’re not specifically looking for being deleted or ignored.

  • Smiling & Dialing – teams of BDR making the 7-10 contact attempts that it takes to get someone to pick up the phone.  CallerID, and call-filtering helped to head this one off…with only the most creative and determined individuals getting through to a human being or getting a call back.

  • Direct Text Messaging – this one died a quick death as people realized how outraged people get when the personal space of their cell phone is invaded.

  • Retargeting Ads – those creepy ads that pop up as soon as your phone hears you talking about something.  Talk about being afraid to click!

  • LinkedIn Outreach – including connection requests and messages, many times both being used in concert.  This is the ultimate double-edged sword as most people welcome new connections for the purpose of expanding their own networks.  The problem comes when those connections instantly lead to a sales message (or multiple), which, because someone is now part of our network we often feel obligated to at least give a polite no.

What is the Alternative?

In many cases it isn't a matter of the vehicle as much as the messaging, rhythm and cadence.  Unfortunately, those that use a tool ineffectively spoil it for the rest of us.  Fortunately, with LinkedIn there is still hope...IF...messaging, rhythm and cadence are used effectively:

  • Messaging - the following outline is generally pretty effective as it is focused on the prospect and what is important to them:

    • Up-Front Contract - open with a statement of appreciation for their time and a promise to respect it and be brief..."Thank you for your time...I know you are busy, so I will be brief..."...

    • Third Party Reference - opening up with a "don't take our word for it"...   Start with something like "if you are like companies X, Y & Z, you are experiencing..."...leading into...

    • Pain Points - key challenges that could be assumed in their industry at this point in time, for example:

      • Limited working capital exacerbated by stalled revenue
      • Decision timelines being extended because of economic headwinds
      • Customer / prospect budgets being chopped

    • Empathetic Alignment w/CTA - a statement confirming alignment with the pain points followed up with a call-to-action...for example "If any of this resonates with you I'm confident it would be worth a short call...  When might you have 10-15 minutes?"...  
  • Rhythm & Cadence - as important as is the message itself, so is the rhythm and cadence of the contact attempts targeted at each prospect.  It is important to balance "professional persistence" with respect and timing.

    • 3 Contact Attempts - conventional business development efforts dictate that 7-10 contact attempts must be made to give yourself the best chance of engaging a given prospect.  In LinkedIn, you are typically dealing with "warmer" prospects because of the nature of the platform.  As such, it is more likely that you will negatively impact your campaign, if not your reputation if you are overbearing.  Not to mention it easier to get blocked on LinkedIn, something you cannot afford to have happen too often.

    • Increasing Respect & Urgency - increasing the urgency in your message, but being even more respectful of their time and attention.  For example, "I know you are busy and I certainly don't want to take up your time unnecessarily, but I believe strongly that we will both benefit from a quick conversation..."...

    • Timing - too soon and you're a "mosquito" buzzing about...too long and they don't connect your two messages in their mind.

In Closing

If you're like any of the clients that we've worked with throughout our careers, we think it would be beneficial to have a quick 15 minute call to see how we can boost your campaigns, and accordingly, your bottom line...   Just kidding (not really), but another example of how to make it about achieving success by helping others achieve theirs...