LinkedIn BD: Dos and Don’ts

Harry Simpson

Incoming

​With the advent of social media, us salespeople have had to adapt and develop our skills to include online outreach. LinkedIn has fast become another funnel through which we try to generate brand exposure, recognition and ultimately sales leads; many of the sales roles I recruit for involve some form of KPI for online selling, if not a full target. Whilst cold calling and more ‘traditional’ selling methods are very much still alive and well, being aware and engaged with the social side of selling has never been more important.

Now, one of the things we all can agree on is that there are ways to do it, and ways not to. There’s nothing worse than receiving a connection invite followed swiftly by, “Hi Tom, I work in the ______ space and would love to explain how this can benefit your business. When can you talk?”

It’s interesting; when cold calling we’re on a timer to get our pitch out there – to not waste the prospect’s time, to ensure we add value in that instant…

But many people don’t like being cold called. So why would anyone enjoy the insta-pitch on LinkedIn, either?

Everyone’s different – in both their approach and how they receive approaches themselves – but there are some fundamentals to get right at the very least. Here are my top tips/pet hates when it comes to LinkedIn business development:

Slow down – sloppy won’t sell

By which I mean, grammar. Capital letters. Correct punctuation. If you’re going to go down the route of copy and pasting, at least attempt to personalise the message in some way (although, in my opinion, it’s not the way to go – you really should have a unique reason for approaching this person specifically…)

At the very least, get the name right – we’ve all heard our peers griping about receiving a message which starts with, “Hi James” – err, hello, but my name is Tom… And you’ve lost me already.

First impressions count, so start as you mean to go on. Spending a few extra seconds perfecting the detail in the message you’re sending will pay off in the long run.

Have your reason ready

Whilst I’m not saying you should start out with it, like you might do on a cold call, it’s important to show the person you’re reaching out to that you have value to add from the off.

Have your reason for contacting them ready to go, without shoving it down their throat immediately; make it clear that you’re connecting with them personally, specifically, not just an anyone-and-everyone approach. With that in mind…

Avoid giving your sales pitch in the first message

Here’s where LinkedIn is a little different to a traditional cold call; when you’ve finally gotten through to your prospect on the phone, it can be a bit of a scramble to get your pitch out and hook them straight away. However, using social media allows you to actually warm up and build some rapport before heading straight into ‘selling’.

It’s a little cringeworthy to simply send the old, “Hi ___, how are you doing today?” – to which many people wouldn’t even feel obliged to respond – but you definitely have the opportunity here to build and nurture this prospect before pitching. Whether you’re both members of a group, share a previous employer or simply want to ask a question about something interesting you’ve seen on their profile, there are ways to build that rapport and ensure that this prospect knows this message was written for them and them only.

Don’t mumble

I personally have received messages where I haven’t the faintest idea what exactly it is this person wants to ‘take just five minutes of my time to discuss’, and other than making me unenthusiastic about whatever it is you’re selling, it just makes me unexcited about your ability to articulate yourself as a salesperson.

There’s a fine line between being too vague and laying your cards out on the table – but it’s really important that, when you do go in for the inevitable sales pitch or request for a catch up, you make sure this prospect knows what they’re getting into – and if it is something they could be at all interested in.

If you’re selling financial software made for enterprise businesses and, ten minutes into the phone call you’ve managed to arrange, they realise that a) you haven’t done your research, b) your product is entirely irrelevant to them and c) you’ve wasted their time… Well, it’s a lose-lose. For everyone involved. None in the least, you.

So finally – value your prospect’s time

Ultimately, your job as a salesperson is to add value in some way – whether through the products you sell or the service you promote – so make sure you’re trying to do exactly that throughout the contact process. Value the time of the person you’re targeting and you’ll see an uplift in the results you achieve, both in terms of contacts made and the conversion to a real, hot lead.

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We’d love to hear your ideas when it comes to LinkedIn-focused business development activities – how do you feel when you receive an unsolicited message and what sort of approaches have you been more responsive to? As for those using LinkedIn as a business development tool – how have you found success?