In the past week, I connected with two people on LinkedIn, each from a different research firm. And I had two very different experiences with them – one that was great and one that was horrible. The contrast between the two provides a really good lesson on how to use LinkedIn effectively to support your sales effort… and how not to!
How NOT to use LinkedIn
In story #1, I was invited to connect by someone from a very large market research firm; his role was business development… that should’ve been my first clue. But he was a good person for me to be connected to because of the firm he worked for.
Within five minutes – literally! – of accepting his invitation to connect, I received an email (to my work email, not even inside of LinkedIn) pitching his services. No warm up… no let’s-get-to-know-each-other… he jumped immediately to a sales pitch. Ugh!
The real problem with that approach is that he had not earned the right to pitch me. He didn’t know me… and vice versa. We had no relationship of any kind. I had shown no interest in what he was selling. I was just a name on a list to him.
The other problem with his pitch – because he didn’t know anything about me – was that I don’t use/don’t need what he’s selling. He reached out to me on LinkedIn, and yet, clearly, didn’t take two minutes to read my profile. If he did, he would’ve realized I was not a good sales prospect for him.
And finally, at the close of his email, after pitching his services and asking to schedule a call, he ended with, “It’s always cool to explore new opportunities, isn’t it?” Cool? What am I, 13?
All in all, this was a really bad use of LinkedIn.
How to use LinkedIn properly
OK, now compare that to story #2, another similar connection I made last week… a contact at another research firm (though not in sales).
After we connected, she reached out through LinkedIn to ask if we could schedule a 15-minute zoom call to actually meet each other.
And we did. We took social media to the next level and actually got to know each other a little. No selling… just two professionals talking. It was great.
Will there be selling in the future? Maybe. But if it happens, at least then it will follow some knowledge, understanding, and a bit of a relationship. And that’s the way it should be.
Social media is – first and foremost – ‘social.’ It is meant as a platform for people to connect and get to know each other. Kinda like meeting someone at a cocktail reception. Meet & chat casually… understand each other’s background… and see if there’s some sort of fit. Only then should a buying & selling conversation take place.
So, as you look at social media – and specifically, LinkedIn – to support your selling efforts, understand that it is simply a ‘connection’ tool. ‘Top of the funnel’ stuff. And just because someone connects with you doesn’t mean they want to buy from you today. Instead, use LinkedIn as the launching pad for developing a relationship that might lead to something else down the road.
Good luck and good selling.