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How NOT to Sell on LinkedIn

Today I want to talk about people, more specifically, the paragon of persistence and the bane of our existence – the “spray and pray” salespeople you run into on LinkedIn.

If you’re sending a bazillion LinkedIn requests per day and getting nothing in return, it could be you. But there’s a better way to sell on LinkedIn and people have been doing it since forever. (*since 2003).

At first, I was confused at how many connection requests I get on LinkedIn. I’m not that popular – people aren’t blowing up my other social media accounts this way. But it’s just sales. And the old-school sales approach is to try and connect with every decision-maker in the world with the hope one or two will bite. Clearly many are still doing it, and think that a baller headshot and corny title are enough to convince me that I need you in my life.

LinkedIn is really turning into singles night.

Every unsolicited connection request is like a sleazebag pulling up to the bar.

Every job title is a pickup line.

But now more than ever, we know that the sales pitch we’re getting is the same tired message that’s sent to everyone else.

It really is like singles night. Only this time, I’m actually being hit on.

If you really want to be successful on LinkedIn and not some slimeball that reeks of desperation, here’s what you do.

Be relevant. Don’t send a generic, works-for-everyone lead-gen message that has nothing to do with me as an individual, expecting that your message will match what keeps me up at night. Because it simply won’t.

I have my own values and interests and, while some can be weird, that’s what makes me unique.

By sending me a blanket sales message about how great you are without recognizing me as a person, you’re showing a clear disregard for anything about me other than what I can do for you.

I don’t make it very hard to learn about me so getting a generic message tells me that either you’re too lazy to do your homework or that I as a person am really not that important.

Second, be specific. If you can’t tell me how you can solve the unique needs of a specific type of business that provides certain services to a specific set of people – or even know what those needs really are, you’re gonna be ignored.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I have a lot of invitations sitting dormant in my account and I have no intention of doing anything with them anytime soon. You’ll be adding yourself to that list if what you’re offering isn’t unique.

What I usually get are lead-generation companies and their pitch is always the same as if they’re the only ones to crack the code and reach out blindly to people on LinkedIn. The message goes something like:

“We at X company do X and here are a bunch of reasons why we are great. Here’s a bit more about us and blah blah blah more talk about us and here’s more about us and virtually nothing about you because you’re just a signed check away from being piled on top of all of the other clients that we used to give a shit about but have since moved on to get more clients to pile on top of you.”

“I’m available tomorrow at 2 pm for a quick call. Does that work for you?”

No. It doesn’t.

If you’re going to use LinkedIn for prospecting, don’t make your prospect’s time lightly. With this approach, you were an unknown yesterday and you’ll continue to be one as long as you’re not treating people as individuals with unique needs, and unique personalities.

Shorten your leads list, dig deeper into each lead by doing social media research, or looking into who their customers are. Find common interests. Make sure that your offering – as well as your message – is tailored to that specific person. And expect it to take some time because building relationships is the way that you build a business. Merely transactional sales make that your offering a commodity and commodities are easily replaced.

Whether you’re using LinkedIn, email, or whatever broad-reach approach you’re using right now, make a point to establish a connection that’s worth the time of your prospect. Because if you don’t, a prospect is all they’ll ever be.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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