As a power user and all-around fan of LinkedIn; as a coach who demands all of her clients get on the platform in order to enhance the work we will do—I must get something off my chest.
People are using LinkedIn in a way that abuses trust, annoys active and non-active members alike and is irritating enough to scare away swaths of loyal fans to another platform that is likely to creep up any day now.
LinkedIn team, I hope this is keeping you up at night. I hope you’re currently in meetings to save your solid professional networking and publishing platform. It’s been critical to helping me build my business, find a voice and audience, and help my clients foster relationships resulting in hundreds of job opportunities.
I’ve heard the frustration among loyal users –
Don’t connect with me so you can try to instantly sell me something.
Or more simply put –
Stop trying to sell to me!
As someone who has expanded my business and found new corporate and individual clients on LinkedIn, I have a slightly different perspective founded on the same frustrations.
In my mind—effective sales stems from a combination of listening, providing value and building a relationship. 99% of the solicitations I receive on LinkedIn ignore this approach entirely, so alas—we are where we are.
Whether it’s getting on the phone with a "publisher" interested in my becoming one of their authors, only for her to reveal half way through the call that she’s never read anything I’ve written.
Or when I get a long message from the founder of what might as well be called clueless.com about connecting with other like-minded CEO’s of mid-sized high tech consultancies. Dude, have you looked at my profile?
I often describe my coaching and leadership style as a combination of snark and hope—and to be honest, this inundation of spaghetti at the wall pitches has amped up my snarkiness to a level I’m not always proud of, but I’m human and a New Yorker, so it happens.
When one small business consultant reached out to ask me for a call to discuss the secret to my success in creating a profitable business I love, I responded:
"In short—saying no to things that aren’t a priority! Good luck!"
It may be just me, but I still giggle at that one.
On the flip side, if you want to use LinkedIn to build your business and attract new customers instead of sending them into a tizzy and off the platform, focus on these three things.
1. Long-term relationship building always wins
On a date, would you go in for the lip (or even tongue) kiss after exchanging hellos? If you would, we have bigger problems than your sales technique, but in focusing on sales for now, know that relationships take time to build. If you send a LinkedIn request and the other party accepts, it’s fine to send a longer description about who you are and the value you offer clients—but if you try to close them on something in this next note, you are missing a key opportunity to build their trust. Let them get to know you via your content contributions on the platform and begin to better understand their needs via theirs. Have patience. Give space. Not everyone moves at your pace.
2. ABPV: Always Be Providing Value
When you offer up meaningful contributions via articles, comments or even sharing others’ content, you are seen as a resource rather than someone who is simply hungry to close me or get my business. Yes, it’s time consuming and yes, it’s slower—but I can tell you first hand—I’m cultivating deep relationships with people on the platform because I show up consistently, I listen to their challenges and I mine my experience and my training for targeted solutions. This way, when people come to me via LinkedIn, they feel like they know me, and they often tell me it feels like I know them. Listen, research and pay attention to your ideal clients. This is the way to get to that coveted position.
3. Start with a point of contact
As is the case offline—referrals matter. Find points of contact with your ideal clients and work with your contacts to help you connect with them. Of course, after you do connect with them, please note step one and don’t rush to close. Your contacts may not offer up your ideal clients, but they do offer a viable place to start and return to when you’re feeling stuck. Remember to make it easy for your contacts to help you. Send them a note with everything they need to forward so they don’t have to spend time writing something that may end up being off-message for you. Show gratitude with your network, don’t exhaust them and refer to point two in offering them value. Take them for coffee or lunch, or provide them a complimentary hour of whatever you offer.
I’ve wanted to write this article for awhile in response to all of the one-off feedback notes I’ve been sending my solicitors (that are all over the map on the spectrum of coachy to…not). I offer these words in the hopes of saving one of my favorite tools from well meaning, ambitious participants who may not be aware that they’re coming across as bottom-feeders. But this is not to say I’m doing in perfectly either. We’re all figuring it out, but I know how I feel when I get these pitches. For those of you out there sending them, I want you to know how I perceive them. And if you’ve read even half of this article perhaps you will take my advice. Listen.