A LinkedIn interaction from some time back still sticks with me today. Why? He and I connected, then he immediately asked to review my personal finances so he could do for me what he had allegedly done for so many other “thrilled customers.” I told him “No thanks.” He replied back asking me why. Being the direct guy I am, I told him I thought it was insincere to connect with me and immediately want to review my personal finances and try to sell me on his service. He said he never asked me to send my personal finances through LinkedIn. At this point, the discussion was no longer about him trying to sell me a service; instead, I wanted to provide a teachable moment for him. I told him that sending personal finances through LinkedIn wasn’t the issue, but I didn’t want to divulge my personal finances to someone I didn’t even know who connected with me only 30 minutes ago. After another couple of interactions, he told me that “nice people” would agree to meet with him (I guess I’m not a nice person) and that he was rescinding his offer to meet (even though I already told him I didn’t want to meet with him). It was kind of like “you can’t break up with me because I’m breaking up with you first”. He then wished me the best. He made an impression on me for sure, just not one he wanted.
As of this writing, LinkedIn has over 600 million users and has become a dominant force in connecting people to do business with each other. It has disrupted geographic barriers, so that someone in his basement in Cleveland can do business with someone in Los Angeles, Paris, or Bangalore. It’s also insanely cheap and easy to establish a platform and reach potential customers who 20 years ago would have been out of reach. This low barrier to entry and massive audience potential is fertile ground for ambitious businesspeople (who I refer to as LinkPitchers) to canvass large populations for business. Now I’m in no way telling the ambitious to not pursue business using LinkedIn with all their passion and energy. But there are right and wrong ways to do it.
My years of LinkedIn experience have led me to seven fatal errors LinkPitchers make:
- Not understanding my profile – I know this may sound like a “no duh” but I’m amazed at how many people send me canned messages that prove they didn’t even look at my profile. My LinkedIn banner has my name followed with “Author” next to my published books. Yet I regularly get messages asking if I’d ever considered becoming an author. Before you solicit make sure you take a few minutes to understand what the person actually does.
- Not putting space between a request to connect and a follow-up – A request to connect followed immediately with a pitch tells me you’re not at all interested in me; you’re just trolling for business. Putting space between the two at least creates the illusion you’ve taken time to research me.
- Not demonstrating you know something about me – Some of the most effective LinkedIn messages I’ve received establish some sort of connection with topics I write about. I write a lot about autism and disability inclusion, so when I get a message asking about autism or telling me they have a child on the spectrum, I’m more likely to respond.
- Not asking personal questions before you’ve established rapport – Sorry, but just because I connected with you on LinkedIn doesn’t mean in the next breath I’m going to tell you about my financial goals. It takes time to develop trust in a relationship. Even if you’re a connection of a connection, it doesn’t mean I’m willing to divulge anything to you beyond my profile.
- Not being sincere about why you’re following up – An insincere, boilerplate compliment like “I’m really impressed with <put target name here> and I can generate 20k leads a month for you” screams slimy salesperson. I’d feel much better getting a message like, “Thanks for connecting with me. I’m interested in what you have to say and look forward to reading your posts to see if there’s common ground for us to do business together.”
- Not having the stripes to do what you’re selling – If you send me a request to connect, I’ll look at your business, education, and experience. If you’re billing yourself as a financial advisor but have minimal relevant education or professional experience, I probably won’t want to do business with you.
- Not taking a hint – If you don’t get a response, don’t keep sending “I’m sure you’re very busy and you might have not seen my prior message to you” messages. I saw the message and decided not to pursue it. Sending additional messages will not make my view of you more favorable.
By all means use LinkedIn and the powerful tools it can bring to your business. Just keep these seven fatal errors in mind during your next LinkPitching expedition.