Updated: Jul 22, 2021
In one of my networking groups, people were spewing a lot of hate about dealing with "too many annoying salespeople" on LinkedIn. The biggest complaint was receiving a LinkedIn request, immediately followed by a direct message that's too long, overly promotional, and quite presumptuous.
One contact grumbled, "If they think I'm going to even read that long message all about them, let alone watch a video or read an article... and then click on their 'handy link' to hear them spew forth more nonsense, they're crazy! No thanks!"
Yes, it's a bit harsh. And, naturally I did my best to defend the honorable intentions of salespeople everywhere. Still, I get these messages too. I understand why it sets people off.
Please don't be that guy. Here are five ways to be more effective on LinkedIn so that you make better connections and put yourself in a much better position to achieve your goals:
1. Watch, learn, and support your new contacts on the public platform *before* you slide into their DMs. For example: Send the connection request with a short message about something or someone you have in common, or other relevant trigger event. Over the next couple of weeks, like and comment on posts, share things they are promoting, join common groups, and generally be part of their tribe. Your request for a real conversation will be much better received once your new connection has seen you around a bit and there's been some public engagement.
2. Keep your initial message short. Slow your roll. Treat your first message a bit more like a 1:1 text and less like a 1:many marketing campaign. At the earliest stage, you are NOT selling! Instead, aim to resonate and create alignment in small steps. The longer your first message is, the less likely you are to get a reply. If you get a response such as, "Not interested..." you've said too much.
3. Do NOT assign homework to strangers. That's what you are doing when you send messages with too many words plus links and other assignments. People are almost too busy for those they actually know, love and/or respect. You're not even close to that category yet. Expecting someone to read your dissertation of a message, go to your articles, watch your videos, or click on your scheduling link (before they know you) is borderline disrespectful.
4. Earn the right to ask for a more meaningful conversation. The fact that you “would love to learn more" about someone or their company is no longer compelling. You have to address why they would want to meet with you. (I called a guy out on this once and it was hilarious; message me if you want the whole crazy story!) After you've done #1 above, you might send a message like this:
Hi Caleb! It looks like you're also an Emerson College alum, and we're both connected to a bunch of the same people professionally as well. In your recent post, you mentioned that you have a client looking for some help. I may have some ideas for you. Let's chat! How's your schedule look after 2pm EDT next Wednesday or Thursday? (Or, we can share scheduling links if that's easier.)
5. Make your new contact the hero of the story. Talk about them, not yourself. You'll notice that the example above doesn't start with the word "I," and in fact contains very few ego words, i.e. I, my, we, our, my company name. This is especially important if you're prospecting. You have to have genuine and specific interest in them, and there has to be a real sense that it's worth their time to even talk to you. Nobody wants to get on a call to discuss how great you (or your solutions) are -- even if you have an act as great as SpongeBob's, per my TikTok video:
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