By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC
LinkedIn is an excellent resource for networking with peers, publishing articles of interest, conducting job searches and exchanging information. Established in 2002 and headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., LinkedIn has approximately 259 million members in 200 countries and gains approximately two new members per second.
LinkedIn profiles have increasingly replaced business cards and resumes; maintaining recent headshots and statuses and observing basic rules of etiquette can help improve one's prospects in today's competitive business environment.
LinkedIn profiles that fail to articulate objectives or have too many concurrent job titles can make a person look like a dilettante. Hasty, generic invitations that say, "I'd like to join your professional network" without delivering a personal message may also miss the mark.
LinkedIn trainer Julbert Abraham described the four most important attributes of a LinkedIn profile as: headline, headshot, summary and recommendations from others in your network. He recommends asking these three questions to create an impressive profile:
A blog post on LinkedIn lists four key elements of social selling:
"People share great information on LinkedIn that's pertinent to marketing, sales and industry trends," said Scott Wagner, President of New York-based Go Direct. "Liking and sharing information is an enjoyable way to engage with a professional network." Wagner recommends connecting with "people you know" to build a quality LinkedIn network. "I need to know them somehow, someway, so I can feel good about connecting with them," he said. Direct and personalized LinkedIn invitations and solicitations are more effective than generic messages like this grammatically challenged example I received:
I wanted to check with you and see if I could be of help with any of your business development program. My company provides Outbound Calling or Telemarketing (Database or contact list included) with Email campaign services and Social media optimization. I think this type of marketing strategy is perfect for your company to generate more prospects and increase sales.
Let me know if you'd like to hear more so I can have my Marketing Consultant call you to discuss further. Kindly provide me with your direct line and most preferred date and time.
CLICK HERE AND SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Merchant level salespeople can receive as many as 500 junk emails a day in addition to numerous legitimate messages. Deleting messages that bypass SPAM filters is annoying and time-consuming; it can also impede one's ability to respond to mission-critical messages. If only lead generators would follow Stephen Covey's rule of "seek first to understand, then to be understood."
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey wrote, "They're either speaking or preparing to speak. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
Covey further noted in his international bestseller that people who are genuinely interested in others have an easier time gaining trust than people who recite a script or apply generic selling techniques. People who sense they're being played are less likely to open up; they may also wonder about a person's motives, unless the motives are ridiculously obvious, as in: I don't know anything about you but I need to pay some bills. So buy this.
Lolly's email reminds me of all the other emails I've received from people who didn't get Covey's memo. I decided to do the unthinkable and actually respond. Here's what I wrote:
You generate leads? What sources do you use? How do you prequalify?
Why promote your services to someone like a journalist who wouldn't ever need or use them? Why send out a bulk email to a large amorphous mass of people, hoping to find a needle in a haystack? That approach may send the wrong signal to your audience, showing them that you don't take the time to identify high-probability leads.
Why not spend some extra time understanding your prospects in order to give them a targeted message?
I encourage you to think about these things and come up with a more personalized approach. If you had just glanced at my profile, you'd probably understand I am not a prospect for your services.
I expected that to be the end of it, but I underestimated Lolly. She (or her robotic counterpart) stepped up and sent me a form letter within hours. "Thanks for your reply," she wrote. "I understand that your business does not call for the use of our services at this time, but I'd like to thank you for taking the time to inform me. Should you have any need of our services in the future, I hope you keep us in mind."
The simple response piqued my interest; I asked for a referral to someone in her marketing department. I wanted most of all to understand the company's approach to business development. Are there training programs in place that help well-meaning people like Lolly improve closing ratios?
But as it turned out, the joke was on me. When she disclosed the name of her company, it took me back seven years to a cross country flight. I was sitting next to her chief executive officer, and we got into an animated discussion about selling. At the time, I was consulting for a sales process improvement company, one that was heavily invested in prequalifying leads. He agreed to take a look at what the company had to offer.
The next day I noticed he had viewed my LinkedIn profile. I followed up with emails and a few calls, but nothing ever happened. Why not? I'll never know, but I suspect it had something to do with my LinkedIn profile, which didn't bear the same brand name as my business card. In other words, I wasn't "all-in." Fast forward five years, and one of his finest has decided I need world class telemarketing. Too bad; she could have used the sales training.
Dale S. Laszig, Staff Writer at The Green Sheet and Managing Director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content provider. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.
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