Many salespeople complain about having to make cold calls, especially because they are increasingly ineffective. Social selling evangelists, myself included, suggest that social selling can help diminish the need to make cold calls and potentially avoid them altogether. Connections are made with prospects in social channels rather than over the phone.
If you have to reach out cold to a prospect, then there is a way to increase your likelihood of success. We’ve already mentioned that cold calling is getting tougher and tougher, and email can feel a bit like its part of a spray and pray strategy. However, if you use LinkedIn InMail or Messenger, you have a greater likelihood of getting through to your prospect and here are a few reasons why.
With the rise of spam filters, getting an email through to a prospect has gotten tougher. If they have never received an email from you before, then there is a risk that you could run afoul of their spam filters and never reach them. Sadly, you might never know that that was the fate of your email. You are left to speculate based on no response.
However, LinkedIn is a recognized and credible domain. Most people, if need be, configure their spam filters to allow messages from LinkedIn. Leveraging this trusted domain increases the chances of your InMails reaching the right people.
Your Profile Is Your Resume
Please understand that I am not suggesting that you are looking for a job when reaching out to a prospect when I refer to your profile as a resume. Hopefully, the following will give you a better sense of what I mean.
If I sent you an email with my resume attached and assuming it made it through your spam filters, you would be asking yourself “Who is this person and why did they send me their resume?” My email would tell you why I am getting in touch, and my resume would give you a bit of back story and work history, but that is it for context.
If I send you a message through LinkedIn, then my name is a hyperlink to my profile which is essentially my resume. It gives you my back story and work history, but it also picks up where my resume left off regarding context which is our next key point.
When you click my name to visit my profile, you get to see who we share as mutual connections which my resume does not provide. As the sender, I gain some subtle validation and additional credibility based on those mutual connections. The recipient starts to think that “Mary Smith would not be connected to me if I was a jerk”. Mary does not have to say anything. Her connection to me is all the extra help and context I need, but she is there if the recipient wants to check with her about me before responding.
It used to be that you had to ask people who they knew, but now LinkedIn makes networks transparent. We now know who you know which allows people to be very specific about asking for introductions, referrals, and background checks. We take this attribute for granted too often, having forgotten how much more effort was required to make such connections before LinkedIn and social media.
The Need for Brevity
While LinkedIn gives you 2000 characters for messages, it does not mean you should take it. Best practices suggest being clear, brief, and to the point with your messages while still personalizing it and establishing common ground. Think WIIFM – “What’s in it for me!” – where “me” is the recipient of your message.
Tell them why you are contacting them. Draw from your knowledge about them and mutual connections to illustrate that you have taken the time to learn more about them and that your message isn’t spam. Explain what they have to gain by responding and wrap it up succinctly and professionally.
People are time-starved and increasingly reliant on their mobile phones so be cognizant that the first, and possibly only, place the recipients will read your message is on their phone. How much text can convey what you want to say and still fit on the screen of a smartphone? Writing a message as long as a book just won’t do it.
Recently a client of mine, who provides communications services, found himself losing a client who had elected to take the service in-house and have it delivered by a staff member. Not one to sit idle, my client went to LinkedIn and, after a bit of research, targeted his former client’s three top competitors.
Now before people accuse him of traitorous behavior or breaching confidentiality, let me add that he did not do anything of the sort. He simply approached the competitors via LinkedIn InMail with a very succinct message about who he was, the services his firm provided and for whom (e.g. their competitor), and indicators of his knowledge of the marketplace and what they would face if they were new entrants.
Two of the three competitors responded and InMail exchanges ensued. Within a couple of weeks, one of them signed a six month contract for communication services. How is that for a payoff from three InMails sent as part of a cold outreach?
Consider adding this to your existing prospecting efforts and see what happens over time. Maybe this will become one of your primary prospecting strategies. You won’t close a deal via LinkedIn, or Twitter for that matter, but you will be able to spark a conversation that, if nurtured further, could lead to one. Furthermore, not every InMail will be a home run but if you do proper research in advance, target your recipients and tailor the right message, LinkedIn’s messaging just may be the secret weapon your sales arsenal is missing.