Pre-COVID-19, I would receive a handful of LinkedIn connect requests a week from people who were clearly trying to sell me something, or wanting to increase the reach of their network by connecting to mine. Since COVID-19, that number has increased tenfold.
I am cognisant that COVID-19 has caused salespeople to do a lot more work for the same yield as a year ago. Many people have lost their jobs and have started their own consultancies. Others have shifted to new target markets to stay viable. The result? More LinkedIn connection requests flying around than you can poke a stick at.
Firstly I want to sincerely acknowledge the extra hard work so many people are putting in right now; my industry is also suffering greatly from the economic impact of COVID-19. Secondly, your LinkedIn requests are driving me bananas. Please let me give you some advice.
As an executive in one of Australia’s largest recruitment groups, I’m used to being cold-called. I get cold-called for offshoring services, telephony, printing, sponsorships, advertising, training, coaching, beta testing, and sometimes even recruitment services (bonus hint to any aspiring salesperson: read a person’s LinkedIn profile before reaching out).
I value and protect my LinkedIn network. My connections know that I will never spam them or ask for more than I give. So I don’t let just anyone in. Here are my top 5 tips for those who are trying to grow their network of decision makers in this difficult market.
1. Don’t use your boilerplate invitation wording. No matter how much time you’ve spent perfecting it.
Maybe it’s just me, but as soon as I see the ‘Hey, we should definitely connect!’ message, my shoulders shoot upwards and I can’t get to the ‘Ignore’ button fast enough. Please make the personalised message in my invitation actually personalised. I genuinely respect someone who takes the time to identify what it is about me that they are interested in, or remind me where we once met, or which event we both attended.
2. Apply the ‘what’s in it for me’ rule.
Everyone writes telling me how I am the exact type of person they want to have in their network. With all due respect, a) you don’t know me, and b) so what? I’d be way more impressed if you could tell me what value you will add to me by being in my network.
Here is a request I received this week. This is not the worst by any means, but I’ve rejected the others already so I can’t share them with you.
I know we haven’t met in person, but I came across your name and your profile piqued my interest.
I would love to connect here and follow you.
There are a couple of rookie errors here than can easily have been avoided. Firstly, you don’t need to connect with me to follow me. Just follow me. Secondly, I’m not sure what effect the phrase “piqued my interest” is intended to have on me. This person could definitely have made a better impact by even reading this out aloud to themselves before sending.
3. Find the balance between expertise and arrogance.
Today I received an invitation from someone who described themselves as a ‘visionary’. Again, just my opinion, but I believe this is a word that others should use to describe you, not how you should describe yourself. It’s great to describe your passion and achievements, but humility is an equally important trait to demonstrate IMHO.
4. Make sure your profile supports your ambitions.
Because I receive so many connect requests from all sorts of people (I’m not special, it’s what happens when you work in the recruitment industry), I have developed a set of rules that helps me quickly decide whether to accept or ignore requests. I must stress that these will be different for everyone, but for me they are as follows:
- Must be a potential client, candidate or business partner
- Must be living in Australia (I may make an exception for business partners)
- Must have a profile photo, and not a wedding photo or cropped pic from a big night out with your mates
- The profile must contain the person’s proper first name and surname; no nicknames or initials
- They must have a decent sized existing network. I’d much rather be your 501st connection than your first.
This might sound harsh, but I’m willing to bet that nearly every senior manager has a similar set of unwritten rules. So if you need to spend a few hours building a high quality profile before sending your invitations, I think it will be an investment that will deliver solid returns.
5. Once I accept, earn credibility via content, not InMails.
Some people instantly expect me to agree to a product demonstration or meeting, just because I’ve accepted their connect request. Others start me on a list of weekly group InMail marketing communications. I find this too much. By all means, send me a message to say thanks for connecting, tell me that you publish a weekly blog, and invite me to subscribe by clicking the link in your message. But then you need to give me a bit of time to be exposed to the high-quality content that you publish. Once you’ve established credibility and engagement, we can explore the potential for something more.
I hope these insights are useful, and that some of them find their way into your sales kitbag. These times are new and challenging for anyone in business development, and I wish you the very best of success. If you’re reading this and you want to connect with me, I look forward to hearing from you!
General Manager, Operations