2 Fatal Mistakes You’re Probably Making on LinkedIn

By the math, LinkedIn can be worth investing in at any level. But make sure to ask yourself the right questions to ensure LinkedIn pays you back. Using LinkedIn connection requests and/or InMails as your first point of contact is a losing strategy. While you may have some success, it will remain limited compared to the potential.

Locked cloudLinkedIn Sales Navigator is now all but required if you are prospecting new customers by:

  • Searching LinkedIn’s contact database
  • Contacting potential buyers using InMail

Whether you’re spending $500, $50,000 or even $500,000 on LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you’re forced to ask yourself: Will Navigator be worth it?

How can you be sure? By the math, it can be worth investing, at any level. Make sure to ask yourself the right questions — to ensure LinkedIn pays you back.

However, using LinkedIn connection requests and/or InMails as your first point of contact is a losing strategy. While you may have some success, it will remain limited compared to the potential.

If you are getting responses you’re likely not advancing toward discussions or setting meetings. Worse, many of my students have invested time in LinkedIn’s training — and still aren’t getting anywhere!

Why Most Sellers Fail to Start Conversations

Contacting prospects inside LinkedIn can happen in two ways:

  • Connecting to prospects and messaging freely
  • InMail-ing potential buyers

Easy right? Well, yes-and-no.

Easy to send a personalized request and/or InMail message. Not easy to earn a response, let alone a qualified conversation. Especially using connection requests, even when personalized.

These are two ways sellers sabotage themselves. Beware — when trying to meet new customers, avoid making first contact using connection requests or InMail.

This may have you thinking, “Molander, where are you going here?! What other way is there to establish rapport on LinkedIn?!”

Answer: Not on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn: It’s Not “All That”

Despite the hype, LinkedIn and social selling isn’t “all that.” LinkedIn is nothing more than a database of prospecting leads.

Got a phone? Use it. Today’s most successful sellers are.

Got another database? Supplement it with data from LinkedIn.

Got a trade show list? Use LinkedIn to gather intel on prospects — make an informed approach.

Sellers with the highest social selling index often aren’t making any scratch on LinkedIn.

Sellers making the most money using LinkedIn work it using multiple tools — not just LinkedIn.

Why InMail Alone Rarely Works

It makes sense to start within the walls of LinkedIn when using LinkedIn to prospect, but in general, you will get more conversations started by making first contact outside of LinkedIn. Use InMail as a last resort — or later in your messaging cadence.

Use standard email and phone/voicemail first. Supplement your cadence with InMail.

So why invest in Sales Navigator at all? Because you’re forced to. No investment in Navigator? No access to LinkedIn’s database. Period.

Beware. These are just a few reasons why you should not start with InMail as a “first touch” when prospecting. InMails:

  1. Give you no ability to determine subject line strength (open rate)
  2. Are limited to maximum 30/month
  3. Are expensive!
  4. Don’t facilitate following-up well enough
  5. Rarely perform better than standard email

If you are sending emails to prospects without knowing your open rate … STOP. You’re wasting time crafting and then re-crafting messages that aren’t being seen. If you want to judge effectiveness of your message you must, first, inspect open rate — the effectiveness of subject lines.

Don’t be fooled into believing your perfectly good message is the problem — when it’s actually your email not being opened (because of a weak subject line).

Today’s world requires you to be tenacious and persistent. Don’t expect to send 10 individual InMails per week and get four to six responses! Unless you’ve got a dynamite communications technique, it’s not going happen.

Don’t rely on InMail. I’m shocked at how many people I meet are. The most effective sellers I know follow-up with every tool they have — not just LinkedIn.

In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes eight attempts. Time to get to work!

Never Forget LinkedIn’s Core Market: Recruiters

LinkedIn makes money in two ways:

  1. Selling access to its database (to sellers and recruiters)
  2. Selling media (page views)

LinkedIn wasn’t built for sales, nor sales prospecting. It is an online resume database that just happens to have executive decision-makers within it. It is also a social network.

LinkedIn was birthed to serve recruiters — not sellers.

One day LinkedIn realized, “hey … sellers are in here trying to find buyers.” Didn’t take long for the company to coin “social selling” and claim their leadership position as the place to shag down buyers.

Think of it this way. Like buyers we’re chasing, employed professionals don’t want to be bothered by recruiters. Thus, InMail (with its limitations) is a good match. Similarly, InMail is a good match for sellers.

But recruiters don’t rely on InMail — and top performing sellers don’t rely on it either.

Remember … using LinkedIn connection requests and/or InMails as your first point of contact isn’t working for most sellers. While you may have some success it will remain limited compared to the potential.

Sellers making the most money using LinkedIn work it using multiple tools — not just LinkedIn.

What has your experience been? Is it different?

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

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