3 Proven Ways to Sabotage a LinkedIn Prospecting Strategy

Stop the madness! LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool, but most sellers are sabotaging their chance to start conversations with prospects. From InMail to connection requests, I coach sellers on best use practices. Lately, these three mistakes are running rampant.

LinkedIn LogosStop the madness! LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool, but most sellers are sabotaging their chance to start conversations with prospects. From InMail to connection requests, I coach sellers on best use practices. Lately, these three mistakes are running rampant.

1. Using LinkedIn As a Communications Platform

Increasingly, Linkedin is weakening as a communications platform for sellers, all while the company has successfully built an image for itself as an essential sales tool. This weakening isn’t my opinion — it’s my accumulated experience. My team, and my client’s teams, are seeing decision makers becoming less-and-less responsive over time. Some blame the “Facebook-ization” of LinkedIn.

Historically, LinkedIn has seen massive abuse of its InMail messaging platform. In 2015, the company re-arranged its rules and response rates increased substantially. There was less spam on LinkedIn.

However, lately, we (my clients and I) are seeing decreasing:

  • Quality and effectiveness of InMail
  • InMail writing skills
  • Communications skills among sellers

Decision makers are responding less on LinkedIn’s platform, simply because Navigator’s popularity is increasing. More sellers are piling on. However, this is resulting in a steady increase in spammy messages on LinkedIn’s platform.

Remember: LinkedIn’s strength is in its profile database — not its ability to take the work out of starting conversations with customers.

I know snazzy LinkedIn adverts claim otherwise. As do the “LinkedIn experts” who arm you with InMail templates. Templates don’t work.

Bottom line: Do you use LinkedIn as your primary communications platform when prospecting? If so, you may be weakening your chances to start conversations on it.

Over time, we are seeing decision-makers:

  • Disguising their authority on LinkedIn
  • Accepting fewer connection requests
  • Responding to issues-oriented provocations, not meeting requests

Instead, use LinkedIn for what it’s best at: Prospect targeting and research. Make sure LinkedIn is not your primary communications platform when prospecting.

2. Relying Too Much on InMail

Most sellers are relying too much on email. InMail is even worse … in terms of the assumed “power” of LinkedIn’s paid email service, InMail.

I am constantly advising, “InMail doesn’t have superpowers.” Sellers roll their eyes and say, “well, duh, Molander.” Only to turn around and keep using it … as if it is capable of more than standard email.

It is capable of less.

InMail is no different than standard email as a conversation-starting tool. However, it is weaker as a sales tool based on how most are using it. With InMail, remember, you have no reliable way to:

  • Understand open rate of messages
  • Strengthen subject lines (and get opened more!)
  • Easily manage follow-ups as part of your cadence

InMail is a tool that integrates with a multi-pronged sales prospecting cadence. Our most productive students use InMail as a last resort — toward the end of outreach sequence (standard email and phone).

One of the biggest mistakes I’m seeing is expecting InMail to deliver above average response from prospects. It does not.

Another big mistake: Using InMail without having a proven, effective subject line. You must test subject lines outside of the realm of InMail, before you start InMailing, because LinkedIn InMail cannot help you test subject lines. There is no “open tracking” available in LinkedIn. With InMail, you are flying blind with regard to understanding open rate.

Open rate is critical because, first, you must know if you’re being opened. Then (and only then) you can judge effectiveness of (and adjust) the message. Don’t judge your message without first knowing it’s being seen!

Solution: Test subject lines outside the realm of InMail, then bring your strength to it. Bring subject lines that you know people are opening. Aim for a minimum 30 percent open rate. You need at least a 40 percent response rate for InMail to be worthwhile (cost effective).

3. Asking for Meetings

Are you still sending out email templates asking for meetings? Stop — now!

Remember: Your goal is not to book a meeting when making first contact. Using InMail? Standard email? Connecting on LinkedIn? Be warned: Asking for what you want, right away, usually fails.

As a rule of thumb, any time a B2B seller begins a prospecting cadence with an attempt to get an appointment, they are being rejected by 90—97 percent of perfectly good prospects.

Because most of your targets are not yet realizing they need a meeting. They are going to buy something similar to your solution within two years — but not from you. All because you rushed the meeting. You didn’t give prospects the chance to understand why they need to talk with you — and decide (for themselves) when.

Instead, get invited into the discussion first. Help the buyer understand why they want the appointment. Attract the potential buyer to ask YOU for the meeting, demo or face-to-face. Get invited to discuss a challenge, fear or goal your prospect has.

5 LinkedIn Best Practices That Don’t Work

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Most LinkedIn best practices for sales reps are not, in fact, best practices. They’re time-wasters. This is one of the most important insights I gleaned in 2014. That’s why I’m offering you five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015.

The 5 Worst LinkedIn Best Practices

  1. Using “Who’s viewed my profile” to drive profile views.
  2. Requesting connections from new prospects.
  3. Sending InMails that ask for appointments and referrals.
  4. Sharing valuable content with your connections.
  5. Adding value in LinkedIn Groups by giving away your best advice.

Instead, follow these five steps to avoid falling down the LinkedIn “best practices” rabbit hole that truly don’t work for sales:

1. Beware of ‘Who’s Viewed Your Profile’
We all like candy and LinkedIn is handing it out. The experience is becoming increasingly Facebookesque. Case-in-point: The “who’s viewed my profile” feature. Beware: for most of us it’s a trap.

I’m not suggesting this feature isn’t handy. It’s just not what we (as sellers) want it to be. It can be a time-suck.

Our instincts to find buyers can overpower rational thought—especially when we’re pressed for time. Mix in some “online candy” and it’s a productivity risk.

Is it good to know who’s viewing your profile? Yes. Can you tell why someone outside of your immediate network is viewing your profile? Not with certainty. You cannot qualify a lead based on them looking at your profile.

A lot of experts claim you can. You cannot. Deep down, you know you cannot. Using software or other techniques to increase your views is not a smart strategy, especially when:

  • LinkedIn encourages random, casual viewing of “people you may know”
  • Many views aren’t views at all (they are momentary, fleeting arrivals at your profile)

LinkedIn wants you to know who’s looking at your profile. I’m cool with that. But when you believe people are viewing your profile for reasons you’re creating from thin air? You’re in trouble.

Spend time making sure arrivals at your profile spark curiosity in you. Invest less time in hope. And please don’t ask visitors you do not know (who view your profile) to connect with you!

2. Don’t Ask for Connections as a First Step
The most deadly—and common—mistake sales reps make on LinkedIn is asking prospects they don’t know to connect.

Be warned: It is against LinkedIn’s terms and conditions to send connection requests to prospects you don’t know. I know, I know. The “experts” all offer invitation personalization tips to earn connections from strangers. Ignore them!

Being banned by LinkedIn for inviting too many people who don’t know you is common. If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

Please don’t try to make first contact with prospects on LinkedIn—unless you use InMail or Groups messages. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but:

  1. You’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted;
  2. you’re taking a risk you don’t need to take; and
  3. the risk isn’t worth it; being connected is better for nurturing (not creating) leads.

3. Don’t Ask for Appointments in InMails, Attract Them
We all want appointments. But trying to get an appointment from “go” is a failing tactic. You will be rejected by 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects according to Sharon Drew Morgen. She would know. She invented the Buying Facilitation method, and she has 20 years of experience to back up the statement.

Here’s why: A majority of buyers don’t know what they need when you email them. Or they are aware of their need, but aren’t ready to buy yet.

Use the first InMail or email like a good cold call: Earn permission for a discussion that can lead to an eventual meeting. Don’t jump the gun. Once you have permission, execute the email conversation in a way that sparks an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Get the prospect so curious about what you have to say they cannot resist acting—asking you for a call.

Just like on a hot date, would you rather ask the other person out—or be asked? Don’t say too much too fast. Attract your prospect. This is one of my most mind-bending (yet effective) LinkedIn InMail tips. It also works on regular email messages.

4. Stop Sharing Valuable Content, Start Provoking Behavior
Sharing valuable content in groups and via LinkedIn updates rarely creates leads for most sellers; mostly because of “expert” tips that don’t work. There is way too little focus placed on how and when to share knowledge in groups.

Most “expert” tips focus on:

  1. gathering (curating) content quickly,
  2. defining what is valuable to buyers and
  3. deciding how often to post.

Instead, focus on how you post. Focus on structure. The design of words. Copywriting.

Defining what’s valuable to your target buyer is vital to know. But it’s worthless unless you know how to provoke customers to call or email you. (Not just comment on your update or share it with others.)

Likewise, knowing how to gather content quickly is important. But if what you share does not intersect with a lead capture system, you’ve squandered the engagement.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But the top 5 percent of LinkedIn sellers know an important fact. Sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. It takes solid social media copywriting.

Instead, start shockingly truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors don’t dare go near. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Then connect what you say to an action your prospect can take (begin the lead nurturing journey).

5. Adding Value in Groups Is Often a Win-Lose
Giving away your best advice in Groups can be a win-lose. The prospects win, you lose. Success depends on your prospects’ curiosity in you. And that depends on how and when you give away specifics. Just like effective InMail/email message writing and sequencing.

You’ll experience more success (requests for appointments, calls, emails) by giving away “just enough” information to be credible … yet not quite complete. The idea is to create an urge and the curiosity to know more.

For example, do you give answers and advice away in ways that create more questions in the mind of your reader? Do you give away just enough to create more curiosity about you that can be connected to what you sell? If not, you’re struggling.

You’re probably giving away too much too fast—smothering the prospect.

Are your posts grabbing customers? Are potential buyers responding—hungry to talk with you about issues, short-cuts or better ways you know about?

If not you’re probably over-focusing on what you are saying. Instead, focus on how you structure words and when you release key bits of information. Are you saying too much too fast?

Again, think of it like a great date. The most attraction occurs when you get “just enough” information about the other person that you become curious. Too much information overwhelms—leaves nothing to the imagination and is often flat out boring.

Once again, relevant content is elementary. The difference between wasting time with LinkedIn prospecting—and generating leads—is sparking buyers’ curiosity in what you can do for them.

Getting them to respond.

Remember, most LinkedIn best practices we read about online are not. They’re time-wasters. They’re edicts written by people who know about LinkedIn but who don’t know enough about sales prospecting. What do you think about my five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015? Are you having any success with these? I’m open to hearing your rebuttals!

Why You Aren’t Getting Appointments on LinkedIn

Ninety-five percent of sales reps using LinkedIn are getting few—if any—appointments. They’re using premium services, Sales Navigator, sending InMail, joining groups, spiffing up their profiles. And yet they’re chronically underperforming. All because they’re making three easily correctable mistakes when firing up their Web browsers each day.

Ninety-five percent of sales reps using LinkedIn are getting few—if any—appointments. They’re using premium services, Sales Navigator, sending InMail, joining groups, spiffing up their profiles. And yet they’re chronically underperforming. All because they’re making three easily correctable mistakes when firing up their Web browsers each day.

Mistake No. 1: Asking for Connections First
The most deadly—and common—mistake most reps make comes right at the beginning: asking prospects for connection requests. Being connected is useful for nurturing leads—not effective for earning near-term meetings or starting discussions.

Stop asking for connections as a first step.

Outside of InMail or Group messages, don’t try to make initial contact with prospects on LinkedIn. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but you’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted.

Connecting first is not an effective practice. It’s also against LinkedIn’s terms of use and is punishable. You can be banned. Wait until the prospect knows you, and they will be more likely to accept your connection request.

Initiate contact first—then connect on LinkedIn to nurture the conversation forward. This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids the risk of being restricted).

Mistake No. 2: Forgetting to Slow Prospects Down
Customers are busy and getting busier. So our first job is to help them take a breath for a second. Literally. That’s where your first couple of email or InMail messages come into play.

These very brief, blunt and basic messages should disarm the customer—not ask them for an appointment. Don’t ask them to direct you to the right decision makers. Don’t ask them to have a demo with you. These are all extremely common mistakes. Don’t ask them for anything other than a reply!

Get out of the ninety-five percent of underperformers and into the top 5 percent of LinkedIn users.

Yes, you must grab a prospect’s attention and hold it. But your first message must shock the prospect by putting them in control of the contact with you. Because once prospects feel control the good ones will in a better position to discover something:

They want to talk to you. Or, they want to take action on making a change.

Mistake No. 3: Not Letting Them Ask You for the Meeting
Most likely, you are asking for the meeting too often and too early. Instead, let them ask you.

“When do we succeed? When we don’t need the sale,” says sales trainer Mia Doucet of CrackTheSalesCode.com. She would know. She’s helped her clients generate hundreds of millions in new customer sales.

Doucet says our instinctual need for validation (as humans) often causes confusion. We often let our weak, selfish need to get the deal sabotage our own effort.

For example, we sometimes ask for a meeting too soon. Instead, we should be more confident: “attracting” the meeting to us.

Let’s assume you can grab a prospect’s attention and hold it with your first email or InMail message. Reality is, you have a chance to earn their request for a meeting. Sure, you can ask them for the meeting. But what you really want is for them to ask you for it.

Don’t act like you need the sale so badly. You want the prospect to be attracted to you. They already know you are attracted to them. You just sent them an email, after all!

It’s Like a Date
At one time, you were probably on a hot date. Maybe you had one last night. Either way, when you’ve decided “I want to attract this person to me” you can go about getting what you want (the next step, the next date or phone call) in one of two ways: Asking for it or being asked.

Which do you like better? We all like being asked for the next step; it signals attraction on the other side.

Do you have prospects who are not yet aware that your solution exists? If so, they are probably happy with what they have in place. Or maybe your prospects are too scared to abandon or switch from what they have in place.

Or they may just plain not care about making any change whatsoever. It’s not worth the risk. In these cases you’re forced to attract customers in a “pull” manner.

Plan for What You Want: Curiosity
Attracting clients to you is mostly about deciding in advance what details to hold back (that the other side wants the most). Then, alluding to it in a seductive or provocative (yet credible) way. It’s this structuring of how you “say what you say” that sparks customers’ curiosity.

Often times clients want “the how.” So by letting out just a little of your very best stuff each time it’s your turn to speak you create more questions about yourself … or your thing (what you sell).

This keeps the other side asking you rather than the other way around. This ultimately creates a moment in time where the potential buyer realizes, hey, you are worth a larger time investment.

Just like that first date: You’ll get asked for your phone number or to meet again. But none of this happens without having a plan.

What do you think? What’s your plan?

How to Avoid Being Banned by LinkedIn When Connecting

“Your LinkedIn account temporarily restricted.” It’s a common message for sellers these days. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

“Your LinkedIn account temporarily restricted.” This is a fairly common message for sellers these days. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

If your connection requests are not accepted by prospects often enough LinkedIn will remove your ability to make connection requests. Being restricted from sending connection requests (phase I) and being totally banned (phase II) by LinkedIn is common. Ask around. You’ll be surprised.

Stop Asking for Connections
Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships. Want to avoid being restricted or banned? Want more appointments from LinkedIn?

Stop sending out connection requests. Sound crazy? Hear me out. Today I’ll tackle:

  • Why you don’t need a connection on the approach,
  • When you should ask for the connection and
  • How LinkedIn fits in (best) with your prospecting process.

Why You Don’t Need a Connection
Connecting with a newly targeted prospect on LinkedIn is a terrible idea. Yet I still see social selling “experts” recommending sales reps make connections—as a means to introduce themselves to prospects! But what if you didn’t need the connection?

What if connecting was preventing you from getting more response & appointments?

“Ok, Molander. So why isn’t it a good idea?”

Well, it’s against LinkedIn’s rules. Plus, you probably don’t need it anyway.

Yes, it seems like a logical first step but it’s blind, cold. You don’t know the other person and LinkedIn’s goal is to protect people from un-solicited correspondence. Yours!

So what is the best way to make your approach on LinkedIn?

What’s Your Process—and How Does LinkedIn Fit in?
When I first meet students I pop the question: How does LinkedIn fit into your prospecting process. Ninety-five percent of the time I get the same response.

“I need to figure that part out.”

Well enough. I know it feels right to use connection requests as a way to make contact—once you’ve identified a potential buyer’s profile. After all, there’s a big CONNECT button staring you in the face!

But connecting makes no sense from a process and relationship perspective. It can also get you banned.

For example, LinkedIn connection requests are:

  • Restricted to 300 characters
  • Impersonal (automated requests are forced on mobile devices)
  • Against the rules if you don’t know the prospect!

LinkedIn connections can be accepted, ignored or declined—just like your calls or emails. They offer nothing better. In fact, they come with restrictions, are often impersonal by default and are not permitted. They’re risky!

Connect With Prospects Later
Let’s shift to process. It is best to “connect” off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids the risk of being restricted).

Think of it this way. Outside of LinkedIn, what’s the difference between a successful sales rep and one who struggles at prospecting new business? Getting connected on LinkedIn? Nope!

It often boils down to your ability to give prospects an irresistible reason to talk with you.

This is what all the social selling gurus don’t like to talk about. It makes me crazy. They’re never telling us what we need to do to experience success—only what we’d prefer to hear (to experience momentary satisfaction in having taking action).

Why and How Connecting Later Works
When prospecting, your goal is to create an urge in the prospect to talk to you. If you don’t create that urge you don’t get to talk with them. Period.

Social selling on LinkedIn is all about helping prospects feel honestly curious about how you can help them. How you can solve a problem, relieve a pain, avoid a risk or fast-track a goal for them.

Once you’ve attracted them, then you’re in a stronger position to:

  • Understand when (and if) they’ll transact;
  • Discover how many decision-makers are involved in choosing you;
  • Have your connection request accepted (avoid going to jail!);
  • Effectively nurture & close your lead!

This is why it is best to meet off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

Once connected, you can message freely, monitor prospects, allow them to monitor you and such. You don’t need to worry about any of that until you’ve been given a reason to—by the prospect. First, you need their permission.

You need them to want the connection.

But What if LinkedIn Is my Starting Point?
The most dangerous (yet common) LinkedIn mistake sales professionals make is connecting with new prospects as a starting point. Avoid this practice.

You are smart to use LinkedIn—to identify and pre-qualify buyers. Next, use InMail, email or the phone to make initial contact with them. Confirm your prospect is a viable near-term or future buyer.

Then connect.

Having connections serves you better by earning them. Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships.

LinkedIn’s InMail (or standard email) is a better path toward earning a relevant discussion first—then the connection.

Keep connections in context of your selling process. Connections are a nice-to-have, not a must have! Do you have questions about making this technique “come alive” for you? Let me know!

3 Ways to Waste Time on LinkedIn, but Feel Good About It

Ever feel like beating down all those bad tips for LinkedIn that we’ve all had enough of? You know, the tips and tricks that give us a week’s worth of satisfaction—followed by that sinking feeling. “Ugh… why did I invest any time in that?!” Well, today is your day to call out those time-wasters and discover what to do instead.

Ever feel like beating down all those bad tips for LinkedIn that we’ve had enough of? You know, the tips and tricks that give us a week’s worth of satisfaction—followed by that sinking feeling. “Ugh … why did I invest any time in that?!” Well, today is your day to call out those time-wasters and discover what to do instead.

No. 1: Share Quality Content Focused on Providing Value
“I have seen little (okay, I’m exaggerating) to no success using LinkedIn,” John Reeb of the Colorado Leadership Institute told me.

“I have tried to add value to anyone who reads what I post … so that they gain some kind of expertise or learning that helps them in their day-to-day work… yet I’ve receive virtually no feedback nor any sales from it,” Mr. Reeb told me in a candid LinkedIn exchange.

LinkedIn gurus claim being seen as an expert in your field is the killer strategy. But it’s not. It’s the reward for having an effective approach.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But merely sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. Instead, start bold, truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors wouldn’t dare go near.

Give potential buyers a reason to listen to you, to care about your words-to pay attention to you. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Tell the truths you’re a little scared to tell!

Ask yourself what shocking truth can you reveal that:

  • Gives insight on an idea customers never heard before.
  • Busts a myth your clients have been told is true—that isn’t!
  • Confirms their suspicion that some sellers are telling “white lies.”

Successful social selling often means helping prospects believe in a new, more useful point-of-view-in a way they can act on. That’s where your lead generation offer plugs in. In fact, what to post on LinkedIn updates isn’t nearly as important as how you post.

No. 2: Comment Frequently on Group Discussions and Prospects’ Updates
You can’t throw a cat without hitting an expert espousing this time-wasting tip. Let the truth finally be told. Participation on LinkedIn is the cost of entry. Learning how to apply social media copywriting is the force multiplier.

Success depends less on how frequently you update your profile status, how often you participate in Group discussions or what you say. You’ll get more responses (and leads) by investing time in structuring words to be provocative.

Instead of wasting time patting people on the back, disagree once in a while. Invent ways to make potential buyers curious about your ability to solve a problem, remedy a pain or fast-track a goal.

Don’t get caught up in the popular nonsense: show you’re human, give-give-give before you get and (my personal favorite) tell a good story. As with any relationship in life, having personality and being interesting is the entry fee. It’s essential. Makes sure you know how to write social media posts so they provoke a response.

The key to turning LinkedIn interactions into business leads is following a social media copywriting process.

At the highest level, this process involves:

  • Getting to the point immediately.
  • Having something honestly new (and useful) to say.
  • Not saying too much too fast. Being a little mysterious.

No. 3: Connect With Prospects
Perhaps the most dangerous tip is connecting with prospects you don’t know. Again, self-appointed gurus are the problem, not the good people (you) using LinkedIn.

Have you ever been banned by LinkedIn for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know? Know anyone who has?

Being temporarily banned by LinkedIn for this practice is very common. Yet we never read anything about it or hear anyone talking about this problem at conferences.

Fact: If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

LinkedIn prohibits contacting distant prospects. LinkedIn is not a good place to contact people whom you don’t have (at least) a second degree connection with, and whom you don’t have specific knowledge about.

If you have a new prospect—who you’ve never spoken to-it’s probably not a good idea to request a connection on LinkedIn (outside of an InMail message). That is, until you have better proximity to the prospect … better ability to approach once they know you or have a high probability of accepting the connection request.

From a practical view, here’s why: Because this is not what LinkedIn is intended for. It’s not what the founders built LinkedIn to do for sellers.

In fact, LinkedIn wasn’t originally built with “social selling” in mind. Just like Facebook wasn’t built for marketing.

That said, LinkedIn and social selling are evolving into a great match. In fact it’s the bedrock of their growth plan as a business. But be careful. Connecting with prospects is where a lot of sellers go wrong and pay the price!

Questions about any of my tips? Disagree with my perspective? Let me know. Good luck to you!