My LinkedIn Error – Brought to You by a Thumb

Recently, I was on a train when I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from a former colleague of mine initiating a job search. Upon having accepted, LinkedIn sends a confirmation that includes a search and listing of all your email contacts and asks if you want to send out connection requests to them, as well.

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Well in my increasingly cross-screen world, I made a big mistake with my LinkedIn profile thankfully, I was able to undo it.

Recently, I was on a train when I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from a former colleague of mine who is initiating a job search. I accepted her connection request, using my smartphone LinkedIn interface. (I don’t even know if I was in app mode or mobile Web.)

Upon having accepted, LinkedIn (by default) sends you a confirmation page, that includes a search and listing of all your email contacts that match up to LinkedIn profiles elsewhere (and probably many more email addresses that don’t correspond) and asks if you want to send out connection requests to these emails, as well. I hate that “they” do this.

A mistake waiting to happen. I emphatically do not want that to happen.

I don’t know if it was my thumb fumbling on a small screen or some other missed button when I was attempting the close the page, but lo and behold, all these email addresses were then sent a generic connection request.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Just like that. Hundreds of invites sent to people I may only have interacted with  who had found their way into my contacts. Bam, the invites go out. No intervention from LinkedIn asking me to confirm this hefty request.

Just like that. Six years of carefully curating my LinkedIn profile for business-to-business networking and communications with people with whom I am familiar and trust … gone (for the moment).

Needless to say, when I got back to my laptop later I was able to login on a larger screen without issue, and spot how to rescind a sent invitation. By that time, only a few near-strangers had accepted my inadvertent request and I was able to undo nearly 300 others. Whew!

What does LinkedIn gain by having so many tangential contacts of mine so easily added to my network? Well, be assured, I dug deeper into settings to undo any LinkedIn syncing of contacts I had had with my phone and email accounts.

So, more or less, one inadvertent mobile on-the-go mistake was undone. And my business-to-business LinkedIn network is more or less restored. Well, a little less restored.

Do you ever have those digital or mobile moments where a “submit” or “return” or “enter” button just mysteriously sets itself off? Sometimes, a back button or Control Z gets a return to normal without incident.

Wrap it up. When my credit card bill comes for my online Christmas shopping, I’m certain there will be a few more regrettable miscues with my thumb!

I hope they were Happy Holidays for all!

The Triple-A Approach to Succeeding at Digital Marketing in 2019

While it’s impossible to predict the new innovations advertising platforms will release in the year ahead, there are three trends and tactics marketers should be aware of that made a big enough impact in 2018 that are likely to be the cornerstones of digital marketing in 2019, and they all begin with “A.”

While it’s impossible to predict the new innovations advertising platforms will release in the year ahead, there are three trends and tactics marketers should be aware of that made a big enough impact in 2018 that are likely to be the cornerstones of digital marketing in 2019, and they all begin with “A.”

The triple A approach to succeeding at digital marketing in 2019: Amazon, Audiences and Automation.

Amazon Advertising Reaches the Big Time

Rumors circulated for years that the online retail giant could become one of the biggest media companies, yet advertisers just recently started taking these rumors seriously and jumping on the bandwagon. After an initial uproar when Amazon began showing up in Google Shopping results in Q4 of 2016 causing competing advertisers’ costs-per-click (CPCs) to spike, many retails shifted gears, choosing to partner with Amazon rather than compete against it, making Amazon’s growth inevitable. In fact, Amazon has already become the third largest digital ad publisher behind Google and Facebook, and according to a recent survey, 80% of advertisers plan to increase their budgets on Amazon in 2019.

For those advertisers who haven’t yet dipped their toes into Amazon advertising, it’s time to explore the self-service Amazon Marketing Services. Sponsored Products are usually a good place to start since the ads go live immediately, appear organic, and don’t require images or custom copy. Automatic targeting that adapts dynamically to trends and seasonality is available, eliminating the need to manually select keywords. Combined, these options make for a relatively simple process. Of course, an agency can help fine-tune an Amazon advertising program; especially if they completed Amazon’s power training which grants them assigned dedicated support.

Audiences Become the Priority

Having been a hot topic for some time now, in 2019 audiences will become unavoidable. While many advertisers already applied audiences to their advertising programs, not many have done so strategically. Imagine if step one of any digital program was building an audience to target with your program rather than building a list of keywords. Keywords would be supplanted as the most important aspect for paid search, replaced by audience targeting to positively impacting a client’s bottom line with a much more refined approach.

Refining an audience approach will be the single most effective tactic to win at customer-centric marketing; by focusing on the right person at the right time, with the right messaging, marketers set themselves up for victory. By focusing on audiences, marketers can move beyond the all-too-common channel-approach that limits cohesiveness in campaigns and limits effectiveness. The audience approach enables refined targeting, eliminating waste and delivering deeper, more meaningful insights.

Both Google and Bing have already made advancements in this area. Google expanded its audiences beyond website visitors and customer lists to in-market, custom intent and detailed demographics. Bing followed suit and introduced its new Audience Network which uses artificial intelligence to connect Microsoft data insights with LinkedIn’s to deliver the right message to the consumer. Advertisers can then target these audiences on Microsoft’s premium properties such as MSN, Outlook and Microsoft Edge.

Automation Enables Marketers to Get Strategic

Marketing automation tools maximize efficiency and increase revenues; they also eliminate tedious tasks, freeing up marketers to focus on strategic growth for their clients. While bidding automation has been adopted by most marketers at this point, Google has taken automation a step farther, introducing multiple fully-automated campaign types that require very little, if any, intervention during its Google Marketing Live in July 2018. The first campaign type was automated feeds for Shopping campaigns that get products online faster and simplifies maintenance; second was Hotel campaigns that simplify management and optimization; third was smart campaigns for small businesses, that are designed for local and small businesses that might not have the staff to focus on management and need an easy solution instead.

This continues a trend for Google, which already utilized automation in Universal App Campaigns and Universal Shopping Campaigns; these campaigns do not allow for marketer intervention beyond creative asset upload and budget changes. With the continued deployment of new fully-automated campaigns that rely on machine learning for optimization and management, Google has established a clear direction. It seems possible, if not likely, that Google will eliminate its manual offerings for Shopping campaigns and text-based campaigns the way it did with App campaigns. After all, Google is already testing responsive ads, which dynamically combine headlines and descriptions based on performance and the advertiser’s goal. There’s a possibility that completely automated campaigns will be the new normal for advertisers sooner than we think, once Google works out the kinks.

By understanding and adopting these trends and tactics, digital marketers should be able to deliver an A across the board on their campaigns, keeping clients happy and budgets flowing.

A Surprising Cold Email Best Practice

By the time a “best practice” is best, it’s mainstream … common. A cold email best practice is most often a “worst practice” in the realm of sales outreach. Starting conversations with decision-makers using LinkedIn InMail, or standard email, requires breaking away from the usual cold email best practices.

By the time a “best practice” is best, it’s mainstream … common. A cold email best practice is most often a “worst practice” in the realm of sales outreach. Starting conversations with decision-makers using LinkedIn InMail, or standard email, requires breaking away from the usual cold email best practices.

Sending cold email messages, and follow-ups, using sequences or campaigns is working less-and-less. Mostly because of a widely-accepted best practice: Adding value to cold email messages.

What?! I thought everyone knows — earning response means adding value to email messages when prospecting.

Today, I’ll challenge this cold email best practice. I’m basing the challenge less on opinion, more on experience.

Offering value — without having earned the chance to provide it — is failing most sellers. Beware.

The Case for Adding Value

“Here’s the problem with emails today, they lack value,” says Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Inc.

“If you don’t think an email needs to offer value, then you are most likely one of the perpetrators of horrific emails. Emails have to offer value,” he says.

However, our clients, our sales team and I myself are living proof: Cold emails not offering value do earn response.

Likewise when prospecting, most sales reps believe email messages need to be seen as credible by prospects. Not always true either. Trying to add value, and be seen as credible, can sabotage success.

That said, Keenan makes a compelling argument for what many believe is the No. 1, golden cold email best practice.

Your email, he says, must offer value, “Because you’re asking for something.” A meeting.

“I’m regularly bombarded with horrific emails, almost always asking for 15 or 30 minutes of my time, these emails offer nothing of value to me and just end up cluttering my inbox. I delete them as fast as I can,” says Keenan.

“Why should someone open your email or give you 15 minutes of their time if there is no value in it for them? They shouldn’t and they won’t.”

But what if your cold email didn’t strive to prove value — at all? What if you also skipped asking for a meeting in cold sales outreach?

Increasingly, clients are opening emails based on curiosity about what’s inside the email — not anticipation of value they’ll receive. Likewise, compelling a customer to take your meeting without having established a need to is an outdated cold email best practice.

An Unusual, But Effective Best Practice

Want a meeting with your decision-maker? Stop requesting them. Instead, start provoking discussions, piquing curiosity.

Stop trying to give-give-give, add value and clearly present offers. Start trying to quickly provoke. Be un-clear.

“The offer is what you are offering or giving the reader. Yes! I said giving. If you’re not offering the reader anything, why should they open it, read it, respond or even agree to what you’re asking for?” asks Keenan.

Because they’re curious. They’ve been provoked. Not because you offered clear, compelling value. This is sales, not marketing.

My colleagues and students are earning more meetings by not asking for them; instead, provoking curiosity about an issue, idea or claim which may lead to (justify) customers’ desire to meet.

Yet Keenan makes the argument we hear so often.

“To get your buyers and prospects to open your emails you need to craft an email that compels the buyer to open it, (your first ask), read it, (your second ask), then respond (your third ask) and then agree to your request for a meeting or demo or whatever you’re ultimately asking for (your fourth ask).”

In a marketing context, yes. Sales is different.

When sales people try to earn meetings by providing value, and proving themselves credible, they often fail. My opinion? Sure. But this is also my experience.

Why Adding Value Fails

In a cold email context customers aren’t asking for your value. They’re not sitting around waiting for value to arrive from a stranger. You can offer value on the first touch… and then again, and again in a follow-up sequence.

But you’re just pushing value at people — hoping they’ll find your words valuable enough to respond. Clients aren’t triggered by sellers pushing “just enough” unsolicited value at them.

Consider also: That valuable tidbit in your email message is often information clients often already know. (don’t value!)

Instead, help prospects ask you for a discussion by piquing their interest in one. Not by offering value; rather, by being vague and not asking for a meeting. (like everyone else does)

“What’s the point of sending a cold email if you’re not going to ask for anything,” argues Keenan. “The key is to make sure the ask is clear; 15-minutes of time and introduction to the CEO agreeing to 30-minute demo, etc. These are clear asks. Asking to discuss their challenges, or asking if the prospect would be open to a call are not clear asks.”

Increasingly, our students do better by not asking for the meeting in a cold email; instead, attempting to pique interest in a discussion. (which may lead to a meeting)

This helps your message stand out from the pack. It’s unusual in how it breaks the typical cold email best practice (pushing value) pattern.

Eliminate Asks

Adding value doesn’t work anymore … logically and in our collective experiences. Instead, what if you could earn better response to cold email messages by not asking for a meeting?

What if your message contained no “asks.” What if your email’s goal was purely to provoke curiosity — rather than earn a meeting?

Make your cold email “smartphone short.” Do homework on the prospect. Research them. Make it obvious this is not another templated piece of spam. Avoid persuading. Avoid posturing for credibility. Care a little less.

Increasingly, clients are opening emails based on curiosity about what’s inside the email — not anticipation of value they’ll receive. Likewise, prospects are replying to cold messages based on curiosity, not value received in the message, nor anticipating value in a meeting.

What is your experience?

Update Your LinkedIn Sales Navigator Best Practices

LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. Misconceptions about Sales Navigator best practices are causing many to sabotage their diligent efforts — resulting in fewer conversations started with prospects.

LinkedIn Sales NavigatorLinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. And it’s not your fault.

Misconceptions about best practices are causing many sellers to sabotage their diligent efforts — resulting in fewer conversations started with prospects. A “best practice” depends on many factors. Mainly this one:

By time it’s considered “best” it is no longer best. Because everyone is doing it results are weaker!

How are sellers using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to set more and better meetings? Here are a few emerging best practices you need to know about.

Building a Target List

The most effective sellers use Sales Navigator as:

  • their only research tool to target & identify companies & target contacts … to develop a list from scratch
  • a primary tool — adding profile data from various other sources (e.g., purchased lists with email and direct-dial phone information)
  • a secondary research tool — using purchased data or proprietary “house” lists as primary… supplementing with LinkedIn profile data (to qualify leads)

Beware: The days of using LinkedIn for sales prospecting, at no cost, are gone. You no longer have choice. Since acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft has clamped-down on free users … hard. I’m not a fanboy, so here’s why purchasing LinkedIn Sales Navigator is required:

  • Search filters. You need them. Sure you’ll get a few using the free version of LinkedIn. But you’ll be hard-pressed to make LinkedIn’s database search filters spit back quality leads for you. For example, need to search for companies based on their size? Yup. You’ll need to invest.
  • Access. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is required if you need unfettered access to LinkedIn’s database of prospects. Truth is, if you want to search for prospects and view profiles, for more than a few hours, you must pay to play.

LinkedIn restricts free users ability to search for and view profiles. It’s called a “commercial search limit” and believe me you’ll hit it … quickly. You’ll be stopped and asked to invest.

In pre-Microsoft years it took a while to get cut-off from searching companies and viewing contacts’ profiles. Today, LinkedIn demands you slap down a charge card in short time.

Want to search the database? Want to view profiles of your targets? Do so using the free LinkedIn. But believe me … take your credit card out of your wallet. Set it on your desk. You’ll be reaching for it.

Investing in Sales Navigator is no longer a decision-point for sellers using LinkedIn. It’s mandatory. Sorry! Of course, there are other very good data sources to consider investing in too.

The Truth About InMail

Decision makers are less-and-less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn.

Still, most sellers use InMail and connection requests as a primary communications tool. However, this is no longer a best practice, not recommended in most B2B sales environments. InMail is best applied as part of a multi-pronged approach. (email, phone/voicemail, InMail, direct mail, etc.)

Thus, InMail is not a big value-add, nor why sellers invest in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Nor is it a secret weapon to get more and better conversations started with prospects. InMail can be used productively but it has serious disadvantages to consider.

Overall, Linkedin is weakening as a communications platform — all while the company builds an image as the premier “social” sales tool.

This weakening isn’t my opinion — it’s the accumulated experience of our customers. People like you.

My sales team (and our clients’ teams) report decision-makers becoming less-and-less responsive. In all B2B industry sectors? No. In most? Yes.

Increasingly.

Some blame the “Facebook-ization” of LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Decision-makers are increasingly less receptive to receiving messages on LinkedIn. Quick analysis of LinkedIn’s public discussions about user base stats and you’ll see it too.

Access to the LinkedIn database (and use of targeting filters) is the primary reason to invest.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Your CRM

Most organizations (large or small) use their CRM to track “Navigator sourced leads.” This helps you understand how many deals flow from contacts leaning (fully or partially) on data found on LinkedIn and Company profiles.

Beyond this simplistic level of tracking most organizations do not track a hard ROI on Sales Navigator; instead treating it as a cost of doing business. (a line item expense)

Buying Navigator is like buying any other kind of list to call from. (except this is on a subscription basis) However, many organizations do wish to understand how many leads are being pulled from LinkedIn’s database — and how many of those leads actually close.

This helps one understand quality of leads from LinkedIn overall … assuming a level of sales rep proficiency, of course.

The most effective sellers also do not use Sales Navigator as a CRM itself beyond temporary storage of leads. Most sellers choose to move contact and company profile data sourced within LinkedIn into their CRM or sales automation tool of choice — then pursue the lead.

Other Worthwhile Research Tools

Research is truly LinkedIn’s most valuable deliverable to you. That said, data on LinkedIn is supplied by users. Thus, it’s accuracy is only as good as the user provides.

Navigator’s “Business Insights” feature is a popular way to monitor useful news & info about target contacts & companies. Thus, this best practice remains. While Google Alerts and other services offers similar monitoring LinkedIn’s Business Insights feature brings this into a centralized stream within Navigator.

“Headcount growth by function” and “Total job openings by department” are two very useful Sales Navigator data sets. These allows sellers to see where within an organization current investment (budget growth) activity is taking place—and is planned to take place in immediate term—from a personnel perspective.

Research is LinkedIn’s strongest value to sellers.

What do you see changing lately? What best practices do you experience as being ineffective these days? And which are emerging as a better practice?

 

LinkedIn or Out: Customer Service Fail Is a CX Fail

Target Marketing readers obviously like to be “connected,” and displayed an unusual interest in a piece a few months ago which was not as kind to LinkedIn as it might have been. I was rather caustic at LinkedIn’s repeated efforts to seduce its regular basic account (Free) holders to Premium usage. A one-month free trial is enticing, especially when promised a reminder before the free trial ends.

Target Marketing readers obviously like to be “connected,” and displayed an unusual interest in a piece a few months ago which was not as kind to LinkedIn as it might have been. I was rather caustic at LinkedIn’s repeated efforts to seduce its regular basic account (Free) holders to Premium usage. A one-month free trial is enticing, especially when promised a reminder before the free trial ends.

LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

So far, so good — until you try and cancel the trial. The problem — in this case, I was charged for Premium after having cancelled well before the trial expiration date. I wanted the charge refunded. Now it is like visiting the house of mirrors at a carnival. It’s a LinkedIn customer service fail.

LinkedIn two LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

My LinkedIn Customer Experience

The way through the Help facility is easy and inviting. But once inside, you are turned around and around with dizzying regularity — from one screen to another — always being asked optimistically if the problem has been solved: and being offered nothing new when it has not.

Clicking on the magnifying glass takes you immediately to this helpful screen: The “Cancel Subscription” button on the right seems like a light at the end of the tunnel.

LinkedIn three LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

But, alas, no! All it does is cycle me back to nowhere with nowhere to go … unless, of course, I want to “Try,” “View,” “Buy” or “Buy” one of the products. And I’m not going there again.

LinkedIn four LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

LinkedIn Customer Service Fail

What is truly amazing is that there is no contact with anyone, live or robotic.

The fairly incredible irony of a company, with a mission to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful, is in not allowing the customer to have any contact with any individual. It would be laughable if it weren’t so profoundly off-mission. But it is. Jane, one LinkedIn executive contacted informally, admitted ashamedly: “You can’t talk to a live person. Even I don’t have any CS direct contact.”

Will I be able to do anything about having been wrongly charged and unable to reverse it other than refuse to pay, spend some time in jail making direct contact with some of the world’s unsavory professionals, and be no better off at the end of the game?

All I can ask you is to comment, tell me what you think of this CX and, most importantly, watch this space.

How to Respond to Cold Email Rejection

“Thanks, but we already have a vendor.” Or “Thanks, but we already have a solution.” It’s tough to read such replies to cold emails. Nice to get replies, not so pleasant to get negative ones. But should you stop when receiving such push-back?

“Thanks, but we already have a vendor.” Or “Thanks, but we already have a solution.” It’s tough to read such cold email rejection. Nice to get replies, not so pleasant to get negative ones. But should you stop when receiving such pushback?

One of my students, Mark doesn’t.

Mark runs a successful business helping professional association leaders grow revenues and memberships. These professionals are volunteer Board members who feel passionately about their work and give back to their industry by donating time. He literally takes over daily, mundane operations of small associations so leaders can focus on leading their associations. He allows them to outsource the boring and tedious parts of running a professional trade association.

Like most small business owners Mark prospects new customers. Unlike most of us, he does it effectively. Really effectively.

Going in Cold

Mark prospects using LinkedIn as a research tool … locating his targets and qualifying them. Sometimes he starts with LinkedIn, providing he’s connected with the prospect. Other times he goes in cold with email.

His subject line in this example was simple and effective: Succession plan?

Mark’s approach is deadly simple and effective. He wisely focuses on topics customers usually don’t consider enough … or at all. In this case, “what will happen when the Board President retires?” The question often results in prospects reflecting on it … realizing there is (currently) no succession plan. This often provokes replies and starts discussions for Mark.

Mark makes sure his email messages:

  • Are read in 15 seconds or less
  • Prove (in sentence one) he’s researched his target
  • Provoke response using a non-biased, facilitative question

He quickly points out facts that prove he understands his target’s situation. For example, “Hi, Steve. Noticing how Sally Jones has more than 37 years of diligent service in her career.”

Next, he asks how his prospect will move forward when Sally approaches retirement. He follows by asking if the prospect has a strategy in place. And, if not “What would cause you to consider discussing one?”

Not “would you consider having one?” A yes/no question is not ideal here as it is biased to what Mark wants: A discussion. Instead, “what would cause you to consider discussing one?” is a more neutral, un-biased question. This helps prospects focus on their own decision-making process, not feel vulnerable to answering your question with a “yes” or “no.” It also encourages them to provide you with valuable information in the reply.

When the Cold Email Rejection Comes

Mark’s first touch (cold) email didn’t generate a response. But his follow-up did. His target, Colin, replied: “We already have a plan in place.”

Mark immediately wrote his trusted email coach (that’s me) with, “How the heck do I respond to this??? My gut tells me to write ‘Care to elaborate?’ But, I probably need to write a little more to lighten this guy’s likely knee jerk reaction of saying ‘no.'”

As a habit, Mark rarely gives up. Like many of my students he pays close attention to word choice in responses that come back negative.

For example, a prospect may push back with “this will probably be too disruptive for us to consider.” Use of the word probably often signals a soft spot. There is a perception of too much disruption … it is relatively uncertain for the prospect. Remove the word probably and the sentence takes on a more final or definite tone. “This will be too disruptive for consideration.”

In many cases every word counts. Words contain clues.

How to Respond

Accept the cold email rejection. Embrace it. After all, rejection frees you to pursue chasing more yeses.

Most of all, study the rejection; word for word, consider it for a moment. Within rejections most of my students find gold. But only if you take the emotion out. Remove your disappointment and expectation.

In Mark’s case:

  • The prospect is not saying no to a discussion, he’s saying he has “a plan in place.”
  • Mark got him! The prospect did reply initially. If he wasn’t open to hearing from Mark again would he have replied? (at all)
  • The cold email and follow-up worked: It was provocative enough for Colin to quickly understand — and reply to. It was easy for him to do so.
  • The prospect should expect Mark might reply given his response.

Thus, Mark should reply, but carefully and casually. Without sounding needy or disappointed. This part is key. Mark’s reply should remain neutral and embrace Colin’s cold email rejection.

Mark replied: “Thanks Colin. Sorry if asking was pushy. May I ask what your plan is? If you choose to not share, it’s ok. I ask to understand, not push you.”

Affirming your prospect’s right to choose is a psychological trigger.

This tactic indirectly says to your target: “I am not threatening your right to say no. I’m at peace with your power over me.”

It’s the one really easy persuasion technique everyone should know: Affirming your prospect’s right to choose. Supported by 42 studies on 22,000 people it’s practical, can be applied in almost any situation and works consistently.

Remember: The more you need the meeting, discussion or sale the more your prospect feels it … and the more you will be rejected. Simply because your words telegraph “I’m wanting it very badly.”

How do you respond to cold email rejection? Do you politely accept that rejection yet probe a little deeper … as a habit? Selectively?

Cold Email Templates: Who Do You Trust and Why?

From CEOs to inside sellers with no experience: Each week, I meet sellers using the exact same cold email templates … sourced on Google. They all report the same results. Nearly zero response. No meetings. Here’s why: Because they’re sending the exact same templates everyone else is.

From CEOs to inside sellers with no experience: Each week, I meet sellers using the exact same cold email templates … sourced on Google. They all report the same results.

Nearly zero response. No meetings.

Here’s why: Because they’re sending the exact same templates everyone else is.

Have a look at your own inbox. Do you see the same email template patterns over-and-over? For example, how many times per week do you get the “eaten by an alligator” or “chased by a wild hippo” follow-up message?

Do your emails start with, “Whenever I reach out to someone I have to have a reason. That reason needs to be timely and helpful based on research that I have done on your industry and potential risk exposure.”

How about, “My name is ____. Whenever I reach out to someone I make sure to have a reason in order to not waste your time.”

Or, “I read your comments in _________ [magazine] regarding [initiative/trend/issue].”

Or this follow-up template:

We’ve tried to reach you a couple times to introduce you to ________, but haven’t heard back which tells me something:

1) You’re all set and I should stop bothering you.

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back to me yet (scheduling link listed below).

3) Maybe this is out of your wheel house, if so, is there some one you’d recommend connecting with?

4) You’ve fallen and can’t get up and in that case let me know and I’ll call someone to help you ….

Of course, you can replace No. 4 with herds of hippos, rhinos or alligators.

Like thousands of other sellers you’ve found your way to the same cold email templates. And like everyone else you send them, looking for customers to meet with.

But your direct competitors use the same templates. In fact, those you don’t compete with (directly) but do compete for inbox space use the same templates too.

That’s a problem.

Because recipients easily spot your messages and mark it as spam. Inboxes are becoming saturated with virtually identical messages.

The Problematic Source of Cold Email Templates

Why would you expect to find a better-than-average way to start conversations, using cold email templates, via Google? (everyone’s top go-to source for short-cuts!)

Why would you trust what you found? I suppose because of Google’s perceived clout to aggregate “only the best” answers to questions.

However, consider today’s most popular (ineffective) email templates come from dubious sources. Yes, Google aggregates them. But consider the end source.

  • Cold email gurus and wannabe gurus
  • Lead generation experts and agencies
  • Email software companies
  • LinkedIn and LinkedIn gurus

At face value this seems fine and logical. A handful of online gurus, guru wannabes and consultants claim expertise in cold emailing. Most offer free templates and webinars. In return for free wisdom they hope to earn your participation in an online class or hiring them to consult … to write emails for you.

Fair enough. But why would these experts provide good advice for free? Answer: They don’t.

Likewise, lead generation experts and agencies often give away B2B and B2C cold email templates designed to start conversations with prospects. But why would these businesses give away “what works” for free? They have no incentive to. In fact, they’re under incentive not to.

Answer: They don’t give away useful information either.

Instead, they trade what doesn’t work (perhaps worked years ago) for your email address.

The biggest source of templates, hands down, seems to be software providers like HubSpot and outreach.io. There are many, these are just 2 very fine companies.

Point is: Software tool providers want your email address too. In return they hope to sell you email management sending & analysis tools. As bait they offer tips-and-tricks … better ways to use their tools set.

If you’re a customer they’ll also provide recommendations on how to best use their solution. After all, you’re a paying customer.

Why don’t these tips pay off?

Answer: Building trust and credibility using LinkedIn and email is a skill. It’s not template-able.

Why We Trust Those Who Aren’t Experts

I’m not attacking gurus and legitimate software providers. I’m questioning their authority as experts in communications techniques. None of them officially claim this domain expertise, bye the way.

Software companies operate businesses providing a suite of email management tools. Fair enough. But they are not providers of sales and marketing copywriting services, nor do they claim to be communications educators. Instead, they tend to work with gurus to curate (and add legitimacy to) experts, consultants and gurus publishing free templates. All as a service to customers and a lead generation tool for themselves.

But what if these free tips don’t work? (hint: they don’t) And why would they to begin with … when considering the source? (hint: most folks don’t consider)

Everyone likes short-cuts, after all. Templates are short-cuts to success. Or are they?

Use My Personal Data, But Don’t Offend Me

I’m fine with companies collecting my data; however, how about providing me something in return?

I’m fine with companies collecting my data; however, how about providing me something in return?

I’m a huge college football fan and watched most of the 41 bowl games that just wrapped up with Alabama beating Georgia in the second-best bowl game of the year, next to the Rose Bowl.

Nissan is a significant sponsor of college football. It runs commercials throughout the games and has spent a lot of money producing the humorous Heisman House series that appears before the kickoff of major games.

I noticed the addition of a five-second tag at the end of a few Nissan commercials, saying it was the official vehicle of “Duke Blue Devil” fans. I live in Raleigh, N.C. There are a lot more University of North Carolina (UNC), N.C. State University (NCSU), and East Carolina (ECU) alumni in Raleigh than Duke alumni.

I can only assume I was targeted to receive this tag with programmatic advertising because I have two degrees from Duke. You can pick this up from Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. However, if you look deeper at my profiles and posts, you’ll learn pretty quickly that I’m not a Duke fan, I’m a UNC fan because of Dean Smith — the person and the coach.

Instead of making me feel an affinity to Nissan, it alienated me. Over the past 15 years, I’ve owned three Nissans, but just replaced my last one with a Hyundai. When it’s time to replace the current Hyundai, if we’re still owning cars, I will remember Nissan’s mistake. Is it significant enough for me to not consider a Nissan? We’ll see.

The amount of data companies have access to in order to identify the needs, wants, likes and dislikes of consumers is huge. Granted, we’re in the infancy of using this data to improve marketing; however, companies must be smarter about how they are going to use this data.

How about this? Focus on providing information of value to make customers’ and prospects’ lives simpler and easier instead of trying to make an emotional connection which, in fact, offends. It’s much less risky to tell your story than it is to attempt to make an emotional connection based on big data, which is inherently impersonal.

2 Emails You’re Sending That Rarely Work

Never say never? I try to not speak in absolutes and remain positive. But there are two flavors of cold emails you’re probably sending that do more harm than good.

Never say never? I try to not speak in absolutes and remain positive. But there are two flavors of cold emails you’re probably sending that do more harm than good. These are the cold:

  • “help me find the right person” request;
  • “show me how to sell to you” request.

Not sending these emails? I’ll be surprised if you haven’t sent one in past … or still consider them as valid options.

Beware. They are marks of amateurs.

Asking for a chance to learn about customers’ current pain points or challenges is common … and increasingly fails. Clients are deluged with these requests every day.

It’s not the client’s job to sort a way to sell your thing. Likewise, requesting a meeting in a cold email is too big an ask, too early.

Don’t Know? Find Out!

Let’s say you don’t know the right person to talk with — at your target organization. Fair enough.

Or in cases where you do know the contact, the pain or goal may be unclear. I respect that. But ya gotta find out. No excuses.

Please don’t do this:

Hi {name},

I’m trying to figure out who is in charge of [leading general statement] there at {company}.

Would you mind pointing me towards the right person please, and the best way I might get in touch with them?

Consider tools like LinkedIn, Google and countless others. Your ability to find the right decision-maker(s) is unprecedented. Not to mention innovators like Data.com and old-fashioned (yet, perfectly good) sources like InfoUSA and their like.

“Who’s the best person to get in touch about this?”

You must be kidding. This is NOT going to work for you.

Don’t get pegged as lazy, or worse!

‘Do My Work and Pity Me’

If you’re sending emails hoping someone will do the work for you … that’s pitiful. Especially if you’re starting at the top of an organization, looking to get handed-down. Your cold email signals: “help me do my work.” And that’s pitiful.

You might argue, “Jeff, people like to help people.” They do. I help people when I can. But consider this:

Would you call the CEO or top executive on the phone — looking to get handed down? I’d hope not but maybe you would! In a digital age, cold calling top executives (to discover who to talk to) is not effective. Instead, research the target online.

You may also argue, “Jeff, I do well discovering who decisionmakers are using the phone … by tapping into administrative assistants.”

I’m cool with that. In fact, we might be forced to. Decision-makers are starting to hide or disguise their authority on LinkedIn.

Also, gathering intelligence this way is worthwhile.

However, blasting “can you help direct me?” emails, trying to discover decision-maker names is mostly ineffective. It’s the sign of an unskilled sales person. Avoid it. Don’t encourage clients to pity you.

Let’s say you use email to discover who targets are at mid-management level. This is also a losing proposition. Any idea how many requests for help these people receive each day? More than you might imagine.

Think about your hectic day. If you received three to four messages per day asking for help from sales reps, wouldn’t it get annoying? And it might even get you in trouble. Forwarding people who you don’t know (selling products your colleagues may not need) could cost you embarrassment.

There is often a negative incentive for contacts to help guide you.

Go Direct, Go Informed or Go Home

Let’s say you were face-to-face with a new prospect at a networking event. They’ve identified themselves as the decision-maker. You wouldn’t ask a potential client, “Can I get some time with you … so you can help me understand a way to sell to you?”

Why Your Social Selling Index Means Nothing

You and your sales force are selling socially. You’ve got a LinkedIn Sales Navigator seat. Browser is fired up. You’re sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points … showing the world you can use LinkedIn. Full stop: Are you helping buyers buy?

LinkedIn Logos Social Selling IndexYou and your sales force are selling socially. You’ve got a LinkedIn Sales Navigator seat. Browser is fired up. You’re sharing valuable insights and racking up Social Selling Index points … showing the world you can use LinkedIn.

Full stop: Are you helping buyers buy? Helping buyers buy is where the action is.

Yet the buying decision process is only partially solution-driven. I learned this from Sharon Drew Morgen, creator of the Buying Facilitation method. I have yet to find a social selling training program teaching us how to deal with these facts.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying.
  • Buying involves systemic change and (when there’s no other option) solution choice.
  • Using solution data (content, research) as the main skill to make a sale restricts possibility, netting objections from clients who don’t know how to hear the seller’s point.
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need.

Morgen teaches us buyers are buyers until they recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to the status quo.

Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize what is needed to buy.

“They will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them,” says Morgen.

So what’ your role as a seller? To help buyers understand and manage change. Specifically, to know the full extent of internal challenges. Until you help them understand these challenges they remain unable to understand content details effectively.

“They object when pushed,” says Morgen.

Facilitating Decisions Is Not Social Selling

Is your team applying communications techniques to help buyers buy? In other words, are they able to identify and facilitate change for each stage of customers’ buying process that does not include purchase consideration?

Closing more accounts has everything to do with creating interest … nothing to do with creating interaction on LinkedIn.

Creating interest is a communications skill, not a social media or LinkedIn skill.

“There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary,” to facilitate and enable change before any purchase is considered, says Ms. Morgen.

Pushing content to prospects, commenting, updating, sharing wisdom. These tactics work well to generate interaction, not so well to create early-stage client conversations. Interest.

Teach Sellers to Facilitate

Social selling focuses mainly on pushing content and sharing knowledge, mostly out of context to buyers. It rarely works. Because it limits outreach to clients who already recognize a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem.

At best this is 5 percent of the market, which often throw objections at your advance.

However, “You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change,” says Morgen.

“But you’ll need to take a different, additional, path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this,” says Morgan.

Indeed, you can continue pushing content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach. A part that connects with the right customers sooner. One that allows you to enter their decision path, join them as a trusted advisor and facilitate clients who can buy through to buying.

“Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based,” says Morgen.

My bottom line for you: Social selling is, in practice, social marketing. Look around. Witness teams of sellers pushing content onto LinkedIn. All trying to stay in front of potential clients, convince them of sellers’ thought leadership and pushing insights. But in the end social selling proves worthless compared to helping buyers get ready to buy.

Do you agree? What is your experience?