Social Selling May Be Wasting Time

Helping buyers buy is where the action is. The goal of the modern B2B seller is to get into conversations earlier — help buyers get ready to buy, consult with clients, become a trusted source of knowledge, support the decision-making process with expert guidance. So why is facilitating buying conversations not a part of your “social selling” program?

content marketingThe goal of the modern B2B seller is to get into conversations earlier — help buyers get ready to buy, consult with clients, become a trusted source of knowledge, support the decision-making process with expert guidance. So why is facilitating buying conversations not a part of your “social selling” program?

Why is starting qualified discussions with customers superseded by sharing valuable content, creating a personal brand and sharing insights on LinkedIn?

Does ‘Social Selling’ Exist?

I put quotes around “social selling” because it does not exist. When honestly examined, there is nothing new involved … outside of the online context. Listening, engaging, sharing insights: None of these concepts are new to sales.

In fact, they are characteristics of “old school” sales excellence.

Social selling is a term invented to sell (oddly) marketing concepts. The thrust of social selling is encouraging sellers (hunters) to behave like marketers (farmers).

Post, share, comment, repeat. If that sounds a lot like marketing it is!

Is farming effective at generating new client conversations? Is pushing content, liking, sharing, commenting effective at keeping sellers emotionally confident, mentally tough?

Is Social Selling Weakening Your Hunters?

Social selling isn’t truly representative of anything new … and de-values vitally important practices. Specifically, prospecting. Hunting.

Worse, I’m seeing social selling increasing frustration of otherwise challenged sellers. I’m seeing it have negative impact on motivation and focus. Social selling programs also reward relatively ineffective behavior patterns. LinkedIn itself rewards activity and encourages gamification of it Social Selling Index.

This can be poisonous to rep productivity.

How Social Selling May Be Wasting Your Reps’ Time

Driving interest on social requires different skills as compared to driving interaction, says Mark McInnes of Sydney-based Sales ITV. Most of what reps engage in these days on social wastes time.

Creating a client interested in you, your products or service is difficult compared to creating interaction with them. McInnes lays out a compelling argument against traditional social selling training:

  1. It’s much easier to drive interaction.
  2. Interaction is rewarded with dopamine blasts from your brain, fueling a desire for more of the same activity. Lots of likes or views make you feel good. (Just like the lights of a slot machine do)
  3. The quality of your sellers’ network needs to reflect the desires of your business objectives; most sellers’ network simply doesn’t.

“What exactly are you going to do with these 142 Likes, 53 Comments and no doubt 3000+ views? Nothing. Because they are absolutely worthless,” says McInnes, who boldly proclaims this is interaction, not interest.

Here’s the danger: Sellers see these view counts, “as positive reinforcement of their ‘social selling’ activity. As they inevitably look to drive more views through content, they stray away from the main message, more towards focusing on the level of interactions,” says McInnes.

Thus, “with each post, they strive for more views, more likes, all in an attempt to validate (justify) the time they’ve wasted on social. No wonder so many of senior managers seem to be ‘allergic’ to social selling programs.”

Tune in next week as I share the one tactic social selling training programs don’t teach, to provide further food for thought about social selling.

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.

The Problem With Using ‘Sales Triggers’ on LinkedIn

We are told starting discussions with buyers on LinkedIn demands relevance. Thus, watch for “trigger events”: moments in time when your prospect is demonstrating something that signals “time to go in” to us. Easy, but is it an effective way to get attention of busy prospects?

The Silver Bullet for Driving Sales & Impressions: DATAWe are told starting discussions with buyers on LinkedIn demands relevance. Thus, watch for “trigger events”: moments in time when your prospect is demonstrating something that signals “time to go in” to us. Easy, but is it an effective way to get attention of busy prospects?

Really? Using triggers can subvert your ability to get conversations started using LinkedIn.

Yes, when approaching a potential buyer on LinkedIn, the approach must be a warm one — not cold. But this means qualitative triggers, research … not tech triggers. Beware.

What Is a Trigger Event?

“An event that precipitates other events,” says Eric Quanstrom, CMO of KiteDesk. “In sales, these trigger situations are opportunities to make a connection in a timely way that hit a relationship inflection point, and increase a likelihood of a sale.”

Mr. Quanstrom says think of it as investing time — at the right time — to create opportunity.

“Trigger events are times to initiate relevant content and conversations. The key to graceful relationship building is to approach when there’s relevance,” he says.

I agree, however, the manifestation of this concept on LinkedIn is becoming horrifyingly ineffective.

LinkedIn Trigger Events

Beware: Technically-generated triggers are easily seen by you — and any other sellers looking to court your prospect. LinkedIn trigger events don’t just trigger you — they trigger your competitors.

Some trigger events you can observe on LinkedIn are when your contact:

  • changes jobs
  • is promoted
  • has a birthday or work anniversary
  • is mentioned in the news

These triggers are based on the prospect, true.

“When you approach someone in light of a trigger event, you eliminate a lot of uncertainty,” says Mr. Quanstrom. “Largely this is because the trigger event is personal to them.”

However, these are technically-generated triggers that are easily seen by you — and any other sellers looking to court your prospect. These triggers are also shallow — without deeper meaning to the prospect. They’re anecdotal, not strategic.

How Using Triggers Can Hurt You

LinkedIn and social selling give you the chance to monitor prospects for trigger events. But increasingly this is not working. This is why:

  1. The ability to stalk prospects is being abused.
  2. The type of trigger events are anecdotal (not strategic) triggers.

Most sellers using LinkedIn are lazy. Frankly, they’re low-skilled. Worse, they’re keying on shallow triggers — grasping at straws, rather than doing homework and researching prospects for provocative triggers.

Sales prospecting expert, Bruce Johnston, says LinkedIn’s trigger events sound like a great way to increase relevancy and separate out from other sellers who are less personalized. But in practice, it’s working against most sellers.

Mr. Johnston says we’re reaching a saturation point on LinkedIn — where masses of sellers are monitoring for triggers and spamming prospects with irrelevant messages.

“Once everyone is looking for the same event, and indeed being alerted when that event occurs, the effectiveness of that trigger falls away,” says Mr. Johnston.

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?

3 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Sales Navigator

Wondering where your LinkedIn Advanced Search is? Poof! It’s no longer part of your free LinkedIn user account. If you want to search for prospects on LinkedIn you must buy Sales Navigator. At roughly $500 annually for individuals — and as much as $200,000 for teams — sellers are under pressure to make the investment pay off. Here are three must-ask questions to be asking yourself — before investing (or continuing to).

Locked cloudWondering where your LinkedIn Advanced Search is? Poof! It’s no longer part of your free LinkedIn user account. If you want to search for prospects on LinkedIn you must buy Sales Navigator.

At roughly $500 annually for individuals — and as much as $200,000 for teams — sellers are under pressure to make the investment pay off.

Forget about your Social Selling Index. Sellers need new customer relationships, not vanity metrics. Here are three must-ask questions to be asking yourself — before investing (or continuing to).

  1. What are people saying about Sales Navigator? (is it worth it?)
  2. How, exactly, will my investment pay for itself?
  3. What can I do to make sure Navigator works for me?

What People Are Saying

The most common feedback I hear is how target-rich LinkedIn’s database of prospects is, however, the support provided (to make use of these contacts) is poor.

The No. 1 reason sellers cancel Sales Navigator won’t surprise you: Lack of response from prospects they’re approaching using LinkedIn InMail. Sellers find it increasingly difficult to start conversations with potential new buyers. This causes some to cancel their Navigator account.

However, LinkedIn’s recent move forces your hand. Do you need to research LinkedIn’s database to find business leads? You must pay-to-play. Previously, you could prospect LinkedIn’s database throughout the week — and avoid the “commercial search limit” on the advanced search feature.

Not so today.

Behind closed doors this is what I hear most often about LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool:

  • I wish LinkedIn helped me effectively contact prospects — not just use the tool.
  • LinkedIn’s database of contacts is large, growing and rich with profile details.
  • Some decision-makers are hiding their authority (due to overzealous sellers).
  • The company’s support team does not provide email or phone help.
  • I love Sales Navigator’s ability to help me monitor my prospects & companies.
  • LinkedIn’s training webinars aren’t helping me start conversations with customers.
  • My sellers’ Social Selling Index is not correlating to sales productivity.
  • LinkedIn’s guidance on using InMail is confusing and contradicts itself.
  • The automated leads Navigator sends me are not fitting my target criteria.

How will my investment pay for itself?

Many sales teams investing in Sales Navigator are not seeing returns needed. Some teams are pulling out — looking elsewhere for prospecting data, or returning to pre-LinkedIn sources.

It’s common for teams to invest from $10,000 to $200,000 annually on Sales Navigator. Individual sellers, paying $79 a month (roughly $500 annually), also struggle to justify the investment. What if a team of 25 sellers could go from $19 million in new client quarterly revenue to $70 million? (using Sales Navigator)

Sounds good, right? But only if we:

  • Increase number of reps actively prospecting (it’s got to be fun/productive for them)
  • Increase sellers’ ability to start conversations by a mere 10 percent

It’s true. I’ll work out the math for you. Prospecting success on LinkedIn boils down to:

  • Finding appropriate, new prospects (Navigator does well here)
  • Starting conversations with targets
  • Bringing conversations toward closure

It’s the last two where people most struggle. This is where the gold is.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator: By the Math

Here is how the math comes together — for teams of sellers. For sake of example, let’s use a three-month scenario: February to April 2017. A projection.

Let’s say you have a team of 25 sellers. Most are not prospecting much. They don’t like it. Here are the assumptions:

  • Seven reps (who are prospecting) targeting an average of 20 new clients per week each = 140 potential new discussions
  • This means 50 conversations are being started (average of two per rep: 36 percent success rate)
  • Thirty-eight new clients will likely be closed (78 percent) valued at an average of $500k annual revenue
  • Net new client revenue $19M (achieved in February-April)

But let’s say we:

  • Convinced just six reps to become better at earning conversations with Navigator
  • Increased these six sellers’ ability to provoke discussions better — by just 10 percent (and become effective at securing good meetings faster)
  • Keep close rate flat and unchanged

Here’s what that team’s performance would look like after investing in a method to effectively start conversations with prospects via LinkedIn.

  • Thirteen reps (plus six) prospecting, targeting an average of 30 new clients per week each = 390 potential discussions
  • We are now getting 10 more targets called per rep/week
  • This means 180 new conversations are started (average 8.5 per rep, 46 percent success rate)
  • 140 new clients closed (78 percent) valued at an average $500k annual revenue
  • Net new client revenue equals $70M (achieved in February-April)

What You Can Do to Make Sure This Works

Ignore LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. Instead, strengthen your and your team’s ability to start conversations “from cold.” Get good at attracting customers to talking with you.

It’s not about buying — it’s about what it will take for them to buy, eventually. Issues. Challenges. Or even the status quo. Challenge it.

Being able to consistently spark conversations with potential buyers will increase your:

  • Email response rate
  • Voice-mail response rate
  • Appointment setting rate
  • Number of customers closed per month

A Fundamental Misconception About Sales Navigator

Your potential buyer values more what they ask for. Buyers value less what you offer them. It’s human nature. Getting meetings with prospects doesn’t require Sales Navigator. It requires you to help prospects feel an urge — to ask you or invite you to talk.

Sales Navigator is nothing more than a tech tool. It is not a prospecting magic wand. As obvious as this may sound many who invest in Navigator treat it as one. Take your communications technique more seriously than you take LinkedIn. LinkedIn is merely the cost of entry.

Yes, LinkedIn’s tool set will help you:

  • Find new people to call on quickly
  • Discover knowledge about targets that can be used on your approach
  • Find “hidden” prospects in your territory that are currently being overlooked
  • Contact potential customers directly (InMail)

But your ability to earn customers attention — and request for a meeting — is the game-changer. Just look at the math!

A Popular (yet Ineffective) LinkedIn Tactic

Considering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations. Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise. This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

LinkedIn logoConsidering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations.

Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise.

This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

I don’t like to speak in absolutes. Nothing is certain in our world. But automating the gathering of lead data and sending messages to prospects wastes time, damages reputation and what’s worst is buyers see through it — instantly.

It’s spammy.

Also, LinkedIn is cracking down and suing service providers. It took a while but Microsoft has had enough.

Short-cuts rarely work in life. Buckle-down and do the work. And yes, I know you need to scale. Me too. Tech tools like LinkedIn help us scale time. But LinkedIn automation is ineffective.

Lately, it can also hurt you.

Automating Outreach and Scraping Contact Data

We need targets to call on: Companies, decision-makers and contact data. LinkedIn is a database. But gathering contact data is time-consuming. Plus, getting these contacts to connect with us (open the door to communication) takes time and effort.

Wouldn’t it be great to automate the data collection, connections and messaging? We could mass email messages to prospects — without much effort. We’ll reply to the responses, manage the leads.

Enter LinkedIn automation tools.

But beware of reality:

  1. Automated profile viewers and contact data scrapers are being sued by LinkedIn/Microsoft;
  2. Non-personalized (spammy) or “personalized” (fake personalization) messages aren’t helping sellers start conversations with buyers;
  3. Decision-makers are actually hiding from overzealous sellers and accepting fewer connection requests.

How Automation Software Works

You look up a group of contacts using a LinkedIn search. Boom. Software automatically:

  • Grabs those search results
  • Views each contact’s profile
  • Scrapes the screen (cuts-and-pastes name, company, title, etc. into a spreadsheet)

Software will also:

  • View profiles
  • Invite people with keywords or titles to connect
  • Automatically send them welcome messages when they accept
  • Automatically endorse them
  • Automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs
  • Automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections

Sounds great. But let’s pretend you are Microsoft (LinkedIn’s new owner).

You just paid $26 billion for this data. How do you feel about people scraping it? How do you feel about automating all of these non-personalized functions (which are all trying to look personalized and social)?

That’s why LinkedIn is suing these service providers.

Automation tools are popular. But these are often “companies” that have no public contact data themselves! Companies that, in fact, aren’t companies … and have (for years now) operated in clear violation of LinkedIn’s Terms & Conditions.

LinkedIn prospecting expert, Bruce Johnston, is blunt:

“It is instructive that I went through my list and less than half of the companies I added 12 to 15 months ago still exist.”

5 Phrases That Poison Sales Prospecting Emails

Salespeople who want to strengthen their sales prospecting email technique often seek advice. That’s a good thing. Whether you’re using LinkedIn InMail or standard email when prospecting new business, I know what you’re after: response from potential buyers.

The Truths and Myths of Email DeliverabilitySalespeople who want to strengthen their LinkedIn InMail or sales prospecting email technique often seek advice from colleagues, managers and experts. That’s a good thing. Self-improvement is a noble pursuit.

But not all advice is good. In fact, some of it is downright awful. It actually hurts reps who implement these “helpful” tips.

Whether you’re using LinkedIn InMail or standard email when prospecting new business, I know what you’re after: response from potential buyers.

Over the last year I’m seeing one prevailing cold emailing trend — separating successful sellers from those who struggle to set meetings. Being lazy. I mean really lazy. Taking no risks and sounding like 99 percent of inbound emails.

Stop Sounding Like Everyone Else

Want exceptional results? Invest time in exceptional practices. Most of all, get the heck out of the box. Stop blending in with the deluge of terrible, easy-to-spot (and delete) cold email messages coming at your prospects daily.

Here are five popular email phrases that may be sabotaging your effort. These appear regularly in email messages prospects love to delete.

How many of these are you — or your team — using?

1. I Hope You Don’t Mind …

As in, “I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you through LinkedIn.” Or “I hope you don’t mind my asking.” Yes, even “I hope today finds you well.” These phrases are completely unnecessary in most cases. They clutter your message and waste precious time.

Believe it or not, prospects care less about your being polite. They certainly don’t care about what you hope for! They want you out of their inbox. Because their experience cannot be reasoned with.

Most of their inbox is noise. Garbage. Un-researched, copy-and-pasted spammy messages from desperate sellers.

They want the noise (you’re caught up in) out of their inboxes. Thus, you’re forced to stand out from everyone.

You’re forced to risk them minding. Get over it — and get started with a provocation rather than asking for a full-blown conversation.

2. Would You Be the Correct Person?

Or “Would you mind pointing me in the right direction?”

We often don’t know who the decision-maker(s) and/or influncers are. Got it. But in this digital age, doing homework is simple. Easy. Nearly effortless as compared to decades past.

Point blank: Asking a prospect to do your homework is becoming increasingly dangerous. You risk looking lazy. You also blend in with the noise inside your recipient’s inbox.

Any idea how many “referral asks” your contact is receiving each week? Too many! They don’t need another seller asking for guidance about who (inside their company) you can start a discussion with.

That’s not their job — it’s yours. Get to it.

That said, Dan Frost, a business development professional at Simplicity Corporation, says asking for a referral works in some cases.

“… if it’s framed properly … but you’d better off mentioning who you think is the next best option after doing some research, says Frost.

Isaac Liebes, a seller at Green Light Energy Conservation LLC, says asking for a referral does work when you provide incentive. He suggests:

  • approaching someone who actually has the ability to point you in the right direction
  • presenting information that motivates the recipient to reply — even if the recipient is the wrong contact.

The key, Liebes says, is presenting a benefit to the organization. In other words, if information within your message is strong enough it provides incentive to the recipient to put you in touch with the best contact.

3. As You Probably Know …

Prefacing what you’re about to say wastes precious time. Just say it. Research tells us you have less than 15 seconds to provoke a reply in a cold email. Phrases like “I’m in touch today because …” wastes time and encourages deletion.

Tell your prospect why you’re in touch. No need to preface. Speak boldly, quickly and get to-the-point without delay. This helps the reader feel an urge to reply. Mostly since the message stands out from others in their inbox.

4-5. I Would Love To or I Look Forward To

Or “I would enjoy.” What you love, would enjoy or look forward to isn’t valuable to the other side. You may think they sound polite, but these phrases make you sound desperate. Beware: Don’t sound like you care too much.

They know you would love 15 minutes of their time. They know you look forward to their response. They know you would enjoy giving them a demo or free trial. No need to tell them about your love, hope or eagerness.

They know!

Why You Must Stop Believing Social Selling Exists

“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you’ll be left behind. What? You don’t know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I’ll show you the way forward!” Revolution they cry! Problem is, the sales revolution they’re selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet. There is no revolution, only evolution.

Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to doSocial selling does not exist. Believing it does trains you and your sales force to fail.

Sure, LinkedIn and countless self-appointed “social selling experts” say social selling is a wave — catch it.

But have you noticed their tone lately? Many of these folks talk down to you.

“You are not doing it right, you are not taking it seriously enough.”

Or perhaps more accurately:

“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you’ll be left behind. What? You don’t know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I’ll show you the way forward!”

Revolution they cry!

Problem is, the sales revolution they’re selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet.

There is no revolution, only evolution. Believing there is a new selling paradigm risks your team’s ability to adapt.

Are you willing to risk it? Are you risking it right now?

We Should not Name This a “New” Strategy

There is nothing new about sales — other than customers having better access to information, more quickly and easily. There is no need to invent a fancy new name for sales as it evolves.

“But Jeff, you’re wrong: Giving this new strategy a name could help explain this new skill set in sales operations internally, to management. Especially if the company is still a bit behind in evolution when it comes to sales approach.”

But are you behind? Behind in what? Knowledge of how to work the tool?

Working a new tool like LinkedIn or Twitter is not making anyone successful — despite the marketing claims of companies and expert gurus who have a stake in the game.

Using the term “social selling” is, so far, most helpful to those selling tool-focused education or rah-rah cheerleading fodder themselves. These are the instant experts whose qualifications rest on “I use LinkedIn a lot.”

Literally anyone can be a part of this club.

Here’s my beef with this situation: In the end, I’m witnessing less emphasis on sales techniques that work for sellers, and more emphasis on how to use tools.

I suspect this is because the people involved don’t have (or practice) good, traditional sales skills!

The result: A lot of sales people practicing marketing on LinkedIn. Farming with it. And failing to start conversations. They’re pushing posts, updates, comments, etc.

Why LinkedIn Connection Requests Aren’t Working for Sellers

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.” But then? Usually crickets. Right?

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.”

But then?

Usually crickets. Right?

True: Connections may earn sellers the ability to message (for free) in the near-term. But it’s a matter of time before my students see erosion in post-connection response rates.

Prospects (in all categories) are burning out on sellers’ LinkedIn pitches. Some industry segments experience fatigue faster than others. How about yours?

Why Are They Connecting and (then) Ignoring Me?

It’s easy to have a positive impression when a prospect accepts LinkedIn connection request. In fact, it’s logical to think, “aah, great!” But what, exactly, is on buyers’ minds when they accept? Why did they accept?

Curiosity?

Out of an urge to grow their networks by increasing their connection numbers?

Because they’re in the market for what you’re selling and waiting for you?

Until you’re on speaking terms, there’s no way of knowing.

Thus, many of my students are confused: “Why am I being invited to connect — only to be ignored?”

3 Factors You’re Forced to Consider

Most sellers’ post-connection messages fail to start conversations. Here’s what I’ve learned is causing this:

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s system is (over time) discouraging personalized invitations from being read. Thus, sending “false positives” to sellers.
  2. Saturation: Most sellers use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch. But requesting a Connection (by itself) is increasingly signaling “I’m a sales person looking to spam your inbox.”
  3. Context: Being connected on LinkedIn is (over time) becoming a highly personal thing. It’s increasingly being seen as a privilege.

In essence, LinkedIn is combining with sellers’ behavior for a one-two punch.

False Positives

You may interpret acceptance of a Connection request as an invitation to start a discussion — but the other side doesn’t. Why is that?

Short answer: The personal message within your invitation is often not seen.

Remember all the agonizing over the personalized content inside your Connection request? It’s squandered.

LinkedIn has, over time, updated its user interface. These changes are great for LinkedIn’s network growth but not helpful for the quality of your communications.

LinkedIn continues to make it:

  • easier for any connection request to be blindly accepted (in general);
  • more difficult to see who sent a personalized request and read it.

In many cases, your request to start a conversation has, actually, never been seen. Worse, it’s not your fault.

You’re Just Part of the Spammers

Most sellers using LinkedIn at the free or paid level use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch when approaching prospects. Problem is, sending a Connection request is increasingly (as time marches on) signaling, “I’m a salesy spammer.”

As sellers rush into social selling most are taking the lazy route: Spamming marketing messages. I’m talking about sending mass marketing, non-personalized messages to prospects via LinkedIn.

This has trained prospects to accept fewer Connection requests in general! If this practice hasn’t trained them (past tense) in your business sector yet, it will.

Bet on it.

Because this is how a majority of sellers use LinkedIn. They’re sending poorly-written, unsolicited sales pitches. Even if you know better, you risk getting caught-up in that crowd when requesting a Connection as your first point of contact.

Beware.

Against my advice, most sellers still ask for Connections first for a number of reasons.

  1. Cost: You want to message the prospect directly at no cost. You don’t want to pay for InMail.
  2. Saving InMail credits: If you hold a Premium/Navigator account, you would rather not risk losing the InMail credit. InMail messages cost money and are subject to monthly use limits.
  3. Connecting seems like the most logical thing to do on LinkedIn. That said, LinkedIn’s policy tends to confuse users: Connect only if you know the other person yet use it for sales prospecting.

Bottom line: Asking to connect with a prospect is becoming less-and-less effective because it is a tactic used by low-quality sales practitioners.

Stranger Danger: Customers Are Camouflaged

Being connected on LinkedIn is, increasingly, becoming a highly personal thing. Perhaps for you too. But especially among decision-makers who are being bombarded by social sellers. We are trying to help customers … but we are strangers no less.

Millennial Microaggression: Aren’t All Seniors Digital Dimwits?

In both my consulting business and my teaching I frequently hear Millennials talk about seniors not being tech savvy. While the term “seniors” has different age boundaries, some as low as 50-plus and others as high as 70-plus, the message comes through that most Baby Boomers and those older than them don’t have the digital chops to receive messages online and through their smartphones.

gen yIn both my consulting business and my teaching I frequently hear Millennials talk about seniors not being tech savvy. While the term “seniors” has different age boundaries, some as low as 50-plus and others as high as 70-plus, the message comes through that most Baby Boomers and those older than them don’t have the digital chops to receive messages online and through their smartphones.

So when an agency’s digital media specialist says, “We’ll need to do some offline stuff for the senior market” or a student working on a marketing project says, “You can’t reach the older demographic on social media,” I have to say, “You know, you’re talking about people my age.”

It makes them pause because they may be friends with me on Facebook, or they may be one of my 1,000-plus LinkedIn connections. They may have collaborated with me on digital campaigns for their clients or been coached by me in the Collegiate ECHO Challenge. Some have even been lucky enough to take an Uber with me to a lunch that I booked on OpenTable (I usually have to buy). So they know my capabilities, but don’t seem to connect the dots that there are others my age and older who know their way around the digital space.

Some of the older digital natives have a vague recollection of accessing AOL on dial-up, and some may remember texting using the telephone keypad of a flip-phone (press the number two three times for the letter C). But that’s about as far back as their technology journey goes. They’re amazed when they hear stories of a workplace before email or even fax machines and primitive home electronics. “How did you get anything done?”and “OMG, black and white TV?”

Pew Internet data does show that fewer people aged 65-plus have smartphones and broadband access than younger age groups. But my personal experience has been that, more than age, the factor driving the digital divide is workplace experience. If someone in their 60s worked in an environment where they used a personal computer most of the day, they are more likely to be tech-savvy than someone half their age who works as a skilled tradesman and uses a different set of tools.

So while the recent focus on microaggression is centered mostly on racism and sexism, let me add ageism to that mix. Recently over dinner with a student, I was discussing a marketing project aimed at Boomers and he said, “So you have to figure out what all these old people want.” Really!?!