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.

What Is Social Selling and Where Do I Start?

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process. Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

Don’t let the hype about B-to-B social selling deceive you. Buyers have not reinvented the buying process. It has simply become a non-linear one. What is new are the sexy tools. However, using LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and YouTube effectively when prospecting isn’t sexy. It’s just a better process.

Is social selling a revolution? No, it’s merely a chance for sales prospecting EVO-lution.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and discover: What is social selling and how are sellers generating more leads, faster? What is the process your sales team should be applying?

Social Selling Is a System
Let’s grip the wheel, firmly. Revolutions bring about change that make things easier or better. Has social media made your life easier lately? Are you getting more leads and closing them faster?

I rest my case!

Effective social selling is a system. Systems are not sexy.

A system is a repeatable process with a predictable outcome. Input goes in, certain things happen and out pops a result.

Social Prospecting: New but not Complex
The prospecting piece of social selling is mostly about:

  1. Getting buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turning response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

If anything is new about this process it’s the role direct response marketing techniques play. For example, social media copywriting is catching on.

The process today’s best social sellers are using generates leads faster by helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via short-form social content)
  • realize they just found part of it (using longer-form content) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Engagement and Trust Are not the Goals
Will you agree with me that engagement is not your sellers’ goal? Engagement is the beginning of a process. It’s a chance for front line reps and dealers to create response—and deeper conversation about a transaction.

If not, engagement is a chronic waste of your reps’ and dealers’ time.

I know “experts” insist that being trusted is a strategy. But it’s not.

It is the output of a successful prospecting strategy!

Increased trust is a sign your sellers are applying the process effectively. It’s not a goal!

As a small B-to-B business owner myself, I know what gets you paid. It’s not engagement. It’s not your image or personal brand.

You or your boss measures performance based on leads.

So let’s keep your social prospecting approach practical: Attention, engagement and a simple, repeatable way to create response more often. These are the components of an effective social selling system.

Why You Don’t Need a Social Selling Strategy

“What’s your social selling strategy?” I hear it all the time.
“You need one,” the experts insist.

But I say no, in most cases. Here’s why: Listen to what the experts say. Pay attention to what they say goes into a social selling strategy. Hint: It’s nothing new!

Yet we keep hearing “experts” claim listening is a new idea—or how we must get trusted to earn the sale.

So I give you permission to fire your social selling consultant or sales person if this is the best they can do.

What’s Your Telephone Strategy?
Not convinced? Consider how we don’t have B-to-B telephone strategies for prospecting. We have systems, approaches to applying the tool effectively. What defines our success in tele-prospecting?

Listening to customers? Nope. That’s the entry fee.

Trust? Nope. That’s the outcome we desire.

Success when dialing-for-dollars is based on if your system works—or not.

“You didn’t need a telephone strategy when the telephone was invented,” says sales productivity coach Philippe le Baron of LB4G Consulting.

“You learned how to use the new tool … to reach out to people you could never have dreamed of reaching … and get a face-to-face meeting with the ones who qualified.”

Today, tele-prospecting success has little to do with phone technology. It has everything to do with your telephone speaking technique—your conversational system.

Just the same, you don’t need a social media strategy today. You need a practical, repeatable process to increase sellers’ effectiveness (productivity) and make their output more predictable … using social media platforms.

Systems work for you. You don’t work for systems!

So don’t let gurus trick you into feeling like a laggard. Don’t let me catch you throwing money at sales trainers claiming buyers are fundamentally revolutionizing the way they buy. Focus on ways to:

  1. Get buyers to respond and qualify faster, more often, and
  2. Turn response into dialogue that leads to a sale—faster, more easily

Good luck. Let me know how I can help!