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 Best LinkedIn Message After Connecting

LinkedIn connections are seemingly a smart way to start conversations with potential buyers. But do they work? Are they helping sellers start conversations after being connected? The short answer is no, mostly not. Even when you personalize your approach.

After connecting on LinkedIn, what’s the best message to start conversations with potential buyers you’ve linked to?

Today I will provide a surprising answer based on:

  • Collective intelligence of my students (sellers);
  • A chat with Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logik and;
  • A LinkedIn follow-up message example from a Chief Executive at a major CRM company.

LinkedIn connections are seemingly a smart way to start conversations with potential buyers. But do they work? Are they helping sellers start conversations after being connected?

The short answer is no, mostly not. Even when you personalize your approach.

Why Personalized Messages Often Fail

“Most people don’t personalize their LinkedIn invitation messages,” says Bruce Johnston, an expert on using LinkedIn to prospect clients. “But even if they do, many LinkedIn members don’t know how to see a personalized invitation.”

This is a serious problem. Your message not being seen leaves the invitation recipient to judge why you sent the invitation.

“Seeing ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ on a profile becomes the kiss of death for that connection possibility,” says Mr. Johnston.

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

Short answer: personal messages within your invitation are increasingly not seen.

Why Most Messages After Connecting Fail

Most messages being sent after connections are made with prospects are focused on a near-term sales pitch. This is 80 percent of the problem. Sure, this sounds obvious. But major CRM companies — who sell clients prospecting support using LinkedIn — are using methods that don’t work.

At the very top. Officer level.

Prospects (in all categories) are burning-out on sellers’ LinkedIn pitches. Worse, connection requests are becoming a prelude to spam.

Even if you are good at using LinkedIn to start conversations with targets, others are not. This makes clients’ increasingly terrible experience (with LinkedIn’s platform) your problem too.

Asking to connect with a prospect is becoming less effective for many sellers. Because connection requests (as a first touch) is a tactic used by low-skilled sales practitioners.

Your targets are likely becoming numb to LinkedIn messaging in general because of this.

Example of a Failing Message

I recently received the below spam message from a Chief Officer of a major CRM company. Here at Target Marketing I’m withholding his identity.

I connected with this COO after he requested a connection using this seemingly personalized message based on behavior I demonstrated to his company:

“Hi Jeff, you recently subscribed to the ABC CRM blog and wanted to connect say thanks.”

Being connected to this person, to me, seemed wise. Especially considering the exceptional blog content on his site. I accepted and immediately received this spammy, pushy message:

Hi Jeff thanks for connecting! I’m the COO of ABC CRM (abccrm.com) and I connected with you as we both work in sales and have a lot in common. I’ve been following the growth of company name and wanted to see if I could be able to help out? I would love to speak to you about fine-tuning your sales processes, generating more leads and hitting targets using ABC CRM? Also, if you use Linkedin a lot for getting new business, I’d love to show you how our platform automatically syncs with Linkedin to achieve even better results? Keep in touch, Sam.

Let’s be clear. This message is probably not being sent by Sam. It’s being sent by a low-skilled administrative assistant who is using Pat’s LinkedIn account to identify and warm-up leads. Nothing wrong with that.

But everything is wrong with this message. Sadly, this company is providing services to clients using these kinds of messages.

Pushy templates don’t work.

The reason this message is likely not starting conversations for Sam is because it:

  • Pushes his desire to sell on me (I’m already primed to not be pushed)
  • Makes Sam look desperate (repeating words like “I would love to”)
  • Exposes a clear lack of research (knowledge about what I do)
  • Lies: claims to be knowledgeable of me with a shallow, canned line
  • Lies again: claims we have “a lot in common,” yet doesn’t name one
  • Doesn’t bother to replace “company name” with my company name!

Conclusion: This is a spam message from a Chief Executive of a large CRM company. And this is not only common practice, it’s an expensive practice many organizations are paying for.

Should you stop making LinkedIn connections?

Maybe, maybe not. Here’s the rub: Are you using LinkedIn to prospect near-term buyers or planting seeds to “farm” conversations over time?

Near-term conversations tend to be “push” oriented. Pushing for a meeting. Pushing information about your company. These are often needed, I grant you. But they fail to identify future-term buyers.

Future-term (longer sales cycle) messaging tends to be “pull” oriented. Less desperate. Less interested in a meeting, more interested in a conversation about a meeting.

It’s the difference between gunning for the meeting in near-term and probing for a qualified, future-term appointment. These days asking for the meeting too soon is a common mistake. Because clients:

  • Don’t (yet) realize they need the meeting;
  • Are overwhelmed with meeting requests in inboxes from pushy sellers;
  • Need time to manifest their nagging fear or objective into demand.

It’s more likely your prospects are open to considering a short “meeting qualification discussion” where a meeting becomes the outcome of the short email and/or telephone conversation.

Even if that meeting is months away … in the making.

Thus, using connection requests as a “farming” may make more sense for you.

Hunting vs. Farming on LinkedIn

“Over the past 6 months I have added 450 new connections,” says Simon Marley. “All the connections are C level. I can say all my sales start with farming LinkedIn … and yes I have made sales after people have ‘cold connected’ with me, but it’s taken time.”

Marley knows all his cold connections don’t know him. Thus, they don’t trust him.

“So the likelihood of prospects buying from me early in the process is unlikely. But if I have a connection, it gives me another opportunity to influence their thinking.”

He says he’s starting many conversations with a connection request. But 99 percent of these conversations go nowhere in the short-term.

“But that doesn’t matter as I’m playing the long game,” he says.

Thus if you are using connection requests as a primary means to set near-term meetings with prospects, beware.

Most of my students are good at starting conversations with prospects — across multiple industries. But they share a similar strategy. They are applying LinkedIn connection-related messaging:

  • Less as time goes on (due to lack of response from LinkedIn contacts overall)
  • As part of a multi-pronged campaign (phone, email, InMail, direct mail, etc.)
  • In a way that doesn’t rely on LinkedIn’s communications tools to start conversations
  • As a means to spark a discussion that qualifies a future meeting

Want better results when prospecting? Start asking yourself better answers.

After connecting on LinkedIn what’s the best message to start conversations with potential buyers you’ve linked to?

Back up for a moment. Consider the role of your connection request in context of your overall prospecting strategy. What is your communications technique on LinkedIn? Do you have one?

LinkedIn connections are not always the best way to start conversations with potential buyers. They should not be your default approach tactic.

3 Reasons to Not Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is where the social selling action is. But is truly needed? Do you need it? Over time, LinkedIn has changed the rules and features of the offering to sellers.

LinkedIn LogosLinkedIn Sales Navigator is where the social selling action is. But is truly needed? Do you need it? Over time, LinkedIn has changed the rules and features of the offering to sellers.

Bottom line: There are many ways to prospect new business. But for some large and small organizations, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a go-to source for new business leads — I use it and my students do too.

But is it a fit for you? Today I’m presenting three reasons it may not be.

What This Article is About

Sales Navigator has lots of great features. But this article aims to present reasons why you may not want to use it. The title may sound provocative. But my criticism will be constructive.

Sales Navigator will be the right choice for a lot of people — maybe even you. If so, please let me know why in comments.

Many sellers I meet have dropped (not renewed) their accounts. Mostly because they don’t realize tangible value from the investment. Often with good reason. Others use Navigator on an “as needed” basis. Others decided their target market is simply not available on LinkedIn.

Then again, you may feel forced to use Sales Navigator. Due to LinkedIn’s new restrictions on how many “commercial searches” (of its database) you are allowed, this is often the case.

There are a lot of reasons to invest in Sales Navigator. But there are also a few good reasons to consider not investing.

1. You’re not good at starting conversations with words

Email is seen as the means to communicate with prospects on LinkedIn. However, the most productive sellers are using it in combination with cold calling (voicemailing). But the only way to recover a LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator investment is to possess a means to start conversations with buyers.

Reliably. Consistently. At scale, yet personal.

Don’t have confidence in getting responded to from cold? Don’t invest. If you don’t have the tactical ability to use written and spoken (voicemail) words in ways that provoke conversations, don’t invest. Not yet.

Instead, commitment to becoming effective. How effective? You should be receiving a minimum:

  • 40 percent email open rate
  • 30 percent response rate

If you are not starting conversations with prospects (minimum three out of every 10 cold InMail/call attempts), Sales Navigator may not be a smart investment.

What happens when you do have strength here? It can get exciting. Remember: InMail is not unlimited. You can only buy a maximum of 30 InMail credits (needed to send them) per month.

That is unless you get credits returned to your account — LinkedIn gives your credit back each time a message is responded to, even if it’s a “no.”

Thus, the primary way to recover a LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator investment is to possess a means to start new conversations with buyers — at scale.

2. You/your team is already spamming with it

Most sellers I meet are, in essence, spamming customers with standard email, InMail and other forms of LinkedIn messages. At best, mass-emailing reps pushing everything from marketing content to pre-mature meetings earn a 2 percent response rate.

Are you/your people cutting and pasting marketing prose into InMails and hitting send? Asking for meetings — from cold — using InMail?

You are probably spamming prospects. Time to own up.

“I have received dozens of InMails over the last few years and not a single one as merited more than ‘ignore’ or ‘no thanks not interested’, says Mark Johnston, president at Telementrix. “A lot of education is still required in this area.”

Johnston describes how most InMail messages have not performed any research on the approach. He is clearly not in the market for what is being pushed his way.

“Here’s what I get from social selling: a LinkedIn invitation, acceptance of invitation, and receipt of an email that clearly shows they know nothing about my company, me or my needs. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not accepting very many LinkedIn invitations as they seem to be an invitation to spam me,” says Michael Jones of Centurylink Business.

Are you or your team already using standard email (or LinkedIn InMail) to push spammy messages at customers? Have you already formed the losing habit? Again, most folks who I meet have. I’m not judging, just warning.

3. You place priority on Social Selling Index numbers

To encourage use of its platform and adoption of social selling, LinkedIn offers its Social Selling Index (SSI). This is a scoring system designed to reward what LinkedIn considers to be productive sales behavior using its platform.

But is it encouraging productivity or rewarding noise?

I get criticized as raining on everyone’s parade, but the bottom line is LinkedIn’s SSI is not as helpful as it may be harmful to sellers or those who manage them. I have years of experience coaching sellers. This remains my experience. I’m not alone.

The SSI encourages (rewards, with a number) quantitative use of LinkedIn. This actively discourages qualitative use.

Here’s the rub: Sellers most precious resource is time. Most social selling efforts are, thus, seen as defensive. In other words, sellers feel they are forced: “you must spend time on LinkedIn to reap rewards from it.”

The result is usually ugly: Buyers are being smothered by content being pushed by sellers. What buyers are not getting is context.

Sellers are often not good at, and rewarded for, offering guidance to customers via LinkedIn — in context.