Three Tips for Selling on LinkedIn

My Fifteen Years of Selling on LinkedIn

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

When I read about LinkedIn back in 2003 I was immediately intrigued by the platform and joined. Over the years I’ve used LinkedIn to research my competitors, recruit employees, raise capital, and to generate a LOT of revenue. LinkedIn has changed a LOT over the years and while those changes might make for an interesting post I’m going to stick to my no-nonsense approach here on Startup Muse and share with you my top three tips if you’re interested in using the platform to generate new business.

I get ‘invitations’ from new contacts on LinkedIn every single day. In the past I’d only connect with people I knew, but at some point I gave up and began accepting connections from people who had interesting profiles AND were connected to at least a few of my friends. Over the past couple of years I’ve found more and more of these “new” contacts immediately send me automated sales messages similar to this one:

The fact that messages like these appear in my inbox the instant I have accepted them is almost a sure sign that I’m dealing with some sort of automated messaging system (SPAM). Next, the fact that they’ve entered the exact text from the first company listed in my profile makes it clear that they’re using a tool provided by LinkedIn or another company to generate their sales message.

Tip №1: Sending LinkedIn SPAM to potential clients is a surefire way to ensure they’ll never do business with you (often they’ll block you once they realize what you’re doing). Don’t do it. The funny thing about these messages? I usually respond to them just to see what will happen. Some of the time I get another automated message, but most of the time I never hear back from them. Again, don’t use LinkedIn sales automation tools.

In most cases you have very little information about a LinkedIn prospect and even less information about their business. For example, in this case the salesman has no idea that ViewMarket is no longer an operating entity and is instead a holding company for our ownership in SB Nation Radio. Given this fact the rest of the message is silly — as you can’t really increase the valuation of a non-operating entity — I’m certainly not going to bother scheduling a 20-minute call to explain this to him. The funny thing is that if this guy’s service is for real I suspect we could help each other. I work with a lot of entrepreneurs looking to increase the value of their startups — I could easily make several referrals that could potentially help both of us make more money.

Tip №2: Review the profile of your prospect BEFORE contacting them. This will take a little time, but you’ll be in a position to understand how you can help them and how they can help you once you do. (Pro Tip: Once you’ve reviewed their profile go ahead and Google them and their company. You’ll often find information that isn’t available from their LinkedIn profile) Armed with this information you’ll be far more likely to have the necessary information to determine if and how to approach the prospect.

Notice how the sales message includes a lot of data — 62+companies, 71–150%, minimum of 71% (seriously), and 20-minutes? He doesn’t know a thing about me or my company but he’s making a lot of claims. If I was running an operating company I might be a little offended at this guy’s assertion that I’m not doing a very good job running my business — so much so that he’s willing to guarantee that he can easily increase its value by 71%. Also, why 71%? Why not 70% or 72%? Then he suggests a 20-minute call to determine if there’s a potential fit. Huh? Earlier he GUARANTEED a 71% increase in our company’s valuation, but now he needs 20-minutes to determine if there is a fit? Honestly? It sounds like a load of bullshit.

Tip №3: Don’t include a sales pitch in your first message to a prospect. It is always more effective to ask the prospect a relevant question or better yet to ask for a favor before pitching your product or service. Step One — review the prospect’s recommendations (given and received) and ask them if they’d be willing to introduce you to one of them. More than 90% of the time I’ve found that prospects are happy to help you out. Step Two — after you’ve had a chance to communicate with the referral, reach out to the prospect and thank them for their help. Suggest that you might be able to repay the favor by helping them out. For example, the salesmen who reached out to me could offer to see if his company could help increase our valuation as a thank you for my help. (Advanced Tip: if you’re brave you can ask the prospect’s referral for help understanding how you could help the prospect utilize your services and how best to approach him)

At the end of the day the best way to approach a prospect on LinkedIn is to act like a human being. Don’t use sales jargon. Don’t use SPAM tools. Most users on LinkedIn have their guard up and can smell sales automation from a mile away!

About The Author

Alexander Muse

Alexander Muse is a serial entrepreneur, author of the StartupMuse, contributor to Forbes and managing partner of Sumo. Check out his podcast on iTunes. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.