Rule Number One For Getting More Out Of LinkedIn InMail

Use them.

This is pretty obvious when you think about it, but bear with me for a moment so I can provide some context.

As someone who spends a lot of his day involved with InMail, I have found four broad categories of InMail users on LinkedIn.

The tiniest category of InMail users are the ones who use it all the time and are  successful with it.

The next smallest category are the people who use InMail and have a little success with it. Their attitude seems to be that “what the heck, we get twenty of these things each month in our premium subscription, we might as well use them.” Their attitude is that any responses they get to their InMail is a bonus, a windfall.  

Then there is the “fire, fail, and forget about it” crowd. These folks have tried using InMail, failed miserably, given up, and just ignore the InMails they receive from LinkedIn each month.

And lastly, the biggest group are InMail users who never use InMail at all. They either don’t understand how to use it, or they haven’t figured out where it fits with their other outreach efforts, or both.

So the vast majority of InMail “users” aren’t users at all. They have either given up or never tried.

And that is the biggest mistake InMail users make: they don’t use their  allotted InMails every month. And as the celebrated philosopher Wayne Gretzky once said:

              “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”

How will you ever get better with no practice? You get sharp at using InMail by actually using InMail. By experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I have one InMail message I have been using for over two years. I have probably made a couple hundred tweaks and changes to it as I constantly experiment, trying to find the optimal wording.  

To a lot of LinkedIn users, InMail is a dirty word and practically interchangeable with the word “Spam”. But that’s because most InMails are just embarrassingly  bad sales pitches. LinkedIn users will take a message they wouldn’t dream of sending via email and think nothing of sending it via InMail. Then they are mystified when they get no response.

A badly written InMail is spam.

A well written InMail is one where I stop and go, “That’s interesting.” I may respond, I may not. But it wasn’t spam. 

If you are a premium Linkedin subscriber, you have paid for these InMails. Get out there and use them. But use your brains. Try different wordings and calls to action. Experiment, experiment, experiment. If you are a Sales Navigator user, you get 20 InMails a month (and some plans get more). Going from zero to just a measly five percent response rate will bring you one extra conversation with a prospect every month for each sales rep on your team with a Sales Navigator subscription.

So take some shots. You may not score as often as Wayne Gretzky, but that’s better than watching from the bench.   

 

Litmus Tests For Upgrading To LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Most popular question I have received in the past ten days:

LinkedIn user: “Bruce, where is ‘search’ in the new user interface?

Me: “In Sales Navigator”  

LinkedIn user: “< much profanity deleted here >”

As the new user interface is being rolled out, many LinkedIn users are stuck in a bad spot: choosing whether to upgrade to Sales Navigator and kicking the year off with a big expense they hadn’t planned on. With that in mind here are some ideas that may help you in making a decision with respect to Sales Navigator.

Sales Navigator has three basic sets of additional features compared with the free version of LinkedIn.

1) Sales Navigator has some pretty comprehensive search tools

This consists of twenty search filters, plus search by title and / or keywords.  Ability to save searches. Ability to adjust searches, broadening and narrowing parameters on the fly. I tried Sales Navigator in the late summer of 2015 and considered the search capabilities interesting but not ready for prime time. They are now. If  someone enters something on their LinkedIn profile, you can use it to find them.

And that’s all great, but if you are in charge of commercial airline sales in North America for Boeing, you probably know who all of your prospective clients are already. You don’t need Sales Navigator’s search capabilities. On the other hand, if you are selling printed circuit boards in North America, as a couple of my clients are, there are over ten thousand possible prospects, and that Advanced Search capability would come in pretty handy.  

The test for needing Advanced Search is:

  • do you know who all your prospects are?
  • Or, do you already know of so many prospects that finding more isn’t necessary?

2) Sales Navigator allows you to follow people and companies

You can designate hundreds of people and / or companies as “leads” and Sales Navigator will show you the posts they write or share, company news, and people who make job changes. You can tag people (another feature that was moved from free LinkedIn to Sales Navigator) and sort them.

This is a good suite of features if you are big on social selling and using people’s posts and shares as cues to start conversations with them. If you are more of a traditional “I’m not waiting for him or her to post, I have a compelling story to tell them now” type of person, then this feature becomes a “that’s nice” type of thing.

3) Sales Navigator grants you an allotment of InMails every month

InMails allow you to send messages to second and third degree connections.

If you prefer email or cold calls, then you don’t need this either. But if you like the idea of having the option of InMail as one of the ways you make initial contact with someone, then it can be worthwhile. However, you need to be ready to put the time in to write good InMails, otherwise InMail is just another word for Spam.

I usually tell people that the litmus test for Sales Navigator is when you grumble to yourself that you just don’t have enough prospects (you need Advanced search), or ideas to contact them (you need to be able to follow), or you want to send them direct messages via InMail. If you have one of more of these problems, then you have made a case for getting – or at least trying out – a Sales Navigator subscription.

If you wonder if you need a premium subscription, you probably don’t need it.

If you can point to a specific ability that would make a difference to your sales, then yes, you are heading in the the premium subscription direction.

A premium LinkedIn subscription should allow you to have more: more prospects, more options to contact those prospects, more responses when you do contact those prospects, and more efficient and effective use of your time.

One aspect of LinkedIn’s Premium subscriptions that I really like (which probably means it is doomed) is the ability to sign up for a premium subscription on a monthly basis. It’s more per month, but you can bail out after two or three months if it isn’t working for you.

And a final word: be prepared to put some time in learning how to use Sales Navigator effectively. Following people is pretty easy, but using Advanced Search efficiently – that is narrowing your results list to a manageable number – can have a learning curve, and InMail…well, there’s a lot to InMail. It takes a lot of work to do InMail well. So I wouldn’t recommend Sales Navigator for everybody, and for all you frugal types that are still out there, there are still lots of effective (and some sneaky) ways of using Free LinkedIn for sales.   

 

Who does LinkedIn really want you to connect with?

iStock_000018665616XSmallHow many times have you gone to connect with someone on LinkedIn only to be confronted by this line:

   Only invite people you know well and who know you.

Let’s have  a look at this concept.

I should know someone “well” before I ask them to connect with me and they should know me too. The way LinkedIn has put it, being connected is the business equivalent of becoming engaged. You have a to spend a good amount of time getting to know each other first.

That sounds like I could never connect with someone who may be a potential business partner, until well after they have become my business partner. In which case, why am I bothering with LinkedIn to help create business opportunities?

Most people I have business relationships with I know, but I don’t know well.  I don’t know how many kids they have, when their birthday is, where they go for vacation. I know them in a strict business sense, but I don’t know them well.

Okay, so what does this whole “only inviting people I already know, and who know me” warning mean?

It means LinkedIn wants to protect it’s users from random acts of connecting.

That’s it. If there were no restrictions, it would be a zoo out there. Everybody would be swamped by invitations to connect from all kinds of people. And being snowed under by a lot of random connection invites would drive people away from LinkedIn.

Here’s my interpretation on this whole thing: the warning is there to make people stop and think before they press the “connect” button.

LinkedIn does want us to connect with more people. Otherwise LinkedIn would not offer a “connect” button on every profile you look at. It would not offer “connect” when you mouse over someone’s photo in a LinkedIn group. And the ubiquitous “People you may know” would not be there, sitting prominently at the top right of your home screen,  where you will note the option under each person displayed is “connect”. Not “View this person’s profile”. Not “How you may know this person”. But “Connect”

LinkedIn wants us to connect to other people. More connections means a greater likelihood of spending more time on LinkedIn to interact with those connections. It means more information about you and your habits in LinkedIn’s database.

More connections is good business for LinkedIn.

So what does this all mean to you and me? Use that warning to only connect with people you know well and who you know well as a test of your intentions. If you read it and feel uneasy, I am guessing that is a sign that your intentions are a little one sided. Connect, but be smart about it. Connect with those who will have a reason to want to connect with you. Connect with people who may not know you that well now, but have reason to think knowing you better is a good business decision.