The Problem With Getting Introductions On LinkedIn

You were hoping for an introduction, but usually wind up meeting the brick wall.

Kind of a Franken-Post today. I wrote a guide to using LinkedIn for Introductions and Referrals, and as it clocked in at over four thousand words, I chopped it up into eight installments for my email newsletter. Today I thought I would take a couple of those pieces and post them on LinkedIn in order to illustrate how hard it can be to get introductions.

Asking for Introductions on LinkedIn: The Hard Target Method

I call this the hard target method, in that you have a specific person that you want an introduction to, and you usually have one mutual connection with your target that you have chosen as the person that can make that introduction.

Here’s why introductions are huge: Credibility.

The introducer bestows upon you credibility with the other person. It is just a sheen of credibility, a starter kit of credibility, and it is often more implied than said outright. Often just enough credibility is conveyed that the new person gives you the benefit of the doubt and agrees to talk with you. That credibility only lasts until you begin your conversation with them, but that’s all you wanted in the first place, isn’t it?

You don’t get this credibility boost via InMail, email, or cold call.

What an introduction on LinkedIn decodes as is “This is someone I know. He or she is not going to waste your time.”

What does an introduction take?

“Alan, I would like to introduce you to Barbara. I have known Barbara for seven years, since her company was a supplier to the last company I worked with. Barbara has some unique insights into the widgets.”

“Barbara, I would like to introduce you to Alan. I have known Alan since he was at Spacely Sprockets. Alan has been in the sprocket industry for over fifteen years.”

“I think you two would benefit from knowing each other. I will leave you to it.”

And you leave them to it. That’s it. This isn’t rocket science.

The Problem With The Hard Target Method  

So now you’re all excited about Introductions and you go try it out on a connection or two but the only real introduction you get is to our friend the brick wall.

Well, what happened? This seemed like a really good idea.

Let’s look at why introductions can be problematic.

When you ask for an introduction on LinkedIn, you are asking one of your connections to introduce you to your target, one of his or her connections.

But if you are like most LinkedIn users, you have a decent sized network of connections where you really only know maybe 20% of those people well. The other 80% are people you met at a trade show one time, or they are someone that you worked with three jobs ago, or you connected with them for any number of reasons, but the reality is that you never did have or subsequently developed a relationship with that person.

So when you go to ask for a connection to perform an introduction, there is an 80% chance that that connection is someone who doesn’t really know you that well. And they aren’t that comfortable providing the introduction. To them you represent risk: someone who may make him or her look bad. Of course you are not going to make them look bad, but as your connection doesn’t know you that well, they don’t know that.

Even worse, if you do find someone in the 20% you know well that seems willing to provide an introduction, there’s now an 80% chance that they don’t know the target person you want to be introduced to that well themselves! The same thing holds true for them as it does for you: they only know 20% of their connections reasonably well. The possible introduction you wanted falls flat because your connection has no credibility with the target person.

So you started off all excited because you discovered a pathway through a connection to someone you really want to meet. But the odds of this working out in the end are only 20% (that you know your connection that well) out of 20% (that they know your target that well).

That’s a measly 4% success rate. You could have likely done better with a cold call.

So what can you do about it? Lots actually. Because understanding the “why” sets you on the path to figuring out the “how” to work around the limitations, and even use these limitations to your advantage. Hint: most people focus on the 80% failure rate and just give up. They should be figuring out what makes up the 20% and how to find them.

Actually, figuring out if someone belongs in the twenty percent who would enthusiastically give you an introduction is pretty easy: when you come across someone who is a potential introducer, just pretend it was the other way around. If they asked you for an introduction to someone in your network, how would you feel about it? There’s your litmus test.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Using LinkedIn To Research People And Companies

Someone very serious about their research

I thought today I would go over an example of the research I would do before talking to a prospect. Here are the steps I take:

I will check their company page to see how it matches up with their website and to review all their recent activity.

I will check their LinkedIn profile for the following:

  • Current experience section for responsibilities and accomplishments
  • Previous experience to get an idea of their career path
  • Then I read the About section to see how they see their progression themselves
  • I will also look for recommendations given and received.
  • What their skills reflect (sometimes the order someone puts their skills in can tell you a lot)
  • The companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to.
  • Lastly, I will check their recent activity (if they have any) on LinkedIn. Is he or she  posting? How often? What topics? Are they interacting with other people’s or company’s posts?

This will take me ten minutes (I’ve done this hundreds of times) and it is time well invested for three reasons:

  1. It gives me an overview of his or her professional career.
  2. It helps me prepare and have ideas for my outreach message (if this is outbound) or the topics this person might be reaching out to me for (if this is inbound).
  3. And perhaps most importantly, it will show them the respect I have for them in preparing in this manner.

This can make all the difference in tilting the playing field in my favour. Having the facts and a lot of ideas at my fingertips going into a discussion with someone gives me a huge advantage in coming across as a credible resource who respects their time, takes an interest in what they are doing and wants to help them.

So that’s the prep for an individual. But what about a company?

I will do all of the things I did with respect to my individual prospect, but will add five more pieces of research. Here are the applicable ones from the list above that I will repeat for a company:

  • I will check the company website, to see what they do and to get a sense of their value proposition.
  • I will check their LinkedIn company page to see how it matches up with the website and to review all their recent activity.
  • I will check key contacts profiles, and carefully. Headline, photo, about section, work history. Focus on current experience section, but also look at  recommendations, both received and given, what their skills reflect (skills and which ones they emphasize are often a window into how people see themselves), where they went to school, the companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to. All these are things I can do very quickly, and give me a sense both of the person and how they view LinkedIn as a tool.

Here are the additional things I will look at:

  • I will see if they are active as a company on any other social media and if they are, how they are using those networks.
  • In looking at their company page I will examine the company insights LinkedIn provides very carefully (if they have more than thirty people with LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn premium members can see these insights). Hiring trends, headcount, and turnover by department all give me clues as to how the company is doing. A company growing at 20% a year is very different from one that has had headcount go down by 20% in the past year.
  • I will review the sales and marketing employees’ LinkedIn profiles, asking myself the critical question, “do they get LinkedIn?”
  • I will look for active users in other parts of the company. I will often find people who are active LinkedIn users where you normally wouldn’t expect them.
  • Lastly I will look to see if I have any connections who might know people at this company. I look to see if there are any company employees with a “2nd” beside their name.

Say that you were to land a new client this month. What would the value of that satisfied client be over the next five years? Does that potential warrant the type and depth of research I have listed here? I think it does.

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Some Observations On Writing On LinkedIn

(shining the light on LinkedIn publishing) 

I was scrolling through my old articles in my LinkedIn Activity feed the other day, and it got me thinking about the vagaries of how we judge our success. Here are some observations on my writing for LinkedIn. See if they match yours.

If I look at my articles on face value, it is easy to see that most were opened and read a few hundred times, a small percentage a few thousand times and there are a couple outliers in the tens of thousands. Now that has changed somewhat as having a LinkedIn Newsletter gets my content in front of a lot more people than my articles used to. But even the newsletters only get opened a maximum of eight thousand times.

Being lucky helps. An article on the topic of Linkedin Search I wrote almost five years ago got over a hundred thousand click-to-open’s. And it still gets clicked on to this day. Why did this one do over twelve times better than my current LinkedIn newsletter does? It got indexed on Google and my topic apparently was one that people search for a lot. I had no clue. That article was no more or less good than the one I wrote before it, or the one I wrote after it. I just got lucky that week.

On the other hand, LinkedIn gives us pretty rotten tools for parsing our readers, so a lot of views doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

I know the best practices for publishing, or as well as you can know them when they are a moving target, though many I don’t bother with as I don’t write for views and I really don’t write for engagement.  I write for credibility, both to establish myself with my ongoing readers, and to have my articles and newsletters attached to my profile where people can find and read them. Publishing is the long game on LinkedIn for me. Every week I get one or two messages from people I don’t know at all saying they have been reading my articles – sometimes for a couple years! – and would like to connect and speak with me.

I have stuff I thought was gold and it was then met with complete disinterest. Ideas about aspects of using Linkedin that I thought bordered on profound and a couple hundred people read it. I had other content  that I was reluctant to publish and people loved it. We are all our own worst judge I suppose, we’re too close. I have learned to let go of my expectations for any single article or newsletter. I hit “publish” and it’s out of my hands.

Understanding how the algo works helps, but 90% of your readership, views and engagement will come from what you write about and how well you write. And when I say how well, it’s not well like Stephen King, it’s just being clean and relatable. The algo is always changing, best practices are always changing. Good choice of topics, and writing clearly about them, will always be in style.

Summary? Don’t overthink it. Once you have a handle on what your ideal reader wants more information on, write about that. I prefer writing articles and the newsletter because they stay findable through my LinkedIn profile. Don’t worry about the immediate reception or lack of one any single piece of content gets, let your ideal readers discover your work through your profile. I’m a believer in the long tail on LinkedIn, let the way LinkedIn works work for you.

Obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter is a three or four minute read, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/