Why I Am (Finally) Hopping On The LinkedIn Creator Mode Bandwagon

(and it took almost two years to get here)

LinkedIn Creator Mode was announced back in April 2021, and rolled out over the following months. LinkedIn says its intent is to allow you to grow your “reach and influence on LinkedIn.” I have written a couple reviews on Creator Mode as LinkedIn has adjusted it and added more features, and I have continued to be ambivalent about it until now.

I will review what I consider the seven main aspects of Creator Mode here, and then talk about the eighth aspect that was announced – quietly – in early November that has made me change my mind about it.

In Creator Mode, “Connect” changes to “Follow”

By default, the “Connect” button on your profile changes to a “Follow” button. People can still connect with you, but the Connect button is now hidden in a drop down menu next to the Follow button. Maybe to prompt us to do this LinkedIn says your number of followers will now be displayed prominently underneath your Profile headline. Note that this is a big ego boost if you already have lots of followers and want even more, but won’t it look a little pathetic if you are just starting out and only have a couple hundred followers?

Neat trick: if you have Creator mode on and someone invites you to connect, they are automatically made a follower. Even if you decline their invite to connect they remain a follower. They can unfollow you if they decide to – but most people won’t realize that they are automatically following you, or won’t know how to unfollow someone. Very sneaky.

You can display your expertise areas

You can display topics you talk about in your Profile Introduction section as hashtags. Hashtags are searchable on Linkedin. This is one search method that is under utilized by users on both sides of the search equation on LinkedIn. This is a nice feature and will increase in importance if hashtag use ever does really catch on with LinkedIn users.

Embedded links

While we are in your Introduction section, you can add a link here to drive people to your website, an Event sign up page, or specific content. I could see this being handy, but one would need to be careful in using it. I think most folks would use this as a generic “visit my website” suggestion and I have never been a fan of the “Invite people into the store to browse around” school of thought. If there is a specific landing page that people are being sent to, I like this idea. A lot.

Musical chairs with Profile sections

LinkedIn says they will more prominently move your content, both your Featured and Activity sections, to be seen more easily by your visitors. This sounds nice, but another way of putting it would be “we moved your About section down below your Activity.” You know, the About section you just put those hashtags and that URL in. Well, I suppose the idea here after all is highlighting all that content you are creating, but do you really need to promote this?

You could be featured!

“You become eligible to be featured as a suggested creator to follow so potential followers can discover you and your content across LinkedIn.” From what I can see, every week LinkedIn mentions a half dozen Creators to follow. I have seen multiple articles, one saying five million people have Creator Mode turned on, another saying ten million people did – back in January 2022. With five or six Creators being featured each week out of millions, it is going to take a while before they get around to you or me. These are lottery odds.

Early access to Creator tools

You can get access to Creator tools. However, the only tools appear to LinkedIn Live, LinkedIn Newsletters, and Audio Events (the long awaited “Clubhouse killer”). This is very sneaky by LinkedIn. LinkedIn is on record as saying that these tools are being rolled out over time to everyone, so what they are implying here is that being a Creator will allow you to move up in the line. That being said, if you were an early adopter of Clubhouse or love running Live Events, this feature makes Creator mode a must for you.

Creator Analytics

LinkedIn has added Creator Analytics to show how your posts are doing over time.  Analytics work on posts, articles, videos, events, and polls. It measures impressions and engagement. Analytics are still being rolled out. I have three issues here.

The first is lumping all my content together. Each of these different types of content is measured differently by LinkedIn. For example LinkedIn counts a post impression when it appears in your feed. An article impression is counted when you click to open the article. A video impression happens when three seconds of the video rolls by on your screen. One impression is not like another. If you mix and use different types of content, your graphs and results are going to take some interpretation.

The second issue is with your engagement. LinkedIn tallies the engagement with your content – the total number of your reactions, comments and shares is shown. But we know that LinkedIn rewards comments on posts by further distributing those posts to more users. So comments are much more important, but they get lumped in with Likes, and reactions, and shares.

Lastly, LinkedIn will show you the same vague analytics you get from most content published on LinkedIn –  breakdown by Job Title, Industry, Seniority, Location, or Company Size.

Sorry to say this but the analytics area is pretty lame on LinkedIn, and remains that way in Creator mode.

The Algo Will Now Treat Your Followers Like Connections

New, and in my opinion, the tipping point: the LinkedIn algorithms will treat your followers like they are connections. This appeared in LinkedIn Help in early November:

“Similar to what happens when you follow Top Voices, your followers will receive your posts, articles, and shares in their LinkedIn homepage feed. Members don’t have to be connected to you to follow you and receive these updates.”

Up until now, LinkedIn has always based distribution of your content to a small number of your connections, and how those connections responded and engaged with your content drove further distribution to more people. LinkedIn tells us what we see featured prominently in our feeds is largely based on our Connection Strength Score, which is based on the interactions we have on LinkedIn with our various connections. My problem with creating more followers has always been that to my knowledge, there is no “Follower Strength Score.” And how would you measure it?

This is the prime argument I always had about Creator Mode. Why would I try and promote a larger number of followers – instead of connections – when LinkedIn does not indicate that it will treat those followers in the same way as my connections? But now LinkedIn says they will. This changes everything. I have around five thousand connections and five thousand followers. If I turn Creator Mode on, I now have effectively doubled my audience as LinkedIn says those followers will have a shot as seeing my content. Creator Mode has gone from being a questionable feature to what I think of as a reasonable one. It is worth the odd aspects to get the good aspects. I’m in. I will post again on this a few months down the line and let you know what impact it has had.

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 articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Establishing Your Credibility In Outreach Messages: 4 Ways That Work

The Captains here have lost their credibility

…and 3 ways to avoid

Establishing your credibility is one of the core components of an effective outreach message on LinkedIn. Because if you have no credibility, your message will just get ignored. 

This can be a really difficult task, especially when establishing your credibility is only one of the many things you need to do in the space of a few sentences. 

Here are four ways you can establish your credibility, four ways that work. I have these roughly in order from strongest to weakest.

Get an introduction 

This is number one, but only if the person introducing you has credibility with the other person they are introducing you to. In effect when you send a message to the person you have been introduced to, you will have some of that credibility transferred to you. 

Get a referral

Almost as good. I use this one a lot. I will find someone who looks like a peer of the person I want to reach at the target company, but who looks more “gettable” via LinkedIn. I then ask that person to confirm my original target’s role. When they confirm my original target is the person I should talk to, I now have a referral because “Dave told me you are the person I should talk to.” (Thanks Dave!)

Talk about relevant results 

That is, you talk about how you have achieved results for a company they know and respect. This is a very powerful technique. You will look for a couple of your customers that you  figure the target will know and respect and tell the prospect in one line how we were able to improve those other companies’ situations. Done effectively, the target is dying to know how you did it. You both obtain credibility and generate a desire for them to talk to you.

Show them you know something that will intrigue them

This is one of my fallbacks, and it is based on LinkedIn research. There is lots of information about companies, their competitors, and their employees on LinkedIn. All it takes is a little work to put together something that will, well, freak them out. “I see you have increased your R&D headcount by around 18% over the past two years, while your competitor A has flatlined and competitor B is actually hemorrhaging engineers.” Similar to the tactic #3 above, done effectively, the recipient has only one question, “How the heck does he know that?”

Now we start getting into the methods that are a little lame. Here are three ways that most people try to establish their credibility that are best described as weak. 

Name drop

This is usually when you share a connection or multiple connections but you either don’t know the connections well enough to ask for an introduction, or the connections don’t know the target well enough to introduce you. But it’s all you’ve got. I don’t like this one because a lot of connections are weak and don’t mean that much. I have over five thousand connections and I often have people approach me and mention people I had forgotten I was connected with. That doesn’t really move the needle much for me. 

You make an offer 

A free demo or free trial, something that implies you have value. I avoid this one because it assumes that the prospect is at a place in the sales cycle that I have no clue that they are really in. Offers work on places like websites where a ton of people can see them, but one to one in outreach messages? Naw. 

You make an abstract claim 

This usually consists of a value statement with a number attached. “We save companies over 50% on their labor costs.” The vagueness is the killer here. “Which companies?”, “What constitutes labor costs?”, “Where’s the proof?” 

I  refuse to use these last three. They are weak and overused. The best way I know how to establish credibility is to combine the first or second method from last week and combine it with the third or fourth from last week. Get Bob to introduce you and then talk about the results you got for Alpha Corp. Your prospect knows Bob and Alpha, a double dose of credibility. 

 

Don’t Sweat The Short Term Results, Focus on Your LinkedIn Process 

(this is a reprint of a post from the Spring of 2021. It was valid then, it is still valid now)

I read a really good book over the Christmas / New Years break, “The Biggest Bluff” by Maria Konnikova. She uses poker to talk about making better decisions. Highly recommended for sales people. I liked it so much, I have already re-read it once, highlighting it like crazy, and have bought her other two books. Great stuff on the psychology of sales. 

One of her ideas is the basis behind today’s newsletter. In essence, she talks about not sweating the results of individual poker hands, but to focus on your process. Sometimes you are going to have a pair of kings, play the hand absolutely correctly, and have someone fluke a better hand and beat you. You did everything right, but still lost. The problem is many people will focus on that hand and that loss, how unfair it was, how they should have won. This is a waste of time. Instead, if you focus on your process, over time you will win your share of the hands played, and overcome the odd bit of bad luck.

There are two applications of this in our work in sales. The first is the obvious one in sales itself. You are going to get beaten by competitors, and sometimes that will be due to luck. I had a sale that I thought I had nailed down last year. Everything was in place. I especially had the key decision maker who had access to the funds on board. He was a big fan of using me to help his company. I was a couple weeks away from signing the deal and…that key guy jumped to another company, and everything he was working on became associated with the guy who left. I lost the sale. But I did everything right. What was I going to do, make him stay there? 

So when you lose a sale, don’t focus on the result, focus on the process. Is your process sound? Did you follow it? If the answer is yes, chalk up the loss to bad luck, and don’t think of it again. Over time, you will luck into a few too, and they will tend to even out. 

The second application is with LinkedIn. The same holds true for LinkedIn that holds true for sales in general. If you follow your process, you will be successful. Except that there are two problems with this idea:

  1. Most people and companies don’t have a “LinkedIn process”
  2. And even when they do, they don’t follow it. 

Most LinkedIn users have a vague idea of what they want to accomplish, but don’t articulate it very well (or at all), and then the activities they pursue on LinkedIn don’t necessarily fit with what their goals are. 

For those of us in sales there are four basic things that LinkedIn is good for: 

  • LinkedIn can increase our reach, making more people aware of us
  • LinkedIn can increase our credibility, having us seen as a viable alternative for our prospective customers
  • LinkedIn research can give us info to build better outreach strategies and messages, increasing our hit rate with new prospects
  • LinkedIn can be an extremely effective place to send those initial outreach messages. 

So my message for today is this: when you use LinkedIn, have a reason to do so. Know what you are trying to achieve. Have a plan for what activities or tasks will accomplish your goals. Have a process. Follow the process. Test the process if necessary. And you will make better use of the time you invest in LinkedIn. 

Following Versus Connecting On LinkedIn

Lately LinkedIn seems to be trying to shift the focus away from connecting and towards following. For example you can now change the default button from “connect” to “follow” on your profile. And there is talk that this will soon not be an option but that “follow” will be the default.

But while LinkedIn may be hyping following, here are three good reasons that given a choice, I prefer connecting over following. When you are connected with someone on LinkedIn:

  • you can send each other messages directly over LinkedIn. This doesn’t replace email, the phone or whatever messaging system you use, but it does come in handy for LinkedIn-centric messages such as referencing someone you know mutually on LinkedIn, or drawing their attention to someone or something of interest on LinkedIn.
  • you rank higher in your connection’s search results on LinkedIn. As LinkedIn is one huge database full of people, an obvious application is to use that database for searches – for suppliers, vendors, experts, new staff, information or discussions on specific topics, practically anything. And one of the things you will find is that LinkedIn wants search results to be relevant to the searcher, and if one or more connections get found in a search, LinkedIn will tend to list them at the top of the search results. If you are looking for a WordPress expert, it makes sense for LinkedIn to list WordPress experts you are already connected with first.
  • connections show pathways to other people on LinkedIn that you didn’t know exist. You may find a prospect on LinkedIn and see the little “2nd” postscript after their name and then the person or people both you and that person are connected with on LinkedIn. You can use this information in two ways. The first is to name drop the mutual connection’s name in a message or invitation to connect. The second is to use that mutual connection or one of your mutual connections as an intermediary, and ask them to introduce you to the person of interest to you.

With these in mind I always choose connecting over following. I think of connecting as “following, with privileges”. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Someone ignores your connection request, so you then just…follow them.

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 articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Why You Need Content On LinkedIn

When I started out in high tech sales back in the pre-internet 1980’s, clients could get their info from three places:

Trade shows. Trade shows were great but everyone couldn’t go.

Trade magazines. Very important. This is where most of the information came from.

And third was a vendor’s sales reps. This is where a lot of info came from. The informal “here’s how other people in your industry are tackling this problem” stuff.  What’s new, what’s coming, what other companies were doing…these were all important parts of a sales call. Salespeople were an integral part of a customer’s education and finding out what was going on in their industries.

Now your customers can do their own research. And they do. Your customers are gathering information.

They want to know if other people have problems similar to theirs.

They want to know how those companies tackled the problem.

They want to know if a solution to their problem is even possible.

Then, after gathering that information, they want to start looking for companies that have the ability to help them. These days, they will often select the finalists – the two or three or four companies that they think can help them – before they ever reach out and initiate that first contact.

That’s why you need content. If you can publish content that shows you have seen the problems your customers have or will have, understand what is involved in fixing those problems, and that you have experience successfully helping other people solve those problems, you have an “in” for getting on that finalist list.

And the more the merrier. A steady drumbeat of good content reminds people that you have this experience they need. It shows that you understand their problems because you have looked at those problems from a lot of different angles.

Salespeople used to be needed in order for companies to keep up with the latest and greatest developments in their industries. Not anymore.

The worst thing you can do if you are the best kept secret in your industry? Stay the best kept secret in your industry.

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/

Well, What Is In It For Them Anyway?

As I am always going on about, “it’s not about you, it’s about them” in your interactions with others on LinkedIn – especially in connecting and outreach – it was only a matter of time before I got asked this.

I had someone ask me about this the other week. They were sending connection requests to prospective customers and they were having a tough time coming up with a good reason for the person to connect with them.

To their credit, they were honest with me in describing the situation. “I want business from them, so this is kind of a one way street. What can I offer them?”

This is what happens when we have the blinders on. We see something we want – in this case a connection to a prospect – and all we can see is what that will do for us. It blinds us to the other person’s perspective and their problems, wants and needs.

Here are three things you can offer the person you are connecting with.

1) Your knowledge. Everyone seems to forget this. Every day you help people like your prospect solve the problems they have. This is what you do. While their problem or issue may be a new and novel situation for them, it’s something you see all the time. It’s like they are the person looking online for the recipe for a dish, while you’re a chef who cooks twenty of that dish every night.

2) Your experience with their industry. This is different from your knowledge in that you are putting the knowledge into practice in different situations. This is important because your past experience solving problems like the ones they have will reassure them that you are someone worthwhile they should know.

3) Lastly, you have something that is uniquely LinkedIn: your network of connections. And this applies to most anyone you meet on LinkedIn. If you have any size network at all you have the ability to introduce or refer this new person to someone they want to know. Need help with CRM? I have connections who work for CRM companies, I have connections who are independent CRM consultants, and ones that are CRM power users. People in similar positions to themselves? No problem. Suppliers? Got you covered. Access to your network is actually a pretty powerful thing to be able to offer.

You have more than your pure product or service to offer. Be aware of it and take advantage of it.

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 articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Want To Get Discovered On LinkedIn?

I have a premium subscription membership on LinkedIn (Sales Navigator) and with one of its  features I can go back and see everyone who viewed my profile in the past ninety days.

I use this feature every day as I consider a profile view to be a plausible and legitimate reason to contact someone. And I like seeing lists of people that, for one reason or another, have taken an interest in me.

But while doing my daily look through earlier this week, I saw that some profile views listed sources and some didn’t. So I decided to go back through my profile viewers and look at the sources I could find, and see if there was anything I could learn from them.

I wound up reviewing the last 300 people who visited my profile and looking to see where they came from, that is, how they found my profile.

42 of them – around 14% – were connections. This may seem odd but is completely legitimate. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone to a connections’ profile to check something. I can think of three times I have done it today already.

That leaves 258 people who were not connected with me.

And of that 258 profile viewers, 7 found me via Search on LinkedIn.

Seven. Less than one person a week.

Everyone else discovered me because of something I did.

They saw something I had published, they saw I had commented or engaged with someone else’s content or someone @mentioned me. The screen grab at the top of today’s newsletter shows my number of profile viewers going up and down over the course of this summer. The peaks correlate with the days I publish this newsletter.

The conclusion I draw from this little nugget of research? If you want to get discovered on LinkedIn, I have two words of advice for you:

Do something.

There are two ways to broaden your reach – that is to increase the number of people who are aware of you on LinkedIn. One is to be discovered in a search and the other is to be reacted to after you do something on LinkedIn.

In my case publishing and engaging with other people is more than 35 times as effective as being found via LinkedIn Search. 

If I relied on search alone, I would likely have a couple dozen people discovering me this year.

Now, you may not want more reach, and you may not want people discovering you. But if you do, your Profile isn’t going to do it for you, your activity is.

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. 

Then again, I have been doing this for over ten years. That’s longer than 97.5% of LinkedIn employees have been with LinkedIn (based on a search I did with Sales Navigator).

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer, or the statistic) 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/

3 Practical Uses For LinkedIn Groups

Just because it’s quiet around LinkedIn Groups doesn’t mean they have lost all purpose.

LinkedIn Groups get a bad rap.

I can think of three applications where LinkedIn Groups are awesome. I have found the key in getting the most from LinkedIn Groups is to not use them the way most people think of using them – that whole conversations thing – but to use them for what they are actually good for.

As most of you know, I have a Sales Navigator subscription. And one of the couple dozen or so filters on Sales Navigator is…Groups. When people join a LinkedIn Group, they are indicating their interest in a topic. I can filter and search through those thousands of interests to find the people that are interested in arcane processes, ideas or topics. A lot of people won’t put on their profile that they have an interest in Hubspot CRM software, but they will join the Hubspot CRM Group on LinkedIn, which is just as good from my standpoint if I am conducting a search for such people.

It doesn’t matter if they participate in the group, or if the group is active or a dead zone, I know they have that interest. 

And of course, most LinkedIn users will never realize that Groups can be used in this way.

The second reason is similar: advertising. One of the filters you can use as an advertiser on LinkedIn is by individual Groups. Using my Hubspot example above, I can choose to advertise to the thousands of members in all the local Hubspot user Groups on LinkedIn. This is a really powerful tool for putting together interest based advertising campaigns on LinkedIn. And again, this is something that most LinkedIn users will never realize.

You will note that these are two wonderful ways to get utility from LinkedIn Groups…without having to join any LinkedIn Groups.

What this illustrates is the sometimes hidden or buried rationale behind why LinkedIn has certain features, or in this case, why LinkedIn does not abandon a pretty derelict feature. As far as the LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Advertising people are concerned, LinkedIn Groups work just fine the way they are.

Now for the third way I use LinkedIn groups, I actually do have to belong to a group. I use Groups to send messages to people that I am not connected with. I know of three ways to send free messages to people I am not connected with on LinkedIn and this is the best one, with the widest range. One of the first things I recommend to my new clients is to go join the LinkedIn Groups their prospective customers would join which you can see right on their profiles. It doesn’t work in all cases – the Harvard Alumni Group likely wants you to actually be a Harvard alumni for example – but it does in enough of them to be worthwhile.

LinkedIn Groups are a classic example of a feature is really effective, just not in the way most people think it should be. This is why I always come back to saying that you should use LinkedIn as it is, not as you would like it to be.

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/

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. 

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