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/