How LinkedIn Prospecting Could Go Horribly Wrong

Linkedin presents great opportunity.  It could be the new frontier of prospecting.  It’s  not oversaturated like your e-mail box or your constantly ringing home phone.  Many financial services firms have embraced LinkedIn.  But the quest to simplify through automation can have adverse consequences.

When I started in the business, cold calling was the default prospecting method.  I remember my first cold call vividly.  The guy answered.  Shortly after I started speaking he said: “I’m not interested and thar’s the name of that tune.’  Click. 

Over the years, people have developed systems to remove the human element.  First came junk mail.  There were blast e-mails.  These eventually got caught in Junk filters.  There were blast faxes.  Then came robo calling. When you get a robo call, how long do you listen?  Probably not more than two seconds.

I spend about two hours every morning on LinkedIn.  This involves answering the 30-40 messages that came in since the previous morning.  I send out 15 getting to know you messages daily.  Ditto birthday and work anniversary notifications.  There are outgoing messages and posts too.  It all takes time. 

People often ask about the ROI.  I measure in terms of engagement.  Last year, The engagement rate (people who message back) was about 40%.  What about the cost?  That’s another beautiful thing about LinkedIn.  Outside of my time, the cost is basically zero.

Why does this work?  Because when I invite people to connect, the invitation is personalized.  I address them by name, the job they do and the firm where they work.  I reference our number of shared connections.  I give a logical reason how they would benefit if we connect.  I add about 100 connections over 21 days or so.  Sometimes it’s faster, other times it’s slower.

I arrived at my approach by trial and error.  I write articles about how exactly to do it, because it’s courtesy, common sense and hard work.  You don’ need to buy a system.  It all comes down to treating each connection as a person, someone I want to take the time to get to know.

How LinkedIn Prospecting Could Go Horribly Wrong

There will be people who want to automate the process.  It’s happened already. You’ve probably gotten a message like “I looked over your profile and realized we know some of the same people…”  I’ve actually received an invitation with similar wording including “Insert name here” in the text message.  If many advisors use many automated systems, potential connections will be flooded with anonymous invitations.  They will decline all invitations unless they remember the person vividly.

The next problem of automation is the message that follows your acceptance of the invitation.  This incoming message involves instantly selling.  It’s a turnoff.  It’s even more of a turnoff when the message suggests setting up a phone call to get to know each other better, but it’s up to you, as the receiver, to use their scheduling tool to setup the call.  You are asking people to extend themselves without a plausible reason why.

Now we move onto the “catch and release” approach.  You accept an invitation to connect.  They send you a selling message.  You politely decline.  They drop you as a connection.  This implies although you had factors in common and you extended yourself and accepted their invitation, if you weren’t interested in doing business, there’s  no reason to know you.  How does that make you feel?

Let’s address posting for a moment.  You can engage a service that maintains an archive of Compliance approved articles, allowing you to schedule posts in advance.  Uou can be an active poster that month without actually visiting LinkedIn.  .  I think you might even be able to engage a service that would post “Likes” and “Thanks” if people comment on your posts.    

These systems were probably designed to provide a flow of prospects without you personally being involved in the solicitation or cultivation process.  It’s removed the human element.  Once that’s gone, attempts to connect and engage on LinkedIn might get the same treatment we give robocalls today.

Engaging with prospects has always shared similarities with dating.  You need to engage on a person level and be sincere, to win the other person’s attention.

Related: Prospecting and The Joy of Persistence