"Make friends first, do business last. One of the biggest mistakes I see social sellers do is rush to move the sale ahead. They connect, and then they pitch their product or service. I don't like it — and your prospects don't like it. Instead, look for what's in common, and have a conversation about that. Be a person and make a real connection. Then earn the right for a future conversation by adding value to them."
-Phil Gerbyshak, social sales trainer and keynote speaker
Because most of you will be using LinkedIn as your first social selling channel, I thought I'd offer some thoughts on things to avoid when building your network there. As sales professionals, most of this is common sense, but it's good to have a reference point to make the most of your experience. Here are five LinkedIn traps to avoid:
Trap #1: Blind connection — Requesting to connect with someone without a personalized note
LinkedIn allows you to connect with almost everyone on their site. Literally, it's as easy as pushing the button at the top of any member's profile. When you click it, you have the option to "Send Now" or "Add a Note." ALWAYS add a note. Look at their profile and see where their work experience, college, or interests align with yours ad point those out. In my experience, I rarely accept "requests to connect" without a note. I want to build relationships, not a data list.
Trap #2: Connect and wreck — Pitching a new connection the moment you receive it
Think of this as a digital cold call. We all hate those. Remember, your new connection doesn't have any relationship with you. You need to build confidence and rapport before suggesting a sales call. This would be a great time to use LinkedIn to see what your new connection's career history looks like. Make sure you check their education and even the LinkedIn Groups they follow. They might even publish content on a regular basis. If they do, it's a perfect opportunity to ask them about a story they published.
Trap #3: Reference raiding — Asking a contact for a reference without a relationship
You'll find a wealth of information on people and companies using LinkedIn. As you're building your network, you'll find people who can help you get into an account because of their background. You'll be inclined to ask them for a reference introduction into the company — bad move. Just like in any relationship, it takes time to build trust. My own rule is this: If I want to ask someone in my network for a reference into another business, I'll set up a call to ask them directly.
Trap #4: Trust busting — A social contact is not a relationship
This is related to trap #3. Treating a new contact like an old friend is just kind of creepy. They don't want to know what you did last weekend, what you thought of the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or what you're planning for dinner. What all new contacts want to do is read your posts, see the content you're sharing, or get a sense of your business point of view. In time, you'll build a relationship.
Trap #5: Digital sinkhole — Don't take being social out of social selling
This might seem obvious, but many members of your new network can be found doing the same things you do. You'll find them at seminars, tradeshows, or even local business chapters. Connecting in person is one of the treat joys of relationship building. Don't get stuck in a digital ditch.
Want to dig a little deeper? Check out these conversations and resources below and come back here for part 9 in our social selling blog series.