Smart sales reps are getting on board with social selling. Researching, engaging with, and reaching out to prospects on social media sites can help salespeople familiarize themselves with their buyers and separate themselves from the crowd. If used correctly, social insights can warm up a cold email or call to the rep’s benefit.
The bad news is that there are plenty of dumb social selling tactics out there. Unfortunately, some reps haven’t gotten the memo on personalizing and customizing their prospecting messages. This is unacceptable through email and on the phone, but a totally cold message is especially egregious on LinkedIn, where a prospect’s information is right there for the reading.
By all means, don’t stop using LinkedIn for sales. Just don’t use it like these folks did. Here are the 10 worst LinkedIn sales ever, or at least the worst I’ve gotten so far this year.
1) Randy Random
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
Why This Message Sucks: I get these plain vanilla LinkedIn invitations a lot, and it’s not a great way to invite people to connect. I don't know Randy and he gives me no compelling reason or context to connect with him.
Randy is a sales rep and I could tell from his job title that he wanted to sell me his services. I respect sales reps and want to be helpful to them. However, this is not a good way to do social selling -- in fact, it’s very “anti-social selling” if you ask me. If you are in sales, please start by building rapport. All it takes is an extra two minutes to research the person and find common ground. The result is a thoughtful LinkedIn invitation that will have a good probability of getting accepted.
2) Gary Grouper
I would like to invite you to join my group on LinkedIn.
Why This Message Sucks: Mr. Grouper is trying to get me to join his LinkedIn group. First of all, I have no idea what the group is -- he doesn’t mention that in his message. All I know is that Gary would like me to join it. Hmm.
I would urge sales professionals to minimize the focus on themselves and stay away from language like “I would like to” even if it’s in a template in LinkedIn. Your messaging should be all about the prospect. I wish Gary told me more about the group -- perhaps it’s really great and I’m missing out. But I guess I’ll never know as I deleted the message almost immediately.
3) Curt Commonality
Zorian, We are members of the same LinkedIn group and I want to contact you as we sell services that you will appreciate knowing about.
Why This Message Sucks: This is a variation on the previous example, and messages like these just aren't effective. I get a lot of emails that start with “We are members of the same LinkedIn group.” I don’t think this opening works. After all, just because someone is a member of a LinkedIn group (which they probably rarely participate in) doesn’t mean you have a lot in common. A LinkedIn group is not a sports team or an alma matter. This opening makes you look like an amateur.
Furthermore -- and this is a recurring theme -- I typically tell my sales teams not to use expressions such as “I want,” because it's not about what you want. It's about what your prospect wants. Saying "I want" puts emphasis on you rather than on your prospect.
4) Kenny Klueless
Hi Zorian, I thought that Acme Corp. might be interested in participating in an event that my company is organizing -- the 2015 Cyber Security Exchange which will be held in Florida December 6-8 2015.
I am working with 50 CIOs from Fortune 1000 companies who have expressed a desire to meet solution providers who can help them...
Why This Message Sucks: Kenny really needs to brush up on his sales skills. Here are just a few of the reasons this message flopped:
- I haven't worked at Acme Corp in about a year. A brief once over on my LinkedIn profile would have brought that to Kenny’s attention. If you fail to prepare, then you prepare to fail.
- Not to mention that Acme Corp doesn’t even sell to CIOs -- that’s not their target customer.
- Oh, and they don't focus on Fortune 1000 but instead on SMBs.
- Finally, they don’t even sell a security product so this security conference is not a fit in the slightest.
Do your research, Kenny. Please!
5) Tracy Trickster
Subject: Hey there, it's been a while.
Hey I was just reaching out to see how you're doing. I'm wondering if we could get together to talk about X, Y, and Z. Please reach out to me if this proposition sounds interesting to you.
Why This Message Sucks: This person is making it sound as if we know each other. But I've never met Ms. Trickster. The subject line got me to click because I was wondering if Tracy was someone I knew … but then I realized I didn’t. Don’t pretend you’re someone’s old buddy if you’re not. Not only does this trick rarely get a response, it makes people mad.
6) Thor Throwup
We want to do business together. We are a software development company since 2005 and provide software outsourcing services to our clients all around the globe. Services include [long list of buzzwords].
Why This Message Sucks: Greetings to you too, Thor. That opening reminds me of an alien movie. But all jokes aside, it’s good to know that Thor "wants to do business together" … although if he hopes to sell then he should be focused on what his prospects want.
Alas, he doesn't ask for my needs and instead just “shows up and throws up.” He throws a bunch of tech buzzwords at me hoping something will stick and attract my attention. That's not sales -- that’s spam.
7) Harry Heymaker
Why This Message Sucks: Hey! I deleted the rest of the email to make an important point. Stay away from hey-ing someone you don’t know. If you’re in sales, it pays to be professional in emails to prospects. Save “hey” for friends (and horses).
8) Laura Lunchtime
Zorian, I would love to grab lunch and hear more about your company. Let's help each other grow our businesses.
Why This Message Sucks: Laura is being nice and trying to do her job -- I respect and appreciate the effort. But she doesn't know me and is trying to leap past a couple of sales stages without first building rapport.
You can’t rush sales. Everything has to be done at the right stage of the sales process. I also don't have much time for lunches with folks I don’t know or who are not my customers or investors. Any sales rep should know that inviting busy people for lunch without building rapport first doesn’t work.
9) Caroline Copypaste
Any chance you're available for a few hours on Tuesday, June 30th? Well-known storage expert Joe Harddrive is speaking at our Super Special Storage Summit that every IT Manager will enjoy and appreciate. Feel free to message me with any questions regarding the seminar. We look forward to seeing you at the event! For more information about the event, please visit: www.blahblah.com
Why This Message Sucks: Caroline is rushing to quickly copy/paste messages without even adding people’s names (yes, my name is missing in the greeting). This is a bad tactic called “spray and pray.” If she didn't even bother to type my name then I am just a number in a big list of names for her and this is obvious to the prospect who receives such emails.
Also, Caroline clearly didn't research me because I don't have anything to do with storage, I am not an IT professional, and in fact, I work in an entirely different industry altogether. Why even send this message to me? Why not take an extra step and go through the names on your list to only write to the correct people with direct messages that make sense? I’m willing to bet Caroline would generate more quality leads, and look a lot more professional in the process.
10) Larry Linkediner
Our CEO, Wes Webinar, is teaming up with fellow CEO, Timmy Talker, to share ideas for doing super training in a webinar on Thursday, July 30. Better training has helped our clients shorten sales cycles by 88% and boost their close rates by 55%. Would love to have you join.
Register here: http://bit.ly/ abc123
Why This Message Sucks: Again, this is an obvious “spray and pray” approach. Larry starts with “Hey” which turns me off right away (see above). Then he pitches a webinar without understanding if the content would be interesting to me or not. It doesn’t tie into anything I’ve written about my experience or interests on LinkedIn. So this just won’t work. Sorry Larry.
I hope you don’t think I’m jaded. As a former salesperson and sales leader, I love sales reps and I want to see them succeed.
But just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do. Internalize the takeaways from these failed messages to be a social selling success.
Originally published Aug 3, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017