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Selling via LinkedIn - The importance of building relationships first

Last Saturday I almost posted a rant on my LinkedIn page but held back. 

BUT actually, I think the basis of that ‘almost rant’ is a very valuable lesson with regards to selling on LinkedIn. I’m not an expert about the platform but I certainly know how I want to be approached when using it. 

Cautionary tale

So the start of my cautionary tale is when a connection pops up on my feed from a Business Development Manager at a marketing company. As sales & marketing are so closely linked I accepted the invite as you never know when you might want to collaborate. I instantly receive a message from the guy...

“Really glad we could connect! I have a quick question. Do you have the capacity for more new clients?...” 

and then he launched into full pitch mode about how his company will help connect me to senior and high-level decision-makers, blagh, blagh, blagh! 

He ended with “I am reaching out to you because our model will work particularly well in your industry” (really?). “Are you free to discuss your business” (finally a mention of my business) “and see exactly how we can help you?”

No, no, no! My heckles are up again. At no point has this contact tried to build any kind of relationship with me. He’s not really asked me anything about me, about my business, he’s made no effort to really connect. He could have perhaps commented on a post I’d written, asked me how my day was going etc? Something to engage me. But nada, nothing, zip. 

This message is then followed up a day later again launching straight into a pitch, with an invite to register for a webinar and a request for a call. No enquiring about me or my actual business. 

However this time I do reply, as you see, it was during half term and I was on holiday with my children, which I politely explained in my response. I didn’t get a reply so perhaps this was because he’d picked up I was not in work mode. Point scored maybe!

Then a month later, on a Saturday, up pops another message from him. 

“Is now a good time to chat about whether we can provide you with a stream of qualified high-value leads?” 

It is a good job this wasn’t an actual phone call as he would have received the full tongue lashing.

‘Why’ do you ask?

With regards to sales I talk passionately about building a relationship first before trying to sell. If you do that you are better able to tailor whatever it is you are selling to that customer. And it might be that the person you are building the relationship with doesn't yet need your product or service, but if they get to know you, get to know what you are about - your values, your ethos, your expertise - then they are more likely to want to work with you in the future. 


Building relationships is so SO important. The chap from my example, if he’d tried to engage with me better or had clocked my message about having children, he could have used that to his advantage. If he’d replied to my message to simply say enjoy the holiday with your kids, I’d have given him some credit. Or if he’d used his nouse to think a Saturday afternoon isn’t going to be the best time to contact someone with kids, then I probably wouldn't be writing this piece. 


So the reason for me writing this is to remind LinkedIn users to remember, please, don’t go straight into a sales pitch, just like you wouldn’t at a real-life networking event. Wait to be invited to tell your business story. In the first instance ask the other person you are interacting with all about them. Most people love talking about themselves or something they are passionate about, like their business! By doing so you make them feel good and you can also qualify at an early stage if they might be a potential future customer of yours and worth getting to know better. 


And don’t forget all the posts you create is the other way of building that relationship on LinkedIn, so people will engage with you if you post interesting content or ask real questions. You in turn can engage with their posts and lo a beautiful partnership may one day spring up. 


You will help save yourself so much time in the long run as, either customer or not, if you’ve made them feel good about themselves, or engaged with them, you’ll have a greater chance they will remember you and either shop/work with you or refer you to someone who needs your goods or services in the future. 


Remember selling is a conversation and should be about giving and not getting if you truly want to sell with heart.