Of the many people I follow on social media for helpful insight, Derek Walker of brown and browner in Columbia, SC is always good for an unvarnished and thoughtful take on our industry.

He recently wrote a brief post via LinkedIn on what is fast becoming a real problem on that platform, as Derek puts it, the transformation into “a used car lot.”  First, a screen-shot of Derek’s post below, followed by a transcription for good measure:

Networking does not begin with you trying to sell me your services. It ends that way. I will and do disconnect from people whose only interaction with me after connecting is to present a sales pitch.

I love selling done well. I admire a salesperson who understands the process of selling. Selling is an art form that requires education and practice to perfect.

My connecting to you on social media is not my permission for you to sell to me or place me on your email list. Too many are treating social media like a used car lot.

Derek OK’d my use of his quote (thank you) and it’s an important reminder that LinkedIn can be a useful selling and research tool, but you will quickly wear out your welcome and ruin any chance of a sale by vomiting a pitch all over a new connection you’ve had no previous contact with.

I’m sure you all have your own similar LinkedIn experience(s). I have one to share as another example of what not to do.  What I’m sharing was actually an email, but similar to Derek’s experience, started on LinkedIn and then reached over into email.  I’ve taken out the company/product references:

Greetings to you Lee,

I don’t want to be rude, but I have been reaching out for weeks and this is starting to feel like a one-way conversation.

I know I’ve bugged you with multiple touches and have been unsuccessful. I truly believe X company could be a game-changer for your company, but all I would need is a quick intro to your team that overlooks the . . . . . .

If I don’t hear back, I’ll tuck my tail between my legs and surrender (bother someone else over there). Thank you for your time in reading this emails as I know you’re busy!

I won’t deconstruct the email, but this person is basically admitting he’s bothering me and will now apparently move on to bother someone else.

Bothering Is Not Good Selling

If you have a product or service with real value, you shouldn’t be using words like “bugged” and “bothered”, they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to find ways to show your value.

Back to LinkedIn: I’ve had success with it and will share a few of the steps I’ve learned to use it effectively. (Full disclosure, early on in my use of LinkedIn as a selling tool, I did jump the gun and sold too soon, right after the initial connect.  Live and learn)

-Create a LinkedIn profile that shows how you can help/what you’re expert in, rather than looking like a straight resume, but be careful not to go too far and overly sell in your profile. Here’s a good step-by-step from the source: 6 Ways to Create a Killer LinkedIn Profile for Social Selling in 2018

-Connect with those people that make sense. This may seem silly, but I get a fair amount of connection requests that have nothing to do with my industry and are obviously looking to sell to me.  (Obviously, you can connect to whoever you want to, but if you’re using LinkedIn as a sales tool, you need to be focused in your connections as best you can.)

-Make sure you’re following your prospects, or if you’re able to purchase Sales Navigator, save those leads.  This is a huge opportunity if your prospect is posting any content or articles.

-Share content you’ve written, your firm has written, or quality third-party content.  This is tough given how much else you have to do, especially those of you who aren’t creating content, but it’s part of the new business process and it’s important. If you’re not creating it, find third party content specific to your industry.  Yes, it will take some time, but Google searches are a beautiful thing.

-Engage with your prospects’ posts.  This is a big one, and it needs to be done correctly.  It doesn’t mean you “like” every post or comment on every single post, but once, maybe twice a week, depending on how active your prospects are, like the post and take a few minutes to think about a thoughtful, or real response, if the situation presents itself.  It will increase your overall awareness within all your connections who may see the comment.

-Finally-share that prospect post you just commented on.  You wouldn’t want to do this every time, because then it becomes counterproductive and potentially fawning.

Ideally, this post has been helpful.  I certainly don’t profess to be a LinkedIn expert, as there are a lot of people that do just that, but the tips I’ve shared above have come from a combination of my own research and what’s worked for me in actual prospecting situations.

Let’s all do our part to keep LinkedIn from becoming that used car lot.