By Ivan Misner, founder and chief visionary of BNI
Raise your hand if you’ve been cold-called on LinkedIn? OK, I can’t really see you but, I’m guessing most of you have. I know I have. It happens to me almost on a daily basis on LinkedIn. Let me give you a real-life example of a recent one. I recently accepted a request to connect with me on LinkedIn from a person who I’ll call Greg.
I’m calling him Greg because… well, that was his name.
When he sent the request, he wrote to me and said,
“I love connecting with founders of companies where we can share mutual connections. Let’s connect and share insights if you’re open to it?”
I accepted. He wrote back.
"Thanks for connecting with me Ivan, I appreciate it! Anything exciting you’re working on at BNI? Let me know if I can be a resource to you in any way, and thanks again for connecting!"
So far, so good. This was a great start. But wait… two days later (without waiting for my reply) he wrote his pitch:
"Hi Ivan, We have developed a new generation project management tool that leverages artificial intelligence and that allows you to automate your teamwork and always know that you have the best organization in place. I’m sure it would be a great help for you and your teammates in BNI as we already have many clients from your industry using it. You can discover it here with this link if you are interested: [I’m leaving it out to protect the guilty.] Hope you find it useful and I’d love to hear any feedback you have! All the best, Greg"
OK, so now I knew he wasn’t really connecting to share insights. He was connecting to pitch me. I didn’t respond. He wrote again a few days later. He said:
"Hi Ivan, I hope you are doing well. I’m contacting you because I really need your help and have something great for you and your business in return. We are a young startup and have created a revolutionary intelligent project management tool that leverages artificial intelligence to automatically plan the work for you. There is no such product that exists today and the increase of performance that you can get with it is just mind-blowing. You can discover our software here: [Leaving out for the guilty again.] and I would be glad to exchange with you on the subject and show you how it works and how it can be a game-changer for your business. We will also offer you amazing pricing conditions as being part of our early adopters. I hope you can help me out and we will for sure over-deliver for you in return. Let’s talk? Best regards, Greg"
I so did not respond to that. He wrote again a couple of days later.
"Hi, Ivan Hope, you found our site valuable! I’d love to share some insights with you over a quick call. When would you be available? Greg"
I didn’t respond. The next day he wrote:
"Hey Ivan – making sure you saw my last message. Any thoughts?"
Yes, I had plenty of thoughts, none of which would be appropriate to share. So, instead, I wrote back:
He responded almost immediately:
"Hi Ivan. Thanks for the feedback. For my personal knowledge, may I ask you why?"
Hmm, I thought – does he really want to know why? OK, I decided, I will tell him why. I wrote back.
"Because you don’t really know what I do, you don’t know anything about me (other than what you’ve read), and we have no relationship (which, if you knew anything about me, you’d know is important). This is a “cold-call” via LinkedIn and it is against everything I teach in my business. This “pitch” is the very thing I write about NOT doing to people. You asked and that is the unvarnished truth."
He replied almost immediately:
"Interesting. So how do I reach out to you?"
"I do business by referral. That takes time and effort. I recognize that “cold-calling” does as well. I just choose not to do business that way and it is a strategy that has worked well for me and most of the people who follow my work."
He replied almost immediately.
"I get a lot of referrals. But right now I’m reaching out to people like you in a cold way because that’s the only way I can potentially get to talk to them. I was just asking for some help as a young and dynamic entrepreneur that has a really disrupting product. Remember how it was hard in the beginning…"
"I do. That’s how I learned that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s all about the relationships. That’s how I built the business. Reaching out “cold” is not the only way to talk to people. It is the most expedient way to “feel” like you are doing something but not the only way to do it and I would argue – not the best way. Those are my thoughts on the subject. I need to run now. Use the advice, don’t use the advice, that is up to you. Good luck. Ivan"
I also sent him a link about the VCP Process in networking. I’ve never heard from him again.
Now, I don’t want to pick on LinkedIn. It can happen on any social media platform. It’s happened to me on Facebook, Twitter, and even BNI Connect (I know – that one is really frustrating to see). This is not just a LinkedIn issue. However, it does seem to happen there a lot more for me.
In either case, cold-calling is cold-calling no matter what form it takes. But, it never hurts to ask, right? Wrong. Check out my video here to learn why.