The LinkedIn introduction seems childishly simple. The entire platform is engineered to drive effective introductions! However, there is a yawning gap between simply throwing your name in someone’s lap, and making a LinkedIn introduction that bears fruit.
Allow me to illustrate with a ‘bricks and mortar’ equivalent.
There are few moments that make you lose your faith in humanity more than a Board of Trade networking lunch.
The rubber chicken meal is bad. The cornball speaker (“And now, put your hands together for The Power of You author…”) is worse.
But the absolute pinnacle of cringeworthiness is that five minute break after coffee where the host jubilantly announces, “It’s time to network!” On cue, the attendees launch from their seats and spray one another with their business cards like a ticker-tape parade.
That mutant social interaction, my friends, mirrors how most of us introduce ourselves on LinkedIn. Myself included.
I felt I needed to write a piece to draw our collective consciousness to this chronic condition. What inspired me was a client who hired me to launch a lead generation campaign.
One of the project tasks was LinkedIn outreach. I was to write a few personalized introductions to prospects on LinkedIn. The team would then adopt my style and scale up the intro-writing.
My initial strategy was to send out self-congratulatory “You should know me!” introductions. We’ve all seen them—usually inflicted on you by app developers from India:
“Hello. We are expert in developing all manner of award-winning highly effective apps for promotion of your business. We are $ inexpensive and highly qualified. Can we set up call now?”
You hate getting them. But let’s be honest, we’ve all sent LinkedIn introductions espousing our awesomeness, haven’t we?
Long story short, my response rate was zero.
Next, I tried to be coy. I used intrigue, thinking I’d get them to ask more by telling them less.
“Hello. We should connect because I think we can help one another by trading insights and maybe collaborating. I’ll let you know more about what I do when we connect.”
In hindsight, just plain creepy. Again, zero response.
Finally, I consulted Joe Girard, the kingpin of plain sales talk and hater of sales-y weirdos (he coined the phrase—I can’t take credit).
Joe told me to write LinkedIn introductions as if I were introducing myself at a cocktail party to people I actually gave a damn about.
Here’s a bit of an intro to, well, the intro.
Lesson 1: It isn’t easy
Each LinkedIn introduction takes me about 20 minutes to write. It’s a far cry from simply going through a list of prospects and hitting ‘Connect’ on anyone who has VP in front of their name.
- I start by combing through the prospect’s profile. I look for jobs they’ve had and projects they’ve worked on that correlate with an area of my expertise.
- Next, I check out their company on LinkedIn. Employee profiles, earnings, areas of specialization.
- Next, I type their company name into Google and do a ‘news’ search. If the company has done anything noteworthy, or created controversy, I find out.
Finally, I sit and think. How can I approach them with one short paragraph and offer up something that will be of value? It may be asking a question about how they handled a situation, and offering a connection to a story that may help. It may be asking their advice on an issue I’m experiencing in exchange for a thought on something I surmise may be going on in their job.
Humility and authenticity are key. Smarmy humble-bragging or superficial questions in a LinkedIn introduction are painfully obvious.
Hey, while you’re here, you might check out this post where I describe crafting a great elevator pitch.
Lesson 2: You aren’t getting a sale
I believe most of us write horrible LinkedIn introductions because we hope they’ll get us a sale. If that’s what you’re thinking, even a little, you fail. Because when that sentiment creeps into your LinkedIn introduction—even subliminally— it makes your words smell like week-old fish on the counter.
I have a reframe that helps.
Instead of thinking sale, think conversation.
Your goal is to get a real, live conversation. One where both you and your prospect come out a bit smarter and happier.
Here’s where the Cocktail introduction really comes into play. Think hard about some of the coolest people you’ve ever met at cocktail parties. Generally, the conversation never turns to selfish interests—it remains an exchange of ideas where both parties come out with a few great a-ha moments.
Lesson 3: Avoid formulas
In researching this story, I went online and checked out a few how-to’s on the subject.
Invariably, every writer broke it into a formula: how to introduce yourself to a co-worker / client / recruiter / ex-colleague / prospect using these handy templates.
All good, except templates ring hollow.
It’s far better to imagine walking up to that prospect at a cocktail party. Try to connect with the heartfelt intent of giving them something valuable, and maybe even learning something. Listen hard, and respond to what they say. Do not insert formula anywhere.
LinkedIn introductions are one thing. Want to know how to make the best video introduction? Click here.
Lesson 4: Other lessons?
I am by no means an expert on this subject. Rather, I’m on a very steep learning curve. My goal is to help you avoid some of the bumps I’ve encountered along the way.
Now, your turn to return the favour.
Send me your tips that boosted your intro-writing success rate on LinkedIn. I’ll keep modifying this story to include your tips, and let you know when your tip is added, so you can send it along to your network.
And heck, it’ll make a great intro between us.
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This article was originally published on November 16, 2018, and has been updated just for you.