by Jeff Molander, Conversation Enablement Coach, Speaker & Founder at Communications Edge Inc

Considering LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Be aware: Automation is not helping sellers start conversations often enough. Prospects see right through these tactics. That's one issue. The other is LinkedIn itself bans all forms of this software.

Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise. 

This isn’t my opinion. This is experience---and that of our customers.

I don't speak in absolutes. Almost nothing is certain in our world. But automating the gathering of lead data---and sending messages to prospects?

It risks:

  • Wasting time
  • damaging reputation
  • being seen as spammy

Also, LinkedIn is cracking down---suing automation software providers. Do you want to get caught up in that?

Automating LinkedIn outreach

We all need targets to call on: Companies, decision-makers and contact data. LinkedIn is a database. But gathering contact data is time-consuming. Plus, getting these contacts to connect with us (open the door to communication) takes time. Effort.

Wouldn’t it be great to automate the data collection, connections and messaging? We could mass email messages to prospects without much effort on our end. We’ll reply to the responses and manage the leads accordingly.

Enter LinkedIn automation software tools.

But beware of reality.

1. Automation software "profile viewers" and contact data scrapers are being sued by LinkedIn/Microsoft;

2. Non-personalized (spammy) or "personalized" (fake personalization) messages aren't starting conversations with decision-makers who see right through 'em;

3. Decision-makers are hiding from overzealous sellers and accepting FEWER connection requests.

How LinkedIn automation tools work

You look up a group of contacts using a LinkedIn search. Boom. Automation software robotically:

  • grabs those search results
  • views each contact's profile
  • scrapes the screen (cuts and pastes name, company, title, etc. into a spreadsheet)

Our colleague and LinkedIn prospecting expert, Bruce Johnston, says it goes even further.

"Apps will view profiles, invite people with certain keywords or titles to connect, automatically send them welcome messages when they accept, automatically endorse them, automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs, and automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections,” says Bruce.

Now, let’s say you were Microsoft.

You just paid $26 billion for this data to use in your sales outreach automation processes. How do you feel about people scraping it? How do you feel about automating all of these non-personalized functions (all trying to look personalized, social)?

That’s why LinkedIn is suing these services.

Automation tools are popular. But these are often “companies” that have no public contact data themselves! Companies that, in fact, aren’t companies and have (for years now) operated in clear violation of LinkedIn’s Terms & Conditions.

Bruce Johnston is blunt.

“It is instructive that I went through my list and less than half of the companies I added 12 to 15 months ago still exist.”

Quick reasons to not automate sales outreach

Once you start down the automation path you are moving into marketing speak and away from sales. This sets you on the path toward writing for many people, rather than just writing for one. And EVERYONE is going to see through this effort and know what it really is. Trust me!

What's the first place most sellers turn to when starting to write cold emails? Marketing literature. Don't do it!

Beyond encouraging yourself to write like a spammy mass marketer, LinkedIn...

  • is suing parties involved in most automation tools (say goodbye to your investment);
  • can prosecute you too;
  • often freezes and/or terminates (forever) user accounts for violations.

“But Jeff… these software tools have been at this for a while. They know how to skirt the rules. These automation tools view X number of profiles a day. They know how to ride the threshold, push the envelope without getting in trouble.”

Bruce Johnston says it best.

“They are (or at least were) too structured for my liking. You don't have to be a rocket scientist at LinkedIn to figure out what is going on when someone sets up a search and looks at 500 profiles at exactly 18 second intervals.”

He also warns: LinkedIn is the sole arbiter of whether you broke the rules or not, and as to how they are going to punish you for doing so and, as 2 people join LinkedIn every second it will take them one half of a second to replace you!

Conning your customers

A lot of us want a better way to scale, to start a relationship with a connection without having to go to the trouble of knowing something about them.

People are lazy. I get it. But robotic nonsense? Too many smart people are falling for this dangerous gimmick.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Bruce says, “Doesn’t anyone find it ironic when these (automation) companies say: 'We will automatically look at 500 profiles, scrape the data from the profiles, then automatically accept invitations to connect sent your way, and send the new connection a welcome message. It’s the ultimate in social selling!”

Bruce rightly asks, “Wait a second, where was the social part? How social is it when you are starting off your relationship with someone by conning them?”

Now I don't want to offend you. But I must ask... point blank. Do you think:

1. Faking sincere interest in prospects is smart?

2. Automating the faking of interest will work?

If you do, how long until your target customers catch on? How long until they get inundated with fake sincerity coming from sales people and stop falling victim to your false signals of interest in them?

Why not start learning a way to provoke them. An effective, repeatable way to spark discussions?

Low-risk, high consequence tool

Sure, it won’t break the bank to invest in sales outreach automation tools and lose your money. However, “these things are low risk, but extremely high consequence tools,” says Bruce. You’ve been warned.

Bruce continues, “The hot tactic I see in social selling is the trigger ploy ... where someone tries to leverage a 'Congratulations!' on your new job / work anniversary / birthday into something that is more than a 'Congratulations.'”

Bruce says one of his customer’s LinkedIn inbox got so clogged with garbage congratulations that he ignored all messages.

“Now he has stopped using LinkedIn messaging period,” says Bruce. “He showed me his inbox the other day, and was quite proud it now had over 500 unread and never will be read messages.”

And he ain't alone, my friend. Our prospects are also suffering fatigue. 

I know, I know. If someone sees you viewing their profile, they’ll be more inclined to accept your connection request or will ask you for a connection. Right?

Not really.

A while ago? Yes. Lately, no. Why? Because your targets have experienced pain. What will you do when it finally happens? Why not start off on the right foot? Learn a way to provoke prospects authentically.

Today, decision-makers are being bombarded by sellers leveraging LinkedIn. They are actually beginning to disguise their decision authority, hoping to reduce the number of asks they receive each week.

They’re hiding. Why? Too many sellers filling up their inbox.

Do this instead

Instead, buckle down. Get serious. Stop trying to start one-on-one conversations using mass marketing approaches (that you know aren't going to work), including your sales outreach automation!

In 2007, it took an average of 3.7 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts [source: TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group]. Okay, I got it. This is NOT easy.

And yes... you should be calling, emailing, InMailing.

But how you write matters. Now more than ever before.

Literally.

Because buyers are inundated with noise. Consider yourself. Everyone is pushing, pushing, pushing to you (free ebooks, etc.). That is why you (yes, YOU!) value what you ask for—more than what's offered to you. Right?

This is why you value what you conclude for yourself—more than what you’re told. Right?

So how do you get people to ask for help?

How do you get people to figure things out on their own (and trust you as their guide)?

Answer: LinkedIn (or other sales outreach) automation? Nope. An effective communication technique. Automation is the first step in the wrong direction—away from personalization, toward mass.

Want to be successful at starting more conversations this year?

Invest in becoming good at provoking prospects. Beyond that start...

- attracting customers to the idea of talking to you about their nagging fear, exciting goal or ambition

- once in conversation, helping customers discover, on their own, what they want, when & why.

Sounds obvious. But are you doing it?


About the Author

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting conversations with busy people. As founder of Communications Edge Inc. he teaches a proven, effective technique to spark buyers curiosity in sales outreach & marketing messages. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe. Jeff served as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

Jeff Molander

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