Let's talk about the hard selling
So. Yeah. It's a nice feeling to have the connection requests, but it makes it even more disappointing when it's introduced with hard selling.
Imagine you're at the end of a conference. You're standing with your colleagues discussing the contacts you'd made. You're excited about the new ideas that were springing out of those connections. You're glad to have made some new contacts, and more importantly, you mutually add value to each other's roles.
A gentleman interrupts your conversation and hands you a business card. You smile and politely say "thank you" before turning back to your colleagues to continue your existing conversation. The guy who handed you his business card interrupts again giving an extremely over-rehearsed elevator pitch. You know that he's given this pitch to many others today and tens of thousands this year alone.
You deal with this politely. This guy's company is a competitor, and he hasn't realised that he's pitching needlessly. But it would be good to trade stories in the future. Right now, you're ready to go to the bar and finish up the conversation with your colleagues.
"Thanks. Right now is not the right time. I have your card, but it's unlikely we'll need any of your services. If that time comes I'll be in touch." You add, "It would be interesting to catch up next time we're at a conference together and share some stories - if you're interested? After all, we are in the same industry, and I'm sure we have some common tales to tell."
He agrees, and you see him move on to the next group.
Later - at the bar - you're 4 pints in and the same guy comes up to your group and hands you a USB drive and an A4 folder full of his past projects. He insists that you have a look. You look around and see that most of the other attendees at the bar have the same folder.
"Um, thanks? I'll take a look, but we do the same thing, so it's doubtful that we'll need your services. Do you want to hang around and have a chat? After all, I'm sure you have some stories to tell?"
He nods and walks off to the next person with an attendee badge.
Back at your hotel, you're awoken to the sound of someone pounding at your door. You look at the clock; it's 2 am. You're a tad hungover.
"Hold on, hold on. I'm on my way."
You throw on a hotel gown and check through the peephole who it is at this time of the morning. It's the guy who interrupted you earlier. You crack open the door and ask him what it is that he's after.
"Mate, it's 2 am. What do you need?" you ask.
"I didn't hear back from you, so I just wanted to follow up on your thoughts on my company's past projects," he replies. "I think we have some good skills that will benefit your company."
You close the door and mumble some obscenities. As you're heading back to bed, you hear a knock on the door down the hall.
Your alarm goes off. After hitting snooze a few times, you realise that there are only 30 minutes to get breakfast before you have to pack and get an Uber to catch your flight home. You drag on some jeans and a t-shirt, put on your shoes and head for the elevator.
"Wait for me!" you hear. It's the guy. You're a little past irritated now.
On the ride down he tells you that they've been working with this company and that company doing some really fantastic work. It sounds a bit off because one of the companies he mentions is also one of your clients. But you're too hungry (or perhaps hungover) to care. He's insistent that you should take another folder full of case studies and pushes it towards you. When the elevator opens, he's gone.
Over breakfast, you curiously look through the case studies and find the company that he mentioned, who is also your client. You know that they used various other contractors and one of them happened to be staying at the same hotel after the conference. You find her waiting for the toaster to pop up.
"Hey, did you guys work on this last year?" You hand her the cast study.
"Yeah. This is the project we did. But where did you get this? It was not supposed to be public knowledge. We used a third party to build one of the back-end services... could it have been?"
You show her the business card (you now have a collection of them because each time the guy gives you something, he attaches one).
"That's not the guy or the company, but the address is the same. I guess they changed names or something. Weird. I'll need to bring this up with our Director, it's a giant leap that this company is claiming they did the whole project, do you mind if I keep this?"
"Yeah, sure. I've gotta head off, my Uber's nearly here. Take care, and let me know what happens!"
You rush back to your room, pack and head back down to reception to check out. You get an alert from your phone to say your Uber is here. You head out the front and get into the car.
"Hi! I'm your Uber driver today. Did you have a chance to look at those case studies?"
You cancel the ride, get out and decide that missing your flight is a better option.
Ok, so maybe this is exaggerated for effect. I'm sure I'm not the only one who receives connection requests on LinkedIn that closely mirror this fictional interaction.
I do try to be polite. Maybe I shouldn't? Perhaps not accepting the connection request in the first place would save me from having to deal with this. However, every now and then I (virtually) meet someone who enriches my network, someone who improves my understanding of something or is someone that I can genuinely help to achieve a goal of theirs. I have met total strangers on LinkedIn who have helped me achieve goals, and I enjoy the ability to do the same for others where I can.
Diving straight into a pitch is not only annoying; it's lazy.
The copy/paste cycle doesn't allow you to understand whom you are connecting with.
You're interrupting someone but bringing little or no value.
Some techniques work - some marketers are really good at connecting with value and allowing you to engage, when and how you want, subtly and respectfully.
I have to admit, I don't use LinkedIn as well as I should. I have many people I'm connected with who do. I admire them for their finesse and tenacity.
I don't want to be rude, but please don't knock on my inbox with an immediate sales pitch.
Any recommendations on how to deal with this? Do you ignore them? Or do you get angry? Or are you like me and try to deal with it as politely as possible?
Michael Lobb works tirelessly to help clients solve business problems using technology and heads up a team of developers, designers and miscellaneous nerds at Teamscāl. In his spare time, he likes long walks in the park with his dogs, Chappie and Pocky.