If you are in a role that tends to attract the attention of other vendors’ business development people, you’ve probably had them reaching out to you with varying degrees of competence. Maybe I’m just unlucky, or maybe I have a magnetic attraction for no-hopers, but if your experience is similar to mine, most of their outreach ends up being at the incompetent end of the spectrum.
Many appear to use a disturbingly common formula: the message starts a falsely personal and over-familiar remark along the lines of “hope you’re doing great” or “hope you’re having a great day”- even though we have never met, and I have no idea who they are (other than that they immediately came across as impertinent and not very bright).
But it then gets worse - because they then typically pivot to an irrelevant, unresearched and impersonal message that simply serves to confirm that they have not done any meaningful research and have not sought to tailor their message to my particular circumstances or situation.
A similarly thoughtless process is behind the majority of LinkedIn requests...
Too often, I’ll receive a standard LinkedIn request that - if accepted - inevitably results in a boorish cookie-cutter sales approach. I’ve now learned never to accept a bog-standard unpersonalised request from anyone I don’t know, haven't heard of or don't trust. But even if they appear to have tailored the contact request, it’s often really a generic.
Case in point: I got a connection request the other day from James C, as, I suspect, did hundreds of others. He claimed that “your profile fits our system perfectly”. So, before deciding whether or not to accept I responded with the obvious question “in what way am I a perfect fit?”. Needless to say, I got no response - and we haven’t connected.
This thoughtless connection request problem can be laid at LinkedIn’s door. They make it far too easy for people to hit the send button and send out a standard message. I’ve done it myself without meaning to when using their mobile application. Wouldn’t it make more sense to require every connection request to be accompanied by a personalised note?
Technology is accelerating thoughtlessness
But back to the more generic problem of fake personalisation. I suspect that automation and templating is pouring fuel on the flames by allowing BDRs to do far more thoughtless things per unit of time than they could if they didn’t have access to the technology.
I also suspect that it’s driven by a focus on the wrong metrics: on banging out as many messages and connection attempts as they can without regard for the quality of the outreach or the ultimate outcomes, which really ought to be something connected with qualified pipeline value.
I don’t lay all the blame on the individual BDRs: it appears that they are very often inexperienced, don’t know any better, haven’t been taught a more effective approach and are being let down by their managers.
Pertinent or impertinent?
It might be worth reflecting for a moment on whether your BDRs are coming across as being impertinent or pertinent.
By pertinent I mean:
- Their outreach is the result of targeted research and is tailored to each specific contact
- They avoid any impression of false or fake personalisation
- They share something useful with the contact and seek a relationship based on trust
- They lead towards their solution, and not with it
- They progressively engage the contact without suddenly hitting them with an unwanted, unsubtle and ineffective sales pitch
Will outbound call or message volumes decline following this focus on quality rather than quality? Inevitably.
Will the connections that actually get established be of more lasting value? Obviously.
Will the emphasis on pertinent communications generate more revenue (and end up in the spam folder far less often)? Certainly.
All it takes is a little thoughtfulness, a genuine curiosity about the specific circumstances of each potential contact, a commitment to do your research before reaching out, and - perhaps most important of all - a true feeling of respect for your target audience.
Well, actually, it also requires a cultural commitment to quality over quantity and to coaching our frontline representatives to truly personalise their outreach.
A better way
There are many experts on LinkedIn who can suggest ways of crafting a more engaging outreach. Here’s one formula that I’ve seen work to good effect:
- A short intro - clearly and genuinely personalised to them - that demonstrates that you’ve done your research
- A brief, honest and to-the-point explanation as to why you’re reaching out to them now
- Share an intriguing fact or perspective with them that isn’t about you
- Propose a next step that sets the scene for an informative conversation and not a crude sales pitch
If you have any doubts about whether your BDRs’ current approach might be putting their potential customers off, it almost certainly is. And you might want to consider whether you could be contributing to the situation with the guidance you give them - or the lack of it.
Let’s make sure that our outreach is pertinent. And let’s do all we can to avoid the impression of impertinence. By the way, if you want the dictionary definitions, pertinent = “related to the topic or situation - and probably helpful too” whilst impertinent = “inappropriate, out of place, intrusive, presumptuous, behaving without proper respect and/or insolent”.
Just two letters and a world apart.
Oh, and if you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, please do it with an interesting, personalised note that explains why (and promises that acceptance will not immediately result in a tedious attempt to sell me something).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales, an award-winning blogger, a confident and entertaining event speaker and workshop leader, a regular contributor to the International Journal of Sales Transformation and the founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B value-based selling experts.
Following a varied and successful career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and corporates Bob now works as an adviser to some of today’s most ambitious B2B-focused sales organisations, equipping and enabling them to accelerate revenue growth and transform sales effectiveness by implementing the proven principles of value-based selling.