How To Turn Back And Forth Messaging Into Booked Appointments on LinkedIn
It seems the connecting, engagement, reaching out and following up with messages in LinkedIn are easy enough to do. The majority of people get how to be friendly. What I have found is that generally people are good, kind, and nice. Especially on LinkedIn. They are also helpful as well.
The question always comes up, "what now"? How do I turn people saying "thank you for endorsing me", "thank you for connecting", "thank you for wishing me congrats on my new position" or thank you for reaching out to me, etc. into real, actionable business to business appointments?
Really the true question is this: "What do I do once I get an inbound message that isn't business related and turn it into an appointment?"
We all know what to do when someone reaches out to us LinkedIn or even reaches out to us in other ways such as networking events, reaching out via a contact form from your website, etc. and says, "I want an appointment, I am interested in your services". Those messages are easy. We comply, set up the meeting, and see if there is a way to work together.
That scenario rarely happens on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is ALL about building, engaging, and nurturing prospects. In addition to building relationships, you need to build relationships with your target audience. You want to network and engage them, not with the open agenda of dollar signs in your eyes, but with a true spirit of networking and just adding value.
If not, your efforts will just be hit and miss. Imagine driving down a highway and seeing a billboard. While there are easily tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people that pass by that billboard on a daily/weekly/annual basis (depending on the traffic of the highway the billboard is on), that billboard has to be seen by the right passenger/driver passing by that billboard at the time they are looking for whatever that billboard is offering.
If your targeting is similar to a billboard, you will have to engage with a lot of people on LinkedIn in order for someone to raise their proverbial hand and be interested in what you have to offer. The first step to booking appointments on LinkedIn is by targeting search correctly.
Targeting is done using the advanced search feature in LinkedIn or in Sales Navigator. How you determine who to target is by deciding who you currently do business with, who would be interested in purchasing your products/services, then target accordingly.
One of the first things you will want to do is to determine who your target audience is and be specific. If you are not sure where to start, you can download my LinkedIn Marketing Blueprint. It will guide you on exactly how to pinpoint your target audience.
Once you are very clear on who your target is (narrow is good), then you should focus your LinkedIn efforts and activity to that target.
I have seen and talked to people who want to target everyone in case they may miss an opportunity. I want to caution you that you do not want to do that. If so, you will be just like that billboard on the highway.
Targeting on LinkedIn is also done based on how people refer to themselves on LinkedIn.
Remember we are not doing keywords in Google, but rather how people refer to themselves title-wise. For example, someone on LinkedIn who is a Realtor or Licensed Real Estate Agent would call themselves a Realtor or Licensed Real Estate Agent, or perhaps "Licensed Real Estate Broker".
You don't want to target and do an exact match for say "Realtors", because if I were a real estate agent I would not put that I am a realtors in my LinkedIn profile.
So the first step is targeting correctly. You will have to strategically take a few minutes (or longer) and really dial in who you are targeting on LinkedIn. How do you do this? In LinkedIn's advanced search feature of course.
Go to the LinkedIn advanced search feature and do a search for 2nd level connections and the keywords and locations you want to target. Write down a list of who you want to target and where they are located. Once you have that nailed down, the next area to focus on is your messaging.
Before doing this, make sure your profile is primed for success. You can download my Profile Optimization Cheat Sheet here if you like:
Remember in a previous article, I spent some time discussing ways to engage on LinkedIn. All of the ways to engage except for viewing people's profiles requires messaging. The messaging has to be appropriate for the level of engagement, target, and the "ask".
The "ask" is the request or reason you are reaching out. Typically, in the beginning of the relationship, and if I am sending innocent enough congrats or messages basically reaching out and what I call relationship building. Essentially, if I am sending other than direct, yet subtle promotional messages inside of LinkedIn, I won't make the purpose of the congrats, (i.e., birthday, work anniversary, or new job message) a promotion.
In other words, if I get a birthday notification, (LinkedIn has notified me that a particular person in my network has a birthday, do I want to send birthday wishes), I won't make the purpose of the message my promotion.
I won't send a message like this, "I noticed it's your birthday and thought it would be good to reach out to see when you want to set up a meeting". That is a clear example of what NOT to do.
Instead, I will make the purpose of the message as the actual congrats. I will however, add an "oh by the way" or a subtle, "not sure if you are interested but…" component to my message to gauge interest.
Here's what something like that looks like
I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. Even though LinkedIn had to remind me that it was your birthday, I truly hope you celebrate and have a memorable one".
By the way, not sure if this is of interest to you, but I noticed on your profile that you do___________(what they do, i.e, marketing, consulting, accounting, real estate, practice law, etc.). It sounds like there may be some ways we can benefit one another by spending a few minutes chatting and actually talking and networking. Would you be open to a quick 15 minute chat to see if that makes sense?"
Again, happy birthday and talk to you soon-
Do you see how this very subtle message could spark an interest? I have used it before and I can tell you that it does work. However I must tell you that when I do this and meet with someone, it is not to try to "sell" them. I don't go to the meeting with dollar signs in my eyes.
I literally go to the meeting to get to know them and see if there is a fit. If so, we talk further, if not, I am blessed because I just got to meet another person in this world.
That is my attitude and it seems to work. When I approach my LinkedIn network in that spirit of cooperation, it shows in my meetings. My appointments don't have to be defensive in case I am trying to shove a sales pitch down their throats.
The posturing is completely different. I hope that makes sense and I urge you to try it sometime, and let me know how it works for you!
If I am reactivating my existing first level connections, or following up on a new connection, the purpose of my messaging will be to ask for an appointment- however, remember that this is not email marketing and the messages that would resonate in an email campaign typically don't do well on LinkedIn.
In LinkedIn, subtle is better but you still want to be pointed in your ask, don't beat around the bush, but don't try to do hardcore closing, remember- it's about a relationship. Think of the messages as a conversation you would have at a networking meeting. Would you go around and do a hard core sales pitch to everyone you talk to, or would you make conversation, then set an appointment based on a discovery, getting to know you, meeting request. It's the same with LinkedIn, pretend this is a networking event (it kind of is - only online).
Another question I get often is, "I have someone that responded by saying thank you, or thanks, or any other host of responses that seem short, and just out of politeness". How do you turn a "thanks" into a conversation?
Again, let's go back to our virtual networking meeting. You are working the room and someone mentions to you the person standing over there, just celebrated 10 years with his business. You know he would be a great fit for your services so you walk on over to where he is standing and you tell him congratulations on his 10 years of success and sticking with it, etc. He replies with a "thanks".
You now are at a fork in the road, you can turn away- you did your thing and were polite, or you can try to engage him in conversation. It's the same thing on LinkedIn.
What would you do if you were at a meeting, you would probably make conversation- "How long did it take you before you were getting traction?", "Did you have experience in ______before you started your own business?", etc. That's the mindset to have when trying to engage and turn simple "thanks" or those stupid thumbs up emoticons into real engagement that then turn into real appointments.
A Delicate Balance Between Pre-Selling and Setting Appointments
I do want to warn you, that it's not all sweetness and light. You are not a cheer club just spreading happiness and joy (well yes of course, spread the joy but you should always be booking appointments to!)
I had one coaching student that was simply all nice, with no purpose to the messaging. For example, he would just reach out and be friendly, send them articles, but never ask for an appointment. Guess what happened? He never got an appointment! I worked with him and we adjusted his message to request action from his target prospects, and guess what happened? He started getting appointments and clients.
The moral of the story is that you want to make sure you are both targeting and messaging correctly on LinkedIn. It has been my experience that when you do this, you don't have to resort to mass messaging, being sneaky and slipping people into your CRM without them opting in, or any other crazy trick out there designed to abuse and spam people in the LinkedIn ecosystem. Bottom line, focus on targeting, messaging, engaging and relationships and you will have more business than you can shake a stick at.
Here are a few cool resources that will help you out if you like: