Reaching the right decision maker within an organization can be one of the most difficult parts about sales. So often when trying to connect with these individuals we, as sales professionals, are stonewalled by gatekeepers, or simply unable to reach them via phone or email. Well, my friends, it is time to rejoice because social selling now provides us a plethora of new ways to connect with these evasive decision makers that hold the keys to our success.
Here are four ways you can engage decision makers without gatekeepers getting in your way.
1. LinkedIn Connection Request
Adding decision makers to your LinkedIn network is always a good idea. It allows you to message them directly without InMails, access their contact details and nurture them with content sharing. The problem is usually that connection requests are rejected unless approached tactfully.
Whatever you do, don’t send a generic connection request. This almost always fails and adds no value to your relationship with the decision maker even if they do accept. Instead, try a soft sales approach. Over a period of 1-2 weeks, view the prospects profile a few times. If the prospect is active on LinkedIn you will typically find that they will in turn view your profile back. Once they do so it offers up an excellent opportunity to connect with them.
Be sure to keep it short and simple. Your goal at this point is just to add the individual to your network, not pitch them or book a meeting. Here is what I usually lead with:
“Hi [Name], Thanks for viewing my profile. Please feel free to use me as a resource for anything related to [enter your area of expertise] in the future. Cheers, Dave”
That’s it! I’ve found an average of 8/10 invites get accepted when using this approach because it positions me as a valuable resource rather than a pushy salesman.
2. LinkedIn Messaging
LinkedIn has two main options for direct messaging decision makers that are not in your 1st degree connections.
The first method is by using InMails. These have a great response rate but can be very expensive if used frequently. If you’re going to use InMails, don’t just copy your email template and click send. Generic messages don’t work well in emails and they won’t work well using InMails either. Focus on creating messaging specific to your buyer and whenever possible, find a recent event to use as a precursor for your sending a message.
The second method is to direct message decision makers through LinkedIn is by leveraging LinkedIn Groups. If you share a Group with your prospect then you can message them directly through it, even if they are not a 1st degree connection.
3. LinkedIn Referrals
If you have someone in your network who is directly connected to the decision maker you’d like to speak with, you can send them a Referral Request through LinkedIn. You may want to try connecting to some of the decision maker’s colleagues and then once you have nurtured the relationship enough, ask them to refer you.
Be explicit with your intentions. Referral Requests are typically denied because the middleman is wary of you pitching the decision maker something they don’t want and in turn, tarnishing their reputation.
4. Twitter Mentions
Mentioning your prospect in a Tweet can be a great way to start a conversation with them if they’re active on Twitter.
To do this, find a piece of content or event that you know your prospect would be interested in and share it with them via Twitter by adding their Twitter handle to the Tweet. You may want to ask them their opinion to spark the initial dialogue. Once you have them engaged, look to take the conversation offline.
Again, use a soft selling approach with this technique. Don’t bother pitching or regurgitating your product knowledge until you have built trust and interest. Focus on making a connection and positioning yourself as a valuable resource right off the bat.
Tip 1. Engage your prospects where they’re active!
If you can clearly see that your prospect has a very bare and inactive LinkedIn profile, it is probably not the best place to interact with them. The same goes for Twitter. Your prospect may, however, have an active blog somewhere on the web with a comment box that you can use to engage them. Try finding one of these if all else fails.
Tip 2. Time your messages to engage your prospects when they are most likely to see them.
Watch LinkedIn and Twitter for activity and reach out when you see that they’re active. Also, Sunday evenings can be a great time to get a hold of decision makers because:
- everyone’s social profiles are linked to their email accounts
- gatekeepers rarely work on Sundays
- decision makers often use this time to prepare for the coming week
It’s pretty easy to use social channels (and social selling techniques) to get through to the decision makers and accelerate your sales process. Please share your success stories about social sales in the comments below.