To InMail or Not to InMail
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I’ve been asked by participants of my online social selling courses if InMail is a tool they should use. Many sales professionals wonder about InMail as a viable engagement tool. Let’s start with “what” and then address “why” and “how.”
InMail is a LinkedIn-only communication tool to send a direct message to someone you’re not connected to. You must have a paid LinkedIn account to send an InMail. Depending on your paid account level, you’ll have 3 or more monthly InMail credits. LinkedIn guarantees delivery of your InMail, but it’s up to the recipient to open it and respond or not. When you send an InMail to someone, if they don’t open it, you use up that credit. If the person opens it, you get the credit back.
Two Ways to Use InMail
If you’re in sales (or any career) and you’ve identified a company that interests you, identify a person at the company and do your homework on the company and that person. Consider sending an InMail message to him or her. In your approach be mindful of the “what’s in it for the them” factor. I don’t recommend a blatant “I want to work at your company” pitch. Summarize your credentials and make it as relevant as possible to the person and to the company. Your goal should be to start a conversation that continues IRL (in real life) offline.
If you’re recruiting someone to work at your company, approach the person to connect and explore an offline conversation. I don’t suggest you pitch them on a specific job in detail in the InMail.
Using InMail in Sales
Most will agree with me when I say that social selling is not about pitching someone online. And, I say, yes that’s true most of the time. But, what about the scenario where you know with certainty that someone at a specific company is a good prospect for you. Your offering is a good fit for them. Through your due diligence you might even have insight into their situation. You just need to reach the buyer to start a conversation.
Here’s how you might use InMail as one element of your overall mix of activities to reach this person.
Use a subject line that is specific to this person with a benefit statement such as “How we can reduce IT spend by 15% next quarter at ____.” Fill in the blank with their company name. This gets to the heart of the reason for your contact.
When you open your pitch in your InMail first, be human and conversational. “Hi Rob, I enjoyed the article on your blog about IT efficiencies and it got me thinking about something I thought it would be relevant to you in your role as head of IT at _____ company.”
Then, before you launch into your pitch, I recommend deflecting the obvious:
“I know we haven’t previously connected and this message is unexpected….”
Then, launch into your pitch. But, make it all about them while demonstrating your credentials.
“In my 10 years in IT managed services, I’ve helped more than 20 companies similar to _____ (his company) by partnering with them to ________” This opening sentence should get to the bottom line. Fill in the blank on the bottom line results you achieved.
If possible, include a customer testimonial to add to your credibility. An InMail is akin to a digital cold call, so the more credibility you can provide, the better the chance of getting a response.
If you are conversational in your tone and you deliver a pitch that is focused on the recipient and how you can help him or her, you increase the chance of getting a response.
Remember that in this scenario, you’re not after a “buy now” action. All you want to achieve is to start a conversation.
In most cases, you’ll need to combine InMail with other social selling activities. This is NOT a replacement for relationship building. I repeat…This is NOT a replacement for relationship building!!!
Using InMail to “pitch” is one of many ways to reach and engage your prospective customer.
Follow the company on LinkedIn and Twitter. Follow the individual and look for other ways to engage with him or her. See my Poolside Sales Chat on the difference between following and stalking someone to avoid creating a bad experience for your prospect.
Meeting Someone through InMail
Another way to use InMail is to meet someone that you’re not connected to. In your InMail, it’s best if you can reference someone by name who is a common connection. “I’m reaching out to you at the suggestion of _______. She and I have worked together in the past on ______ projects, and I thought it would be relevant to you for us to meet.”
After this opening, give a little more detail on why it would be relevant and beneficial to the person to meet you. But, don’t give too much information because your goal is to start a conversation. Too much information could either be a reason to say no, or a bad experience if you’ve wasted their time with a verbose message.
These are just a few suggestions on how to use InMail. In summary, if you choose to use InMail, integrate it into your overall mix of activities, use discretion, be human in your approach, personalize your approach. And, always make it about the person you’re contacting.
Did I mention you should only use InMail as part of your overall mix of social selling activities and relationship-building activities?