From the mailbag, Luke asks:
“I lately have been told to add people on LinkedIn and then cold call them about our products. I haven’t received a lot of good results. How do you choose between relationship building and sales?”
Great question. The strategy you’ve outlined above is immediately doomed to failure, because it’s the equivalent of walking up to someone and asking them to marry you without ever having gone out for a date, or even a cup of coffee. Whoever gave you that advice should stop giving advice for a little while.
Relationships versus sales is a false choice. It’s not an either/or; it’s a dependency. In order to get the sale, you need to have the relationship first.
The easiest way to begin building relationships is through what’s called giver’s gain: be the first to offer value, to give something freely, without asking for anything in return. You may have to do this half a dozen times, but it nets results.
Create content that solves people’s problems and offer it to them, as I do on this blog. If you’re using LinkedIn, first build out your profile to incite curiosity, then jump into communities and conversations where appropriate and offer general solutions that your products fit, without mentioning your products.
For example, if someone were to say, “My laptop keeps overheating, anyone know a way to handle this?” and you sold The Chillerator 2500 laptop cooling fan, you could offer as suggestions, “Definitely don’t use it on a padded/cloth surface – hard surfaces with plenty of ventilation will help. Could put your laptop on a sheet of aluminum foil like a baking tray, too, for passive heat reduction. Have you thought about a cooling fan for it?”
Thus, you’ve offered value, you’ve provided at least two solutions, and you’ve hinted at a general solution that matches your category of product without blatantly plugging your product.
If your product has no name recognition, you may want to look at investing in an influencer program to get some reviews of it. Distribute review units to people and direct them to post their reviews in LinkedIn’s publishing program, with all the necessary caveats about disclosure.
Ultimately, to build a relationship, be the first to give, give often, and give without immediate reciprocal expectation. It will take time to grow your professional relationships, as it does all relationships, but you will see results from it.
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