If you’re thinking of sending me that InMail, I’d really appreciate you taking out a few mins to read this before you start drafting. And to be honest, I am sure most out there would too.
This is a targeted post (written with an intent and for a targeted audience). Like everyone else, I get a lot of messages/inmails on linkedin, and most of the times, they don’t account to anything. And that is fine. But the nature of those conversations has forced me to create a Do’s and Dont’s list.
I have somehow gotten too used to Medium, and use it for practically everything — even to create FAQ pages for the current business. So it made sense that I would write about this as well on Medium itself.
THE RULES I PERSONALLY FOLLOW
When it comes to LinkedIn messages or emails, I have two general thumb-rules:
- I try to respond to any message I get — whether it is relevant to me/my work or not. I don’t want to be the guy who couldn’t take 2 mins out to respond to a simple mail.
- I don’t typically tend to accept solicitations, business proposals etc — especially when I feel its too generic.
I am typically more responsive — most of the times, the same day. But I respond. Always. And if I am late, I would offer my apologies. (Yes, they are sincere)
Now, because of these rules of, I feel I end up wasting a lot of my time. So I decided it was time to make a PACT with everyone who sends me such a message.
You don’t take the time out to read this, I won’t take the time out to respond to that (may not even read).
Most of the communications can be broadly classified into these few categories. You can find the category that’s most relevant to yours and follow the Do’s and Dont’s pertaining to you. There are some general rules as well. Let’s start with them.
#1. GENERAL GUIDELINES
POINT A — ALWAYS ASSUME I’M HAVING THE MOST SPLENDID DAY
Assume I have had an amazing fulfilling weekend (may not have been relaxing, but you can bet your ass it would have been fulfilling). So, let’s skip the niceties, shall we?
How do you think I will respond if you ask me “How am I doing?”
Even if I am having the crappiest day of them all, I am sure as hell not going to tell them to someone I am just hearing from for the first time in my life.
Hell, my girlfriends have told me I don’t share my problems with them. What makes you think I will share them with you? So don’t waste your words and my time — just because social behaviour and some professional etiquette guru recommends you should be nice.
POINT B — FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, QUIT SHUFFLING AND DEAL
Get to the point, and fast. Actually start with the point. Saves me the pain of opening up the LinkedIn app to read your message. I can see the point in the preview in my mail and understand what is it you want and how prompt should my response be.
POINT C — IT IS AN ‘ELEVATOR’ PITCH. ALWAYS.
I don’t care whether you are reaching out as a vendor or just need some advice — keep it short.
Since short is quite vague, let me put a limit to it. Keep it shorter than 48 words. You can use this tool to access the length of your message.
Tip: If you think it would be impossible to keep it less than 48 words, you need to rethink your strategy. You need to rethink what’s important and what’s not. You need to rethink your intent. Basically, get back to the drawing board. Remember, we don’t know each other right now, so maybe — just maybe — there is no point in including your skype id, phone number, long email address, landline number, fax number, date of birth of your first-born, and details on your bowel movement. Doesn’t that make sense?
POINT D — DON’T….JUST DON’T… NEVER DO THIS
I wanted to discuss something…blah blah blah… So I was wondering if we could have a short call to… blah blah blah… Please reply with your number and convenient time, or you can call me on xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Don’t be that guy!
You are already communicating with me. This message I received is proof of that. Instead of trying to reel me in over the call — which in most of the cases won’t happen, I assure you — why not make your point here itself?
I simply hate whatsapp messages and mails where the other person takes up 5 mins and a few back and forth communications just to say “I wanted to get some time in a face-to-face. Had to discuss a few things… Whenever you are free”.
Yeah. Thanks for nothing! That really cleared things up. You could have used that same time to make your point. And btw, I was free enough to read your messages, give quick replies. Maybe if you had just talked about what you wanted to talk about, you would have had your answer by now.
POINT E — DON’T SPAM
If I feel you had a template message (saved from ten years ago — which it feels like most of the times), that you just started sending everybody, you lost my interest. If you couldn’t take the time out to send me a clean, clear and meaningful mail, what makes you think I would even feel bad about simply ignoring it.
And I do feel bad if I am even late in responding to a genuine query.
Btw. No. Changing John Doe with my name and Company X with the name of my firm does not make it a personalised message. That is customised, not personalised. Subtle difference; get familiar with it.
POINT F — MINDLESS PERSISTENCE GETS YOU NOWHERE WITH YOUR CRUSH. IT WON’T GET YOU ANYWHERE WITH ME AS WELL
Persistence and perseverance are qualities I greatly admire.
I admire laxatives as well. They help you get your bowel movement back on track when — let’s just say — your body just wants you to know how much God hates you.
That doesn’t mean I am fine with laxatives being a staple in my routine. Without context all meaning is lost.
And it is no different when it comes to persistence. Context is the key.
What are you persistent about?
Are you persistent about
- receiving a reply from me because I have ignored the past 6 Inmails?
- adding me to your client roster because you just ‘have that hinkering feeling’ I am quite close to buy your services?
- proving to yourself that your shitty template works?
Why are you sending me the same templated mail every 2 weeks? If it didn’t work the first time, it won’t work the tenth time as well. Actually it would. I would get fed up one day and simply exercise my blocking rights. I have done it in past, and I am not above exercising that fundamental right again.
Yes. These two emails are from the same guy. Would you respond?
I did. “No solicitations please.”
So. What should persistence look like?
Take interest in who the person is — in this particular case, Me. Strike conversations. Find out what the other person may want to talk about and talk about that. If that is nowhere close to what your expectations are, tough! But be subtle in your sales pitch.
Anyone would still identify your sales pitch, but they will admire your approach.
For example. You are a web dev agency? Don’t pitch your services to me unless you know whether or not development is a pain point for me. Sure, it is a pain point for many, so even with the wrong approach, you will be more right than wrong. But so will 5,000 other agencies that mail me every year. Maybe I already have a tech team. That doesn’t mean I don’t need your services. That just means I am not in dire need of it. Or maybe I am, because my devs have been striking out on this particular module. You won’t get to know the right way to pitch your services to me unless you get to know me better. And you won’t get to know me better by sending me a sales deck.
Nobody tells the guy at the counter at McDonalds how their day has been like.
That would be weird.
But when I order a double whiskey — Neat — the bartender asks me “Tough day?”. Yeah. Sometimes that’s enough for me to pour my heart out.
Now, as promised, coming to the nature of mails.
If you are sending me a message, chances are, your messages falls into one of these categories.
#1. SOLICITATION — B2B SALES, MOSTLY
- Be clear in your communication
- Come to the point, quick and fast
- Read out your mail to yourself. Is it good enough for you if you were in my shoes and someone sent it over? If it made you cringe, Cmd+A and Delete. Start over.
- Make sure you are not filling up space just for the sake of it. Every single word counts. Please make it count. If it is not mission critical, kindly chuck it.
- Don’t tell me everything you guys do. I don’t care. I just care about the parts that are relevant to me. You can upsell or tell me all about your company later, or just attach a link for my pleasure read.
- Don’t ask for my number in mail #1. It is creepy. Whatever you have to talk about, can be talked about here.
#2. STARTUPS — ADVICE AND/OR INVESTMENTS
- Tell me what is it that you do, for whom you are doing it and how far along are you. Even if it is just an idea right now, be upfront about it.
- Include a CTA (call to action). What do you hope to get out of this communication?
- It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for an investment or advice, if you have traction, tell me about it.
- Be human. Making mistakes is fine. Showing vulnerability is okay. Noone expects you to get things perfect. If you are struggling with something and think I can help, it’s okay to bring that in almost immediately. It is encouraged actually. If you are facing challenges with your logistics, talk about it a little. Your problem may intrigue me, make me think and if I come up with a solution or maybe even an experiment that I think could work, I will tell you about it.
- I wanted to talk to you about our business, so if we could speak…. Errrrr, wrong answer!
- We are revolutionising so and so space. No you are not. You want to do so. There is a HUGE difference. Whether you are able to do that or not is yet to be seen. Making half-assed claims like that makes me feel like you aren’t in touch with reality all the time. It will make me question whether it would be worth the time/money I would need to dole out.
- We are India’s first… Asia’s only…
So??? Nobody cares. Your customers don’t and neither do I. What problem are you solving, how are you solving it and whether your consumers agree with you or not — broadly speaking, these are the top 3 things I am worried about. Yes. I am not even concerned about your revenue plans at the moment. Everything else falls into place, this I will help you out with myself.
- DO NOT DISAPPEAR!
This is kind of a no-brainer, right? But it still does happen. I am not sure why. Maybe because I simply refuse to get on a call and insist that the person mails. That may come across as rude. Maybe because the person can’t figure out how to succinctly describe what he/she wants over an email. I don’t know. But it happens. Don’t do that. Makes it more or less a certainty that I won’t think twice about saying a No when and if you approach me again — months later.
Few things worthy of highlighting:
- I write horrible responses. Just realised. “You can mail me. I am fairly responsive on mail. I am available on…..” That was way too longer than it needed to be. I typically check my messages when I am on a break, sipping some coffee. But that should be no excuse.
- The first time I responded within 2 hours, the second time — within 30 mins. When I don’t see any appreciation for my time and prompt responses, what makes you think I won’t return the favor by appreciating your sudden loss of enthusiasm? [No. I don’t mean appreciating my time by putting it in words. If that time was to be appreciated, the person wouldn’t have disappeared.]
#3. LOOKING FOR A JOB/INTERNSHIP?
If you are looking for a job (with experience less than 2 yrs) or an internship, don’t worry about any of this.
It would be great if you follow these practices. Even if you slip up, its okay. You’ve got time to learn. There is just one rule that you need to follow — appreciate the other person’s time (or the lack of it). So be crisp, clear and concise in your communication.
If you are looking for a job and have 2+ yrs of experience, treat it the same as the B2B sales strategies.
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Have fun! Let’s chat. Humans, bots — really doesn’t make much difference to me.