There are a lot of clowns online posing as experts. One of my favorite sales managers used to say:
Never try to be an expert. “X” is an unknown number, and “spurt” is what liquids do randomly out of a faucet. “X-spurt”.
Recently I read a post on LinkedIn about the “IDEAL” number of connections for sales people to have on LinkedIn. He based this on an e-book recently created by Sandler Training and LinkedIn Sales Solutions called LinkedIn the Sandler Way – 25 Secrets That Show Salespeople How to Leverage the World’s Largest Professional Network.
There is a chapter called, “Stay on the Right Side of 500” and in it, it says:
If you are a salesperson with more than 500 LinkedIn contacts, here’s an interesting question for you. How many of those people could you call and be absolutely certain that the individual in question would either take your call or return it within 24 hours?
Most salespeople with over 500 LinkedIn contacts tell us that, for the majority of those contacts, they would have to say more than their name and company in order to keep the person from ducking or rejecting the call.
Is that really what most of your network should look like?
More than 500 LinkedIn connections may sound like a great idea for salespeople, but if many of your contacts are inactive or even hostile, there comes a point where the numbers don’t help. It may be time to consider disengaging from contacts who don’t pass the “phone test.”
I could not disagree more. And before I go on, let me clarify that I don’t believe that anyone in the content team at Sandler who wrote the e-book is the “clown” I referred to above – I will get to him in due time.
First, I have been on LinkedIn since 2003 and am member #29,426. I was on LinkedIn before it was cool or “the world’s largest professional network.” I'm mentioning this because I've had a chance to connect with a LOT of people over a lot of years.
The idea is sound to build a network of trusted business connections, but to suggest a number is a big flaw. Here are 3 reasons why:
1) There are many different types of sales reps – some with many more connections due to their circumstances.
2) There are reps with vast, professional rolodexes – of real contacts they’ve connected with in some way.
3) There are professionals like me, who worked with 375 people I wanted to keep in touch with. That was just ONE of the many companies I worked for.
My friend and colleague, Miles Austin, the Web Tools Guy (and former salesperson / sales manager) eloquently wrote:
"Each of us connects for our own purposes, and each of us is correct in our decisions on this. I have found that one of the benefits of LinkedIn to sales is that it opened up my activities to a world-wide audience. I don’t “know” people in Dubai or in Australia personally, yet when I accepted invitations from people I did not know, I was better connected to them. I use those two examples specifically because both geographies NOW include clients for me that I never would have had if I had not accepted their invitations. Neither one developed immediately, and one is actually for sales here in the U.S. as they wanted to grow their U.S. revenue."
The same has happened for me through a referral partner telling someone about me, and that person, who I do not know, reaches out to connect. Later, they become a client because they are now on my radar and I reach out to understand more about them.
More connections – not random ones – not LION networking – but those who are potential referrers, colleagues, alumni, former clients, existing clients, advocates, and business associates from the past until the present will benefit a seller to connect with. DO NOT STOP before you get to 500! Because of my connections, clients ask me every week if I’m connected to anyone at a certain company – and 9 times out of 10, I am.
It did take a number of years to build my network. I began my LinkedIn connections to keep in touch with my awesome friends that I worked with in my last job. Guess what? Many of them became clients over the years, and most I still keep in touch with 13 years later. That’s 375 connections right there.
Connection certainly is a mindset. Don’t add people just to have hundreds or thousands of connections, and also don’t listen to something just because it is written down in an e-book.
If you got to the end of this post you might be waiting to hear about “the clown” – I won’t name names but this guy ranted in a LinkedIn Social Selling group about how right he was about sellers having a less than 500 connection network on LinkedIn, citing this from that e-book.
There is NO one answer to this idea, and there is no one strategy. Even LinkedIn has flip-flopped on it! I remember a time when you HAD to know a person before you could connect – at least know their email. Not anymore, LinkedIn. Because LinkedIn does not publically state updated opinions about what they currently think, it can be difficult to know.
Use common sense. Build a great big network if that will be helpful to you and your prospective buyers. Don’t believe everything you read – and confirm what I’m writing here with people like social selling authorities Jamie Shanks, Barb Giamanco, and Jill Rowley.
Remember that unknown number with liquid spurting out when someone offers their “x-spurt-tise”
Here are 3 more valuable posts about using LinkedIn:
- Money Monday - Using LinkedIn is a Waste of Time
- Build Relationships through Better Messages on LinkedIn
- How to Grow Sales on LinkedIn
What are your thoughts and comments?
Lori Richardson is recognized on Forbes as one of the "Top 30 Social Sales Influencers" worldwide and is a Top 25 Innovative Sales Blogger. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside sales teams in mid-sized companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog for sales strategies, tactics, and tips.
Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.