I got an e-mail via LinkedIn’s Inmail last week that shocked me. The subject line was, “Quick Question.” It read:
Hi Shane, I hope that you’re having a pleasant day. Your background and position at 360Magazine.com is most impressive – which prompted me to reach out.
I’ve been using my time recently to network and meet with discerning professionals like you. I’d love to set up a call in the next couple of weeks to get to know each other professionally and see if there are ways we can assist one another.
If so, I’ll gladly send over some availability for next week.
It wasn’t the content of the message itself that shocked me. Like many business professionals, I get these kinds of messages on a weekly basis.
What shocked me is that I immediately recognized the individual who was sending me this message. We aren’t first degree connections on LinkedIn, but we know each other well. He once ran his own public relations (PR) agency, and he and his staff frequently pitched me and facilitated interviews with technology companies. Now he’s some kind of financial services advisor.
This was, I realized, a perfect example of where personalization via automation falls flat. I was clearly dredged up through some parameters of LinkedIn Sales Navigator (probably because I have “founder” as my title), and 360 Magazine was rendered as 360Magazine.com because that’s the name of its LinkedIn page.
A Little ‘LinkedIn Translate’
The phoniness doesn’t end there, of course. It will be obvious to all but the most inexperienced business professional that my background and position prompted this person to reach out because I qualify as a sales prospect.
Let’s do a little “LinkedIn translate,” shall we?
I’ve been using my time recently to network and meet with discerning professionals like you. Translation: You fit into a possible customer segment, much like the other ones I’ve been trying to attract.
I’d love to set up a call in the next couple of weeks to get to know each other professionally. Translation: Let’s go further down my sales funnel.
and see if there are ways we can assist one another. Translation: Let’s see if I can help you invest in my wealth management services, and if you can help me by becoming a client.
I don’t blame this person for moving from PR to financial services. What I resent is the attempt to force me to begin a customer journey — and a deceptive one.
Where Sales Outreach Fits Within CX
This is important for CX leaders to note because, in many cases, their attention is focused on the stage in the journey when someone has already agreed to become a customer. The initial outreach strategy is not always an area in which they are consulted or even informed.
Just imagine, though, if your sales team was using LinkedIn — or any other channel — this way. What kind of impression does it make? What kind of customer expectation does it set up? How can you encourage a more straightforward approach?
FYI, I did not respond to this InMail, and I did not report it. Still, even though I never actually became his customer, I made sure to write this article, just as unhappy customers everywhere are eager to share their stories. Consider this my review.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.