That was the response the salesman — let’s call him Bob — gave me when we started our one-on-one training session. I had asked how his day was going, and in the past, Bob’s response ranged from “good” to “great.”
But today, Bob was tired.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I started at 8 in the morning, and it’s now 9:00 PM. And I just finished up an hour of cold calling.”
He was in London, and I was in the Midwest. It was around 3:30 PM my time, and my day was nearing its end as well. But I wasn’t tired. Far from it. I was energized and looking forward to our one-on-one training session on how to use LinkedIn to generate business.
“Wow, that’s a long day,” I replied. “How did the cold calling go?”
He tsked. “When you call all day and get a demo, that’s great,” he said. “But when you don’t, it’s tough.”
I assumed today had been a tough one. I also assumed there had been a lot of tough ones lately and that this was why he was on the call with me.
My day was proceeding along in a completely different way. I was finishing up a nice eight-hour workday, which included time for a midday workout. I had taken one call with a new prospect that looked promising, and two leads had come in. Both referrals.
Most importantly, I had made zero cold calls.
I could see this was a tale of two salespeople. It might not have been as dramatic as Dickens’ best of times, worst of times, but there was definitely contrast. And it was up to me to help.
The definition of insanity
I had been on a similar call with a group of salespeople the previous week, and I heard the same weary tone in their voices that I was hearing in Bob’s.
I had asked them how they got their business, and one of them responded, “Cold calling.”
“Oh,” I replied. “So if you’re getting your business from cold calls, why are you here?”
“Because it doesn’t work,” he sighed.
I felt his pain. I’ve been on my own since 2007, first as a freelance copywriter and then as an agency owner. Over this time, I’ve been the one responsible for business development. In the past, I’d done what these guys did — called a lot of people and did a lot of praying to the God of Leads.
And like these guys, I’d managed to somehow make it work. Through a combination of cold calls and networking events, the business had come. But it was beyond stressful, and those long, long days were commonplace.
Cold calling was barely working for us, but we seemed to keep doing it.
I asked the salesmen, “You know the definition of insanity is when you know something doesn’t work, but you keep doing it anyway?”
There was no response.
Work for referrals, not for leads
Back to Bob. I took him through the training, and the first thing I told him was the secret to making LinkedIn work for you.
“It’s all about building your referral network,” I said.
My program is very simple. I use LinkedIn to help other people. Period.
I don’t harass anyone for business. I don’t push them to buy. I share what I know and post content to help them get better at marketing. I stay top of mind by posting and commenting daily, and I always, always, always try to pay it forward.
Here’s the type of content I post over five workdays:
Monday: Company Post
This is a piece of content that my company posts on how to improve your marketing. (You’re reading an example right now.)
Tuesday: Industry Info with Comment
I share some information that other people in my industry will find helpful and interesting. Usually it’s a piece of research or a trend.
Wednesday: Pay It Forward Post
I go out of my way to post a piece of content that just flat out helps someone. For example, Gina Tabasso was looking for a job, so I posted her resume and reached out to my network to help her out.
Thursday: Association / Niche / Community
I’m part of the local chapter of the American Marketing Association, so I share upcoming events and stay connected with my local community.
Friday: Personal Value (Quote, Picture, Who Are You?)
This is where I have fun and share with other people who I am. People like to work with people, not companies. For example, I created a fun video on how I organize the family Tupperware cabinet to give people a sense of how I view elegant solutions.
On top of that, I leave three comments a day (minimum) on other people’s LinkedIn posts, hoping to add insights and reinforce their messages.
And this sets up the magic part: the referral network.
Referrals come from paying it forward
All that activity and content is created with one goal in mind: to meet new people and help them out.
I meet new people by connecting with people who like, share or comment on my content. I set up meetings with them to learn what they do, and look to find ways I can help them and pay it forward.
And yes, I definitely run into prospects in this way, and I set up meetings with them. Even better, these are always warm leads — people who already know me through my content and through mutual connections.
The important part here is I am always looking to meet people and expand my network. Not to go too new age on you, but I am putting out help and good vibes to the network.
And I will tell you that even this minimal amount of activity — the above tasks take about 30 minutes a day — has resulted in a steady stream of leads, new contacts, and a heckuva lot of fun in my eight-hour day.
Consistently being rewarded with referrals
Keith Cunningham wrote that “ordinary things done consistently yield extraordinary results.” I’d have to agree.
Nothing I’ve done above is extraordinary. It’s just done consistently, and it’s done with the idea of helping the customer instead of myself.
Think of the referral network you’re building as your customer, and do everything in your power to help them, day in and day out.
In turn, they will reward you with referrals. Consistently.
That’s the type of happy ending that’s possible in this tale of two salespeople. Now it’s up to you to choose which ending you want more.