Etiquette for LinkedIn and the Professional Networking World

After a decade (and for some of us, longer) online, we know all about Netiquette, right? Don’t use all caps in your subject line (or, God forbid, the body of an email message). Don’t send attachments to people who don’t know you well. Don’t we know pretty much everything there is to know about etiquette online?

Well, maybe not. Online networking sites like LinkedIn can challenge our ideas about what constitutes white-lace-handkerchief behavior online. In fact, if we’ve learned that it’s important to be polite when using email, it’s even truer in the social networking sphere. Here are ten tips for establishing yourself as a well-mannered online networker, when using LinkedIn:

1) Create a user-friendly profile. Your LinkedIn profile is your virtual business card. Make sure that it represents you the way you want to be viewed by strangers – make that ‘people you haven’t been introduced to, yet.’ A sketchy LinkedIn profile signals that your busy day doesn’t allow you to fill in trivial details like what you’re doing now, what you’ve done in the past, or any other useful information. Such an incomplete profile won’t serve you as you network on LinkedIn, but it’s impolite as well: its message is “I’m going to use this database to find people, but I won’t bother to include enough information about myself to indicate how I might assist anyone else.” Take a few moments to fill in the gaps.

2) Invite true friends – or at least, true acquaintances – to connect. Spam is spam, and you must have a minimal level of contact with a person before inviting him or her to connect with you on LinkedIn. A contact – a less-intrusive overture than an invitation to connect – is a good way to approach people with whom you have no relationship. LinkedIn users vary in their views on how well you must know someone before connecting to him or her, but it’s inappropriate to send connection invitations to people who have never met you, heard of you, or had any inkling of your existence (unless they have indicated a desire to be approached by strangers). Think about it: if you found a person’s phone number on a scrap of paper, you wouldn’t feel that you had permission to phone him. Your possession of an email address doesn’t give you license to contact an unacquainted LinkedIn user and suggest a connection – and it’s this kind of overzealous outreach that gets users in trouble with LinkedIn, as well.

3) When you make a request, be clear about your intentions. You’ll find your LinkedIn contacts generally happy to forward your requests if you approach them politely and are clear about your goals. In the physical world, if you asked a friend to introduce you to his friend because of a mutual interest in sailing, and then actually hit the friend-of-a-friend up for a loan, you’d be viewed as a sneak. It’s no different online. If you’re job-hunting, say so. If you’re looking for investors, ditto. A wolf in sheep’s clothing soon finds his messages sitting, unforwarded, while his LinkedIn contacts wonder whether he can be trusted.

4) Reciprocity is a wonderful thing, and gratitude is key. When possible, it’s great to include in your LinkedIn outreach messages some suggestion that you’re aware of your obligations as a requester. That could mean an offer to make a useful introduction for the person who’s forwarding yours; or an offer to help in some other way; or just a heartfelt thank-you for the introduction you seek. It’s disconcerting for your first-degree forwarder to receive a slew of requests from you in one day (and this is common when one of your first-degree contacts is more-highly-connected than others) with no acknowledgement at all of the favor you’re asking. LinkedIn is no different from the ‘real’ world, in that sense: asking for an introduction is a favor, and it’s nice to show gratitude for that.

5) Pass along requests promptly, or say why you won’t. Membership in LinkedIn is a kind of agreement with the community that you intend to participate as an active node in a large and vibrant network. If people send you requests and they sit there, unforwarded and unresponded-to, for weeks, you’re not only the weak link in the system. You’re impeding someone else’s business efforts, and giving no reason for your bottleneck behavior. If you can’t forward on a request or move a communique forward, say so – and say why. LinkedIn provides a handy list of reasons for declining a request, plus an “other” option – use ’em.

6) Avoid the boilerplate text, if you can. Of course you can. Unless you’re terribly afraid to strike out on your own with creative verbiage, please make an effort to put your own stamp on the standard invitation language that LinkedIn supplies. For instance, you could mention something impressive that you’ve heard about the person you’re contacting, or bring an old friend up quickly up to date on your doings. Using the boilerplate text shows a certain want of effort – so, even if you stick with the standard language, why not add “sorry to use the boilerplate text, but I’m not much of a wordsmith”?

7) Don’t abuse your network. Once you have cultivated a network, it’s tempting to reach out to the gang anytime you have news or a need for assistance. And LinkedIn’s functionality allows you to broadcast a note to your posse of contacts, by way of a Profile Update blast. Use these sparingly, not as a substitute for the Daily All About Me Newsletter. If you do, you may find yourself being un-connected from people who can’t manage the high volume of what’s-new-in-your-life mailings.

8) Don’t invent history to acquire colleagues. LinkedIn allows you to find former workmates at any company that has employed you, without being connected to them otherwise. Finding a colleague match only requires that you and another person worked at the same organization during the same time period. So, as tempting as it may be to make connection with people who worked in various appealing companies over the years, if you invent a work history in order to do that, you’re going to Hell. Perhaps that is overstated, but if you falsify your employment history on LinkedIn in order to create colleague-links with people you haven’t actually worked with, it’s an abuse of the LinkedIn system and the trust of the LinkedIn community.

9) Play by the rules. There are a number of ways to misuse LinkedIn in such a way as to convey the message, “I don’t care about the long-term health of this network or the company that built it – this is All About Me.” Including your email address in your LinkedIn name, for instance, makes a fee-for-use service like InMail superfluous for someone who wants to reach you, which is (if nothing else) exceedingly rude, seein’ as how LinkedIn provides the basic functionality to users at no charge. Unless you want to broadcast the message, “I don’t care whether LinkedIn can optimize its revenue strategy or not – I’m gonna optimize my connect rate,” you might consider rethinking your Me First approach.

10) Value relationships over transactions. As in physical-world networking, valuing people for their intrinsic worth over the business transactions they enable is key. No less than in middle school, ‘users’ are never welcome company for long. “Ka-ching” networking – the kind of outreach that signals “Say, you could make me a buck today” is unseemly and unfortunate. LinkedIn is a fabulous tool that enables connectors and influencers to help other people and achieve their own goals, too – and it’s great when we keep those priorities in balance.

Happy networking!

Advertising is Not Working (or Networking)

On a recent discussion on Ryze, John Veitch observed:

Those who think of Ryze as a place to “advertise” are not networking effectively. The advertising networks are popular, (lots of posts) but they are ineffective (very low readership).

Jill Slack-Henry replied with the following story that I think beautifully and articulately illustrates the all-too-common problem of people not understanding the difference between advertising and networking, and not understanding why the advertising approach doesn’t work in online communities:

I’ve seen the same thing happen with a few Yahoo Groups that I joined long ago.

Here’s an example.

One of the Yahoo Groups is for work-at-home moms. The group goes along with a web site that is set up to get leaders across the states to volunteer and they set up meetings in their towns. The meetings are meant to get the business owners together to get to know each other and have a presentation each month on something business-related that will help the business owners out. It’s not meant to be a time for folks to get together and try to recruit everyone to join their MLM, for example.

It’s a great idea to have these little groups across the country. The main web site gets some traffic, and interested folks are able to look up their city and see if there’s a group where the live. If so, they can visit. If not, they can start one without having to pay fees to the mother ship.

OK, back to the Yahoo Group.

Rather than using the Yahoo Group as a way to continue the dialogue, keep members pumped, point them to helpful articles or statistics or message board posts that would benefit these moms as they build their businesses, would you like to guess what the main activity of the Yahoo Group has become?

Ads are allowed on Tuesdays, so the only time there is ever any activity at all is when we’re bombarded with ads once a week.

That’s it.

Nothing helpful at all.

What’s crazy about this is these moms aren’t bothering to target their messages. The folks in the Yahoo Group already have a business. They’re already working on something. They’ve already invested money, time, energy, etc., into whatever they’re doing.

Spamming the group once a week isn’t going to make someone say, “Wow! Look at this! If I pay $100 by this deadline, I’ll get $15 worth of free candles. I’m going to chuck this business that I’ve been working on for five years and grab those candles. Yippeeeeee!”

They’re preaching to the choir. It’s a lazy way to go. If these moms seriously want to sign up more folks in their business, they need to get out there and find people who are interested in business but haven’t made a decision yet.

Of course, there are exceptions. Maybe someone is already in a business but they’re not happy with it. Maybe someone would like to add another biz to the mix — possibly a business that complements what they’re already doing.

But, for the most part, the Yahoo Group that I’m talking about (and I’m sure there are other similar examples) is full of moms who want to sign up more people under them in their MLM and that’s that.

What a waste!

I’m active in other message forums and Yahoo Groups where ideas are constantly being exchanged. There’s always a conversation going on. People are even willing to help out their competitors in some cases because it’s a way to help build their entire industry.

If your sole purpose is to advertise your business, people will see right through it. What works better is to use the old “Pay it forward” approach.

(Reprinted with permission)

Jill is a busy lady: a freelance journalist and regular contributing writer for Springfield Business Journal; owner of a lawn greetings rental service, AGreetingYard.com; co-administrator for the International Lawn Greetings Association; and working toward a master of arts in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. She also blogs at agreetingyard.blogspot.com.

People like Jill couldn’t care less about hearing about another business opportunity. They’re looking for ways to save time, cut costs, attract more business and make more money. If your product or service helps her do that, once you get to know her, she might be interested in what you have to offer. But the relationship has to come first, and it has to be based on helping each other accomplish your goals. Who knows – you might even learn a thing or two from her, as well. πŸ™‚

Using Copyrighted Material in Blogs and Forums

Recently, a relatively new Ecademy member posted an article from my About Entrepreneurs site in his blog without a link and proper attribution. I don’t believe that he was trying to claim authorship or doing anything malicious, but he caught some pretty heavy flak about it, both from current and former Ecademists. What he did was “wrong”, but unfortunately all too common, not because people are willfully stealing intellectual property, but because they don’t know any better.

That may seem shocking to those of you who know (or think you know) the proper care and handling of copyrighted material, but in a discussion about the topic on a couple of Ryze networks, I learned that a common sentiment about articles on the Internet was, “Spreading the articles around just helps promote them. Why wouldn’t someone want their articles posted in discussion forums and blogs, assuming proper credit is given? It’s doing them a service.”

Here’s what I wrote in response to the blog in question about blogs, forums and copyright, with a few additional thoughts and resources. Please take a read. Even if you think you know all about copyright and blogs, there might be a thing or two you hadn’t considered.

Blogs posts are copyrighted by default. The #1 rule to remember is that, by default, posts to a blog (or to a discussion forum, for that matter) are copyrighted material, and the author owns the copyright. Just because it’s “public” doesn’t mean it’s “public domain”. That means that it is subject to all the restrictions on copyrighted work, i.e., it can’t be freely copied and used even with proper credit without either a) the permission of the author or b) within the context of “fair use”. The owners of the site, e.g., Ecademy, may also have rights to use it as part of the user agreement, but no one else does.

Fair use is a concept that allows limited use of copyrighted material, generally for the purposes of criticism, education, satire, etc. And no the “education” umbrella doesn’t allow you to use works in their entirety. There are no hard-and-fast guidelines as to where the line is drawn, but using a work in its entirety is never allowed, whether it’s a four-line poem or a four-page article. Similarly, an entire chapter from a book would also be a copyright violation. You can use excerpts, but not “complete” anythings: chapters, articles, posts, poems, etc. You can see a quick summary of “fair use” at the U.S. Government Copyright Office or get more in-depth information at the Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center

There are exceptions. Sometimes, bloggers or article writers make things available for use in their entirety. This may be done through an express permission statement in the byline of the article or on the blog site’s footer, something to the effect of “This article may be reproduced in its entirety so long as this resource block is kept intact and included in the article.” Many people now use a Creative Commons license of some type to permit broader use than allowed by copyright, but still under the control of the creator.

Don’t make assumptions. You can’t assume that you know what the allowable use is of a particular post or article. For example, the content I post on Entrepreneurs.About.com is all copyrighted and may not be reposted without permission. On the other hand, what we post on TheVirtualHandshake.com is under a Creative Commons license and can be freely reposted with proper attribution and a link. Why the difference, you ask? Simple economics. On About.com, the revenue model is advertising-based, and I get paid based upon page views. Post the content elsewhere and I don’t get paid on it, at all. On TheVirtualHandshake.com, it’s all about positioning ourselves and promoting the book. Post the content wherever you want — if it’s any good, it eventually drives people back to us for the book and maybe more.

Proper respect for intellectual property = good networking. Good networking means learning about other people’s business. For those of us who write professionally, our content is our product. Learning about our business means learning how to properly refer people to us, just as it would for anyone else. The simplest solution is to always use an excerpt and a link, never content in its entirety. That will pretty much always constitute fair use, and will always be appreciated by the content creator.

This is not the first time this has happened to me, as you might imagine. I always approach it as a networker, not a litigant. “Are you aware that this is copyrighted material and may not be re-posted in its entirety, even with proper attribution? I’d be happy for you to use a short excerpt and a link. Please edit it as soon as possible and inform me when you have made the correction.”

Think win-win.

And besides, if anyone were ever stupid enough to persist in violating my copyright, I’m sure the attorneys at About.com’s new owners would handle it quite effectively. πŸ™‚

UPDATE: The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides some great legal resources for bloggers, including Bloggers’ FAQ – Intellectual Property.

Having trouble viewing this? Go Here.

I’m a regular reader of SellingPower.com‘s newsletters — great content for anyone in any kind of sales role, including small business owners. This week, my laptop is in the shop, so I’m operating 100% from the web — I have no Outlook.

So SellingPower’s latest newsletter came through to me as text-only, and isn’t very readable. OK… I expect that. What I didn’t expect was this:

Having trouble viewing this? Go Here.

Yup – just like that. No hyperlink. It’s plain text. “Go Here.”

Hello?!?!? If I’m having trouble viewing it, it probably means I’m seeing text-only, not HTML. You need to give me a URL, not a hyperlink, because, well… I’m having trouble viewing this!

The bigger lesson here is just a reminder that not everyone is always able to view HTML e-mails. I’m not suggesting that means you should switch to text-only e-mail, but if it’s a critical communication going out to a lot of people, make sure it degrades cleanly so that all recipients can use it.

I'm not rude, I'm not mad, I'm not disorganized — I'm just very, very busy

Replying to all e-mail messages and private messages from online networks within 24-48 hours is a nice ideal. Actually, replying to all of them eventually is a nice ideal. But it’s simply not always possible.

Unfortunately, when people don’t get a response, sometimes they feel that:
a) they’re being personally slighted or the recipient is mad at them
b) that the recipient is simply being rude
c) that the recipient poorly organized

None of the above are true for me, as I’m sure is the case for many other people. If I don’t reply, I’m not rude, mad at you, or disorganized — I’m just very, very busy.

This is a general issue — I’m just using myself as an example. For the month of August, for example, I’m booked 18 full days at clients.

That means my typical day consists of:
– 10 hours at the client (including travel time & lunch)
– 1 hour prep for the next day at the client
– 4 hours personal time (meals, hygiene, exercise, family, relaxation/entertainment)
– 1-2 hours on my About.com work (average)
– In the remaining 7-8 hours a day, I have to work on marketing The Virtual Handshake, handle my e-mail and online communities, and sleep.

That gives me around 1-2 hours a day to handle all my correspondence and online communities. When I got home tonight, I had 254 messages, of which 108 are NOT bulk mail. I can cut that down to less than 100 in just a couple of minutes, but even that, at an average of 1-2 minutes per message, is more than I have time to handle right now.

Not everyone is this busy with their work, but a lot of people are. What I see all too often in online networking communities is a lack of empathy/respect for that fact. It’s not entirely a case of “haves” vs. “have-nots” — there are a lot of successful people with plenty of time on their hands, too.

So, if you have time on your hands, enjoy it. Be glad you do. But please be respectful of the time of those who don’t, and don’t take it personally or hold it against them when they don’t have time for you. It’s no reflection on you, or even on your relationship with them. Sometimes people are just really, really busy. I am!

Preventing Flame Wars: Two Basic Principles of Netiquette

There seems to have been a surge of highly emotional debates on several of the networks I’m on lately, including my own Virtual Handshake Network on Ryze. I expect this on, say, Slashdot or other topical networks where people are anonymous, but it really surprises me that people engage in this in a business networking context. No one looks their best when they’re bickering.

There are two simple principles of netiquette that you can use to help prevent escalation of these conversations into flame wars:

1. Presume good intent. What is the best possible way the other person could mean by what they said? If your initial reaction to what somebody says is negative, pause. Take a deep breath. Try to detach from your own personal context and put yourself in their context. What might they have meant by that? Maybe you’re misinterpreting what they’re saying.

So pick the best possible meaning, and respond to that. What’s the worst that can happen? They correct you and say, “No, I really meant…”? On the other hand, if you respond to your negative reaction, the worst possible thing is that an escalation begins — a vicious circle. Sound familiar?

You’re never backed into a corner online. Take the time to cool off and re-think it before you reply.

2. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person. Would you say it to their face at a networking event? If not, then why would you say it here? Don’t think that the relationships here are any less important, the feelings any less real, etc. And don’t think it won’t have any impact on your business.

No one looks good when they get emotional in an argument, even when they’re right. Does it reflect better on you to be right? Or to be someone who’s easy to get along with?

I’m not saying people shouldn’t voice their opinions, or debate their differences of opinion, but not at the expense of their relationships and even their reputation.

Think about it… would you want to do business with someone who was always right but always arguing about it to show how right they are? (unless they’re a trial lawyer, of course, in which case that’s a very desirable trait)

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Are you interested in sex? Would you say that publicly? There are at least a few Silicon Valley executives who readily admit this in their profiles on Tribe.net, or demonstrate it by the tribes of which they are members.

While some people are comfortable with a seamless blend of their business and personal lives, most people have some kind of boundaries between these aspects of their lives, a sort of faceted identity, as danah boyd calls it.

In our latest FastCompany.com column, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, we take a look at three dominant behavior modes in networks: social networks, knowledge networks, and business networks. While these rarely exist in isolation, any given community tends to have one dominant mode. Recognizing and respecting the dominant mode within a given group will make the group more receptive to your participation, and ultimately make you more effective in your interaction with the group. Read more…

Benjamin Franklin on Recommendations

Thanks to Cynthia Typaldos & Victor Grishchenko for this priceless tidbit. As Cynthia said:

This is an amazing document. It should be the warning label on the home page of every social networking website. Franklin’s so-called “recommendation letter” is hysterically funny and reminds me of requests I used to get thru Spoke, where I didn’t know either person.

They posted it as an image, but I’ve taken the time to go ahead and transcribe it into electronic form (I couldn’t find it anywhere on the web):

On Recommendations
To a friend. Passy. [Date unknown.]

Permit me to mention to you that, in my opinion, the natural complaisance of this country often carries people too far in the article of recommendations. You give them with too much facility to persons of whose real characters you know nothing, and sometimes at the request of others of whom you know as little. Frequently, if a man has no useful talents, is good for nothing and burdensome to his relations, or is indiscreet, profligate, and extravagant, they are glad to get rid of him by sending him to the other end of the world; and for that purpose scruple not to recommend him to those they wish should recommend him to others, as “un bon sujet, plein de mΓ©rite,” &c. &c. In consequence of my crediting such recommendations, my own are out of credit, and I cannot advise anybody to have the least dependence on them. If, after knowing this, you persist in desiring my recommendation for this person, who is known neither to me nor to you, I will give it, though, as I said before, I ought to refuse it.

These applications are my perpetual torment.

You can have no conception how I am harassed. All my friends are sought out and teazed to teaze me. Great officers of all ranks, in all departments; ladies, great and small, besides professed solicitors, worry me from morning to night. The noise of every coach now that enters my court terrifies me. I am afraid to accept an invitation to dine abroad, being almost sure of meeting with some officer or officer’s friend, who, as soon as I am put in good humor by a glass or two of champaigne, begins his attack upon me. Luckily I do not often in my sleep dream of these vexatious situations, or I should be afraid of what are now my only hours of comfort. If, therefore, you have the least remaining kindness for me, if you would not help to drive me out of France, for God’s sake, my dear friend, let this your twenty-third application be your last.

“Model of a Letter of Recommendation of a person you are unacquainted with.”

Paris, 2 April, 1777.

“Sir,
“The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him, not even his name. This may seem extraordinary, but I assure you it is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings another equally unknown, to recommend him; and sometimes they recommend one another! As to this gentleman, I must refer you to himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted than I can possibly be. I recommend him, however, to those civilities, which every stranger, of whom one knowns no harm, has a right to; and I request you will do him all the good offices, and show him all the favor, that, on further acquaintance, you shall find him to deserve. I have the honor to be, &c.”

So, contrary to some opinions, this is not a new problem suddenly brought on by social networking sites! πŸ™‚

How NOT to introduce yourself, Vol. 2

We got this message submitted through our contact form. I wasn’t quite sure if it was good spam or bad networking, but since I’m choosing to ridicule it in public rather than politely respond in private, you know what I decided:

Could you please put me in direct contact with your online sales manager or biz dev manager.

Under “About the Authors”, you’ll see three names. Just how many people do you think work “here”?

We understand that your company offers solo-mailing and pop-up marketing services and we are interested in running a campaign with you.

You do? Where did you get that idea?

We are interested in CPA opportunities for the marketing of our anti-spyware software. So if you could have someone contact me in regards to list size and pop-up reach that would be appreciated.

Marketing anti-spyware software via pop-ups and spam e-mail blasts? That just seems oxymoronic to me… using one nuisance to sell a product to prevent another!

We offer very high payouts, and since 9 out of 10 Internet consumers have some form of adware or spyware on their PC’s you can expect to generate a lot of business from this opportunity. For example we have some affiliates that earn over $3,000 per week with minimal effort on their end.

Everything I learned about marketing says that it’s most effective when it’s targeted. What on this site has anything whatsoever to do with spyware?

Also, we have an opt-in database and pop network of our own…so let me know if you would be interested in a barter campaign as well

If it’s handled as well as this letter is… no thanks!

So, I’m sure someone didn’t type this in by hand, right? Is someone actually taking the time to copy and paste messages like this? Or are they automating it with a script? I thought the point of making a web contact form was to prevent spamming. It’s not working!!!

The moral to the story, for those of you trying to actually derive something useful out of this, is do your homework! Whenever you approach people, make sure you know enough about them not to say things that are totally inappropriate for their business. It’s never well received.

How NOT to introduce yourself

My friend Stephanie West Allen recently posted the following sales letter to a list we’re both on as an example of how NOT to write a sales letter. I actually laughed, this is so bad. I’ve changed the name of the sender to protect the not-so-innocent, but have left the company names in, because without them it doesn’t make much sense. To the author of this letter, if you’re reading this, get out a pen and take notes!


SUBJECT: Stephanie, this is Ivana with XO Comm., we offer VERY significant savings on Voice, Data, IP, pt to pt private lines, PRI’s Kudos for being specific in the subject. At least you’ve given enough info that I can decide immediately that this message is not of interest to me and delete it. Is that what you want? If so, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunity. But email subjects should never be longer than 40 characters – that’s all most people will see of it.

My name is Ivana Selyuafone. I am a Senior Account Executive with XO Communications / Allegiance Telecom. So far, so good… Just out of curiosity, though, are there any Junior Account Executives? πŸ˜‰

XO Communications recently acquired Allegiance Telecom and is now one of the few National, Local Service Providers in the United States. As the largest CLEC, XO is now the biggest competitor to the Bell Companies. Along with having a Tier 1,Industry-leading 0C-192 National IP Backbone, our Network currently has 22,400 fiber route miles with 2300+ On-net buildings in 73+ Markets. This paragraph is full of industry jargon that only a CIO would understand (what the heck is a CLEC?), and it’s all about you — of no interest to me. Why do I care about your merger? Why should I care if my local phone provider is national instead of regional? Unless you know this is going to the CIO of a large multi-site company (and Stephanie isn’t), this is meaningless. At this point, you’ve lost your reader completely.

XO is well-known as being committed to 24x7x365 Customer Service that is second to none, and with regard to provisioning, maintains some of the quickest install intervals in the Industry. In Summary, XO has the ability to serve customers from premise-to-premise, over XO Facilities, ensuring the highest levels of performance and reliability. More jargon ("provisioning", "install intervals") and cliched hype ("second to none", "premise to promise").

I welcome the opportunity to speak with you regarding Solutions that XO may be able to provide for you. I can also provide you any quotes that you may be looking for. Still focused on the writer, not the reader. How can you provide solutions when you haven’t asked about my needs yet?!? And the second… a presumptive close before we’ve even spoken?!?

Some of the solutions/services we provide are: Voice (Local PRI T1’s, Multi-Market PRI’s, Basic Phone Lines, Long Distance), Integrated Access Voice & Data T1’s, Toll Free IVR, Dedicated Internet Access (DSL, T1, T3 to OCx), Point-to-Point Private Lines, Point-to-Multi-Point Private Lines – with DS3 Hubbing, MPLS, Collocation & Web Hosting, IP VPN, Conferencing, Local Access, Metro Fiber and Metro Ethernet, Intercity Ethernet, and most other Wide Area or Metro Area Data Networking Solutions. Why are you offering me all this stuff when you don’t even have a clue what my business is, what my facilities situation is, and what I might even be remotely interested in? Moreover, if you’re going to make a list like this, make it bullet points, not a single paragraph. And what’s with capitalizing everything?!? This list is completely unreadable.

PLEASE see below for a current listing of some of the best Voice and Internet rates available:
************************
Local Voice Service: PRI T1, WITH local loop: $409/month (most locations).
Dedicated Internet Access: Full 1.536 Mbps T1, WITH Router & local loop: from $549 to $649/month
************************
You don’t have to say "Please see below" for the next line. And what’s with the capitalized "PLEASE"? How desperate are you at this point? And what’s with the capitalized "WITH"? It took me 10 seconds of trying to figure out what it stood for before I finally realized it just meant "with". And what’s with the three significant digits on the T1 speed? Isn’t 1.5 close enough?

If you would like a detailed QUOTE or proposal, or you would like to arrange a meeting in person, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly, either by phone or by email (contact info below). Again with the all caps. Why is a QUOTE more important than a proposal? It might stand a chance of catching my eye if it weren’t for how many other times it’s already been used.

Thank you for your time. We look forward to providing cost efficient solutions for your upcoming projects. Please visit our websites at your convenience (links listed below).
Additionally, I am including a link to our Network Maps.
http://www.xo.com/about/network/maps.html
Again with the presumptive close — WAY too presumptive at this point.

Best Regards,

Ivana Selyuafone

 

Wow. If this were just pure spam, that’d be one thing, but this was a message from a real account executive at a legitimate company. I’m sure this was a mail blast, not a personalized email, but that calls attention to why you need good segmentation in your database, because this message is nonsensical jargon to anyone not intimately familiar with the telecommunications industry. Even a small business owner who’s the decision-maker on this is going to be lost after the second paragraph.

This is why you need networking, and online networking at that. A far more effective (and less offensive) approach would be search for CIOs of small companies on, say, LinkedIn, Spoke, Ecademy, etc., get a trusted introduction if one is available, and approach with a short simple message like this:

Stephanie:

Our mutual friend R. E. Furr suggested I talk to you. I see from your profile that you’re CIO at the Notso Small Company and that you all have multiple locations around the country. I also see that we share common interests in skiing and jazz.

I am a Senior Account Executive with XO Communications / Allegiance Telecom. Our recent merger allows us to provide a single-vendor telecommunications solution, competitive rates, and top-notch 24x7x365 service nationwide. Would you be willing to spend just 10-15 minutes for a phone call in which I can learn more about what you do, you can learn more about what I do, and we can see how we may be able to help each other out, either directly or possibly with referrals?

Thanks in advance,

Ivana

Based on the existing research and my own experience, I think you’re going to get about a 25-50% "yes" response on this — orders of magnitude higher than on the other. And every person you talk to has the potential to refer you to other people, if you develop a good rapport and communicate your benefits clearly. But don’t think of that first call as a "sales call". It’s not — it’s a networking call. If it’s even remotely a fit for them, they’ll let you know, and then you can start facilitating their buying process.

Remember, the relationship is more important than the transaction.