If you’re on LinkedIn, you’ve probably gotten messages that sound something like this:

“Hi, I’m John. I think you may be interested in our services. Our business connects you with audience-specific, high-quality leads through appointment setup and high-performance lead generation services…”

And if you are anything like me, you don’t bother reading the rest of the message before you delete the thread. 

Of course, I am certain these messages are cold-shot copy-and-paste material. But even if they aren’t, I don’t feel particularly compelled to respond to someone who does not know what I do and has not asked. I, like a lot of folks, don’t like feeling “sold to.” 

As a brand, having direct, one-on-one conversations is important. They serve as the basis for creating engaged relationships, increasing brand awareness, and ideally, attaining leads. However, they can be quite difficult if networking is not your forte. Finding an effective middle ground between an automated LinkedIn DM and an overbearing sales pitch is not an easy task, whether digitally or in person.

To escape the “business robot” tone and be authentic in the professional world, I have to focus on one goal: being helpful.

“Being helpful” looks like a few different things. Leading with no expectations, being interested, taking the time to ask questions, and listening to the answers. Then, offering up a lil advice.

So how does that play out? 

Leading with no expectations: 

When I go into a conversation with another professional, my aim is to learn for learning’s sake. Ideally, at some point in the conversation, I’ll have asked enough questions (see the next step) that I’ve found a spot where they could use some help. If not, well, I learned something new about that person! It’s the little things. 

If I see they’ve launched a new project lately, I go into it genuinely excited for them, not digging for any angles.

“Congrats on the new launch! Everything looks amazing. How do you feel now that it’s done??” 

Be interested, be interesting: 

Questions. Questions. Questions. Okay, maybe that’s a bit overboard. Try not to interview them, that may be a bit off-putting. However, people love to talk about their work, and appreciate it when others show interest in it. Pull out your inner Sean Evans or Ira Glass and get to it. 

“What current challenges are you facing?” 

“What is your favorite part of your job right now?” 

“Do you love it, do you hate it, what’s the vibes?” 

*Hint: ask questions you want to answer in return! The easiest reply for anyone is always “what about you?” 

In response, you’ll most likely get some questions yourself. This is where you can start to sneak in relevant information. 

“Oh, you’re working within an in-house system? We’ve been working on those a lot lately! Super interesting stuff.” 

Offer advice: 

This one is the trickiest. You don’t want to shoe-horn in advice where it doesn’t fit — that’s not a great look. Hopefully, from asking and answering questions, you’ll have found a challenge that you are knowledgeable on. 

Instead of charging forth with a strong Well, that’s what we do! Hire us! This is where you meet your goal of being helpful:

“That’s always a difficult spot to be in. We had a project once with similar issues; I’m not sure if this is totally relevant, but we ended up doing xyz. I’d be happy to give you more details if it would help.” 

This way you’ve demonstrated your expertise and left the door open to a bigger conversation. 

If you’re someone who wouldn’t have a clue how to go about the classic sales test, “Sell me this pen,” you’re not alone. Whether through products or services, the groundwork for most businesses is helping others. So the next time you find yourself chatting up a potential lead or collaborator, try starting there.

  • Harrison Stamell

  • 4 min read

  • Harrison Stamell

  • 4 min read