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When it comes to communicating with Suspects and Prospects, lawyers suffer the same self-inflicted injuries that all salespeople do: causing recipients to shut down on you from the first moment of encounter because you’re talking about what you want.

Here’s a recent example from my LinkedIn feed. A consultant sent me a connection request, which on the surface seemed like a different approach, but that subsequently proved to be just another preamble to a pitch. Here’s how it unfolded:

Sunday:

Hi Mike,

I have reviewed your profile and I would like to connect with you. I would like the opportunity to learn more about you and your business.

Please review my profile and network. I look forward to networking with you!

Steve

Steve seems like a well-meaning guy who invested a bit of time to understand something about me, and is interested enough to want to learn more. So far, so good, right? It’s certainly different than the standard LinkedIn connection approach, which too often doesn’t even include a note, merely the sterile LinkedIn request form. (As an aside, I’ll confess that I generally react negatively to exclamation points in professional correspondence. What are we, high school sophomores?)

Tuesday

Thank you for joining my network Mike!

I appreciate the connection! I have several people you may like to connect with in my network. Feel free to let me know and I will help you get connected.

I would like to send you a short video about a mind-blowing Lead Generation System designed specifically for LinkedIn. Don’t miss an opportunity to take advantage of this new system that will increase your leads ten folds all done very simply through LinkedIn.

I look forward to our conversation in the future! Have a great rest of your day.

So, apart from some poor grammar, syntax, and spelling, what turned me off completely? It’s polite enough, and the bar for accepting a LinkedIn connection request is generally pretty low. (The whole point of being on LinkedIn is to connect with people, right, so as long as somebody has at least some connection to the law biz, I generally accept.)

But, gee, doesn’t it feel more than a little like bait-and-switch?

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Clearly, Sunday’s message proved disingenuous. Steve isn’t interested in me, only in pitching his Lead-Gen offer. Everything else was preamble. It feels like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last second.

Had I been paying closer attention to Steve’s first message, I would have noticed that the elements that are supposed to personalize this aren’t at all specific to me.

I have reviewed your profile and I would like to connect with you. I would like the opportunity to learn more about you and your business.

This doesn’t say what it was about my profile that motivated him to connect with me, or why he’d want to invest more time learning even more. This is a generic message that probably goes out, identically, to every person on LinkedIn. It would have been more credible if he’d said something like,

I noticed that you seem to be an innovation junkie. In that respect, we’re tribe members. I’m always trying to learn something from fellow innovators. If you look at my recent history, you’ll see a similar philosophy. 

Paragraph two of Tuesday’s version is similar:

I appreciate the connection! I have several people you may like to connect with in my network. Feel free to let me know and I will help you get connected.

What makes you think that there are people in your network you think I’d like to connect with? Are they innovators or progressive thinkers in the law space? Is there a particular person whom you think I’d really want to know? This would work better for me:

My network features a number of people associated with the law business, but one in particular -- Anthony Insight -- seems like a tribe member for you. Take a look at his profile and, if you agree, let me know and I’ll introduce you.

Whether or not I follow through on his offer, Steve has made a genuine attempt to deliver value to me. Now, if he were to request help from me, the Principle of Reciprocity kicks in, motivating me to respond in kind. Steve could ask me for feedback on his Lead-Gen product.

Mike, I hope you don’t find this presumptuous, but I’d really welcome your impression of a Lead-Generation product I’m launching. Might I impose on you to spend 15 minutes taking a close look, and giving me brutally candid feedback?

This way, Steve gets me to examine his product -- which was his original goal -- in a way that produces a positive impression of him. If I tell him the product is impressive in [these ways], it would be natural for him to thank me and ask if it’s something that might help my clients or me.

The upshot is that anything that isn’t genuine will be exposed. Nobody is that clever. Authenticity is a magnet; subterfuge repels. In your communication, consciously avoid all forms of “I want.” Nobody cares what you want.

Mike O'Horo