‘Direct’ Selling And LinkedIn Groups

This week, I’ve been all over England visiting HR Consultants and Outsource Companies with Bespoke Sales Training.

Southampton, Bristol, Lincoln, Sheffield, Lancaster and this afternoon… Manchester (in my poor Fiesta Zetec). And no matter where I have been, I’ve seen something that I’ve not seen in a while in the HR Industry… Hunger. With clients paying for Sales Training, they are showing that they want to make an impact in 2011. It’s great to see.

I come from a ‘School of Selling’ where it was pumped into me that ‘Direct Selling is Best’. This ‘Direct Selling’ is the practice of simply asking for business. You don’t have to ‘beat around the bush’, just sell.

A few months back, when I set up Talent Genius Ltd, I joined a Smarta, an online business networking & advice site. In the forums, there was an ‘Introduction’ section and many introductions barely even mentioned the author’s company, website or services. I am not akin to hiding and wrote an introduction which was very brief and contained my contact details & a very small ‘Sales Pitch’ to highlight what my business was about. To my astonishment, a few minutes later, one member replied to my introduction with, “Well, we all know what your business does now, we know where to contact you, how about you tell us about yourself?”

Why would I want to tell complete strangers about my private life? I believe Personal and Business matters should be kept apart. I joined the group for business networking and advice, not to have a tea party.

Another reply read, “This forum is not about selling your business, we’re also here to provide support and encouragement — make friends, in other words.”

Hello???!!! I am pretty sure the website was about Connecting with Business Owners, sharing ideas & networking. If the members of the forum that were there then want to ‘make friends’, get away from the computer screen and socialise.

Is it me, but are all Business Owners in it for the goal of making money? (Yes, there are many other motivators I know, but the goal of business is to make a profit). Why the hell do I want to know what another business owner, who I will probably never meet thinks of last night’s Coronation Street (Which, is in fact excellent and far better than Eastenders.) Why be afraid to ask for business? Many years ago, a Sales Rep was talking about what he does in appointments and he advised a great question to ask when you are offering a service to a prospect is:

“What do we need to do to work with you?”

It’s something I have picked up and always ask potential clients – Why not? The client can then tell me what they want and I can offer the solution. Simple. Sell the client what they want, not what they will never need and the client will come back to you when another need arises.

For this blog, I thought I’d give some advice that I’ve found very useful based on ‘Building Influential Connections’.

An important feature of LinkedIn are the groups & within the groups you can achieve lots. First off, you need to find your best group opportunities. To do this you will need to try and focus on about 5 groups that you feel most confident in, preferably not with masses of users (or you will simply get lost in there). If you are a HR Consultant, try ‘HR Professionals UK‘. You need to keep up-to-date with your chosen groups by visiting them regularly and identifying the most popular discussions in the group. Instead of waiting for the discussion to come to you, go to it, give a reply that will illustrate your train of thought. This will steadily allow you to become a ‘Known Figure’ (Hopefully from a positive perspective!).

When you have identified the discussions more relevant to you, really concentrate on the comments that people will make & learn from what they are saying. Respect their opinion, but correct if a reply could put someone in legal jeopardy (You can ‘Flag’ replies to the Group Moderators too). Eventually when you are up to speed with the terms and different aspects that are being discussed, throw in a question that will make people think, or give them a dose of your knowledge or opinion, try to keep it fairly conservative and make sure that you are actually adding value to the topic.

Ensure that your discussion titles are ‘short & snappy’ as to entice other members to participate (plus, the new LinkedIn ‘Share’ feature works better with short titles). And if you are going to promote something, use the new ‘Promotions’ tab in the Group – Some LinkedIn groups see an ‘etiquette’ not to over-sell, so make sure you are aware of the ‘feel’ of the group as well.

If you follow these simple practices, it will give you recognition amongst the group. You’ll find that by replying to another discussion, members will tend to ‘return the favour’ and reply in yours too. When your discussion is up and running nicely, check back on the previous popular discussions for something that sparked interest and introduce it to your own one with a spin on it. This is all about gaining a social influence from other group members.

Once you have built up enough recognition you may want to start thinking about starting your own LinkedIn group. But creating a group that will attract LinkedIn members to join it not easy. For instance, there are many Engineering groups, some with thousands of members and creating a new Engineering group may be pointless unless you have something unique. An important point here is that you need to be ready to invest your time and effort to keep up with all discussion that you partake in as it will help you in the future.

If you need help with LinkedIn, please email me: steve@talentgenius.co.uk

I will send you a FREE Guide to using LinkedIn, which is updated quarterly and try to answer any questions you send my way.

Here’s an Official LinkedIn Youtube Video on Groups for you. Enjoy.


Steve Smithson – Managing Director

Talent Genius Ltd



  1. January 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I found this is an interesting post. I only contribute regularly to a couple of online forums and it is obvious the etiquette is different for each.

    Interested in your LinkedIn section. It is a site I use, but could use more effectively. Good images and a helpful video. Thanks.

    Found you via the 4N Forum.


    • January 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Phil, thanks for the positive feedback. If you want a free Linkedin Guide, send me an email: steve@talentgenius.co.uk and I’ll get one over to you.



  2. January 14, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Steve,

    This is an interesting post. I only contribute regularly to a couple of online forums and it is obvious the etiquette is different for each.

    Interested in your LinkedIn section. It is a site I use, but could use more effectively. Good images and a helpful video. Thanks.

    Found you via the 4N Forum.


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