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Trust, Deception, LinkedIn

by David Brock on January 22nd, 2014

I guess it’s the new standard.  Great tools end up being subverted for deceptive—or in the very least tragically bad practices.  LinkedIn has increasingly been a channel for SPAM and other just bad marketing/sales approaches.  I’ve learned to deal with the unwanted pitches coming through InMail, invitations, and some group communications.  It’s an annoyance, but hitting delete is very fast and easy.

Every once in a while, I get something from someone that is even more innovative in it’s execution of the worst possible sales and marketing practices one could imagine.  It’s especially odd when it’s inflicted by a so-called “expert and best selling author on ‘winning sales and marketing strategies.'”

The whole chain of communications has been odd.

It started in mid November with one of those strange invitations.  You know the kind, “You and I have many common friends and interests, it would be great to connect and establish a relationship.”  But it went on about how great it would be to become a partner of their so I could sell their sales consulting products.

So it was one of those, “I want to connect….” with a not so subtle, “I want to sell you something..” messages.  Normally I reject these types of invitations outright.  But the guy had an interesting profile.  I lot of colleagues who I really trust were connected to him, so I thought, “I’ll accept.”

Time passes, today I get a response to my reply thanking him for the invitation.  This time it’s a full court press on “I’d like to talk to you about why you should be our partner and sell our stuff.”  Oddly, it’s not signed by Jeff (oops), it’ signed by Brian, his VP of Sales (oops — what’s happening to my fingers on the keyboard).

Now I start looking at the original email stream.  Turns out, I suppose, that Jeff really was never interested in connecting with me—at least he has never communicated with me.  Apparently, he has delegated his LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn SPAM techniques to Brian.  Brian is using Jeff’s profile and sending messages to me and lots of others, signing Brian’s name.

Hmmmmmmm………..  What’s up here?

Actually, Brian has a very interesting profile himself.  I would have been glad to connect with him directly, in fact, perhaps interested in learning more about their offerings.

But that’s not what they did.  Instead, they had some sort of convoluted logic, of using Jeff–who apparently cares so much about our relationship, and those of others, that he has completely delegated his profile and relationship management to Brian.

Hmmmmmmm………  Is this what networking is and establishing relationships is really about?  Maybe I should take LinkedIn’s messages about accepting relationships with people you know and trust a little more to heart.

Is this an example of the “new and innovative ways sellers must sell” that Jeff espouses.  Is deception, lack of caring about relationships, blind pitching about “buy my product,” the secret to success that Jeff, his books, and company espouses?

But again, sometimes it’s just me.  Too often, I don’t get it.  I had always thought cornerstones to selling were developing trusted relationships, caring about the value you create for the customer, integrity, and so on were important.

I guess I’m behind the times.  Suppose I ought to buy Jeff’s best selling book and get on board!

Postscript:  February 3, for those of you who have been following and commenting on this saga, I got another LinkedIn email from Jeff, I mean Brian using Jeff’s id but signing the note as Brian.

Again, it’s telling me how much they’d really like to work with me and how selling their stuff would help my business.  I’m tempted to send the link to this post, but he probably wouldn’t read it.

  1. David Olson permalink

    Two Words David — “please don’t”

  2. David — I couldn’t have laid this out better myself! I’m also getting so tired of the random connection requests. I’ve been getting a ton of requests with no message or anything, just blank invitations. I don’t understand why people keep doing that?

    I personally use LinkedIn as MY network of people — and only connect with people I know or have done work/business with. It’s about relationships for me.

    But some people just connect with anyone and everyone, and so this idea of having a trusted “relationship” is totally lost.

    But maybe I’m just turning into that old lady yelling at all the youngins’ to get off my lawn. 😉

    • Devan: I have to admit, I haven’t received the blank invitation. Perhaps it shows creativity, after all, they have to delete the standard LinkedIn invitation 😉

      I don’t think you are turning into that “old lady,” I call it the voice of reason. Thanks for the great comment.

  3. Interesting comments. Why would someone allow this to happen? Is there a monetary gain (ie. commission) that is passed along to those providing access to their network? Is the person who is directly linked to you aware that you’re receiving these messages from a 3rd party?

    Very strange,


    • Karl, in my case, the two are working together. They work in the same company, one is CEO, one is VP of sales. Why the VP of Sales isn’t communicating with me directly is strange. Why he signs his own name when he uses the CEO’s profile is bizarre. They clearly have some sort of [misguided] strategy here.

  4. Ed Herlihy permalink

    I don’t see any mystery here. The CEO is turning the screws on the VP of sales to get more leads, or else. The CEO has turned his LinkedIn profile (and probably his rolodex) over to his VP of sales in an effort to help him out. The VP is trying to farm this network, and turn the contacts into leads. I’ve been there, and had my boss try to get me to do the same thing.

    It sounds to me as though the company is in trouble, and trying desperate measures. It also sounds as though Brian and Jeff are not too bright.

    This boils down to integrity, and I suspect that Brian and Jeff are sorely lacking in it.

    Call me old fashioned, but I ONLY accept LinkedIn requests from people with whom I have dealt DIRECTLY. I must have some form of relationship with you, or you are not in. Recruiters, who seem to come out of the woodwork, have an extra hurdle, in that they must have placed me in a job before I will accept their invitation.

    • No question Ed! It is an integrity issue–and from people who purport to be experts at selling. They should know better! Thanks for the comment.

  5. The fact that a VP of sales is so desperate and wrong says alot in itself.

    These days; the title of VP is often handed out like bubblegum.

  6. Hello David:
    Yes LinkedIn is getting abused as a way for people to try and connect and gain interest in the products and services they sell in a non-targeted and, to most, I have no interest in what you have. I am old school and see the value of connecting with someone in a meaningful way and I factor in all the faceless, no value “stuff” that people send. If you focus your efforts with LinkedIn on asking for a connection with a mutual, strong relationship, then it is a better approach.

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