In 2003, a new business-focused social networking site called LinkedIn was launched with the aim of helping people network professionally. At first, like many people, I was hesitant to join something unknown but, eventually, I conquered my resistance to the idea, telling myself that, since the service was free, I had nothing to lose but the time it would take me to set up an account and add a photo. I went ahead and I have been a member ever since.
Four years later, in 2007, LinkedIn introduced its Premium service, which, among numerous major and minor benefits, gave Premium members the ability to contact any member of the LinkedIn community, irrespective of whether they were ‘connected’ with them or not.
Lured into paying the annual membership fee (which was $400 at the time) by the fact that I could even send a message to Bill Gates (which I did!) via LinkedIn’s InMail service, I jumped at the opportunity of connecting with decision-makers from around the globe that could really give wings to my dreams.
At first, LinkedIn Premium offered 144 InMails per year (12 per month) to every Premium user. If the person you wrote to did not reply, you were reimbursed with an additional InMail. With this in mind and armed with the quality of insistence (something that was passed on to me by my father and first mentor, Rolando Virardi), I began my campaign of sending InMails to the great and the good of the global corporate world. On the one hand, I knew that, in most cases, the likelihood of receiving a reply was extremely slim (Why didn’t you answer, Bill and Warren?!) but, on the other hand, the possibilities were almost unlimited – in 2007, LinkedIn had 8 million members.
A summary of my first year’s results as a LinkedIn Premium Business Plus member is as follows: 143 rejections (including: “I’m not interested” and “Don’t write to me again”) and a multitude of unanswered InMails – which was still good news since, for every one of those, I was credited with another one. Eventually, LinkedIn reversed the rules, crediting you every time someone responded. This, of course, meant that I, like everyone else, had to make a much greater effort to send InMails that would really capture the attention of the recipient.
Here is where persistence comes in. It was no longer enough to send a generic message to everyone I admired, since, under the new system, I would probably use up my 144 InMail quota extremely fast. I didn’t need to pay $400 to learn that most people don’t respond to unsolicited messages. So I had to decide precisely why I wanted to connect with a certain individual or company and then ensure that there was something in my InMail that would attract enough attention to warrant a response.
As noted above, to my 144 InMails, I eventually received 143 rejections…but I also received one positive reply, which was an offer to become a visiting lecturer on “Public Speaking & Branding Yourself Online” to students on the Master of Advanced Studies in International Taxation (MASIT) course at the offered by the prestigious University of Lausanne (UNIL) in Switzerland!
An invitation to lecture on 11 May 2017 at the University of Lausanne now takes my tally to three consecutive years of speaking at the same University and that alone means that my original investment in a LinkedIn Premium account has seen a huge return.
So, if you have reserves of insistence and persistence and you can overcome your natural resistance to the idea of risking your hard-earned money on trying to contact people who may not reply to your best attempts at communication, I would recommend that you give LinkedIn Premium a try. It is slightly more expensive today than it was in 2007 (though you can now send 15 InMails per month) but, as I have seen for myself, you only need one positive reply to change your professional life.