Automation has done wonders for many fields, but social selling is definitely NOT one of those. Joining Paul Higgins on the podcast, TetraNoodle Technologies founder and CTO, Manuj Aggarwal explains why selling on LinkedIn should never be automated. An advocate of personalized messaging, authentic conversations and meaningful social connections, Manuj has produced bith DFY and DIY platforms for people who want to learn how to use LinkedIn to build relationships, find buyers and close more deals. He also shares some ingenious ways in which you can make the most of the LinkedIn Sales Tracker. Listen to this conversation for some cool, actionable tips!
LinkedIn Selling Made Human With Manuj Aggarwal
Our guest is someone who’s worked in the software industry, all of their career. They’ve worked on many projects, but in particular, Microsoft and Pearson, the big guys. He believes in the art of building relationships and supports people who are riding the trends of virtual coffees. It’s where it’s all happening. How to build human connections on LinkedIn? How do you sales navigate to find your ideal clients and how to get 50% connection, acceptance to your outbound messages, and 20% response rates? Over now to Manuj Aggarwal from TetraNoodle.
Welcome, Manuj to the show. It’s great to have you on.
Thank you. I’m excited to be here with you.
It’s a bit of a special day because you’re on my show. I’m lucky enough to be on yours later in the day. A lot of podcasts in between you and I now. I always love to start with something with your family or friends would know about you that we may not.
One thing they know about me is I’m a big foodie. I love food and I love to travel to different places. Try new cuisines, new ways to cook familiar dishes. I love that.
What are some of the places you’ve been to and the foods you’ve had some of your favorites?
I went to Europe and tried a lot of different meats. I went to New Zealand, Fiji, and they have all their traditional dishes and the way that they cook. I think in Spain, I tasted a rabbit for the first time and that was amazing. Wherever I go on a beach vacation, like the different types of seafood and how they cook it. It’s amazing how people around the world, they have utilized the local resources and came up with exquisite dishes. Using the ingredients that are available in the vicinity. That has been an amazing experience.
I certainly won’t eat rabbit ever again, growing up on a farm, unfortunately, we had a lot of rabbits and it was never optional. It’s not a delicacy. I do remember to inspire in eating a lot of things that I had to shut my eyes for a bit on similar. For you, based in Australia, it’d be a long time until we get the travel again but I do look forward to that again. I know I can adapt on LinkedIn and I might’ve missed a couple where you’ve had at least eleven companies that you’ve either worked for or contracted to. You’ve had such a vast experience in many roles. I know most of them have been around software, but we won’t go through all of them. Give me a summary of some of the key milestones in that wonderful career journey of yours.
Primarily in my software career, I have worked with a lot of startups and when I say startups, they have been two startups, which individual entrepreneurs came up with a brilliant idea. There have been startups within a larger corporation. I worked on a large project within Microsoft. I worked on a large project within Pearson Education, some government organizations. What they did was as these large companies, they see the trajectory and the growth of the startups. They want to adopt a similar methodology in how they do work because large companies can be slow sometimes. If you use the same principles that they use in the startup world you can move rapidly and more so in a larger company because they have more significant budgets.We need to have authentic conversations online instead of automating things and spamming people. Click To Tweet
The project that I worked for with Microsoft that handled their global enterprise licensing division. They had a tremendous amount of budgets. We are talking about the business unit with deals with billions and billions of dollars in annual revenue. They have a decent budget to hire a significant team and execute this project at a rapid pace. For Pearson Education, that was one of the most significant projects in terms of growth that I have worked on. That project went on for about five years. We took it from $0 to $400 million in sales and revenue within five years. That was an amazing experience. Granted the bulk of the revenue came from existing enterprise customers from Pearson Education, but to able to be able to scale a startup at that level and support millions and millions of users around the world. That was the most significant experience that I’ve had in the private sector.
What was the product? What did you achieve as a purchase?
Pearson Education is primarily a tech company. They are one of the largest publishers of textbooks in the world. This was back in 2005 or 2006, they realize that print books are not going to be the thing that will carry them forward. It was almost like how Kodak never realized that they needed to go digital. Pearson Education back in 2005, they decided that other than printing books, they also need to go digital and provide material in an electronic format. We built a huge platform for students starting from kindergarten, right up to higher education PhD levels, where once you purchase the book, you also get the material in an online format. In fact, what we noticed through our usage more and more university professors and teachers, they prefer online platforms. It provided a lot of flexibility and efficiency in terms of how they taught and also for the students in terms of how they absorb the material. We then went on and added a whole bunch of artificial intelligence, a lot of cool patented ideas for personalized learning. It was challenging, but rewarding project.
All through this time it’s you running your own business, working on these multiple projects, is that right?
That’s right. We provide technology leadership and implementation guidance, architecture, those types of things. At that time, I was working with another significant client, which is a ministry of health in Canada. We were digitizing the health care system within Canada and our province or state was the first one to take the lead within a Canadian healthcare system. Those were two major projects going on at the same time. That was a crazy time for us.
Who has been some of your biggest supporters throughout your career?
I’ve had good luck with finding a lot of great mentors and coaches. When I was hardcore into software and IT, I will say a significant portion of my bosses. They were good mentors and supporters. I take pride in the work that I do. They noticed that I put quite a bit of effort and I come up with innovative ideas. They recognize me for that and they put me in leadership roles, which paid off tremendously in building up my confidence and showing me the way, how global corporations they work with these large objectives and how they bring new products to market, how they grow the product market share and things of that nature. That was a huge learning experience across the board for me.
We’ll go into the build section and I know that we first got in contact through looking at LinkedIn outreach. You’ve got a fantastic platform and it’s something unique. When people ask you, “Manuj, what do you do?” How do you best describe that?
I describe it as we use technology to help you build relationships with key decision-makers in your industry. We have our own proprietary system that we use for networking and I’m biased, but it is unlike any other system that is available out there. We use a lot of applied psychology. We use a lot of human emotional elements when we build our technology for networking. Rather than automating things and spamming people, we believe in having deep meaningful conversations, which build these relationships at scale. That’s what we do. We are going through some unique experience globally, which has caused business travel to come to a halt and all these face-to-face meetings to be postponed. The way that we work is we take that same experience at real in-person meetings and taking them into a virtual world and building those relationships.
What do you know about building relationships on LinkedIn that many meet?
One thing I will say right off the bat is people have this misconception about automation. Everybody on LinkedIn or other social media platforms think automation is the silver lining. They are using systems like Dux-Soup and some other automation tools to send thousands and thousands of messages to their prospects. It’s obvious to see that when we receive these automated messages, we get annoyed ourselves and we don’t pay too much attention. Without realizing we are doing the same thing to others. Let’s say we send a hundred automated messages and 80% of those messages end up annoying the recipient. Those 80 people are never going to be looking at our stuff. They’re never going to become our prospects so those bridges are burned. The rest of the 20% you may get some leads out of that, but the majority of them will get ticked off. Through a little bit more effort and some technology, we have developed proprietary technology to tackle this.
If you can send similar messages, which are more personalized, which encompass more human touch and individualized, personalized approach, then all those 100 will be a pleasant conversation. Ten percent of them may not turn out to be pleasant. The rest of the 90%, even if they don’t become your prospects now, at least you haven’t burned the bridge and you can carry on that relationship down the road six months, one year, whatever it is. It may turn out to be a good relationship at the end. Using technology to avoid this massive automation and work in favor of a personalized touch is what we do differently. That’s the differentiator that has worked well for us.
Audio or podcast is always hard to visually show it, but where can people go to see a demonstration of your platform and what you’re talking about now?
We have a few websites where you can see a few glimpses of this. One I have written extensively about my entrepreneurial journey and it’s a fairly long case study on Medium. The URL to get to that is InnerGet.com. There’s quite a bit of value that I have provided, and it talks about building relationships online and all that. Towards the end of the case study, it’s almost like a screenshot of the platform that we have built. If people are interested in talking to us about using the service, then they can go to SocialSellingRocket.com. That’s a website, which is done for you service, where we help you in implementing the system. If people want to implement it on their own and get the education from the website you can go to OnlineVirtualSales.com and you can sign up for an information session there.
There are lots of platforms out there that are being tried for automation, but ultimately a lot of it comes down to that first message. What have you found to be most successful in sending that first message to get a connection with people?
The way that I look at it is online virtual interactions are similar to real-world interaction. It’s because we are talking to somebody on LinkedIn, it doesn’t mean that there’s not a real person behind that even though we are talking to a LinkedIn profile. Many times, we tend to forget that there’s a real person behind this. When we go to a party, when we go to a networking event, we don’t start pitching our services. We don’t start talking about ourselves. In fact, the way the conversation goes is, “Hello, how are you doing? Tell me a little bit more about you.” We can look at their appearance. We can look at what they are doing, compliment on something, and show general curiosity about what they are doing. That’s how we interact with others when we meet them in real life.
We need to carry that across in our LinkedIn conversations as well. Any online conversation where we say, “I checked out your profile. I was looking at your company, impressive work. Your company has been in the news.” Something along those lines, you can compliment them at their photo, or you can compliment them at their tagline on the tremendous amount of experience that they have gained in the industry, whatever it is. Generally, ask them, “How are things going?” Maybe you want to add a little bit of a context of what people are going through right now, which is this pandemic experience where everybody’s working from home. These conversations are what is going to create a genuine connection.
Once you show genuine curiosity, a lot of people want to share their views. They do want to have their perspective known to others. Once you open up that conversation, that dialogue, you can present your point of view. You can have an interesting conversation, even if you don’t agree with that point of view and say, “That’s an interesting way that you look at it but how about this? Have you thought about this? This is how we do work.” Only when that conversation gets into a more fluid, organic conversation, you can start talking about your business or services. Before that, imagine you are at a party and you’re meeting a new friend and have that casual conversation to get to know them better.Putting your ego aside will serve you well as you build new connections and collaborations. Click To Tweet
I call it the hot potato. Short sentences with questions are the best. Often, I get a message from someone I reply and say, “How’s this working, and then would you reply to this?” I’ve picked up some call ends based off that, because then I realized, “No, it’s not.” There are few shortcuts in life. Trying to get quantity rather than quality on LinkedIn doesn’t work. You’ve given some great links to go to the platform, but are you using Sales Navigator to firstly find the list of people? Give us some of your hot tips around using Sales Navigator.
Sales Navigator is the best thing. If you’re using LinkedIn, I highly recommend that you subscribe to that. Before we talk about Sales Navigator, one thing I want to make sure that people understand is the first thing, you have to do two things. One is, define your offer because I have gone through it myself, where I thought, “I have lots of experience. I have lots of talent. I have a track record. I’ll figure out what to offer once I connect with people and understand what they are looking for.” I don’t think that works well because now you’re going to have to talk to a whole bunch of people without having a concrete solution in place. Dial down your offer.
The next step is to dial down your customer avatar because, at the end of the day, your offer is not going to be applicable or useful to 7 billion people on this planet. It is only going to be useful to a small fraction of that population. Once you know, “This is my offer, and this goes well with this type of people.” Now, you can use Sales Navigator to narrow down and find the exact match your customer avatar. For example, for me, we target successful entrepreneurs. We target executives of large corporations. It’s easy for us to use company size as one of the key criteria to say, “We want to connect with C-Suite executives of companies with more than 1,000 employees.” A company with that size will be the right target for what we’re offering, which is helping them with online virtual sales, and optimizing their sales pipeline, optimizing their marketing message, and whatnot. You can tweak it from there so you can use geography. Our target is North America primarily.
One of the key things that I use is the number of years of experience in the industry. If we are looking for decision-makers you can imagine decision-makers in these large corporations, they tend to have a lot of experience under their belt only then they get to the top of the food chain in these large corporations. For me, one of the key criteria that I use is more than ten years of industry experience and that filters out a lot of people in middle management, who may have good titles, but they may not have the decision-making power to be able to talk to you, leverage your offering and services that you have to offer. Those are some of the key things that I use in the sales navigator.
Some of the filters, it’s like most things with Microsoft that you’ve had experience with and LinkedIn that they’re still a little dated. Especially the smaller the business, the more entrepreneurs are ahead of the way that they call themselves. You’ve got some CEO, vice president, or president, it means lots of things to lots of people. That’s a good idea you’re around and years of experience. Let’s say you’ve defined your offer. You’ve got your client avatar, you’ve gone and filtered people, and roughly, you’ve got 900 to 1,000 people. What happens from there? What do you do with that list? How do you start to build those relationships?
From that point on it’s like a precise target shooting, meaning we look at the contacts in the list and see which ones are going to be more likely to become our clients. We do individual research on their company on their profile. We send a customized, personalized, invite message, which not only talks about their profile, their company but also talks about a little bit about the current situation or what they may be feeling. It comes across as we’re not sending mass messages, but we took the time to understand them and also try to understand their priorities. It is not always going to be 100% perfect. What I have found is that if we personalize the messages, the rate of acceptance goes much higher. BI forgot one thing about Sales Navigator is that when you do a search on Sales Navigator, there’s a tab that says, “People who have been active on LinkedIn for the last 30 days.” Generally, if my search criteria return a lot of records, I switch to that tab because if people are active on LinkedIn, they are more likely to check their messages, their invites, and their content as well. That’s one way I try to focus on people who are already active on LinkedIn.
Do you use any specific tools to find more research about the company? Are you relying on what’s on LinkedIn and Google?
LinkedIn is good because of that reason because you don’t have to go elsewhere. A lot of information is already available on their profile. Not only that, if there’s something that is not available, a lot of people have a minimalist profile on LinkedIn. You can always click on their company. There’s a company page, which talks about what their priorities are, what they’re working on, the number of employees, and company news. These are all the materials that you can use. The thing is you don’t have to overcomplicate things. The invite itself is about 300 characters and the first message itself doesn’t need to be more than 300, 400 characters. All you need is one line, which will tell them, send a message that, “We’re not doing this at mass. We are genuinely interested in connecting with you. We have done some research.” These people are smart and capable people. All they need is a hint that you have done some research, you are appreciative of what they are doing. You are interested. That’s enough to separate you from hundreds of automated messages that they get.
Do you do any pre-engagement? Before you send the invite, are you doing anything before that?
A lot of people have different methodologies regarding that, but one of the things that I have found is that these pre-engagements at the end of the day, these are in place to establish some rapport, establish some trust with the potential prospect so that they are more likely to accept our invitation. In order to tackle that at mass, what we do is publish a lot of useful, valuable content, and we do that on a regular basis. We do not shy away from giving away the best ideas. A lot of people say, “This is too valuable for me to share free.” I, on the other hand, we have adopted this paradigm in our company that whatever the best material is, whatever the best value we can provide, let’s share it for free. That way, a lot of the contacts that we approach, they already know more my profile, my name, what we do because they have interacted with our content even if they haven’t interacted directly by liking it or something. A lot of the times when I connect with somebody, they say, “I liked your content or I have noticed that you post about entrepreneurship.” That way they already are aware of us and we can cut down on the initial engagement time and send them a request to connect.
I’m a big believer in that. I know that you know that I run a large community of helping service-based business owners on LinkedIn. I call it the three Ps. The first thing is your Profile. Most people will go and look at your profile straight away when a message comes in to work out whether they should accept or even engage. Second are the Posts. They’ll go to your posts and they’ll look at, “Is this a trusted expert? Is this someone using an outside agency and spamming.” That’s important. I call it the Possibilities of how your outreach. You talked about connection request acceptance before, what should a good outreach or an outbound program? How many people should be accepting a connection request? Is it 20%, 50%? What are some of the key benchmarks or indicators that you look at?
From what I’ve heard, this is subjective and also depends on the industry. Let’s say if you’re targeting the banking industry or targeting government agencies, they tend to be more conservative in terms of the use of technology, in terms of what is allowed on to be used on the corporate computers and things like that. In that industry, acceptance rates could be 20%, 25%. If you have done a good job in connecting with the right people and sending the right messages, it’s somewhere between 30% to 50%. That’s what I’ve seen. In your experience, what have you seen?
We target 50%. That’s what we should have. We look at acceptance rates around 50% and then replies to your messages around 20% to 25%. If you’re getting those two key things, you’re doing a great job. We’re like you definitely more around the quality than the quantity. If you do the research, you send the right message and you ask permission. That’s critical. You can get great results. Before we go into the live section, I’d like to talk about our quiz to help you work out. If you are running a profit machine or a sweatbox, go to PaulHigginsMentoring.com/quiz, and answer the questions in less than five minutes. You will be placed in 1 of 4% ranges out of 100%. Where there are gaps you are given the opportunity to have a free 45-minute strategy call with me to walk through a clear plan for you. If you’re in the top range, you’ll be invited to be a guest like Manuj on this show. The next section is the live section menu. What habits have made you successful over this brilliant software career?
My habits are reading, being curious, what a lot of documentaries as I mentioned travel is one of my passions. That gives me different perspectives on how people around the globe solve similar problems. I enjoy solving problems, unique problems so that’s one of the reasons why I shift from industry to industry every now and then to see what is going on? How they solve the problems? That is a unique experience once you see the inner workings of different industries.
What are the industries you see that are booming in these unprecedented times?
Anything to do with technology is going through the roof but in terms of niches I say food, education, information, and that healthcare, those are booming because these are the fundamental needs of humans. Anything that facilitates the basic needs as we call it the essential services these days and it enabled it through technology, social distancing, and the comfort of your own home, those industries are booming and they will continue to skyrocket as this major shift accelerates.
For me, it’s been interesting. I’m not materialistic at the best of times, but I’ve learned to live without a lot wherein stage four here in Melbourne Australia, some of the strictest lockdown or regulations in the world are in here. As long as you’ve got the technology, good food and your health are in good shape, life can be a lot simpler and a lot more enjoyable in a lot of ways. The next section is the give section. What’s a charity or community that you’re passionate about and why?
I grew up in India. It has made rapid progress in the many years, but I won’t categorize it as a first world country. There is a lot of poverty. All my charitable efforts are geared towards providing food, clothing, and any essential that can help kids there to break out of the grips of poverty. That’s what I tend to focus on.Continue learning. The more frames of reference you have, the more you can come up with innovative ideas to solve problems. Click To Tweet
The numbers in India at the moment with COVID they’re shattering I’m assuming a lot of the numbers. Have you still got relatives there?
Yeah. My whole family is there. I’m the only black sheep out of that family to venture into this world.
What’s it like when you talk to them? The media are saying 70,000 cases a day. I don’t know how much there seems to be testing rates. It seems to be much worse than that. What’s your perspective on the fate of India in the next 3 to 6 months?
India is densely populated. It is a cause of concern. That being said, I don’t think humans are different in any part of the world. People want to socialize. One of the worst punishments that even prisoners can get is solitary confinement. Being locked into our homes for months, in the end, is not something that we have evolved as a species for. People are going to get fed up and they are going to want to socialize. Now, how much precautions can be taken? How much they listened to the authorities and how much they understand what is at stake? It’s anybody’s guess. India is unfortunately going through some tough times because of the dense population. I’m hoping that as the governments take action and they provide guidance, people listen and they help themselves and others to tackle this problem. India is going to be on the top of the list just because of the sheer numbers. This problem is not unique to India. It is going to be spreading across the world, even in Canada, we are seeing a rising number of cases here.
For us here personally, we’ve gone too far the other way, but the time might prove that was the right decision. The last is the action section where I ask you some questions and get some rapid-fire responses. What are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
Personal effectiveness tips, communication is the key, make sure that you always favor over communications and under communication and checking your ego. A lot of things in life can go sideways just because you fail to take notice of it or dug a little bit deeper to get a different person’s perspective. Put your ego aside when you’re building something new or collaborating with a new team, that serves you well. Those are some of the key things. Reading, as much as you can read, as much as you can acquire knowledge. A lot of people don’t like to read it, so I will say, “It’s not the medium that counts.” You can watch documentaries, you can watch TEDx Talks and whatnot. Continue to learn. The more you learn, the more your frame of references increases and you can come up with new innovative ideas to solve problems.
Other than your own platform, what is a piece of technology that is essential to running your business?
I have a huge list. I’m a tech geek and I always try to automate things. My team is spread across the world. Tools like Zoom, Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, these are essential for us. All my team members, we have Slack, we have WhatsApp, we have email, and any other channel of communication. We have it on our desktops, laptops, and phones because in a distributed environment, as I said communication is the key. These tools help us stay in touch, raise questions, address problems as they pop up. Those are some of the key things that we use.
The last question’s the big one and that’s why I leave it to the end. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
This pandemic, in my opinion, shifted the way that we are going to live, work, and play in the next few decades. Never before billions and billions of people sat down at home and production was halted. That’s because we did not have access to the technology we have now. A lot of the countries went on lockdown in March 2020. If you notice, we haven’t missed the beat in terms of how we live. We have electricity, drinking water, and food. None of those activities stopped. If you go back to previous pandemics, the only way we could have had the life normal is by people going and congregating in workplaces.
There was no way to stop the pandemic because of the sheer necessity. As people realize that we can work remotely, things are going to shift and a lot of people are going be caught off guard by trying to do the same thing they were doing. My mission is to help people understand there’s a fundamental shift happening and there’s going to be new challenges, new problems, and how to solve those problems rather than getting stuck, not doing anything, and trying to implement all methods. Think innovative, new ways of solving new problems, and build new businesses out of these opportunities. That’s my goal.
You’re a ferocious learner and you’re also great at giving content. I know there’s the podcast, which I’m about to go on, which I’m excited about, which is Bootstrapping Your Dreams. Brilliant having you on, Manuj. You’ve got a unique way of building connections on LinkedIn and it’s the way that I prefer. It’s always good to have a peer come on and give content that’s similar. Most importantly, you’ve got a great platform that backs it up. Have a wonderful day.
Thank you for having me and for your kind words. It was exciting.
Thank you, bye.
I enjoyed that interview with Manuj. He has an amazing platform and alternate firsthand, and believe me, once you see you realize the power of it. Check it out. What is your biggest takeaway from Manuj? Please share it on your socials mentioning him. If you believe someone you know would benefit from the show because let’s face it virtual meetings and finding your ideal clients on LinkedIn, particularly outbound is important at the moment. Please share it with them. You can find out if you are a profit machine or a sweatbox at PaulHigginsMentoring.com/quiz. Please take action to build your profit, to fund your lifestyle. Most importantly, stay well.
- Manuj Aggarwal
- Pearson Education
- Sales Navigator
- Bootstrapping Your Dreams – Apple Podcasts
About Manuj Aggarwal
Manuj is an entrepreneur, investor, author and podcast host. He started his career at the age of 15, working in a factory for twelve hours a day, six days a week, earning a cool $2 per day
While Manuj had no contacts or resources, he was determined to improve his life. With hard work, his insatiable curiosity to learn new concepts – he continued to make stellar progress professionally while his personal life
suffered. He was on the verge of divorce and losing his kids.
This prompted him to go on an arduous personal journey to find the solutions to life’s endless problems.
Now, he has discovered the secrets to building a fulfilling life. He basically reverse-engineered his life journey and came up with a system
which can be applied in anyone’s life to attain whatever they want – money, fame, love, health and so on.
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