Master Your Inner Game: Making LinkedIn More Than A Dating Site

Tony Hughes


Ask any engineer and they'll swear to you that all social networks follow dating site mechanics.

It's only natural - after all, there's a fabled "hot girl / hot guy" algorithm that is an urban legend at this point for "people also viewed" in the lower right corner. What is that, really? Inquiring minds want to know! Some quite august thought leaders got "hot girl algorithmed" and you know you've seen it! Embarrassing ~

I'll never forget an interview where the candidate blatantly asked the CEO, "Are we dating?" Metaphors aside, there's a way to waste your life on LinkedIn and a way to create a Pay It Forward network with your best connections. My secret?

I spend a great deal of free time helping sales leaders get hired and placed around the world. Is LinkedIn a dating site? I've heard it's become so for some and hence Bumble was created where females rule!

I talk a great deal about relationship dynamics and how they relate to sales in my book COMBO Prospecting. The main theory is that you can't attract someone that you smother.

I've had COMBO compared to a sensational, controversial book that sold 2.5M copies called The Game which is about the secret underground world of pickup artists in Hollywood's Sunset Strip the mid-2000's. It's a salacious read but obviously, there are some key tenets that govern dating and B2B prospecting. By the way, Neil Strauss reformed to promote monogamy. It's an almost unbelievable read about the nitroglycerine you play with when seeking to manipulate people for your own ends or gratification.

1) Peacocking. Basically this is where a ridiculous garment is worn to attract the attention of the opposite sex. New biz dev equivalent? Pimping out your social media brand. I'm not saying you should have a parrot on your shoulder, eye patch and Oakley sunglasses but think about truly differentiating the unique and compelling value you bring to your clientele both qualitatively and quantitatively as evidenced on your LinkedIn profile. I've seen gold-embossed business cards and loud paisley ties but this is too ostentatious. Be real!

2. Showing exceptional value. In the book, these guys are constantly reading palms and performing magic tricks. That's a little extreme and ridiculous. Being excellent really comes down to taking the time to generate real insight. And this is Challenger Sales which really comes down to the analogy of the bartender vs. the personal trainer. Who do you really trust more with your money as a trusted advisor? Should you learn to be the Houdini of sales and disappear from boardrooms in a poof of magical smoke after your read minds? Probably not but pulling a white rabbit or dove out of the hat every once in awhile by showing you've walked the extra mile is major. Do your homework to understand the client's business. Read their annual report. Find similar clients you already work with and talk to the technical and strategic Customer Success people to get credible value-laden talking points to take to the prospect.

3. Hygiene: smell good, groom. Haha! This one comes down to basic professionalism and decorum. I think it's funny how many meetings I sit through where uncouth, unshaven, salespeople who look like they haven't slept since the early 80's Empire Strikes Back era slur their words disheveled and pick at their skin ever so Trichotillomania. Rein it in people!

4. Negs: Probably the most controversial piece of the book is trying to lower the self-esteem of the mark to curry interest with negative comments. Never do this in modern business.Cheap tricks sink ships. This is not only unethical behavior but what is valid is tamping down your inner Golden Retriever. Stop saying you'd "love to meet" with the CIO/CMO. Say, "You'd welcome the opportunity." Downplay your interest in hard closing. Stop stinking of commission breath. Don't let your eyes grow to the size of Roger Rabbit's saucers when he sees Jessica. You've gotta have a poker face and be principled in your disinterest.

Let's face it, hunting for new business on LinkedIn is not unlike hunting for a match on a dating site. I'm not advocating that love or lust happen here but you can seek to pull prospects toward you with insightful, relevant content publishing rather than being pushy.

The Inner Game is what all this theory boils down to in the end. High self-esteem is built in the doing. Repetition is the mother of skill. There is a bizarre trend of the sales team that never talks or meets with prospects. That's really the Spotify Millennial army that is poking, tweeting, liking, and interacting with these mediums. We need to take the time to train the next generation with the smartphone off, in person-to-person meetings how to genuinely connect and interact with each other.

Technology companies are laughing all the way to the bank monetizing the ads as this generation is not singing Kumbaya and connected in shots like this. Do you agree? Do you think LinkedIn has become a dating site? How do you pay it forward and make it count in business, networking, and life?

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Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published on LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award-winning blog. Also, visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at


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