This is the story of two very similar LinkedIn articles. They are on the same topic, use similar images, are about the same length, and both were written by the same person. However, one article went viral and was viewed over 30,000 times while the other was seen by 1,000. Before we begin our discussion, it would be very helpful if you took a quick look at both articles:
A comparison of these articles shows how Sales Linguistics techniques can be used to improve communication. Sales Linguistics is the new area of study on how prospective buyers and salespeople use language during the decision making process.
THE VIRAL ARTICLE EMPLOYED A “COWCATCHER”
The power of LinkedIn is the network of millions of business professionals who use it. The fundamental requirement which determines if your article goes viral, is whether or not members within and outside your network share it with theirs. However, according to my recent research only 36% percent of LinkedIn members regularly share articles and they only shared twenty articles over the past three months on average.
In addition, your article is competing with all the different types of information members share. Nearly half of the shared articles are about industry news or information about their own company as shown below.
Therefore, your article has to stand out to be recognized and the sales linguistic technique to accomplish this is called a “cowcatcher.” Most people associate the term “cowcatcher” with the metal grill on the front of a locomotive. However, “cowcatcher” had an entirely different meaning in the early days of the entertainment industry. It was a radio or television show’s opening moments in which the performers tried to grab your attention, stop, and look.
The article’s title is an example of a cowcatcher. “The Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople” piques readers curiosity and may cause them to ask themselves, “I wonder what they might be and how do I compare?” Or, they may reflexively associate the article with the landmark book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. A great cowcatcher engages the mind and appeals to the imagination.
In comparison, “New Research Reveals the Persona of Top Salespeople” is vague and more nebulous. While the wording “seven personality traits” is concrete and sets a tangible expectation about what the reader will receive, words like “research” and “persona” are more abstract as there isn’t a single definitive interpretation. In other words, the stimulus must create a high enough reward to incent the desired response, which in this case is causing someone to read the article and forward it.
Be forewarned, a cowcatcher is more than a pithy title. It sets the stage for the reader’s “receptive state” and how the article will be received. A negative receptive state occurs when the article’s content doesn’t match the title because the reader feels deceived. A positive receptive state is experienced when expectations are met.
THE VIRAL ARTICLE WAS STRUCTURED ON THREE THEMES
The three underlying sales linguistic themes that enable you to build communication momentum are your personal demeanor, your communication style, and the message you deliver. These themes are layered on top of each other in order to build momentum and gain rapport (harmonious communication).
You can think of personal demeanor as your physical presence. The viral article is written in a conversational first-person point of view. Here’s an excerpt for example, “I have had the privilege of interviewing thousands of top business-to-business salespeople.” The traditional article was written in a more sterile third-person academic demeanor, “They’ve been in sales an average of sixteen years and have achieved the annual quota that was assigned to them 88 percent of the time.”
The communication style the viral article employed was a “Belief System” strategy based on introducing an explanation and its associated impact. This in turn, causes the reader to make an assessment if they agree or disagree. Because the reader seeks to validate their own beliefs, the article pulls the reader to the next point regardless of their answer.
The communication style used in the traditional article was a “Top Down” strategy that is more consistent with formal research-based writing. This approach breaks heavier content into smaller chunks that are read sequentially. Unfortunately, attention spans are at an all-time low and casual readers are inclined to drop out of these types of writings.
Why do LinkedIn members share articles? According to my latest research, the top two reasons are the topic is something the member is passionate about and the article makes the person appear more knowledgeable to their network. Therefore, we can surmise the article has to be personally and professionally meaningful in order to be shared.
The Top Five Reasons LinkedIn Members Share Articles
- The topic is something I am very interested in or passionate about
- The article makes me appear more knowledgeable or builds my status
- I think my connections would benefit from the article
- The article validates an opinion or belief of mine
- The article is thought provoking or offers a contrarian point of view
All words have something in common. In order to be understood they must be translated into something meaningful: familiar thoughts and terms. The viral message used a “General Statement” with “Operators” messaging structure to increase significance and personal meaning. The general statement identified below introduces the concept to the reader. The operator helps the reader assimilate their own personal interpretation and introspectively apply the ideas.
Even though both articles were about the subject of top salesperson performance, they were written for different audiences and for slightly different purposes. The viral article was written for a mainstream audience consisting of salespeople and sales leaders. The traditional article was targeted toward sales enablement professionals and company leaders who are always interested in the latest sales research. My goal for writing both articles was to continue to build my personal brand on LinkedIn as a sales expert, author and researcher. So, I’d like to end this article by asking, “How are you building your brand on LinkedIn?”
About the Author: Steve W. Martin is the author of the Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics: 101 Advanced Sales Call Strategies for Senior Salespeople. The Heavy Hitter sales training program has helped over 100,000 salespeople become top revenue producers. Steve is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and he teaches at the University of Southern California Marshall Business School MBA program. Visit www.stevewmartin.com to learn more