How to craft the perfect cold message to new prospects on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for lead generation, but it's possible to miss out on some easy sales by not approaching the process in the right way. In this blog, we will walk you through the best way to reach out to prospects on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for lead generation, but it's possible to miss out on some easy sales by not approaching the process in the right way.

There are two types of messages you can send out to potential customers, a cold message or an invitation-only message. A cold message is sent to someone you aren't directly connected to and an invitation message is sent to someone you are directly connected to. Which one you should use depends on the situation.

The best way to find potential customers is by going to the "search" section on LinkedIn and typing in something like "business owner" or "small business owner" or “financial advisor” or something that describes your target audience. You can then look through the people that appear in the search and send them a message.

If you've never talked to this person before, a cold message will be more effective than an invitation-only message. 

Below are some tips that we've found effective when trying to get those all-important direct messages across.

Think about their needs first

Your message should lead with your benefit, not your product. In other words, what's in it for them if they purchase from you instead of your competitors? You can then follow up with why you're the right people to provide that benefit, and why they make the best choice.

Most importantly, don't just send a sales pitch. You should ask questions and engage the reader in a discussion. If you can get them talking about themselves and what they like, it will be easier to tailor your sales pitch to their wants and needs.

Remember, you want to become a trusted salesperson for your company. To do that, you'll need to start converting more of these people into long-term loyal customers.

For the ones that are uninterested in your offers right now, keep them on your list. You can revisit them after a month or two and try again. Never burn a bridge, since you never know when you might need to go back.

Keep it short and snappy at the start. 

The main thing you want them to do is click the "connect" button so you can send them a message, so keep the message short and give them a reason to do so. Make it clear that you are a real person and not just some spam-bot. 

Don’t bother them with tedious, generic smalltalk like asking “how are you?”, it’s so overused by salespeople trying to get a foot in the door that it raises red flags with everyone. After your initial opening questions and establishing their needs get right to the point and sell them on your product.

With any luck, if you've gotten far enough in this sales process, you shouldn't need to talk to the person on the phone at all. You can just send them links to product pages with pricing information if need be. Nobody likes unnecessary phone calls.

If you do talk to them on the phone though, keep it short and sweet and get right to the point. You're not their friend, you're a salesperson.

Be polite but not too polite.

Don't be over the top with pleases and thank yous, and absolutely never opening with “sorry to bother you” or any kind of apology. You aren’t bothering anyone, you’re trying to help make their lives easier with your amazing products and services.

Don’t be pushy.

Nobody likes to be sold to, so don't sound pushy. Look for opportunities when asking for a sale. You can sell literally anything, so consider bundling your products together or throwing in a bonus for anyone who buys right then and there.

Nobody likes a company that bullies them into buying things either, so don't send too many sales messages. Two per year is a good rule of thumb, since it's enough to stay on people's minds without being overly intrusive. If they don’t reply to your first message, give it at least 6 months before you follow up again or you risk getting blocked or reported for spam.

Keep it personal and transparent

Make sure your profile is public so they can see what you do. Don’t use a fake profile or lie because it’s only a matter of time before someone discovers it and exposes you.

While you're talking to them, try to quickly assess their personality and interests. Are they enthusiastic about your niche? Contribute to the conversation with things you think they'll appreciate; this makes it more likely that they'll like you.

If they mention an interest that you share (or feign an interest), then tell them how you have a useful piece of information related to that topic on your mailing list. This gives the impression that they are in control of the conversation, while also letting you guide it towards what you want.

What are your professional and personal goals right now? What brought you to the company you're working at now? What are you passionate about outside of work? All of these questions are great ways to start a conversation. No matter how much you think you have in common with someone, if you don't find something to talk about, the conversation will never get off the ground.

This step is important because many people might find it easy to talk about work, but often the jobs themselves aren't as interesting as the personal goals that led you to that job or the passions that come outside of it.

If you still can't find any common ground, that's fine too-- you can always try again later after you get to know the person better

Be generous

Offer discounts and deals. If you give people reasons to buy from you like personalised discount codes, they'll be more likely to purchase from you than your competitors. However, don't make the discounts so large that you're losing money on every sale.

A soft offer is something that doesn't involve money, it's something to intrigue the customer on your product so you can move them onto a sale later on.

One example is a free sample of your product. This is good if your product is something tangible like food, cosmetics, clothing, or something similar. It should be something small so shipping isn't a nightmare, but big enough that they're not getting pocketed. A good amount to ask for is about $5-10 worth of product, since most customers will just throw this out anyway.

Another less common example is a useful gift that isn't too expensive. Consider customising your gifts to the interests of the customer. If they're into fitness, send them a gym bag. Maybe they have a pet? Send them pet toys or treats. This is a good way to increase the perceived value of your product. Even if they keep the gift but return the main product, that's still a win for you.

Use mutual connections or acquaintances

Nothing is stronger at pulling leads than vouches. They are the most direct method of passing trust. Your own connections and colleagues should be your first reference when reaching out to cold prospects.

In addition to your own connections, there are other people in your life who can help you land sales. Whether it's a colleague from your last job or a family member you stay in touch with, you never know just how many people will be able to connect you with the right person.

For each connection you find, ask yourself if they'd be willing to make an introduction or if there's another way they could help. Sometimes, people are just happy to help and will offer to do something without you having to ask.

Give them a reason to reply

Sometimes, people just don't have the time to write an elaborate response. So if you want a response, give them a question with an obvious answer, or something that gets them to react in some way.

But what if they don't know the answer to your question? Well, if you opened with a question, they're likely to reply with another question-- it's human nature. The key is to come up with good questions that don't sound too interrogative.

Give them an ‘escape route’

You should always include an extra line at the end of your message to give the recipient an "out" and let them know that if they don't want to reply, they don't have to. This is just common courtesy.

You can also add something like "I don't mean to intrude-- feel free not to respond" at the end of your message. While this sounds counterintuitive, research shows that including disclaimers along those lines can increase people's willingness to reply, because it reduces their perception of intrusiveness and honorifics.

Keep track of your leads and follow them up later

Remember those people you were supposed to get in touch with? Well, now that you've messaged them once, you need to keep track of who responded and follow up with them later.

This is where a CRM or Client Relationship Management platform comes into play.

If someone responds to your message, ask for their phone number and add it to their contact information. If they don't respond, add them to a list titled "Needs Follow-up".

If someone on the "Needs Follow-up" list responds in the future, you can add them to the "Communicated With" list-- from there, you can decide if you want to add them to your phone and text them later.

If you get someone's contact information but don't feel like you have a good reason to follow up with them yet, add them to a list titled "Potential Future Leads".

If they mention an interest that you share (or feign an interest), then tell them how you have a useful piece of information related to that topic on your mailing list. This gives the impression that they are in control of the conversation, while also letting you guide it towards what you want.

This process can take some time to get right, but repeat it a few times and you'll start to see the results ramp up.

Once they've signed up for your mailing list, you need to make sure you stay in contact with them so they don't forget about you. The best way to do this is by sending them weekly emails with content that's tailored to your target audience. If you're struggling to think of things to send, you can always send them a weekly article round-up; these are generally popular and you can use tools like "Reddit Later" to easily schedule them.

If you follow these steps, you can start growing a healthy mailing list of interested leads that you can contact again and again. And the more email marketing you do, the more sales you'll make.

Be careful with links

Sending links to cold prospects on LinkedIn can raise all kinds of false alarms about your intentions. That’s not to say that you should never send any links at all but just be mindful about what it looks like on their end and test your links out on your friends and colleagues first to preview what they look like on LinkedIn.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Don't use short links. While they're easy to make and to send, most short links redirect to ads after a click or post a secondary Ask in the comments section, which is the last thing you want.
  • Don't bother with longlinks. While slightly more trustworthy than shortlinks, anyone who's ever used them knows that they redirect somewhere after a click.
  • Don't bother with tracking URLs. In the age of Google Analytics and Quantcast, no one trusts random websites with their traffic anymore. If you want to use an external redirecting URL, it had better look pretty damn trustworthy or you're not going to get any conversions.

Example messages

Example #1: with a mutual connection

Hi (name),

My name is Jane Smith and I work as a Marketing Manager at Widgets Inc. We're looking for new suppliers for some of our products, and your company has come up several times in conversations with (mutual connection)-- he says he knows you.

Since we're looking for new suppliers, I want to make sure we're making good connections with potential partners. Are you able to talk next week? I'm free Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.



Example #2: without a mutual connection

Hi Jane,

We don't have a direct connection, but my company, Widget Enterprises, has often made business connections with those who we come in contact with in professional forums such as this. Based on your profile here, it seems like your company could benefit from our inventory and services. I'm available at your convenience.

Thank you,

Bob Foster

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