Here are some dos and don’ts for prospecting on LinkedIn.


Don’t Sound Like a Salesperson

There are two reasons that make it even more important to not sound like a salesperson when communicating with prospects on LinkedIn. First, the people that you want to pursue are likely getting messages from a lot of product selling salespeople. With that, if you reach out and sound like a salesperson who is trying to sell something, you increase the odds of being received in a negative way.

But another reason to try to not sound like a salesperson is that, while you might be on LinkedIn to sell your product, the people you are reaching out to are probably not on the platform looking to buy what you sell. In other words, LinkedIn is not a marketplace where buyers and sellers go to meet because the prospects are not buyers. What I mean by that is that the majority of people join LinkedIn to network, stay in touch with friends and colleagues, share ideas and information, advance their careers, and sell their own products. As a result, when they create a profile and accept an invitation to become connections, they are not doing all of that with the hope that someone will find them and try to sell them something. This does not mean that you cannot sell to people you find on LinkedIn. More so, this is just something you should be aware of and sensitive to when figuring out what best to say when you reach out.


The Instant Pitch

One of the biggest mistakes that I believe salespeople make on LinkedIn is that they do what I call the “Instant Pitch.” This is where the salesperson sends an invite to connect and immediately after the contact accepts, the salesperson sends a product selling email. Here is an example of what this may look like:

Step 1—Invitation to Become Connections
The salesperson sends an invite to the prospect (me, for example) asking to become LinkedIn connections.

Hello Michael,
It looks like we have a lot of mutual connections. I would love to add you to my network!

Step 2—Invitation Accepted
I accept the invitation to become LinkedIn connections.

Step 3—Salesperson Sends Product Selling Message
Immediately after I accept the invitation, the salesperson then sends a product selling email like this:

Hello Michael,
Thank you for accepting my invitation to connect! We provide ac- counting services. Are you looking to change tax and accounting firms? Are you available for a 15 to 20 minute call where I can tell you about the services we provide?

I call this approach the “Instant Pitch” because the salesperson is instantly pitch- ing what he or she sells right after becoming connections. To avoid doing an Instant Pitch, create a little buffer after the connection accept with either some time or messages. You can also decrease the Instant Pitch by using a networking message that is more around starting a networking partner type of conversation similar to what we discussed in the last chapter. If you focus on using more of a consultative selling message instead of a product selling sales message, this will also decrease how much you look like you are trying to sell something with an Instant Pitch.


Don’t Make the Prospect Work

Salespeople often send a message asking a question that makes the prospect have to work in order to reply. Here are some examples of questions that put the prospect to work:

Tell me about your business.
What are you biggest challenges? What do you do?
What are you working on these days?

To answer any of those questions in an email message would take a decent amount of thought, effort, and typing. Not only is it a little rude to ask questions that make the prospect work, but this type of message will have a much lower response rate.


If You Tailor Your Message, Really Try to Tailor Your Message

A lot of people on LinkedIn will tailor their connection invitation message, but they tailor the message with a canned message that could be sent to many different people. For example, people might say that the contact has an impressive profile, but they will not include any details as to why it is impressive. Or they will send a message mentioning having mutual connections, but they do not mention any of the common connections. Neither of these are horrible, but they could be seen as canned messages that are being sent to many different people. With that, why take the extra step to tailor the message to only use a canned message that is not tailored to the actual contact? A better way to do this is to take a quick look at the contact’s profile and make a compliment or observation that is tailored to the actual person that the invitation is going to. Here are some examples:

Your background is interesting—you went from distribution to operations manager in just two years!
You profile is impressive—23 years at XYZ Corp!
We have a lot of mutual connections. You also worked with Michele Johnson?


Don’t Be “All About Me” in Your Messages

Try to not send messages that are all about you to contacts you find on LinkedIn. For example, salespeople often send messages on LinkedIn that are extensions of these thoughts:

Can I schedule a meeting to talk to you about buying my product?

Not only is this bad because it is all about the salesperson’s interests, but it is also not great because people on LinkedIn are likely not in buying mode for the product the salesperson sells. This will also make you look like a salesperson who is trying to sell something, which can increase the instant delete rate for your message.


Don’t Use Too Many Words in Your Messages

As we discussed in Chapter 18 on email prospecting, it is important to use as few words as possible in your messages. This is even more important when sending emails to a prospect’s LinkedIn inbox because emails are displayed in a very small window, and the prospect will have to scroll a lot more than he or she would in a business email inbox. This small window will make your emails look longer than they actually are, which means you need to be even more concerned with the word count when sending emails through LinkedIn.