When prospecting on LinkedIn that you want to contact, it is time to figure out how to reach out, and you have a few different options:

  • Send an invitation to become LinkedIn connections
  • Send an email message through LinkedIn
  • Send an email outside of LinkedIn
  • Call the prospect

If you see a prospect on LinkedIn you want to sell to, you may think that the logical next step would be to send that person an invitation to become LinkedIn “connections.” While this is probably the most common and popular choice for salespeople using LinkedIn, there are some good and bad things with this approach.
Three good things that happen when you become connections with your prospects are 1) you get access to any contact information he or she has added to their profile, 2) you will have the ability to send messages to this person through LinkedIn, and 3) you can broadcast updates and information through status updates that this person may see in his or her newsfeed.

The downside to becoming LinkedIn connections is that you should be a little more cautious about directly selling to the prospect. The is because an invitation to connect networks on LinkedIn is a friendly gesture, and if you follow that up immediately with an email selling your products, it can be seen as a bit rude or in bad taste. It is like inviting a friend over to your house and as soon as he or she arrives, you start trying to get him or her to sign up for something. Sure, you can invite a friend over and talk about something you are selling, but it would be best to do that after that person has been in your house for a while and not right after they walk through the door.

Converting that back to LinkedIn, if you become connections with a target pros- pect, try to have a buffer of time, messages, or conversations before trying to deliver your sales pitch. A good way to go is to try to start more of a networking conversation similar to what we discussed in Chapter 25, and transition to more of a sales pitch after that.

If you become connections with contacts, you can send messages directly to the con- tact’s LinkedIn inbox. If you are not connections, you will have to use LinkedIn’s InMail feature in order to send messages to contacts, and that will require a certain type of LinkedIn subscription level. The good thing about using the InMail feature in LinkedIn is that you can skip the invitation to connect step, which can not only save you steps and time, but you also don’t have to worry about hitting the contact with your sales pitch right after becoming connections.

Regardless of whether you send messages to the prospect on LinkedIn or not, you should send emails to a prospect’s business email inbox. This is important because prospects are likely to pay more attention to their business email inbox than their LinkedIn inbox.

You always have the option to call prospects you find on LinkedIn. For prospects that you become connections with, you will be able to see any phone numbers they added to their profile. But if they do not have a phone number, simply go to the prospect’s company website and call the main number and try to get routed to the contact through an operator or auto-attendant system.