6 tips for writing the perfect LinkedIn cold outreach message

Remember what it was like to be a kid on the first day of school, and you didn’t know anyone in your class?

You had two choices: approach the other kids and try to make new friends, or sit by yourself at lunch every day.

Outbound sales is a lot like that. You hardly know anyone you’re trying to sell to, and you can either make an effort to get to know them…or you can completely miss your quota. So what’s it going to be?

When I was first starting out in sales, I hardly knew anything about communicating with inbound leads, let alone prospecting for outbound ones. But it didn’t take long before I overcame my fear and realized that being a successful salesperson depends on initiating conversations. Just like making new friends at school, if I wanted to generate interested outbound leads I needed to put myself out there.

Fortunately, today’s outbound sellers don’t just have to rely on cold calling off a lead list anymore. Among the many tools used in modern social selling, LinkedIn can be particularly powerful because it allows you to connect one-on-one with potential customers in a way that you couldn’t before.

Since not everyone publicly lists their work email address on their company websites, it can be hard to find direct contact information for every person you want to reach out to. This makes LinkedIn a great backup option when you’re running into a wall trying to find a potential buyer’s email address or phone number. LinkedIn also features instant messaging and shows when your connections are online, allowing you to have more personalized, real-time conversations with your leads.

While it may be easy to find prospects on LinkedIn, things get difficult if you don’t have a playbook for messaging them. Here are my six best tips for how to use LinkedIn cold outreach messages to start sales conversations.

But before we start…

Keep in mind that if you want to directly message LinkedIn users that you’re not already connected with, you will need to be a LinkedIn Premium user or purchase InMail credits. Of course, any LinkedIn member can include a message with a connection request for free, but those messages are limited to 300 characters, and the recipient can decline your connection request without ever reading your message. (Some people don’t like to be bothered by strangers, go figure.)

So if you want to fully utilize LinkedIn messaging in your sales outreach, we highly suggest upgrading to LinkedIn Premium so that you can take advantage of all of the messaging capabilities available on the platform. If you are trying to utilize the website to prospect for outbound leads, a LinkedIn Premium account is almost essential.

Now, let’s work through cold LinkedIn outreach together.

1) Find common ground

The key advantage of LinkedIn as an outreach channel is the amount of relevant information you can find about a person’s job role, work history, educational background, and interests. When you find a potential customer on LinkedIn and you want to connect with them, the first thing you should do is scan through their profile to find some common ground between yourself and the person you’re messaging.

If the person is active on LinkedIn, read what they are sharing and interested in. Take note of their current position, how long they’ve been with their company, their past professional experiences, and which LinkedIn groups they belong to, and try to find some commonalities between yourself and the lead. Are you from the same area? Did you attend the same university? Do you know anything special about their industry? What about their profile do you find interesting?

Whatever you find in common between yourself and the potential lead, keep that in mind when crafting your first message to them so that your first touch is targeted, personal, and relevant. Don’t just copy and paste the same message to every single lead. Instead, use what you learned from their LinkedIn profile to personally tailor your message to each individual, so they know you actually paid attention to their profile.

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2) See if a mutual connection can introduce you

Next, figure out if you have any connections in common with your potential buyer. It’s often easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger if there’s someone else who can vouch for you. So, if you have mutual friends or a former coworker in common (and you feel comfortable doing so), try asking one of your shared connections to introduce you. Your mutual connection could start a group message and share how they know each of you. After that, you can message the lead individually.

Another, more traditional approach is to simply mention your mutual connection in your first message to the lead. You can start your message by writing something like this: “Hi [first name]! I noticed you and I are both connected to [name of mutual connection] and I thought I would reach out to connect with you as well. Where do you know [name of mutual connection] from, anyway?”

3) Keep it short

Think of LinkedIn messaging as instant messaging, not emailing. That means not sending paragraphs of text when a few concise sentences will do.

As with cold emails or voicemails, the length of your message has a significant impact on whether or not the lead will reply. Your goal in your first cold LinkedIn message is to get the recipient to respond. That’s it. So keep your message short and to-the-point so your recipient actually reads it.

It can be very challenging to keep your LinkedIn messages short while still conveying warmth. Don’t be blunt or abrasive. Instead, focus on how you came across their profile, what you have in common, or what about their experiences interests you.

4) Save the selling for later

In any form of cold outreach, asking for a sale in your first message is a deadly sin. If you need to beg a stranger to buy your product, it sends the message that you aren’t successfully drawing in customers, and your product probably isn’t very worthwhile.

So as you introduce yourself to potential buyers on LinkedIn, keep reminding yourself that your goal isn’t to push your product or service, it’s to make a connection and start a conversation.

5) Give them a reason to reply.

If you received a message from a stranger, you probably wouldn’t be inclined to respond unless they gave you a good reason, right? While your initial contact should focus on establishing a relationship instead of selling, you do want to include some sort of ask to keep the conversation active.

Include a question at the end of your message that will give the prospect a reason to respond. This could be a question about their experiences, interests, a mutual connection, or even their occupation or position. Ask them something that only someone in their position would know. People love being helpful, so asking a prospect for their insight or expertise on a certain topic might make them more inclined to respond.

6) Keep track and follow up

You probably aren’t reaching out to only one lead at a time on LinkedIn, so it’s important for you to keep track of the leads you reach out to, and follow up with them if they don’t reply right away. (A CRM can help you keep track of each person you reach out to and the dates you reach out to them, so that you don’t forget to check back in.)

Now that we’ve covered some best practices for connecting with potential buyers using a LinkedIn cold outreach message, here are two sample messages you can try out yourself:

Example #1: LinkedIn cold outreach message with a connection in common

Hi {{first name}}! I noticed we’re both connected to {{name of mutual friend}}. How do you know {{him/her}}? I also checked out your profile and saw that you and I both {{went to the same school, are from the same area, are interested in the same topic, other commonality, etc.}}. Judging from your role at {{company}}, we might be able to help each other out. Let me know if you’d like to connect sometime and talk shop. Take care!

Example #1: LinkedIn cold outreach message without any connections in common

Hi {{first name}}! I came across your profile after seeing your post about {{topic they posted about}}. Interesting stuff…what’s your take on {{related topic}}? I’m trying to learn more about your industry these days—I sell {{product/service}} to {{business type}} businesses—and it seems like everyone I talk to has a different opinion. Care to share some wisdom with me? P.S.: I had a friend who worked at {{company}} too back in the day. How did you like it there?

Got any pro tips of your own for prospecting on LinkedIn? Tweet them to us @nutshell!

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