With over 645 million global users (including over 150 million in the United States alone), LinkedIn has become one of the most important digital tools for making connections in the business world. While many use this to grow their network or to find new job opportunities, others are able to use it to grow their own client base.
Just like with phone calls or email, a “cold” LinkedIn connection can help you land new clients — but only when done right. By using a few best practices to avoid coming off as spammy or overly sales-y, you can have better success at turning these potential connections into revenue-generating clients.
1. Use LinkedIn to research.
According to information gathered by 99firms, LinkedIn has over 90 million senior-level influencers and 63 million decision-makers using the platform. This represents a key opportunity for B2B marketers who can get these individuals to adopt their product or services.
Just like in other marketing options, researching your sales prospects before you attempt to contact them is an absolute must. Learning more about the company and the individual you’re targeting will make it easier to identify common interests and potential pain points.
Look at what the sales prospect talks about on LinkedIn to find conversation points. This will make it easier to reach out in a way that allows you to present yourself as a problem-solver so you can better illustrate your value to the prospect. Better yet, it will help you customize your messaging in a way that will encourage a positive response to your connection request.
2. Personalize each communication.
A generic LinkedIn connection request will rarely lead to the results you want. Instead, you should use your research efforts to personalize each message to encourage action. Mention something that you find interesting about the person (besides the fact that they are a potential client). Cite something specific from their profile or shared content.
Doing so greatly increases the chances that a potential connection will accept your request. But perhaps even more importantly, it will keep them from clicking “I don’t know this person.”
As Melonie Dodaro, author of LinkedIn Unlocked and founder of Top Dog Social Media warns in a blog post, “It takes only five people clicking the ‘I don’t know this person’ link in response to your invitation to land you in LinkedIn jail. As a result, LinkedIn will restrict your account, requiring you to know the email address of the person you want to send a connection request to. This will be the end of your LinkedIn lead gen and social selling efforts!”
Personalization won’t just increase your chances of starting off on the right foot with potential clients. It will also ensure that you won’t lose future connection opportunities.
3. Add value through content sharing.
Effective LinkedIn prospecting often requires that you don’t immediately jump into the sales pitch after someone accepts your connection request. Rather, you should provide value by consistently sharing content on your own profile that reflects your industry and the interests and needs of your prospects.
For best results, you should share relevant news articles, statistics or insights from your own work experiences. Don’t be afraid to share case studies about how your products or services have helped other clients! This information can be highly influential, as a LinkedIn survey found that 91 percent of marketing executives view the platform as the best place to find high-quality content.
Doing things this way provides prospective clients or buyers on LinkedIn with a more distanced, relaxed way to learn more about what it is that you offer. Furthermore, depending on the kind of content you create and share on the platform, it gives your audience a chance to — on their own terms, mind you — get to know you better. The end result? If things are done correctly, a heightened sense of trust and a more sales-centric conversation down the line about your core offering.
Don’t annoy your prospect by constantly messaging them with your content. Share the content on your own profile so they can browse through it at their own pace. Track engagement to see who is showing the most interest. Only send content-related messages when it is highly relevant and you can personalize it to the individual.
4. Plan to move the connection offline.
While LinkedIn can be a solid platform for reaching out to new prospects, it isn’t where you are going to finalize the sale. As such, you should always consider how your nurturing efforts are preparing a prospect to engage with you offline.
Depending on your sales methods and what would work best for your prospect, this means setting up a phone call, video chat or possibly even an in-person meeting.
Avoid the temptation to make this request immediately after they connect with you on LinkedIn. Instead, nurture the lead over time, allowing at least a week (or even a few months) before soliciting a more sales-oriented offline meeting. By taking your time and providing value initially, you will be more likely to get a positive response.
Cold contacting a potential client on LinkedIn can be ineffective, or it can be one of your best methods of gaining new sales and leads. By undertaking these efforts to “warm-up” the connection and form a more personalized link, you will be better positioned to use your LinkedIn profile to fuel future sales success.