LinkedIn can be a great place to find and reach out to people. If you are looking to make strategic partnerships or reach out to potential customers, LinkedIn can be a great place to find decision-makers.
That is because, unlike most other social networks, LinkedIn is a place for business professionals. This is where you go if you want to promote yourself as a professional or explore new opportunities.
However, the challenge you might have is how to do it well, consistently and effectively.
In this article, we will look at how to set a strategy, how to find people and what you could write to them to get a reply. In the end, there will be a few action items to help you get started.
Let’s get into it.
How to set strategy
Strategy is possibly the most overlooked part of LinkedIn marketing. Why? Because of the amount of spam you can get as a LinkedIn user from people who clearly have not done their homework. So if you get this bit at least partly right, you are doing a lot better than most people.
There are four strategic options for you to consider: giving something away, asking for advice and feedback, collaborating and pitching something.
Let’s break down each option.
Giving something away
Most of the time, this means sharing information that the recipient might find useful. That could be an article, a link to a podcast or a video. Information is good to give away digitally because it is free to give away but can have a high perceived value for the recipient.
The biggest benefit of giving something away is goodwill. Most people are used to getting hammered with sales pitches, so when you are not selling anything and instead are providing useful information, you can be seen as being helpful. If you are the person who made the information you are sharing, you also have the benefit of being associated with the quality of what you are sharing. So if it is good, you are seen in a good light as well.
The flip-side is that many people are sharing content. For instance, if you go to your LinkedIn feed, you will see nothing but content in the main second column.
This content is often blatantly promotional and of little personal benefit to the LinkedIn account user. So if you are considering sharing content, make sure it is useful to the recipient. If it is not useful to the recipient, then it’s not useful for you to send it to them.
Recipients are also increasingly getting used to content being a part of a larger sales strategy. For instance, you sign up to get a piece of information, and all of a sudden, you get a series of emails. So your challenge here might be to not be overly pushy when you share content.
Giving away content can be a good way to build a relationship with someone, and potentially lead to a free consultation around the content you created. So, if you, for instance, are providing website-related services, you might want to give away a website checklist and then offer an additional free website evaluation afterwards.
For you, the end benefit might be facetime with a potential customer that you can use to identify all the problems you can then offer a solution to.
Asking for advice and feedback
You can reach out to people on LinkedIn with something you are working on, asking for the person’s opinion and perspective. You might be working on a research project or have an offering you want to get to market and need assistance.
The key benefit of this approach is that it is not spammy. If you are genuinely looking for advice and feedback, there are lots of people willing to share their time with you. Often, you will find that people will be generous with their time if you get them talking about their passions.
This can also be a good indirect way to later find sales opportunities and network your way to key decision-makers. In some situations, this can be the only way to get access to high profile people by identifying and reaching out to their gatekeepers.
Reaching out indirectly like this can be a good strategy if you want to find people who can make a significant difference to your business. For instance, they may be able to introduce you to key people who could help you grow your business.
However, this is not an approach to go with if you are just looking for a quick sale from the person you are reaching out to. This is a long-term, non-pushy approach where you are trying to learn and build a relationship. It might lead to something down the line, but that is not your goal. You are looking for information and perspectives, not fast cash.
It is also important when you reach out to people for their opinions that you know exactly what you want their input on. Otherwise, you can come across as a flake and with a hidden sales agenda. Also, you will waste a lot of time—both theirs and yours.
LinkedIn can be a very good place to reach out to professionals in non-competing industries because you can easily search for people within certain fields. So, if you, for instance, are an accountant, you might want to reach out and collaborate with a financial planner.
This could be a good way to reach out because you are ultimately selling a win-win. You are not looking for a sale but to discuss a potential opportunity of mutual interest. If you have thought through exactly who you want to collaborate with, and the exact benefit this could lead to, you may find that you get some interesting referrals going both ways.
On the flip-side of this, some professionals are using the word “collaboration” to mean either getting a commission-only local sales rep or pitching for a sale. Therefore, it is important for you to share what you want to collaborate on; otherwise, the person you contact may think you are pitching something.
Also, if you are reaching out for collaboration, be clear on the exact steps you see the collaboration taking before you reach out. There might be other opportunities that could come from the outreach, but you should have a plan for what you want from it.
This is probably the most popular option. You can choose to reach out to people with a sales pitch right off the bat. It could be an invite to an event, a product or a service you want the recipient to pick up on.
This could be a good way to get leads if the person you are reaching out to is very interested in what you are offering. If there is a very good product/market fit, your conversation can be to the point and the time from outreach to close can be shorter than following any of the other alternatives.
However, the sad reality is that many professionals choose to reach out to the wrong person, with the wrong message, selling something they don’t need or want. Here is just one example of a message sent to a non-drinker not involved in the wine industry:
That being said, there is a place on LinkedIn for pitching correctly. You just need to know that there is an interest in your offer, who would be interested and why.
How to find people on LinkedIn
There are two main ways you can find people to reach out to on LinkedIn: basic search and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. In this section, we will get into how to do both and what you might want to use it for.
In order to access basic search, you need to go to the homepage of your LinkedIn account, otherwise known as the feed, where you can click the white space next to the LinkedIn logo to access the main search options.
Here, you can search for people, jobs, content, companies, schools and groups as well as hashtags.
To find professionals, pick the button “people” then click all filters.
You will be taken to a section where you can select a variety of filters.
When you have applied the filters you want, you can click “Apply”. Then the filters will be used in the search you do on the top left.
Basic search is good for simple searches and when you are willing to spend the extra time finding the type of person you are after. This is because basic search does not include any filters for seniority roles or company size.
You might like to take advantage of searching for keywords on LinkedIn because it allows you to search for people who might have shared content related to something you might be interested in. This can be a very effective way to find people who share your interests to get feedback and advice on something you are working on.
The way to do that is to search using the symbol # before the word you want to search for. For example, if you wanted information on flexible work, you would search for #flexiblework.
Then make sure you click the blue “Follow” button on top to get future updates on the search and check the thread below for people who you might like to reach out and connect with.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
To get access to more advanced search features on LinkedIn, you need to sign up to a LinkedIn Sales Navigator Professional account. Once you have done that, you will have an additional icon on the top right side of your LinkedIn homepage named “Sales Nav”.
This means that you can add positive and negative keywords to your search to clarify who you want to include and exclude from the search and filter it further by the categories below.
Depending on your needs, you might want to pick a selection of the following options:
- Geography. If you want to have face-to-face meetings, you might want to make sure that the people you are reaching out to are nearby.
- Industry. Knowing what field of work a person is involved in can be an important filter if you want to reach out to people within certain fields.
- Company headcount. How many employees a company has can be useful if you want to reach out to professionals working in companies of a certain size.
- Seniority level. This is the level the person has within the company. It’s possibly the single most important reason for signing on to LinkedIn Sales Navigator because there is an option to search for “owner”. This enables you to reach out directly to key decision-makers.
- Title. What professional titles does the person hold? This can be particularly useful if you want the search results to be more specific than the keywords you put in allow you to be. It will often drastically reduce search results, but at the same time improve the quality of the result.
How to reach out and what to say
The simplest way to reach out to someone on LinkedIn is with a connection message and a brief follow-up.
The way to do that is to go to the profile of the person you connected with, click connect and fill in a personal message.
The connection message should be short, give a clear reason for why you are connecting and ideally spark some curiosity. The follow-up message should ideally get into a little bit more detail but spark even more curiosity.
Depending on the strategic options behind why you chose the connection, the follow-up message can vary significantly. Here are a few examples:
Example: Giving something away
I saw your article on corporate waste in the IT sector. I wrote a whitepaper on how to avoid it that might interest you.
Could I send it to you?
Thanks for replying.
Attached is the whitepaper on avoiding corporate waste.
Any chance we can catch up? Recently, I finished a project saving 27 million for a multinational, and I developed a few strategies you might be able to apply.
How are you placed next week?
Example: Ask for advice and feedback
I am a Slovenian performance enhancement professional.
At the moment I am looking into expanding into Germany and have problems reaching out to Germans on LinkedIn.
Maybe you can help me?
Thanks for getting back to me.
As I mentioned, I am a Slovenian performance enhancement professional. At the moment I am considering expanding my services into Germany; however, I have really struggled with getting replies.
Since I see you are a LinkedIn professional based in Munich, could we possibly have a chat? I am actually there next month so if you are interested we could maybe even meet up.
I really need help in figuring out what I am missing.
I am the CEO of GhostWorks, where we provide virtual assistance services to busy professionals.
I had a conversation with one of your customers David Andrew that made me think there might be some collaborative synergies between our businesses we should discuss.
Thanks for the speedy reply.
I reached out to you because David Andrew mentioned you work a lot with SMEs that have problems scaling and I hear you have been a lot of help in this area.
He told me a little about the multi-tier level of coaching you are offering and I wanted to learn more to see if it might be a fit with our three-stage admin support offering. Since we are in non-competing industries, there might be a few opportunities for collaboration.
Would you be interested in having a chat?
Example: Pitching something
I am the CEO of Speedy, where we provide performance-based growth solutions to SMEs like your company.
I am reaching out to see if there might be an opportunity for us to work together.
Thanks for connecting with me.
I reached out to you because we provide performance-based growth solutions. The way it works is that we start with reviewing your business and where you want to take it. Then we will implement growth hacks on a monthly basis and charge a 10% performance fee.
We primarily focus on consultants and advisors, so I thought you could be a very good fit.
Would you be interested in having a chat?
These messages might vary in strategy and content, but they all get to the point quickly. The intention behind these messages is to get the right people to speak with you, and the wrong people to ignore you. That way, you can be more effective with your time.
Also, you might notice that many of the messages play on having at least done some research on the person you are reaching out to. This is because a person will be more likely to reply if they feel you have taken the time to at least learn a little bit about them.
Now that you know a few strategic options, how to find people and how to reach out to them, it’s time to act.
- Review the strategic options. Consider which of them is best for you and your objectives. Do this first because it will determine who you will search for and reach out to.
- Pick the best search tool for your needs. Specifically, decide whether you need basic search or LinkedIn Sales Navigator. If you are willing to do a little bit more legwork, basic search is fine. If you want to go straight to decision-makers and save yourself time, go for Sales Navigator.
- Search and reach out. Start reaching out to the people you want to connect with. Make sure you keep track of your efforts, ideally in an Excel page, so you are able to collect metrics on how well you are working. In particular, you want to know how many choose to connect with you and your positive reply rate.
Question your outreach on LinkedIn and collect data as often as possible. Your success will depend on the best mix of strategy, targeting and message. Finding that mix can be difficult, if not impossible, to do on the first try, so be open to learning before earning.
Also, many conversations can give clues to opportunities outside what you initially reached out for. Be open to them and evaluate them with your own end objective as the barometer.