LinkedIn Prospecting Guide: 13 Strategies for Modern Sellers to Generate Qualified Leads
Are you sending countless LinkedIn connection requests but still getting no responses?
If that sounds familiar, it’s time to step up your prospecting game. With the right approach, you can turn those connections into valuable opportunities.
Learn how to make the most of your LinkedIn outreach with this helpful guide.
LinkedIn Prospecting Vs. Cold Email: What’s Better?
Is LinkedIn prospecting better than cold email? I say yes, here’s why.
- Credibility: If you send InMail messages, the recipient can immediately view your LinkedIn profile and check your credentials. This increases chances of a reply.
- Clutter: Most decision-making executives get hammered with dozens of sales prospecting emails. Because their LinkedIn inbox is less busy, there’s a better chance of standing out.
- Deliverability: Let’s be real, email spam filters are getting smarter. Therefore, no matter how good your cold email templates are—they might get sent to spam. Another reason why LinkedIn messages have an advantage.
- Less cold calling: Many prospects are getting turned off by cold calls, especially to their mobile devices. New technologies are helping consumers block spam calls, and therefore, connect rates are taking a hit.
- Personalization: LinkedIn allows you to research and target specific profiles and target accounts, enabling more personalized sales outreach.
- People also viewed: This is a great way to find other LinkedIn profiles that are commonly viewed, enabling you to find more potential leads.
- Relevance: LinkedIn profiles can be a goldmine of valuable information about a person's professional background, interests, and connections—which help tailor a more relevant outreach message.
- Mutual connections: You can research a prospect’s mutual connections to request introductions or gather insights, which can increase the chances of a positive outcome.
What Is LinkedIn Prospecting?
LinkedIn sales prospecting is the process of identifying key stakeholders on LinkedIn within a target account and crafting outreach messages to move them through the sales process.
This is part of the outbound sales process, where sales teams have the goal of landing a discovery call.
LinkedIn is a professional network and offers tools like boolean search, advanced filters, and LinkedIn Pro, making it ideal for finding the right prospects.
Want to master the art of lead generation? Our comprehensive real estate prospecting guide awaits.
Sales Prospecting Vs. Lead Generation: What’s the Difference?
Sales prospecting and lead generation are similar, but there are a range of fundamental differences that sales and marketing leaders should understand.
- Sales teams usually engage in prospecting while marketing teams focus on lead generation—although in recent years, marketing teams have moved away from doing lead gen, and transitioned to demand generation.
- Sales teams research new prospects before doing outreach, while a lead usually comes inbound and needs to be qualified. Filling out an online form is an example of lead generation.
- Outbound sales teams can use LinkedIn prospecting tools to accelerate the prospecting process—there are plenty of Chrome extensions that can save sales reps thousands of hours by quickly revealing the contact information of target profiles.
- Lead generation entails a one-to-many approach, while sales prospecting is a more targeted strategy to interact with potential customers.
Harness the true power of lead generation through LinkedIn's networking capabilities.
LinkedIn Prospecting Benefits for Modern Sellers
Sales reps can use search filters on LinkedIn to find their ideal customer profile (ICP).
Modern sellers know better than to connect and pitch, but rather, engage with their prospect’s content over time to try and convert them later—just one of many social selling strategies.
The most successful salespeople don’t pitch their products, but instead, focus on creating demand through key strategies, including:
Engage Key Stakeholders of Target Accounts
There are over 900 million people on LinkedIn as of April 2023. This means you can find and target decision-makers in any role and company.
Reach Decision-makers with Tailored Messaging
Using search filters, you can identify target LinkedIn users based on their role in a company. Then, you can connect with them, follow their recent activity, comment on their posts and send LinkedIn messages to further engage with them.
Research Your Prospect’s Profile In Advance
Your prospects’ profiles contain an absolute gold mine of information you can learn about them in advance—including their work history, education, skills, interests, and recent activity.
By actively engaging with their LinkedIn posts and contributing to industry-related conversations, you can build a solid personal brand that can attract LinkedIn leads over the long-run.
13 LinkedIn Prospecting Strategies & Tips
For sales reps, LinkedIn provides an excellent opportunity to find and connect with prospects. To make the most out of LinkedIn, it's important to have a well-planned prospecting strategy. Follow these 13 steps to improve your efforts and gather more qualified leads fast.
1. Try Sales Navigator for Advanced Search
LinkedIn Sales Navigator provides access to more filters than a standard LinkedIn search. By using this tool, you’ll get more granular with your advanced search—enabling you to find (and engage) with more relevant prospects.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator lets you create potential customer lists and set up notifications to stay informed about crucial events that can trigger conversations.
If you’re not a fan of Sales Navigator, you can check out these popular alternatives.
2. Use Boolean Search for Prospect Lists
You can use a popular LinkedIn functionality—Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT)—to narrow down or broaden your prospect search.
There is also an option of using quoted and parenthetical searches.
- AND search: You must type “AND” to include items on the list. For example, if you are targeting Directors, Founders, and CEOs, your Boolean search would be the following: "Director AND Founder AND CEO."
- NOT search: To perform this search, type NOT before the search result if you don’t want Linkedin to display. For example, the search "Director NOT Manager" would exclude managers.
- OR search: OR operator works similarly to the AND operator. For example, to include any of the searches, you must type: "Director OR Founder OR CEO."
- Quoted searches: This Boolean operator lets you extend your search. By putting your search in quotes e.g., "marketing manager," you will end up with searches for job titles such as "organic search marketing manager," "performance marketing manager," or "growth marketing manager." When using this method, remember to apply straight quotation marks (") as curly marks (“) aren’t supported.
- Parenthetical searches: This search operator is especially useful if you want to perform a more complex search and exclude specific prospects. For example, if you're going to look for “CEO” but don’t want to end up with the job title results such as “assistant to CEO” or “Deputy CEO,” you would type "CEO NOT (Assistant OR Deputy)."
3. Develop a Profile That Commands Credibility
Your LinkedIn profile is your online resume, so make sure it's polished and professional. Highlight your experience, skills, and achievements to show that you are an expert in your field.
Use this checklist to polish your LinkedIn profile:
- Add a professional headshot: Your LinkedIn profile picture is the first thing people see when they visit your profile. Make sure to use a professional headshot that reflects your brand and industry. A clear and high-quality photo can help you establish credibility and build trust with your audience.
- Write an actionable bio: Your LinkedIn bio should provide a clear overview of your experience, skills, and accomplishments. Use specific, actionable language demonstrating your expertise and highlighting your unique value proposition.
- Contribute with relevant content: Sharing valuable and original content can help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Consider writing articles, sharing insights, or creating videos that showcase your expertise and provide value to your audience.
- Interact with your prospect’s content: Engaging with your prospects' content can help you build relationships and establish credibility. Consider commenting on their posts, sharing their content, or reaching out with personalized messages that show you are interested in their work.
- Highlight your experience and skills: Your LinkedIn profile digitally represents your professional experience and skills. Highlight your relevant experience and skills and provide examples of how you have used them to achieve results.
4. Publish Content Regularly to Attract the Right Prospects
Posting valuable content on LinkedIn can help you build a following and position yourself as a trusted advisor to your target audience.
- Post consistently: Planning can help you stay on track and consistently publish relevant and valuable content to your audience. Consider a cadence of at least 1x per week, and plan to stick with it for a long period of time.
- Research industry trends and news: Keeping up with your industry's latest trends and news can help you stay relevant and provide valuable insights to your audience. To stay current, consider subscribing to industry newsletters or following relevant social media accounts.
- Leverage different content formats: Experimenting with other formats can help keep your audience engaged and interested. Consider creating videos, infographics, or slide decks to mix up your content and make it more visually appealing.
- Engage with your audience: Respond to all comments and be sure to send connection requests to all 2nd degree connections. This is the best way to organically grow a following.
5. Avoid LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn groups died a long time ago. You might find a semi-active one here and there, but you don’t want to seem like a thirsty amateur posting content and trying to engage with group members in the comments.
If you want to reach LinkedIn group members directly—you’re better off finding who is relevant and active, then engaging with their recent LinkedIn posts.
6. Look for Prospects That Match Your Buyer Personas
Feeding your CRM with qualified leads doesn’t just happen overnight.
Forget about LinkedIn prospecting hacks—just stay focused on understanding the ins and outs of your ideal customer profile.
But don’t just get the basics like company size, job title, role, and industry. To really win—you have to know what’s most relevant to them.
Your LinkedIn prospecting efforts are most effective when you are reaching out to the right person with the most relevant messaging.
7. Don’t Neglect Future Potential Customers
Being an active player on social networks means you’ll be engaging with future buyers who are not currently in a buying cycle.
If you are spraying and praying, you’ll just annoy a lot of people. To avoid this, get to know your potential customers better before you invite them for a discovery call.
The best prospecting tips are grounded on building relationships with future buyers, so they'll think of you first when they eventually need your product or service.
SaaS sales recruiters are phenomenal with social selling because they play the long game better than anyone else.
Think about it—most people on LinkedIn are employed rather than unemployed. Which means most people are not looking for a job, or thinking about changing jobs.
Recruiters need to be digitally, culturally, and socially relevant in order to stay top of mind with future job seekers.
8. Avoid Automated LinkedIn Outreach Campaigns
Automated outreach campaigns are often generic, ineffective and lack personalization. Just mentioning a person’s company name or job title is no longer enough these days.
There are plenty of LinkedIn automation tools out there, but it comes with the risk of getting banned or blocked by LinkedIn.
Remember that LinkedIn has strict rules against spamming. You can quickly get banned if you send too many automated messages.
9. View Similar Profiles
You can see “people also viewed” on the right side of the LinkedIn interface by going to your prospect's profile. It’s one of the easiest ways to find prospects that have something in common with your existing target profiles.
10. Try Voice Notes, but Keep It Short
Consider using voice notes to follow up on a previous conversation or to provide additional context or insights that may be difficult to convey in text.
Voice notes should be concise and focused on a single topic or question. Avoid rambling or going off tangents, as this can make your message unclear and overwhelming for your prospect.
11. Understand Most Buyers Are NOT In-market
Don't assume every prospect actively seeks your product or service. Many potential buyers may not even be aware of “the problem.”
Post and share educational content that speaks to your prospect's pain points and help them understand why your solution may be valuable to them.
The point is that most buyers are out of market—and therefore, prematurely pitching them on your products and services is going to render your prospecting efforts ineffective.
12. Send Connection Requests (not InMail Messages)
Follow these best practices for maximum outcome:
- Avoid sending generic connection requests that are copy & paste from a template library.
- Personalize each request based on your prospect's profile and interests.
- Use mutual connections, as they can be a powerful tool for building relationships and establishing trust.
- Look for prospects with mutual connections, and ask those connections to introduce you or provide a referral. Offer a kickback incentive to motivate them.
- Avoid sending connection requests with lengthy pitches or requests for immediate action. Instead, focus on building a relationship and providing value over time. Once you have established a relationship, you can gradually introduce your product or service in a relevant and respectful way for your prospect's time.
- After connecting with a prospect, follow up with personalized messages that continue to build the relationship. Ask questions, share insights or resources, and offer assistance where needed.
13. Don’t Forget to Follow up
One of the best LinkedIn strategies for successful outbound sales is perfecting the art and science of the follow up. Integrating effective outbound sales tools can streamline this process, ensuring timely and meaningful interactions with your prospects.
Here’s a general schema for timing your follow-ups:
- Day 1: First follow-up (+2)
- Day 3: Follow-up (+4)
- Day 7: Follow-up (+7)
- Day 14: Follow-up (+14)
- Day 28: Follow-up (+30)
- Day 58: Follow-up (+30)
5 LinkedIn Cold Outreach Mistakes to Avoid
Getting LinkedIn prospecting right is as much about avoiding mistakes as it is about getting it written. If you want to connect with qualified prospects, avoid these mistakes.
1. Never Connect & Pitch
You need to build familiarity to increase your chances of success with cold outreach. Therefore, the dreaded connect and pitch is one of the worst things you can do.
Think about it—if someone connects with you, and it’s followed by a product pitch, you’re going to be highly turned off.
This is a spammy approach that can hurt your company’s outbound marketing motion. Instead, take the time to build a relationship with your prospects before making any sales pitches.
2. Never Treat LinkedIn Like a Dating App
LinkedIn is a professional networking site, not a dating app. Avoid using overly flirtatious or inappropriate language in your outreach messages. This can come across as unprofessional and offensive. Instead, keep it professional.
3. Avoid Blindly Copying and Pasting Templates
Popular sales templates are available everywhere—but what works for some, doesn’t work for all.
Before blindly copying and pasting that template from your favorite influencer (or using AI to generate a message), make sure it makes sense first.
Instead, use template and AI copy as inspiration to create a personalized message for your prospects.
4. Avoid Vague, Unclear Asks
Your LinkedIn messages should be clear, specific and actionable. Avoid using vague or unclear language that can confuse or frustrate your prospects. Be upfront about what you are offering and what you want in return. Don’t play games or beat around the bush.
5. Avoid Being Too Personal with Strangers
As someone that gets a ton of prospecting messages, I can promise you that prospects don’t like it when you start mentioning their family—or things happening in their personal life that aren’t advertised on their LinkedIn profile.
Mentioning professional milestones is fine, but don’t go digging into their past elsewhere. Use common sense and avoid being creepy.
The Bottom Line on LinkedIn Prospecting
Introducing LinkedIn prospecting that brings results takes lots of time and effort (and it starts with optimizing your profile).
When working on your strategy, remember that LinkedIn is not a channel where you can instantly get results. Your success here will depend on your skills to establish relationships with prospects that are natural and genuine. That’s why instead of looking for LinkedIn hacks that bring results fast, prepare for a long road full of experimentation. Over to you!
When experimenting with LinkedIn prospecting, it can be helpful to have a reliable customer relationship management tool like Close CRM to help you track your progress and manage your leads effectively.