The Unconnected Person’s Guide to Prospecting on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the place to be if you want to build your professional network. There’s a ton of great content, from job listings to industry insights to networking opportunities. If you’re looking for new clients and leads, prospecting on LinkedIn can be a lucrative endeavor.

LinkedIn has over 744 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. A whopping 96% of B2B content marketers use this social media platform for organic marketing, making it the top network over Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

bar graph showing LinkedIn as the top platform for B2B content marketers

Big ideas:

  • LinkedIn prospecting is a method of cold outreach to potential clients.
  • People interested in prospecting should be active, contributing members of the community if they want to see results.
  • Research, profile optimization, and community engagement are critical to making prospecting on LinkedIn successful.


What is LinkedIn prospecting?

Prospecting on LinkedIn is a more sophisticated way of saying cold outreach.

Instead of picking up the phone and cold calling a prospective client, you’re sending a personalized message on LinkedIn.

The key word here is personalized. One of the most common mistakes when prospecting on LinkedIn is failing to establish a personal connection. In many cases, people simply copy and paste a standard message.

This poor-performing practice has given LinkedIn prospecting a bad rep. Nobody likes having their inbox spammed with generic messages that jump right into a sales pitch before establishing any rapport.

There’s a right way to leverage prospecting for clients and sales, and there’s a wrong way.


7 tips for successful prospecting on LinkedIn

If you follow these guidelines, your prospecting efforts have a much better chance of paying off.


1. Target the right audience

Just because prospecting on LinkedIn is a form of cold outreach, doesn’t mean you should take a blind, stab-in-the-dark approach.

Before you even think about running a search or sending a message, create an ideal marketing persona. Ask yourself:

  • What is my content differentiation factor (CDF), and who would benefit the most from it?
  • What kind of client do I enjoy working with?
  • What industries and job titles require my solution?
  • Is my service universal, or should I target location-specific clients?


2. Optimize your profile

This might require a complete head-to-toe update. Think of your LinkedIn profile as a business card for your personal brand. It needs to have a:

  • Professional headshot with a simple background
  • Custom cover photo
  • Descriptive job title, ideally with a relevant keyword rather than an obscure, made-up title nobody would ever search for
  • Strong bio that includes a list of your skills and achievements
  • Detailed portfolio highlighting your expertise and the value you offer (optional but recommended)


3. Post relevant, original content on your profile

One of the best ways to establish authority and trustworthiness on LinkedIn is to post original material.

When prospects view your profile, they should see that you know what you’re talking about. Presenting yourself as an expert within an industry will allow you to earn your audience’s trust, especially if you’re trying to build a following.

If you struggle with creating original content, think of the most common questions you get from prospects and then answer them in an informative way. Save the sales pitch for later—your content should be educational, not ad copy.


4. Be an active participant

If you want to get, you first have to give.

It’s a simple rule that still holds true. Before you start asking for anything, you need to show that you’re an active member of the community.

Be generous with the likes, love, and applause. Comment on other people’s posts. Join groups. Proactively network with others in your industry.

Your LinkedIn activity should not be 100% prospecting. Interactions help establish real connections and can even set you up for an opportunity to reach out later.

For example, if you liked and commented on someone’s article and followed up with a direct message, you already have a common connection. Talk about the article! Mention how much you enjoyed it. Your cold outreach suddenly isn’t so cold anymore.


5. Turn off LinkedIn’s anonymous setting

LinkedIn has a setting that will allow you to view other profiles anonymously. While that feature is good in some circumstances, it’s not as good for prospecting.

By turning off this setting, your name will show up in a prospect’s notifications. It’s yet another way to demonstrate your interest and make your cold outreach feel slightly warmer.


6. Pay attention to people who interact with your profile

Lead generation is a two-way street. While you’re searching for prospects and reaching out to them, people will also be reaching out to you. When that happens, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to engage.

Visit that person’s profile and send them a request. After all, they sought you out first!


7. Research before you engage

Your profile is perfect. You know what kind of clients to search for. You’ve been engaging with the LinkedIn community and establishing yourself as an expert. Now, it’s time to start sending those messages, right?


Before you contact a prospect, you need to do a little research on the person. It doesn’t have to be extensive. Visit their website, read an article, or pull up their latest photo on Instagram.

Find at least one detail that you can include in your message to make it personal. Establish that connection first. Then lead into your sales pitch and content differentiation factor.

If you do your research and take your time to establish connections, you can find success. There’s a reason HubSpot found that LinkedIn is 277% more effective at lead generation than Facebook and Twitter.

bar graph showing LinkedIn has the highest lead generation compared to Twitter and Facebook


LinkedIn prospecting takes time but can be worthwhile

You may have noticed that the tips in this article primarily focused on managing your profile and network rather than drafting the actual message.

That’s because those first steps are necessary if you want to prospect successfully on LinkedIn.

Which option do you think will yield better results: 20 minutes reaching out to 5 people in your industry with a genuine message and valid connection point, or using that time to contact 50 people at random with a generic, copied-and-pasted message?

5 messages may not seem like much compared to the number you could have sent out in that time, but it’s better than wasting 20 minutes to get no results.

Put in the time and effort, and high-quality leads will add up quickly.

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