If you never ask, you'll never know. That's the mantra that most cold messengers and callers use to reach out to those that they don't know in anticipation of a great new lead or opportunity. But on LinkedIn, cold outreach could hurt your reputation as much as it could help, especially if you're not abiding by certain expectations people have when they use the platform.
That said, salespeople don't often wait for permission before reaching out and trying to contact potential leads, and if you're sitting around until you get an invitation to reach out you could be waiting for a long time, if you ever get the chance at all. That's why it's often best to reach out to those with whom you'd like to strike up a conversation, especially when there's so much potential there.
However, cold messaging on LinkedIn isn't exactly encouraged by the company. You may have been able to message just about anyone with any message in years past, but they've since cracked down on so-called cold messages on the LinkedIn platform, particularly if you have no prior connection to the recipient.
What To Avoid in Your LinkedIn Messaging
While LinkedIn was created for workers at different companies to communicate with each other, abuse of this function has led to certain changes on LinkedIn, as well as in the behavior of LinkedIn users. Messages that have confusing or opaque subjects may not even receive a look, and the same goes for a message that looks like it was sent to many users, not one in particular.
Other reasons that your LinkedIn cold message may go unread or won't elicit a response has to do with what you have to say, or whether your message follows spammy techniques that may be flagged by the in-house spam fighting system. But, keep in mind that you're cold messaging on LinkedIn, and no one is required to read or respond to your message. It happens, and the best thing that you can do is to try and learn from it and move on.
Optimize Your Profile
Before you think about sending that cold message, it can be useful to optimize your LinkedIn profile. Your profile is how you're seen in the LinkedIn community, and if it's lacking a professional looking photo or it doesn't look like you spend time on the platform, you won't likely get any responses. You'll need a great bio and an attention-grabbing headline, as well as an honest work history and your current affiliations.
Endorsements, skills and accomplishments are also important, which can help signal your professionalism to your recipient, increasing the chance of a successful interaction. Don't forget your all-important contact information if they decide to reach out via email or phone -- they may decide not to message you back via LinkedIn.
Appeal to Commonalities
If you're cold messaging on LinkedIn, you'll need some kind of "in." Via your recipient's profile, you'll know a little bit about who you're contacting, and you can use that to find some kind of common ground. If you see any mutual interests, or if you happen to share the same alma mater or work history as your recipient, that can be a great opportunity to introduce yourself before going in for the pitch.
On the other hand, if you don't bother to establish the relationship before you jump into your pitch, you could run the risk of alienating your audience right when you should be building the relationship. Even if you manage to get them to open your message, they'll be turned off by your approach, and that can start to work against your professional reputation.
Short and Sweet, Not Long-Winded
If you want to have any success in cold messaging on LinkedIn, it's best to keep your messages short and sweet. Everyone's busier than ever these days, and a 5,000-missive will do more to turn off your audience, even if your message is heartfelt and sincere. Furthermore, most people simply won't have the time to read your message, so keeping it succinct is ideal.
If it helps, think of LinkedIn messaging as an instant messaging platform, not an email client. Keep those long-winded messages for your family and friends or for making an important case at work, not for developing your relationships. Better yet, a short message encourages a back-and-forth discussion, particularly if you ask a question, and that can be more valuable than hitting them with a request up-front.
Don't Lead With Your Pitch
It goes without saying, but one of the most important rules of cold messaging on LinkedIn is to establish a relationship before you start in with your pitch. That means a back-and-forth or creating some kind of rapport prior to the real reason you're reaching out. Countless LinkedIn message examples support this short-and-sweet approach, and keeping it simple will allow your lead to respond and continue the conversation.
Additionally, burying your pitch in a future message can help your lead feel more comfortable with the connection, rather than sending them in search of a way out -- or even being non-responsive. At best, you may waste some time getting to know you new contact, but you can't always force the issue.
Give Them a Reason to Reply
The number one error most people make in their cold messaging on LinkedIn is not giving your lead a reason to respond. That's why you should always ask a question at the end of your messages, even if it's not the endgame you have in mind. A question or prompt allows them to speak about themselves and their role, and it's also one of the best ways to show people that you're interested in them, not just some pitch.
Once they're invested and you've gone back and forth, then you can follow up with the real reason for your contact. However, resist the urge to awkwardly jump right in. Your leading questions and initial reach-out should naturally flow into your ask, and that will help you stay on the right side of things and avoid committing some kind of LinkedIn faux pas.
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