Why Do As Many As 75% Of Outreach Messages Fail on LinkedIn?


No One Is Home.

LinkedIn announced Q3 2016 results a couple of weeks ago on October 27th. There are now 467 million LinkedIn members. They also announced 106 million unique monthly logins, which sounds great until you realize what that means. 106 million people now log in once a month or more often than that. The flip side of the coin is that 361 million people log in less than once month. Think about that for a second or two…that’s 361 million people, some of whom may log onto LinkedIn once before New Years. Many of them will show up once between now and the Spring. And many won’t really show up at all.

If you send a LinkedIn message today to someone you would really like to speak with, but if they are one of the 361 million, the odds are pretty poor that they are going to respond to your message.

Why? Because they will likely ignore it. These are people who don’t use LinkedIn very often. They don’t “get” networking. They have never seen the value in using LinkedIn regularly, and they still don’t. So messages from LinkedIn are more likely to just be ignored. This is what I mean by your outreach failing because no one is home.

  And in an oblique way, LinkedIn acknowledges this problem.  I think it is instructive that if someone responds to your LinkedIn InMail you get a credit for a new InMail to use with another LinkedIn member. How long does LinkedIn give them to reply? Ninety days. It sounds to me like LinkedIn wants to give them every opportunity to show up and respond, but they aren’t that confident either.

So you can knock on the door, but if no one is home…what can you do?

Your homework.

Before you reach out to someone, go to the recent activity part of their LinkedIn Profile and look for two things: number of followers and recent activity. If someone has 1200 followers and you can see they are active posting and responding to other people’s posts, you can feel comfortable that they appreciate what LinkedIn has to offer and will likely respond to your message. It may not be the response you want, but at least you will know where you stand.

On the other hand, finding someone with 41 connections and no activity is the kiss of death. Likelihood of this person responding is effectively zero.

What else can you do about it? Be realistic and use alternatives. If you are confident in your email abilities you can try emailing them. Or you can try  approaching the target company through someone else at the company who does look approachable.   

The bottom line is that no matter how fabulous a candidate may seem to be for your product or service, you are going to have a really hard time getting the attention of someone who is not there.

Learn to recognize low probability situations and don’t invest your time in them.  

Or Why One Skill You Need To Master On LinkedIn Is Writing Headlines


A really good headline increases the number of people that read what’s under the headline. And there are three places on LinkedIn where a headline is critical to your success:

  • Your profile
  • Your InMails (sometimes referred to as Subject Lines)
  • Your posts

You may not post on LinkedIn, and you may not use InMails, but you do have a LinkedIn Profile, so we’ll talk about that first.

Profile Headlines

The purpose of your LinkedIn Profile’s headline is to get people to read your Profile.

And the profile headline has the distinction of being the most under utilized part of most people’s profiles. Why? Because most people just list their title.

I reviewed the LinkedIn Profiles of 500 sales and marketing people. These are people who should know how to sell themselves. The results? 492 headlines consisting of the person’s job title, or their job title and company.

So what’s wrong with listing your job title? It’s a waste, both for someone seeing you in search results and for someone looking at your profile and deciding whether to read it or go on to the next person.

If you are in a list of LinkedIn search results, the following are shown to the searcher:

  • Your photo
  • Your name
  • Your headline
  • Your current job title and employer

Typically, someone will be scrolling through search results, and deciding which profile or profiles to open and read. When you use your job title in your headline, you are just saying something that is already listed there. And you have lost an opportunity to use your headline to give the searcher a reason or reasons to choose your profile to read first.

Your headline is an opportunity to sell yourself, to tell a story in 120 characters (including spaces and punctuation). A story that makes the profile viewer want to stop and read your profile.

How many words can you get out of one hundred and twenty characters? Well, there are twenty-one words in these sentences

…and exactly 120 characters in those sentences.

Ask yourself: who is my ideal reader? And what does that person want? What result are they looking for? Then imply, or flat out tell them in your headline that you can deliver those results.

InMail Headlines (aka Subject lines)

While your InMail message will have three parts – the headline or subject line (which I will refer to as the headline for the remainder of this post), the body of your message and your call to action – the headline is the most important of the three. Why? Because the greatest message in the world and most compelling call to actions won’t work if the headline doesn’t work, and the reader doesn’t bother opening or reading the message.

There are a lot of things you can do and a lot of things not to do in an InMail headline, although if you take the classic advice of keep it short, keep it mysterious, don’t give too much away and allude to someone you both know, the logical ultimate headline…

“God sent me”

…would still come out wrong.

There is no one headline formula that works every time. There are lots of ways to write headlines and you should experiment with them. Is it worth the effort? Definitely. If you send ten messages to prospects every week, improving your response rate from one to two means one new lead every week. Over a year you have added fifty prospects. Combined with a decent sales process and close rate, that’s a lot of extra business.

Remember that they can’t read it if they don’t open it. The headlines only purpose is to get them to open and read your InMail or message.

LinkedIn Publishing

There are a ton of resources out there for post headlines (just google “how to write post headlines”. See you in five hours. Maybe ten). But the fact that there are that many resources shows how important headlines are to posts.

When I write, the writing is actually pretty easy. My rule of thumb is that one of my posts takes 3 hours.

  • One hour to write. This is the easy part. I will jot down my main ideas and just start writing till I’m done. Sometimes it’s a long post like this one, but even then, the first two parts of this post were largely based on parts of “how-to’s” I send to clients.
  • One hour goes to editing, though it is usually not all in one go. I will edit a post two or three times before I publish it. The first edit is big, the second smaller and the third just minor things. This will surprise some people who I am sure don’t think I edit at all.
  • One hour goes to the headline. That’s right, one hour. I will write down three or four headlines and then four or five variations on each. Then I will start dropping the ones that are mediocre or don’t work. I sometimes end up with two or three I like and just go with one of them. I look for a hook if I can, and I look for a fit with the photo I will use. I like to have fun where I can (like today), but I want my readers to have an idea of what they are going to read.

With LinkedIn’s current notification system, a good post headline becomes more important. A good headline can make your post stand out on a crowded homepage news feed.

But like a lot of things on LinkedIn there is no magic shortcut to writing good headlines. There’s a bit of psychology, then a lot of work and trial and error and experimenting. And it’s worth it.

Why Many LinkedIn InMails Fail: Expectation Dysfunction (E.D.)

a-big-tower…and what you can do about it

Many LinkedIn users do the following on LinkedIn:

  1. Find or discover a prospect on LinkedIn
  2. Send an InMail with a sales pitch in it
  3. Never hear back from the prospect
  4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And when they assess their failure, they figure it is one of the following:

  1. Caught them on a bad day
  2. Must be the wrong person
  3. Or maybe just not pitching enough people

All of these are great reasons because they allow the sender to avoid the obvious reason:

     4)  Maybe I am doing this wrong.

And in many cases the “wrong” is an inordinately high expectation level as to what that InMail is going to accomplish. For example, you are going to need some pretty extraordinary justification to get a CEO to agree to a sales call based on your InMail message.

May I suggest a different model?

  1. Find or discover a prospect on LinkedIn
  2. Send an InMail designed to start a conversation with that person
  3. Have that conversation
  4. Connect with that person
  5. Cement your credibility and your relationship with that person
  6. Pitch that person
  7. Stand a better chance of being successful

This approach requires patience and as such, flies in the face of traditional sales wisdom and drives many sales executives batty. It is just not aggressive enough for many sales managers. Their logic goes: “our product or service is wonderful, make them see that, and they will buy. High fives all around, first round of drinks is on me.“

Being aggressive is wonderful. Being aggressive and failing? Not so much.

LinkedIn InMail is a pretty good tool to have in your toolbox. But it’s not going to turn your prospects into mindless zombies shuffling towards you with purchase orders in their hands.  Temper your expectations for your first contact. See a first message as a first step.