How I Prospect Effectively Using LinkedIn

The road to better prospecting

First though, how not to prospect on LinkedIn.

  • Search and find a person who could be a prospect for your product or service.
  • Send them a connection request.
  • If they accept, pitch them.

This does not work for any one of multiple reasons:

  • You have not established your credibility as to why they should listen to you.
  • You have not established that they are really a candidate for your product or service.
  • You have not established if they are in the market for your product or service now.
  • And worst of all, everybody else is doing it.

Connect and pitch is a stale sales tactic that is considered spam. In many cases your prospect won’t even finish reading your message.

And now that you have established yourself as a crappy salesperson, you will not be welcomed again.

The second way people prospect on LinkedIn these days is:

  • Use an automated tool to do the search, make the connection request and send the followup message.

This does not work for all of the same reasons as method number 1, plus the following:

  • A lot of people will recognize that you are using automation in your messages, and decide they do not like being just another line on a spreadsheet.
  • And there is always the chance that LinkedIn will detect you are doing this, and ban you from using LinkedIn.

So what does work?

I have had success with a seven step process as follows:

1) Find prospects using an effective LinkedIn search

The key here is the word “effective.” Anyone can run a search for “Managers” in a certain geography, but adding nuance to the search by using all the filters that apply to your prospect – industry and job title are key ones – will yield much better results.

Better search results will yield fewer false positives and a better probability that you have the right people on your target list.

This takes very little effort, just a fundamental understanding of what filters are available and understanding when and how to apply them.

Now we head off the beaten path and into the woods. The next four of the following five steps are largely ignored by salespeople using LinkedIn. But if they did pay attention to them, my results suggest their sales would improve.

2) Research

As research takes time, most salespeople would rather leave it out. But I maintain that because research is largely ignored or avoided, it can be twice as effective. This is basic stuff – reading profiles, figuring who is who at the target company, and reading and analyzing the target’s company page and posting. Buried in these places are a ton of clues and information you can use in your outreach and your initial conversations with your prospect. Information that shows you respect them and their time and that you have done your homework on them.

3) Plan the outreach

Planning the outreach means not just blindly charging ahead with an InMail or a Connection Request. If I can see someone does not use LinkedIn that much, both of those methods are very low probability, regardless of how good my messaging is. What is my strategy then? Use email first then a connection request second? How about the other players at the target company? Do I have options for getting an introduction or a referral? Maybe I would have a higher probability with them for outreach on LinkedIn. The idea here is to map out my strategy: who to contact, in what order, using what means will likely be the most effective.

4) Engage

This is where the messaging, connection request, or email occurs. It will lean heavily on the research I have done and will follow my outreach plan. The message has one goal: arouse their curiosity enough that they will want to speak with me and learn more.

5) Establish credibility

This is the next thing I need to do once I have gotten a response. I need to establish my credibility with the person. In many cases I will have planted a seed in my outreach message that gives me a bit of credibility. But the bottom line here is that without credibility, this person will not be interested in speaking further.

6) Discovery and Sell

Yes, now. But not till I have completed steps one through five.

I have found that once I have my search results, I can send four or five fully researched, personalized outreach messages that establish my credibility in an hour. Sending four or five messages may not sound like much, but I get a 65% response rate to these types of messages. That means my prospecting generates an average of three conversations with prospects for every hour I put in. People that want to speak with me. This is a repeatable process that works.

You get out in direct relation to what you put in. You put in automation or lazy connect and pitch and you get lousy results. You put the time and effort in and you get outstanding results. Better process, better outcomes.

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

Matching Your LinkedIn Activity To Your Needs

Need: stay alive. Suggested activity: stay away from the leopard’s tree

Many people using LinkedIn wonder why they are not more successful in using it to find and land customers. They think, “I’m using LinkedIn. My customers use LinkedIn. Why don’t I have more customers?”

The usual issue is that most people’s goals are too broad or generic, “I want more customers” being the big one.

But people need to be aware of you in the first place, they need to see you as a viable option, then you need to sell them on your product or service. You can be a great a salesperson with a great product or service but if people don’t know you exist or see you as someone they should be considering, you are going to have a tough time.

In assessing how you should be using LinkedIn for your unique situation, you first need to look at where the holes are in your sales and marketing. What needs fixing or improving?

  • I need more people aware of me or my company
  • People are aware of me but I can’t get and hold their attention
  • I have lots of real prospects, but don’t start the number of conversations I need to in order to make my numbers

All of this is preamble to today’s topic: matching your LinkedIn activity to your specific needs. I am going to talk about the types of things you could be doing to solve these three fundamental problems: awareness, credibility and starting conversations.

“Awareness” (aka Reach)

Here’s my definition of awareness: Having someone realize that you are a player in the industry that may be able to help someone solve their problem. That’s it.

What type of LinkedIn activity works to help you increase awareness?

  • Publishing, especially posts. Posts are easy and quick conversation starters. And LinkedIn likes conversations. LinkedIn rewards posts with lots of comments by exposing your post to new people. This goes for both individual’s post and company page posts, but individual posts work better as we tend to have more connections and followers to work with than our company pages do.

What to look for: a healthy number of comments. You will know you are doing well if someone comments on your post and that comment brings in more people, resulting in numerous little sub-threads in your comment stream.

  • Newsletters and articles can work here too, but if your goal is purely Reach, I think posting is faster and easier. I could come up with three to five posts in the time I write one newsletter.
  • Participating in other people’s posts. Avoid likes and avoid sharing. These work poorly. Comments are the way to go. When you comment on a post, LinkedIn regards your comment as a vote that the post is relevant and worthwhile. The result is LinkedIn increases the distribution of the post to more people which means more exposure for you.

Make sure your comments have value and add to the overall discussion. Things like “I like this post” or “I couldn’t agree more” sure aren’t going to make you stand out. But something like an anecdote which relates to the post and adds value to the conversation will.

You will know you are doing this well, if you start getting people – that is, the author and others – commenting and replying to your original comment.

“Consideration” (aka Credibility, Thought Leadership)

Here’s my definition of Consideration: establishing yourself as someone a prospective client knows they need to consider when evaluating a product or service like yours.

Your goal is to establish yourself as an expert in your field, someone who has the answers to your prospect’s questions and someone who should automatically have a seat at the final table when vendors are being considered.

In this stage, the prospect:

  • realizes they have a problem and are wondering what they can do about it
  • they are gathering all the info they can
  • they start looking at all the possibilities
  • they want to know what others are doing
  • they will want to talk with resources that have a broad level of knowledge into what is being done in different places and how well those things are doing.

What you need to do: this is where you establish yourself with them. You need to establish that you have helped others with the same or similar problems.

What can you do on LinkedIn to establish your credibility?

  • Publish articles or newsletters. These can be individual or company page based. Articles have big advantages over posts as far as credibility is concerned. They have more formatting options, they are indexed by Google and can be found online, and they are attached to your LinkedIn profile, forming a body of work that a person finding you can reference. Every week I get someone saying they went down the rabbit hole and spent two or three hours reading articles of mine that they found via my LinkedIn profile.

In particular, publishing information that answers the questions your prospects have, and showing how you have helped people and companies with similar problems in the past, will help establish you as an expert in your field.

  • Have recommendations and testimonials on your LinkedIn profile

Starting Conversations aka Leads

So, people are aware of you, and you have credibility with them. What types of activities on LinkedIn can help you start conversations with these people?

  • Being Open Profile. If you have a Premium LinkedIn account, you can designate yourself as Open Profile, meaning anyone on LinkedIn can send you a message for free.
  • Inviting people to contact you. Yes, it can be that simple. Does it work all the time? Of course not. But if you encourage people to contact you, some of them will.
  • Intelligent Outreach. Reviewing the engagement your publishing receives on LinkedIn, that is the reactions, comments and shares plus new followers and profile views, over time you will see the same people showing up. These are people who you have credibility with, so contact them.

To contact these people you can do it via InMail if you have Premium LinkedIn subscription, or by using the Open Profile or Group Messaging hacks. Or, you could just ask them to connect on LinkedIn.

In summary, match your LinkedIn activities to your needs. Then measure, test and repeat. These ideas and methods work. They have for me and my clients over the past twelve years.

Want more like this? I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

ChatGPT & LinkedIn – The Good, The Bad, and the Questions  

When ChatGPT decides that it is more efficient running the railroad right through the center of town.

We have all seen the wild headlines: 

“I fired my marketing dept and replaced five people with ChatGPT”

“We made up a fake person and she got admitted to an Ivy league School”

Does ChatGPT deserve all the hype?

What does it really mean? 

And how can we use it on LinkedIn? 

What is ChapGPT?

We have lots of AI in our lives already 

  • Photo apps store our photos and recognize and archive things like places, faces, and things so that you can search in your photo archive for “car” or “beach”, your photo app will pull them up. 
  • Netflix archives what you watch, how long you watched it, your likes and dislikes, and comes up with recommended lists tailored to what it perceives are your tastes.
  • Siri and Alexa recognize speech, convert it to text and can answer questions
  • Automobile Navigation Apps use AI to analyze moving traffic and interpolate user reported data like accidents to predict travel time

Here’s how ChatGPT differs from other apps:

  • a tool to search for relevant information, 
  • refine that information 
  • and turn that information into content
  • ChatGPT is designed to do this by carrying on an ongoing conversation

ChapGPT is free, though there is a premium service launched February 1 called ChatGPTPlus that promises better access and a few other features.

Google is coming out with its competitive offering called Bard. Bard promises more nuanced responses, showing both sides of an argument for example.

As Bard will use whatever info is on the web, it will be more up to date than ChatGPT

And Microsoft now is coming out with “Bing with AI” which – according to Microsoft – will be a much more powerful chat oriented search than ChatGPT itself. 

The Good About ChaptGPT (On Face Value)

It’s fast

It’s easy to get started

The results are astounding

But Then You Start Seeing The Limitations

The current version only uses data it was “trained on” through 2021. So don’t expect it to take into account events or discoveries made in the last fourteen months. 

Unlike a search engine, it just doesn’t take what it finds and cut and paste it in the results, or just show you a link, but distills what it finds into its own version. In this sense it is original, but the downside is it is only going on what it finds, and it may interpolate info from different sources

It can be wrong and I mean really wrong. Note that both Microsoft and Google when they announced early versions combined with search on Feb 8 both had huge disclaimers about whether results were correct or biased. 

And Unanswered Questions

There is talk that ChatGPT will watermark it’s work so that detection will be easy

There are already companies developing apps to detect ChaptGPT or assign probability that AI was used in content generation

At present, anything you create on ChatGPT belongs to you. ChatGPT confers all rights to that info to you. That could change. 

If you use the ChatGPT to write a post, are you ethically required to say so in the post?

There are also possible issues with plagiarism. You don’t necessarily know where ChatGPT got its source material. 

What Does This Mean For Content On LinkedIn?

Anyone can create content, though the “create” is open to interpretation.

Content will now be cheap. It will potentially flood places like LinkedIn. 

Many of the use cases I have seen seem ridiculous: 

  • For example “how to use chat GPT to write your LinkedIn Profile About Section.” What follows are seven steps involving a lot of cutting and pasting into ChaptGPT and then you are instructed to proofread the result and personalize it. All this for 200 words? 
  • I have already seen one company whose plugin will comment on other people’s posts for you. The comments are generic, and kinda dumb. (“What a great idea! I can’t wait to read your next post on this!”). I have already seen one person who appears to be using this approach. It was easy to figure out as all the comments looked alike – one sentence, one capability of ChatGPT and just…boring.
  • Other use cases are incredibly time consuming: you instruct ChatGPT to write a 300 word post, then get it to write two more versions. Now you – that is you personally – combine the best parts from each of the three to get your final post for publishing. That sounds like way more work to me than just writing a 300 word post.  
  • Writing posts. So a company may get rid of their writers, but then just have to turn around and hire re-writers and editors. Anything ChatGPT writes must be reviewed and edited.

We Also Don’t Know What LinkedIn Will Do

How will LinkedIn treat content that comes from ChatGPT? An interesting question. If ChatGPT helps generate more content that LinkedIn users want to see, great. But if ChatGPT is used to blindly generate content and swamps our LinkedIn feeds…not so great. 

You can bet that Linkedin will figure out how to detect AI generated content or at least make educated guesses. If LinkedIn winds up swamped with mediocre content, you do not want to be one of these companies that LinkedIn detects, as the result will be less distribution of your content.

Your content will have to be outstanding to rise above the crowd. 

Even if you want it to write posts, those posts should be carefully proofread. Remember these are going out under you or your company’s name. 

Okay, So What Are The Use Cases On LinkedIn?

I see three good uses, and a possible fourth.

1) For content ideas – “write and article giving me ten examples of how ChatGPT can be used on LinkedIn”

2) or content optimization – “give me ten variations on a headline for this article”

3) expanding content or contracting it. ChatGPT can turn a 100 word paragraph into a 200 word paragraph[p, or into a one sentence summary. 

4) possibly repurposing old content. I originally thought this was a good one until I did some experimenting with some old content from a customer. The revised ChatGPT versions were not usable or even reworkable. Maybe I need to refine my instructions more effectively, so the jury is still out on whether it’s me or ChatGPT that is the problem here. 

But the first three are good use cases, for generating ideas and alternative ways of getting them across. I think ChatGPT’s best use is overcoming writer’s block. 


ChapGPT represents a change. The popular line will be that it democratizes writing. While true, I think that it will democratize mediocre writing. LinkedIn will likely get flooded with mediocre content. That represents an opportunity for people writing good content that people want to read and that people find engaging. So use ChapGPT to help you come up with ideas, but then do the writing yourself. The one thing ChatGPT can’t do is speak with your voice.

Oh and those five people that were laid off back at the start of this article? I heard they got hired to replace the admissions people that an Ivy League School fired for admitting fake people.