LinkedIn Sales Prospecting Advice: 6 Ways to Touch the Untouchable on LinkedIn

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One of the biggest challenges in sales prospecting on LinkedIn is in how to find and contact those who are difficult to message through the site: The Untouchables.  Luckily, LinkedIn offers several tools to aid in communication with your prospects.  Though LinkedIn is a virtual trade show, there are those who attend industry exhibitions but don’t spend time on the floor or in the breakout sessions.  If your efforts until now have not allowed you to gain access to those key decision makers behind locked doors that haven’t showed up but have a profile, there are many innovative ways to reach out beyond your first-degree connections on LinkedIn and try to contact them.

Introductions:  The highest degree of success in reaching out to someone you don’t know in the business world is through a warm introduction, and LinkedIn has an introduction feature that allows you to request an introduction from someone either directly or indirectly connected to that person.  Despite the buzz about online social media marketing, B2B business is still often an offline social event.  If the key person you want to contact is a third-degree connection, pick up the phone and ask your first degree connection if he or she could contact your second degree connection and potentially facilitate an introduction.  Asking for a warm introduction the old fashioned way is by far the most effective way to successfully introduce yourself to someone else.

Join The Same Group:  A ninja tactic that many savvy sales and marketing professionals utilize is joining the same LinkedIn Group specifically to contact a certain member.  The default setting for groups is to allow others in the group to message you regardless of your connectivity status.  However, some people don’t want to be contacted and change this setting, so this strategy may not work 100 percent of the time.  It should be noted that LinkedIn recently changed their user interface so that you can no longer message someone if you are in the same group through search results. You literally must message them from within the message functionality within each group.

Monitor Group Activity:  You may be limited to how much information you can see on people’s profiles if you are not directly connected with them.  Joining the same group as these people allows you to see more of their activity and also gives you one more potential way to contact them: through a Group discussion.  While this feature is commonly referred to as the “follow” feature, you don’t necessarily have to follow that prospect.  Simply find that person on the members tab for any particular group and you will find a “see activity” link under any given name.  If that person has posted a discussion or comment to any group of which you are a member, you can now engage with him or her in a virtual discussion and build rapport in this manner.  This is a good option for those who would prefer to naturally engage in a discussion versus openly sending a message.

“Work” The Profile:  Look very carefully at the profiles belonging to the people with whom you want to connect.  If they have LinkedIn applications installed, you may be able to get in touch through those platforms.  If they RSVP to a LinkedIn Event, attend the event.  If they display their blog, comment on the blog.  If they ask a question on LinkedIn Answers, answer it.  Make sure you also check the profile for a phone number, email address, or a link to a website that may allow you to contact them off LinkedIn.

Twitter:  If you notice that your target second – or third – degree contact is on Twitter, which may be noted on the LinkedIn profile page, take advantage of the hyper-social nature of Twitter and send an @Reply message.  If you feel that is too direct, retweet their content and /or add them to a Twitter list, both of which are indirect ways that could spark natural engagement.

The Mighty InMail:  The “Hail Mary” $10 a pop InMail is really your final if-everything-else-fails option.  LinkedIn guarantees that it will reach the individual to whom you send it, and if you don’t receive a response within seven days, you’ll receive a replacement InMail.  Because of the guaranteed delivery and the need to pay in order to send one, it can be assumed that InMails generate a response rate that is greater than traditional email methods.

Unfortunately, those that are least active on LinkedIn are the hardest people to reach when sales prospecting.  Many people on LinkedIn aren’t involved in any groups and don’t actively participate on other parts of the site.  If you want to reach those people, sending an InMail or resorting to the classic networking method of calling a connection and asking for an introduction may be the best options for reaching your target person.  Before you do either of these, however, use LinkedIn to do as much research as possible to increase your chances of success.

The above is a summary of selected content from my critically acclaimed new LinkedIn for business book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing,” available at Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or iTunes.

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
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Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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  1. says

    I still find Linked-In a less sociable network media than others but I have to say it is the first I turn to when it comes to serious business contacts! I think, like all situations it is a great strategy to have a presence on all media thereby widening your availability to your audience and increasing your possibility to establish a new contact with somebody who might otherwise be unreachable on one channel! Some good points from this post! Thank you Neal!

  2. says

    Great article, Neal! For every OpenLink Networker or LION, there’s also an “Untouchable” as you call him or her. 
    I’ve been preaching to my colleagues that LinkedIn offers several opportunities for direct messaging beyond 1st Degree Connections and InMails (or the “Hail Mary” as you put it). In fact, I commend you for taking it beyond the strictures of LinkedIn by including Twitter and blog comments (here I am commenting on your post). I’ll have to add those to my list of messaging “loopholes.” Just curious – with so many “free” opportunities to direct message, do you lean towards the Basic account or do you think Premiums (with InMails included) are worthwhile? 

  3. says

    Great post Neal!

    I am a big fan of LinkedIn, and believe in all the points you’ve mentioned. I think LinkedIn is a great way to get in touch with key people in an organization, without having to go through communication barriers (e.g. receptionist).

  4. says

    Appreciate the comment Travis.

    I haven’t blogged on the topic of free vs. paid LinkedIn accounts in some time (, but I think it comes down to this:

    If you’re in sales or a recruiter, a paid account will save you time, assuming you use it daily for prospecting and searching.

    For everyone else, it really comes down to the ROI of using LinkedIn. If you use it on a daily basis, and you see business benefits, isn’t it worth the paid package to get access to some additional goodies for $25 a month?

    That’s my thought process, at least.

  5. says

    LinkedIn is a great avenue to generate qualified leads and of course highly targeted traffic. Your tips here can really guarantee higher chances of reaching the targeted prospects which will result to a real deal. Thank you Niel. Like your statement that the old fashioned way can sometimes be the most effective one. This only reminds us not to forget the old techniques that we used to do but instead use and incorporate it to make your campaign even more effective.

  6. says

    Great article. On the use of Twitter, if/when the contacts/prospects are on Twitter, using Twitter has two major advantages
    1- people publish content in Twitter which you can leverage to start the conversation (either direct or thru a comment to a linked post … like here 😉
    2- Twitter is an open platform and one can expose “active connections” i.e people that your prospect engage with. Linkedin connections are great but way too static and it is difficult to get a sense of the freshness and the depth of the connections.


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