Aug 18 / Matt Saunders

How to Do Cold Outreach On LinkedIn

See real life examples of how to book calls and make sales on LinkedIn, right from your inbox.

Do you want to start cold messaging people on LinkedIn, but you don't know what to say? Maybe you've sent a few messages in the past, but you haven't gotten any replies. If so, this article is for you.

In the past 3 years I've tried dozens of different types of cold outreach messages. I've been ignored a lot and even blocked by a few people.

But thanks to my relentless persistence and willingness to iterate my approach, I can now start conversations to reliably book calls and make sales on LinkedIn, direct from my inbox.

It's been a battle. But that is what makes the knowledge I'm about to share even more valuable. Because it is first-hand. So much of what we read online these days is recycled advice from people who've never done it. Well, I have, and I have the scars to prove it 😅

Let me get right to it by giving you specific examples of what to say in a cold outreach message.

How to do outreach on LinkedIn

There are broadly four strategies that I have used on LinkedIn to begin conversations:

  • Comment → message
  • Poll → message
  • Connection → message
  • Hand-raiser → message

Each method leads to a message being sent or received. A meaningful conversations is started. But like so many things in life, the hardest part is getting started. So let's break each one down with some examples.

Comment to message

This is my favourite and most simple cold outreach strategy. You simply comment on the post of your prospect then reach out to them to continue the conversation.
LinkedIn DM example
In the example above I had seen somebody announce their new website on LinkedIn. I commented to say how much I loved it then sent a DM to talk more.

As a business coach to freelancers I was curious to learn more about this person. It turned out they had recently gone freelance but was struggling to position themselves. After a few messages over the course of a couple of days, the client booked a £250 strategy session with me. After this, they went on to book a £3,000 coaching engagement.

So, this stuff works. Be on the look out for:

  • People announcing launches - reach out to congratulate, ask questions or feedback, harness their excitement
  • People struggling with a particular issue - leave a comment and/or reach out with specific advice
  • People asking questions - go the extra mile to answer them either in a comment or DM
  • People expressing concerns or worries about their industry/role - respond with your honest opinion and/or questions

Here's another DM example:
This message quickly led to a 30 minute chat that turned into another £3,000 coaching engagement.

If you're struggling to start conversations on LinkedIn, you simply need to get into a curious mindset. Notice how my messages reference a specific post then ask a question. Questions are great conversation starters!

Not everyone will answer. Some might come back with a vague, short sentence. But others will send a lengthy and well thought-out reply. These people are the ones to nurture, because you've clearly asked the right question.

There is trial and error in this, so do not be discouraged if people don't come back to you right away.

Poll to message

Polls on LinkedIn offer a great way to get some insight into your ideal client's mind. In the example below, I ran a poll asking people what their biggest struggle is as a freelancer. And when I had the data in, I began reaching out to those who'd voted.
This outreach message led to a great conversation about where the person was at in terms of their business vision. We arranged a call and they went on to buy my book.

Not all messages will lead to immediate results for your business, but if you adopt a helpful mindset and see LinkedIn outbound messaging as a long-term activity, it will eventually pay off.

Connection to message

Sometimes, you don't need to do any outreach, and you will still sign clients on LinkedIn. In the example below, the person connected with me (after having followed me for a while) then sent me a DM.
LinkedIn inbound example
This is testament to what creating great content can do for you on LinkedIn. But here's a pro tip: when somebody reaches out to you, do not jump on them! I know it's exciting when a lead comes in, but be sure to slow it down. Get back into curious mode. Ask questions, qualify them and, if it feels right, offer them a discovery call with you. 

This is what I did and a day or so later, this message led to another £3,000 coaching engagement.

Hand-raiser to message

One of the simplest and most powerful ways to get sales on LinkedIn is to directly call out those who need your help. The "hand-raiser" post is a great way to achieve this. Here is an example:
LinkedIn hand-raiser post
This post creates scarcity (ONE freelancer) and makes a promise (build a solid and thriving business). It also asks people to raise their hand by commenting below.

In my experience, you need to have a trusting and engaged network of people who know what you're about before these types of posts work. So do make the effort to show up regularly and add value before trying something like this.

But honestly, from these posts I have booked dozens of sales calls and made many thousands of £££ by reaching out when someone shows their hand. It works. See...
And for completeness here's a video walkthrough of how to cold send messages to new connections on LinkedIn.
Write your awesome label here.

How to sell in a LinkedIn DM

Doing cold outreach on LinkedIn is great and all, but how do you switch gear from a friendly chat into something more serious? In other words, how do you invite your prospect to take action and book a call with you?

Firstly, and I have already alluded to this, you need to be in an overwhelmingly positive and helpful mindset.

When you're thinking about yourself ("how can I close this sale?", "I must book this person onto a call" etc) that energy will sabotage you.

The key to selling on LinkedIn is to make it all about the other person, not yourself. Easily said, right? Let me show you a few examples.
LinkedIn outreach example 2LinkedIn outreach example 3LinkedIn outreach example 3
Can you feel how these invites are pitched? There's no hard-sell, no desperation and no massive commitments.

Inviting prospects onto a call shouldn't feel like selling. It should feel like a mutual exploration. With practice you begin to sense the right time to invite to a call. Here's the basic process:

  • Find out what your prospect's challenges and goals are
  • Ask if a call with you would be valuable
  • Invite them using Calendly or some other booking app (alternatively direct them to your lead magnet or scorecard)

That's about all there is to it. But we get too self-conscious and worry about how we might be perceived. Remember: stand in service of your client and the whole dynamic will switch into a trusting and productive one. From here, agreements happen and sales are made.

Developing a LinkedIn outreach practice

Here's the bad news: growing on LinkedIn is not something you do as a one-off activity. It requires ongoing work, a lot of patience and resilience. Seeing marketing as a daily practice will help you escape the feast or famine cycle and ensure a consistent flow of qualified leads into your business.

Here is what I recommend: spend one hour every morning connecting, commenting and messaging. Commit to hitting specific numbers, if that's the way your mind works. In the early days of my LinkedIn growth I set myself a challenge of connecting with 10 new people every day, commenting on 5 posts and sending 3 cold messages. 

This worked wonders for my business because it got me visible to potential clients. It also enabled me to book calls which, sooner or later, turned into sales. 

If you truly want to grow on LinkedIn, you must show up as a pro. Do the work every day regardless of how you're feeling about it. When you've practiced this for a few weeks and found your way a little, you can then use LinkedIn automation to grow your network automatically. That was an amazing next step for me, because it enabled me to "teach" what I had learned to a bot who basically does the work for me.

These days, LinkedIn accounts for about 80% of my revenue and most of my clients come from inbound enquiries. But that's only because I've relentlessly stayed the course, built up my reputation and worked hard to serve people in the DMs. Take a similar approach for your business, and you will build yourself a reliable marketing channel.

Frequently asked questions

Does cold outreach work on LinkedIn?

Cold outreach on LinkedIn works best for booking calls and making sales when the following conditions are true:

  • You consistently create valuable content
  • Your contact knows you and is warmed by your content
  • You adopt a helpful, curious mindset and let go of trying to sell
  • You have patience and persistence

Most of the time cold outreach fails because people take a sporadic and scattergun approach. They're trying to get rather than give. Cold outreach works so well on LinkedIn that you can build an entire business on this platform alone (I have!)

How do you do a cold intro on LinkedIn?

Pay attention to what's going on in your newsfeed. Be on the look out for posts you can comment on to add value. Be curious and interested and with this mindset, reaching out cold feels much less cold.

Follow one of the four methods I share in this article to get started.

If you can take the view that you'd like to get to know the person genuinely, it won't seem like some icy pitch. It'll be one businessperson speaking to another from an empowered place.

Cold email vs cold outreach on LinkedIn

Speaking truthfully I haven't had much experience cold emailing prospects. That being said, I would always prefer cold outreach on LinkedIn because the context is more powerful - you have a lot more data to play with and a direct connection with the prospect. It's likely they'll have seen your content, so the message will never be totally cold.

Regardless of which approach you take, please keep in mind the general advice I have shared here: do it with heart. Be curious, don't pile on the pressure and don't sound desperate.

What is the best LinkedIn outreach message?

The best LinkedIn outreach message is one that feels totally, 100% authentic to you.

You expected a script? Sorry to disappoint. There is no script for this. There are only principles: be curious, be patient and give a damn. Done over enough time, this approach will serve you very well.
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