How to use LinkedIn for Lead Generation

The term “prospecting” likely conjures visions of sales representatives in tight office cubicles cold-calling and cold-emailing the unsuspecting general public to make a quick buck. It’s an age-old way of creating sales opportunities. What is known as “nurturing leads.”

By nurturing leads, you can find out which prospective customers are likely to convert into paying customers. It’s an off-putting image for millennials in particular, who are notorious for their hatred of phone calls.

However, prospecting isn’t just for making a sale. It can be used to find prospects for myriad circumstances. For instance, a prospect could be a new employer, a new employee, a freelancer, a vendor, supplier, or even a donor for your nonprofit organization. A conversion doesn’t only have to refer to people who become paying customers. It could refer to someone who becomes a client or someone who gives your company a donation.

And, thanks to the increasing popularity of professional social networking site LinkedIn, targeting prospects no longer requires cold calls and cold emails. You can do it without having to even leave your desk (a boon for antisocial millennials!)

Finding sales leads on LinkedIn

We’ve covered what to do before and after you find your prospects, but how exactly do you go about finding prospects on LinkedIn? There are numerous avenues you could go down, read on to find out what they are.

LinkedIn prospect research

One or a combination of the following is a great way to get started with finding leads on LinkedIn:

Boolean keyword search

Get more specific when using LinkedIn’s search function by using a Boolean search. Boolean search is when you combine keywords with what is known as operators or modifiers, such as AND, NOT, and OR. For example, if you looking for “content OR advertising” your search results would feature both content and advertising. If you searched “content NOT advertising” anything with advertising would be omitted.

You can also use parentheses and quotation marks to make your search more specific. With quotations, you can search for an exact phrase or job title, "social media manager," for example. LinkedIn only supports straight quotation marks in its search function. With parenthetical searches you can use multiple terms to refine search results, for example: “content AND advertising NOT (writer OR manager).”

Check out your connections’ connections and your competitors’ networks

Like we said earlier, adding people in your field is a surefire way to find other prospects in your field. Scope them out by perusing your connections’ connections. This research is also effective with your competitors’ networks.

Use the "People Also Viewed" sidebar

With this method, just one prospect can beget even more prospects! You may have noticed that whenever you view a LinkedIn profile, there is a People Also Viewed sidebar that features profiles that are similar or related to the one you’re currently on. If you’re viewing a prospect’s profile, this sidebar is your key to instantly gaining several more.

Use the skill endorsements section

Much like the previous point, your prospects endorsements section is probably filled with people who are similar to them. Check out who gave them endorsements and if they match the profile of your prospect persona.

Reach out to people who have commented on your prospects’ posts

Earlier, we discussed the importance of interacting with your prospects on their posts. You’re missing out with a potential wealth of potential prospects if you don’t interact with other commenters too. Like the previous two sections, your prospects make are likely to attract like-minded people in similar industries. Interacting with these commenters is a great way of building a rapport with prospects before you even send an InMail or invitation to connect.

Reach out to people who have commented on your posts

This engagement is the same principle of the last point, with arguably less effort on your part. Potential prospects have come to you. Don’t waste this opportunity; take the time to respond to people’s comments and interact with them. You never know where it might lead.

Sign up for LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator Tool

Created specifically to help you use LinkedIn for sales prospecting and gaining insights into potential leads, the LinkedIn Sales Navigator Tool does a lot of the groundwork for you. It comes with an advanced lead and company search function that will help you target the most relevant prospects. It also makes lead recommendations and keeps track of changes you should be aware of, from company changes to leads’ job updates.

If you have the budget to spare and plan on using LinkedIn for a great deal of prospecting, sales, investing in the platform is worth it. There are three packages: Professional, which is aimed at individual sales professionals; Team, which is geared toward sales teams; and Enterprise, which is aimed at organizations.

LinkedIn prospecting scripts

The key to sending prospects messages on LinkedIn is keeping it personal. This doesn’t mean getting creepy about it (mentioning you saw it was their kid’s birthday when you stalked their Facebook post is not recommended), it just means showing that you read their profile and have a general sense of who they are career-wise.

If your proposal or product is not relevant to their industry field, then you shouldn’t be messaging this person. We can’t stress this enough.

What we mean about getting personal is tailoring each message to reflect the information you’ve gleaned from your prospect’s profile, or including something you’ve learned if you previously interacted with them on posts or comments.

Be sure to use their name throughout and use “you” rather than “I” so that the focus is on what you or your product or service can do for them. Don’t jump in with what you’re offering straight away.

You don’t want to bombard your prospect. It should be a simple message that outlines who you are, what you can do for them, and request whether or not they would be interested. If the recipient replies affirmative, then you can go into more detail.

Here are three templates for professionals reaching out to potential clients, organizations reaching to potential job candidates, and professionals or organizations offering their product or service.

Remember, unless you have InMail activated, you need to have a first-degree connection to your prospect if you want to message them.

Using LinkedIn for marketing

So far this article has largely been concerned with the best ways for you to seek out prospects. But what can you do to make prospects come to you? For this, you’ll need to market yourself and/or your company.

LinkedIn marketing hacks

Marketing yourself or your company on LinkedIn to attract more prospects need not be intimidating. Here are some tips to get started.

Join and create groups

LinkedIn groups are a great way to find prospects in your particular field. Not only can you engage with fellow group members and build relationships as well as your profile, but you can really keep abreast of the latest happenings in your industry. Can’t find the group you are looking for? Create one!

Join and create groups

LinkedIn groups are a great way to find prospects in your particular field. Not only can you engage with fellow group members and build relationships as well as your profile, but you can really keep abreast of the latest happenings in your industry. Can’t find the group you are looking for? Create one!

Optimize your company page

Make the most of your company page by doing the following:

  • Write a great, snappy summary of what your company does, who it does it for, and why. Be sure to sprinkle in relevant keywords to ensure search engine findability. When discussing what it is you do, mention your most important offering first.

  • Ask happy customers and clients for testimonials. Sometimes nothing boosts trustworthiness more than a real person who likes your stuff.

  • Include career opportunities. Including information on current openings is a no-brainer if you’re seeking new employees.

  • If you have employees, encourage them to post regularly and share their posts. You should also share positive posts by LinkedIn members who mention your company. All of this will serve to boost your brand profile, making prospects more likely to reach out to you.

  • Post content regularly. This brings us to the next point nicely.

Publishing engaging, actionable content

Whether you’re an individual or an organization, posting content regularly is going to get you found. The kind of content you post, again, will be dependent on your niche and what your ultimate goal for prospecting is.

For instance, if you’re a non-profit that helps the homeless and is looking for new donors, you could write articles about recent events you’ve organized or anything you’ve done lately. At the end of the article, be sure to include a call-to-action with relevant links that inform people how they can get involved or donate.

For example, if your company recently ran a food drive, the headline could be “X raises $X for community food banks.” A successful charity run could have the headline, “Our 5K event raised $X for local homeless shelters”. A call-to-action can be as simple as “Find out how you can get involved by clicking here” and hyperlinking to the relevant page on your website.

You can also make use of the company status updates feature to keep followers in the know about relevant stats and figures, and charitable events that are coming up. Because LinkedIn is a site that deals with business professionals, you can aim your message at those who are in the business of corporate social responsibility or corporate philanthropy.

For freelancers, posting content can be a great way to position yourself as an expert in your niche, which will boost your chance in finding prospective clients. You could write an opinion piece on the latest industry happenings in your fields, including a link to your services at the end.

Maybe you’re a financial advisor looking to acquire more clients. You could write articles about common savings mistakes people make, tips for people to manage their money more effectively, or where to begin when it comes to investing.

Other examples of content an individual or company could create for LinkedIn include infographics, videos, and company news.

There’s no limit to the kind of content you post if you get creative. Check out thought leaders and the leading companies in your industry to see the kind of content they’re posting. This will give you a good indication of where to start.

LinkedIn Ads

Like with utilizing LinkedIn for marketing, using LinkedIn advertising is a surefire way of getting prospects to come to you. With LinkedIn ads, you have several options at your disposal. Which you go for will be dependent on factors like budget, niche, and the kind of prospects you’re trying to attract. Ads can be created using Campaign Manager, LinkedIn’s advertising platform.

The LinkedIn ad formats to choose from are:

  • Text Ads – These are a great option if you’re just starting out with ads. LinkedIn text ads can be set up with LinkedIn’s self-service advertising platform and you can easily control the cost with their pay per click (PPC) or cost per impression (CPM) pricing options. Text ads can feature a 50x50 pixel image, a 25 character headline, and a 75 character description. These are best suited to individuals or companies offering a product or service.

  • Sponsored Content – With LinkedIn’s sponsored content you can boost your leads by promoting your content to the most relevant audience. With sponsored ads, the pricing options are also PPC and CPM.

  • Sponsored InMail – With LinkedIn’s Sponsored InMail option, ads are sent straight to your prospective audience’s inbox. This option is great for promoting things like webinars or ebooks, service promotions, or invitations to events. Sponsored InMail is priced at a Cost-per-send (CPS) basis, which means you pay every time a message is successfully delivered.

With Campaign Manager, you can build a target audience by picking from specific criteria, such as industry type, job title, age, and gender. Once you set your budget, you’re ready to launch a LinkedIn advertising campaign.

Advertising on LinkedIn can get expensive, so it’s good to make sure you have the right kind of business for LinkedIn advertising. As said previously, lead generation on LinkedIn is best suited for B2B companies and not for promoting your Etsy shop.

Cost per clicks can also get more expensive depending on how high your target audience is up against the corporate ladder. However, LinkedIn targeting is considered to be very effective, so it could be worth it. Targeting lower on the food chain is less expensive, and is ideal for companies who sell software as a service. Text ads are the most cost-effective option if you don’t have a big marketing budget, but they do tend to have less of an impact.

Whether or not LinkedIn advertising is worth it will change from business to business, so make sure you sit down and calculate whether or not it would produce a good ROI for your particular niche.


Using LinkedIn for lead generation can seem intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the world of sales, but it doesn’t have to be. By optimizing your personal profile and company page, following a few best practices, tracking prospects, and regularly engaging with potential prospects in groups and comments, you’ll be well on your way to successfully using LinkedIn for prospecting.

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