Time to read: 3 minutes. The goal of LinkedIn InMail prospecting is not to get a meeting. It’s to provoke a potential buyer to ask, “can you tell me more about that?” This gets you in the game. Then you can step up to the plate and swing.

Getting better response is within reach—IF you prove you’re unlike most crap in clients’ inboxes.

The goal of InMail prospecting is to earn the right to converse, initiate discussion. Nothing else.

Here is a proven way to spark prospects curiosity and get them asking for more details. At the end, I’ll provide a template to make it easy.

Also, if you’re a financial advisor see here for tips on effective LinkedIn messages for financial advisors.

The 3 most common reasons for InMail failure

Over-relying on InMail.

Asking for the meeting in the first touch message.

Pushing benefits that play on “pain points.”

Point blank: Most sellers ask too much, too fast … too big an ask. Instead, ask for a conversation … a discussion that may-or-may-not lead to a meeting.

Are you rushing the meeting? Think about it. Instead, qualify that meeting using email.

LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator can be worth your investment. But only if you have an effective, repeatable way to get buyers:

  • Affirming (“Yes, I need to act on this challenge/issue”) 
  • Inquiring (“Wait, can you tell me more details about that?”)
  • Provoked (“Ok… you got me. What are you getting at?”)

Meetings are great. But the power of email is its ability to get qualified meetings in less time. Instead of asking for pre-mature meetings with people who are not (yet) aware they need to meet… start provoking discussions that develop urges to meet. (if and when it is appropriate)

Use email and InMail to set betting meetings — not just more.

Before you consider your approach to InMail please know this: My coaching students who do best with InMail use it last in their communications sequence (as a last resort). They reach out via phone and using standard email first — before using InMail. Our community of sellers can teach you a lot. Join us.

Also, there are 3 kinds of email message strategies when prospecting: Tailored, targeted and templated. We’ll get to that in a moment. Or join us to learn a better conversation-starting technique, step-by-step.

What does LinkedIn Navigator give you (really)

Access to the LinkedIn database — and better access. (ability to use filters)

LinkedIn forces you to pay-up if you want access to its database. It’s that simple. Yes, Navigator gives you other bells-and-whistles. But the core value is access to the database.

You’re buying a faster, easier way to search (access) specific kinds of prospects. LinkedIn will also make suggestions for you—help you find potential buyers.

However, making InMail messages work takes an effective, repeatable message sequence process to get prospects talking with you. InMail is not a better way to get in front of your targets. It’s not. You’ve got to be provocative within the message. InMail isn’t magical.

Remember, all Navigator gives you is access. Nothing else.

Brief, blunt & basic

Everyone on Earth scans their inbox the same way. Without exception.

  • Who is emailing me? (is this spam?)
  • What do they want?
  • How long will this take?

BUT this can be used to your advantage. There is a curiosity-based technique that plays on this negative attitude prospects have. 

Lately, my students are turning this ugly reality into a refreshing approach to LinkedIn InMail prospecting. The communications method they’re learning is a breath of fresh air to their prospects. It’s that cool.

Anatomy of a failing InMail

Below is an example of a REAL LinkedIn InMail I received … a message that is not brief, blunt or basic and asks for too much too fast.

Following this message I’ll diagnose and treat what, exactly, is killing this InMail’s chances of getting a reply.

SUBJECT: Can we talk?

Hi Jeff,
My name is Steve Jones (actual name/company redacted). We haven’t spoken before; however, we share a group. I viewed your profile and I believe I can help you save time and money on your existing IT solutions!

My company, Jones Technology Services, specializes in (1) Cloud Computing, (2) Infrastructure, (3) Telecom Equipment & Services and (4) Security Projects. I have been doing this for 25 years and I have a proven track record of saving clients up to 60% on their existing solutions!! I do this through existing contractual agreements with key IT vendors. This means you will get preferred pricing AND possibly a better solution!

However, if you are not the right person who is in charge of your company’s existing IT solutions, a warm referral would be very much appreciated. Do you know who I can contact that is in charge of making decisions regarding IT? Would you be able to provide me with their name and a phone number so I could get in touch? I really want to thank you in advance for your helping me out here.

I would love to offer a free analysis on your company’s current solutions and provide some details on how JTS can save the company money.

I would really like to schedule a few minutes of time with the right person to speak about it.

Steve Jones

Test 1: Who is emailing me?

From within my inbox I quickly conclude: I don’t know Steve … but he wants to talk.

Introducing yourself is like screaming, “unsolicited sales pitch ahead!” in 95% of cases. Already, this email is labeled by readers as spammy.

Test 2: What do they want?

Once I view his message, Steve reminds me of what I already know: He doesn’t know me. Already, Steve has wasted my time.

Let’s assume I continue reading. Steve claims relevancy through a LinkedIn Group I belong to. Steve has no idea why I belong to that Group. How could he? Yet he believes this to be a strong point of relevancy. In fact, Steve just showed me he’ll do anything to start a conversation with a stranger.

Then Steve tells me what he really wants: To sell me something.

Nothing wrong with that!

But he doesn’t say it directly. He says he wants to “help me save time and money” on IT systems—a service I am clearly not in the market for. Steve is trying to make selling me IT services (that I don’t need) look like a good idea—and getting caught having NOT actually done what he said he did (qualified me as a buyer).

The goal of InMail is to earn the right to proceed. Nothing else.

Test 3: How long will this take?

A really long time. I mean look at the size of this email!

I’m not saying Steve (or anyone writing emails like this) is stupid or wrong. I’m simply saying this is NOT effective. Here’s why.

Steve is going for the kill … all in 1 email. He wants me to:

  • Validate the idea: Having a discussion about his solution is what I would like to do
  • Invest time in learning about his service
  • Understand his competitive advantage
  • Refer him to the best decision-maker
  • Consider a “free analysis” (a proposal for his services)
  • Invest time on the phone with him

Too much, too fast. Plus, Steve’s email is:

  • Completely un-researched (he is cutting-and-pasting-and-sending this to masses)
  • Too long (it needs to read in 8-10 seconds or less)
  • Typical (“I viewed your profile and see you’re a buyer of what I sell” is typical of spam I see all day long)

The goal of InMail is NOT to get a meeting

Instead, my best students are working to provoke a, “can you tell me more about that?” from a potential buyer.

This gets you in the game. Not to talk about buying. To talk about a pain, goal, fear or challenge… that may or may not lead to a buying decision.

What Steve should have sent me

SUBJECT: need help with this?

Is cloud computing or outsourced IT solution on the horizon for your business? If so, I propose a short email exchange — to decide if a serious conversation is warranted. If not, thanks for your time in considering. Please let me know what you decide, Jeff?

Steve Jones

WARNING: This kind of approach is not researched — not personalized. But it would still be more effective than Steve’s original message.

The 3 T’s

My coaching students who do best with InMail use it last in their communications sequenceThey reach out via phone and using standard email first — before using InMail. 

The above example has limitations and advantages. Here’s the rub. There are 3 kinds of email messages when prospecting:

  1. Tailored: where you do research on a specific person or company and then craft multiple, relevant, and direct messages.
  2. Targeted: where you segment contacts based on similar characteristics and develop messages that focus on their broad priorities or challenges.
  3. Templated: where you create various, self-serving templates about your great solution and then blast messages out to everyone on a list.

Selecting the correct template style is vital to your success. Each style has advantages and disadvantages in certain selling situations. 

Would you like to take part in a InMail Writing Clinic? You’ll learn more — step by step — about improving your LinkedIn InMail prospecting (or any email messaging) results.

Join me as I improve a few InMails, LIVE!

Remember, the goal of LinkedIn InMail prospecting is not to get a meeting. It’s to provoke a potential buyer to ask, “can you tell me more about that?” This gets you in the game.  

Photo credit: Markus Spiske


In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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  • this is excellent. I am signing up for your newsletter!

  • Excellent, practical & logical ideas Jeff. I’ve registered for your training on Dec 30 (really looking forward to waking up at 4am Oz time!).

    I’d be interested in being a guinea pig for the session if you still need volunteers.

    – Allan Johnson

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