We studied the most effective LinkedIn sales outreach strategies and tactics. Here is what our community is reporting.

The fastest way to increase response rates is to stand out---by writing differently. Provocatively. Radically so.

I'll describe the best way to do it. But first, make sure you're not using popular (but ineffective) email, InMail and LinkedIn connection request tactics.

If LinkedIn is promoting an outreach strategy be assured---it's tired, old & ineffective. Same with advice from "experts" you found while Googling. Ineffective. Outdated. Here's what to avoid---and do instead.


This surprised us

Starting conversations with decision-makers demands a clean break from standard LinkedIn outreach messages. This means avoiding common message templates and practices---like including calls to action.

No call to action?

That's right. Avoid most of what you've been told to do OR see others doing. Like...

  • Using LinkedIn automation tools (all of them)
  • Applying templates you found while Googling
  • Using cordial salutations ("hello" and especially "dear")
  • Including hook questions (setting your prospect up to answer in a way you want)
  • Describing value your company provides
  • Making calls to action

Allow me to illustrate in an example below.

This is an actual email that hit my inbox recently. I’ve disguised the sender’s name and company. However, they are a nearly 1,000-employee organization selling lead identification services, in which you can “identify your anonymous website visitors turning them into leads.”

Worth noting, some in our community have used this popular SaaS (software as a service) company with poor results.

1. Effective subject lines provoke curiosity


The job of an InMail subject line is singular: Spark curiosity about what’s inside the message itself (to get it opened).

In this example, the subject line is:

“Start your year in the LEAD”

The job of an InMail subject line is singular: Spark curiosity about what’s inside the message itself. The above subject line fails to deliver because it:

  • Attempts to be cute (with a pun)
  • Is written in a marketing tone
  • Identifies what's inside (a sales pitch about lead generation)
  • Reads like a slogan or ad title


Instead, our Academy members' experiences show the best subject lines perform because they are:

  • 4 words or less
  • Avoiding cute / marketing tone
  • Using a "tension" element, provoking curiosity
  • Leaning toward vague

2. Ditch salutations & casual talk 


“Hey, Jeff...”

This is the salutation the seller approached me with.

In the words of sales trainer, Jeb Blount, “Don’t ‘bro’ me until you know me.”

If you present yourself to strangers (prospects) in a familiar way, you’re asking for trouble. It may come off as rude or disrespectful.

“You may offend the person who is going to pay your next commission check,” says Blount who recently got two InMail and two email messages using words like “hey” and “dude” and “bro.” This is language you would use with friends in a bar. In 90% of cases it's not good to start casual with prospects.

Back to our example.

After they “Hey Jeff” me, the seller aimed this phrase at me next:

“I hope you had a great Christmas and a happy new year! Just a quick message to see if you've heard of ABC Company?”

This seller shows zero effort in making his message relevant. Instead, he wishes me well as a means to break ice and appear familiar.

Avoid salutations. Here's why.

  1. This is the most transparent way to communicate, "I have nothing worthwhile for you" to prospects. Because if you did, you would not be needing to contrive familiarity. You're not familiar. You're not relevant.
  2. You're like everyone else--faking your way into a discussion. You're not distinct.
  3. It wastes precious time. One doesn't need to open their email if they see a subject line and first sentence like this.

This tactic is an insurance policy on not getting opened and being marked as spam … or being deleted.

Worse, the rep asks a yes or no “hook” question … which is all about his company. This is the worst flavor of hook questions as it is the most self-centered possible. 


Instead, our Academy members get better response by getting directly to the point.  

Can you imagine what is coming next … after he asks, “Have you heard of my company?” Of course you can. A sales pitch.

3. No meeting requests, no self-talk, stay neutral


Next, this sales rep launches directly into his pitch:

“ABC Company has revolutionized website lead generation for customers throughout North America — the software will give you better marketing and sales insight than you've ever had before, enabling you to maximize your ROI and fuel your sales team with high quality, sales-ready leads.”

Setting aside the many grammar, punctuation and readability of this message it is plagued with biased marketing copy.

This is problematic. Because it attempts to sell a solution before the problem has been verified. 

Pretend you are a sales rep for this company. Read the above aloud to yourself … as if you were standing across from someone, face-to-face. If you feel too silly just pretend you’re reading it aloud in your head … but picture yourself delivering that gigantic, self-centered, posturing blather face-to-face.

The tone is “radio or TV spot.” It’s a marketing tone. There is nothing provocative about it. This message puts the company before the value it provides.

This message fails because presents the company’s value proposition---without the prospect (me) having (first) expressed interest. It's too commonly practiced by users of LinkedIn Sales Navigator.


Instead, take the time to provoke a problem-solving discussion that may lead to a meeting---if the client chooses---rather than presenting your value.

Easy to do? Not as easy as pushing marketing blather. But we're here to help with workshops and a full online Academy

4. Avoid pushing pains and 'hooks'


The message continues:

“What does ABC Company give you?”

This is the classic marketing hook question. I’ve seen instances where sellers follow “What can we give you?” with “I thought you’d never ask.”


Usually written by low-skilled marketing copywriters … for their sales force to use.

This kind of question is biased to an outcome the seller desires. This causes customers to hesitate---because it attempts to entrap us. Answering “yes” makes me vulnerable to being pitched. 

Instead, neutral, customer-centric questions should be asked. This provokes conversations. 

The message continues with a list of objectives the seller assumes are valuable to me. He says I will get:

  • Details of precisely which organizations have visited my website – in real-time
  • The contact information of key decision makers at those organizations - including telephone numbers and email addresses
  • Insight into how they found our company, what they have looked at and how long they spent on our website
  • Real-time alerts to our sales team when a prospect visits our website

He assumes these goals are valuable to me. Because he doesn’t know. And I get that. Many times we just don't know what's valuable to the client.


Instead, take the time to provoke a discussion (rather than push what you think is valuable).

Because some of his value proposition does sound valuable. But this information is coming too soon in the conversation.

I (as a buyer) need to ask for these details to be shared … then the seller can email me more information. 

This shows him I am hungry … I have been provoked.

How can you accomplish this? Consider joining us at a clinic workshop

5. Avoid calls to action & persuasion


In closing, the seller uses a call to action. When using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, InMail or standard email this is never a good idea.

He concludes by asking for the meeting... 

“If you are curious to see how our software will benefit Communications Edge, let’s arrange a complimentary online demonstration and discuss our completely free, no obligation trial. What’s the best direct dial or email to reach you? — are you available sometime this week?”

Odds of this prospects customer making this far down the message are nearly zero. But if I had made it this far this copy makes the seller sound needy, desperate, pushy and persuasive.

Persuasion & marketing kills response 

Is your outreach strategy founded on persuading clients? Most sales outreach through LinkedIn is. But yours should not be.

Here's why: Persuasion isn't effective. Plus, clients should persuade themselves---develop curiosity. Enough to reply. That's what good a good strategy is founded on.

Example: Calls to action attempt to direct people---who don't want your direction! They want to choose. Choice requires your being neutral to them replying. They need to feel it. 

Beyond that, I cannot help but point out how bad it can get---when marketers write sales email copy.

“... let’s arrange a complimentary online demonstration and discuss our completely free, no obligation trial... ”

“Completely free?” As opposed to non-complete freeness? This sounds foolish and sketchy.

“No obligation.” He’s still trying to reassure me this will be good for me. It's highly persuasive. Words like “hope” and “looking forward to your reply” and “I would love to” all risk making him (and you) look desperate for the meeting.

Did you notice how he suggests his message might make me curious? First of all, how dare he! Secondly, it's doubtful this copy will spark curiosity. Even if I was interested he provided so much information (about himself) so soon in the game I have very few questions … very little curiosity!

This entire exchange becomes a “yes or no.” I either want to contact him, now, because I have a need or not. This limits his response and engaging as many targets as possible. (warm and hot leads)

If I don’t yet have a need (right now) there is no incentive to be in touch with him. Ouch. 

He also shares:

“Don’t have time to talk? Book your demo online: [link]”

… and …

“P.S. For a bit more info, feel free to take a further look here [link]”

Push, push, push. Here... here... here. Go here. Don't want that? Go here? No still? How about this?

Point blank: Calls to action are ineffective and inappropriate in sales emails and LinkedIn messages. Multiple calls-to-action add to the confusion. 


It is best to aim exclusively for a conversation---not a click, download, view, share or meeting.

How can you accomplish this?

Consider joining us in the our online, conversation-starting Academy.

Or attend a clinic workshop

What is your experience with structuring the best outreach messaging possible? Consider commenting about your experiences with Sales Navigator outreach below.

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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  • Great points Jeff. There is so much to learn in this post, contrary to all the mistakes we make. A message to the prospect should be all about them.

    It’s something we think we know, but it’s another thing to understand deeply and apply fully in practice.

    I sent you a LinkedIn connection request a few days ago, and reading your post, I am realizing I myself made one or two of the mistakes you outlines so well above. Wish I had read it sooner!

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