Next Steps: Best LinkedIn Messages After Connecting

by | Social Media

One of my favorite things to do on LinkedIn is crowd-source ideas. And I can’t think of a better platform to answer the following question: What do you say to someone after they’ve accepted your LinkedIn invitation?

This is a situation faced every day by sales and business development pros. You find a prospect on LinkedIn, and you know you can help them. You reach out to them, and they accept your invite.

Bravo! You’ve made that coveted digital connection. Now you want to keep the engagement going and determine if they’re a short- or long-term prospect — or even if they’re a prospect at all. So what’s your next step? Let’s find out, with the help of folks who do this every day on LinkedIn.

16 LinkedIn experts share their “next step” strategies and tactics

The next-step topic came up during a conversation I had with Allison DeFord on her Manufacturing Masters podcast. We were talking about how using LinkedIn to establish your referral network is more effective than just spamming people with sales messages.

I asked Allison about what she does after making a connection with someone. Her answer (see below) inspired me to reach out to other LinkedIn users to learn how they’re engaging with prospects.

Here are some of the replies. Note that these may be contradictory to each other. Like any sales and marketing strategy, remember that what works for one person may not work for another. (You can view the original LinkedIn post here.)

1. Use multiple choice

Allison DeFord’s answer is both hilarious and, as she notes, extremely effective.
Many years ago I decided to be truly authentic and get to know people first. Before asking for anything at all. LIKE A REAL HUMAN BEING WHO CARES.

I created the 𝟯 𝗤𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗟𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗥𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 and sent it upon connecting with someone. The questions are aligned with popular brands (’cause marketing) and gave me insights into someone’s personality. Here’s the message:

In an effort to actually get to know people here on Linkedin, I invite you to play the 3 Question Lightning Round, if you’re up for it.

  1. Coke or Pepsi?
  2. Microsoft or Apple?
  3. Chevy or Mercedes?

🎁 BONUS ROUND: Spreadsheets or Instincts?

Looking forward to your answers and I’ll play along too.

* * * * *

The results were a blast and started all kinds of conversations and relationships. HUGE SUCCESS! 💯

Thanks Allison — love this idea!

2. Imagine you’re in a Chamber of Commerce meeting

Mark Manuel views LinkedIn as a “Chamber of Commerce” setting between you and other members on the platform.
There is no trust or connection except you both belong. I ask questions and find out how I can help you — we are both here looking for business — since if we were not we would be home with our families. It is rude for me to assume someone has time for my product if they have no idea if I am the real deal. 

3. Start a text conversation

Anne Jung, CX Strategist and self-dubbed “queen of starting random conversations,” gives us a great nugget:
I heard someone say that you need to treat it like you met the person on the subway. Start a conversation, build trust and interest. Also, skip the lengthy messages – treat it like a text conversation.

4. Have an ask that adds value

Joseph Lewin has an ask, but it’s all about giving value to someone first. He has a great formula for using LinkedIn Live to generate business, and his approach is all about getting people to appear on his show. (Be sure to check out his site for more detail.)
If I’m reaching out cold, I almost always ask someone to share their expertise on a show. I have no issue reaching out cold through Sales Navigator, if my ask truly adds value by offering a platform to the other person.

5. Keep it simple and straightforward

Dan Bigger, who is one of the most authentic voices you’ll find on LinkedIn, “doesn’t make anything complicated and plays the long game in all situations.” I like his simple, straightforward approach. He will reply to connections with the following:
Thanks for connecting and I’m pleased to meet you and add you to my community. If you are interested, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you if you are up for it. I like to get to know more about my connections so that we are able to assist one another if possible.

I particularly like Dan’s line about getting to know more about his connections. 

6. Don’t assume commonality

David J.P. Fisher (DFish) emphasized the importance of building value, and also had a cautionary tale about looking for something in common with a contact. 
You have to be careful with finding something on their profile and making an assumption about a shared commonality. I had a salesperson try to use an upcoming Bears game as a bridge. And as someone who grew up in Milwaukee, you can understand how that might not have landed.

Wise words, DFish (and Go Pack!).

7. Showcase your skills with your reply

My good buddy and video guru Jeff Long sends out what he calls Video Value Bombs — short video nuggets, which include some words of wisdom. 
I find that because it’s a pre-recorded video it doesn’t seem directed 100% AT them. It’s more of a value-add type of video that they can get something beneficial out of. If they seem interested to have a conversation and learn more, then I take the next step. 

8. Build on the post that brought you together

Arthur Field, a Manufacturing Technology Specialist, is all about creating the “human to human connection” and building a connection off a post someone commented on (one of our favorite tactics).

If I’ve reached out after seeing a post or insightful comment, I usually mention it with a thank you for connecting and see where we go with the conversation. It’s all around a genuine desire to connect and know hard-working individuals that are seen more as keeners and hard working in their area.

9. Don’t p-itch slap!

Kat Frey, an Operations Coach and Trainer, used to follow a sales script when connecting. She doesn’t anymore, and has a word of advice to those who do.

We call this direct approach P-itch slapping! If you p-itch slap me, I will immediately disconnect from you. On a good day, I might send you an invite to a p-itch slapping class. 

10. Go with the flow

Shalena Hardy, a “Costing Chaos Controller,” just follows a natural conversational flow.

I try to find a common interest first, or ask how they got involved in what they do. And then ask about any problems they are dealing with, and eventually ask for a call to discuss further or to see how I can help them best.

11. Ask “How’s business?”

Tim Keen keeps it simple:

Hey <NAME> great to connect. How’s business? By far, the highest reply rate of anything I’ve tried. 

12. Go with attraction vs. promotion

Add Kate Cash, a Fractional Sales Leader in the retail space, to this list of those who don’t pitch. She relies on “attraction vs. promotion,” including celebrating wins (the connections) and supporting authentically. She recommends salespeople be transparent about who you are and what you do. And above all else, keep it short.

The best DMs are one or two sentences. These paragraphs kill me. 

13. Make it a win-win

Along those lines, Dale Underwood (who has an amazing pricing solution for manufacturers), provides value for prospects while also sharing his own expertise — a win-win for both parties. 

My icebreaker is offering a review of their top conversion call-to-action on their website. I don’t really like the common interest angle unless it really supports the connection.

I like the business-first approach, Dale. Those common interest comments sometimes seem a little forced, and can land you in a sticky situation like DFish mentioned earlier. 

14. Link out to your content

Marketing Director Maeghan Nicholson notes that her sales team has been successful with a similar approach to Dale’s, offering value while sharing expertise at the same time. Her team will provide links to articles, upcoming webinars, or offer to send a packet of samples. 

I’m not a salesperson, but it’s working for our sales team!

15. Say thank you … and build rapport

Anna Juskow considers herself a newbie to the LinkedIn world, but she definitely is not new to sales. And that’s why I love her emphasis on thinking long-term and building a true relationship.

I will reach out and always say thank you for accepting my invite to connect. I’ll follow them and watch for posts from them. I’ll comment if I can add value and begin to build that rapport and trust level with them.

16. Don’t use an icebreaker

Finally, we go to keynote extraordinaire and social selling guru Ema Roloff (who has 14K LinkedIn followers and counting.) She had no icebreakers to share.

I prefer to engage with people in the comments for some time before DM (in a sales cycle or not). Then when there is a natural transition to move it to a message I will, so I don’t have a specific opener because it is organic!!

Those words stand on their own, but we just had to add the brilliant insight of James Roloff, Ema’s husband and complementary social selling guru:  

I agree with my wife because she’s always right and so smart!

And the winner is…

I think the most telling comment about what your LinkedIn next step should be came from Sales Guru John McLeod. He didn’t offer any gimmicky opening lines, but applauded all those that didn’t bother with one. 

“Love all the Long Game comments.”

That sentiment was echoed by the many of the commenters above. Beyond a few clever tactics to spark engagement, the majority emphasized the value of playing the long game. 

I’d have to agree because I personally have tried many of the quick-hit tactics championed by LinkedIn sales trainers, and have had limited success. What works best, as is the consensus from the LinkedIn smarties in this article, is playing the long game and being natural with how you engage.

If you approach the platform as a place to build your business network, generate referral sources, and simply connect like a human, you’ll be successful. 


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Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio has been creating content for many moons. He is the Founder and CEO of Winbound, a sales and marketing agency that provides content and marketing services with a focus on manufacturing and industrial verticals.

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