How to Use LinkedIn for Lead Generation

Jan 05, 2022

LinkedIn tends to get a bad rap these days because of all the marketers out there spamming their prospects with cold pitches. But what if there were a way to start conversations using LinkedIn automation...without coming across as spammy and robotic?

In this episode I talk about the big perspective shift I made that helped me create better, more authentic connections...that made LinkedIn my biggest source of new clients.

Hi there and welcome to the Client Attractor Show. I'm your host, Jacob Ratliff, client attraction coach and author of the brand new book Client Attractor. If you haven't already gotten your copy, you can pick up a free copy today at

Today, we are going to be talking all about LinkedIn lead generation, because honestly, LinkedIn gets a really bad rap, because if you've spent any amount of time using LinkedIn in any context, you've probably gotten a ton of spammy messages that are kind of to the effect of “Hi, how are you? Here's what I do. I think I can help you. Would you like to get on a call?” Those are those spammy, cold pitches that no one really likes, and that's a lot of the reason that LinkedIn gets such a bad rap. 

Now, people do the same thing on Facebook, of course, but not nearly to the same extent, and the reason is that LinkedIn plays a little bit nicer with automation. So what's happening is that people who are using LinkedIn for lead generation, they're actually using these third-party automation tools, so that they can spam a whole bunch of people all at once, and you can't do that on Facebook. Now, LinkedIn actually does prohibit automation on their platform, but they don't enforce it, and the reason they don't enforce it is that those people who are using automation to generate leads and find new clients are the same people who are actually paying LinkedIn for its premium Sales Navigator subscription. They're not going to piss those people off, because those people are giving them money. 

Now, Facebook, on the other hand, more explicitly prohibits automation and actually does enforce it, because Facebook is more focused on user experience, because it wants to keep users active on the platform. And because it can keep people on the platform, it can show them advertisements. For a long time, I was pretty averse to using LinkedIn as a lead generation tool, because I believed that the only way to use it is this really obnoxious, spammy approach that we see left and right. On any given day, I am getting a ton of people messaging me, telling me about what they do and asking if I'm interested in working with them, and I believed that that was the only way to do it. 

And so for a long time, I really neglected LinkedIn as a whole. I spent no time on it, I didn't create any content on it, I put all of my energy into using Facebook, and Facebook is really what helped get my business off the ground and what helped me get results, and I still leverage Facebook quite a bit, and Facebook does get me a significant amount of clients. But these days, LinkedIn is accountable for maybe 75% of my new clients. That means that three out of four new clients that I get are actually coming from my LinkedIn lead generation efforts, and that's not because I am spamming hundreds and hundreds of people every day. In fact, I have been able to leverage LinkedIn effectively, while still taking that really genuine, authentic connection that has gotten me so much success on Facebook. 

Today, I want to tell you a little bit about what that has looked like for me and what kind of results I've gotten from it, because it's pretty significant. Whether you are using Facebook or LinkedIn, the process of identifying ideal clients and reaching out to them remains pretty much the same, and one of the things that I really emphasize a lot is that it's all about that personal connection. It's all about not just personalizing your messages, but actually connecting with people when you are sending them a DM. Now for a long time, I feared automation, and a lot of people still do fear this automated messaging, because there's a fear that you're going to lose that, that you're going to lose that personal connection, that you're going to lose that ability to create that real connection. 

 And so when I started experimenting and testing LinkedIn automation for lead generation, that was something that was at the top of my mind. “Right,” I said, “I really want to see if I can use LinkedIn effectively, but the big but is that if I can't do it in a way that aligns with my own values and the way that I like to get clients, then I'm not going to use it.” I tried a bunch of different tactics and a bunch of different strategies, and I was getting some okay results, but at the end of the day, it still felt like I was being a little bit too pitch-happy. I would still feel like I was jumping into people's inboxes and pitching them before I even really started talking with them or knew if they were an ideal client, so I kept refining. 

 I kept trying to move the needle closer to where I wanted it to be in terms of how those connections and reach-outs felt to me personally, because I wanted it to feel natural on my end, so that it felt natural on the prospect’s end. The messages I was sending out weren't cold pitches, but they were definitely like, “Here's a little bit about what I do. I'd love to chat with you,” and that still falls in the realm of cold pitching, as far as I'm concerned. The results were nearing that, and I started to see why people do it, why people do the cold pitching, because you do get some results from it. Some people are like, “Hell yeah, that's what I want. Let's talk.” But the vast majority of people are like, “Really? Are you really hopping in my inbox and doing this like everyone else is doing?” So I knew I had to make some sort of adjustment. 

 Now, I was getting really good connection rates, and if you don't know what connection rates are, that is the rate of people who accept a connection request that you send. So that part was looking pretty good, and I zoomed really, really far out, and I looked at the process as a whole, and there are several pieces that I examined. The first piece is who am I targeting to reach out to in the first place? And concretely, this means what search criteria am I using in LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find the most qualified ideal clients? Who am I trying to automate these messages to in the first place? 

 The second piece is when I am having the software reach out to them, what is that connection request message? There's a message that you can accompany a connection request with, and I was experimenting with all these different connection request messages, stuff like, “You know, I'm really trying to connect with more life coaches, blah, blah, blah.” It wasn't until I actually just got really simple and said, “Hey, I'd love to connect on LinkedIn, if you're open to it,” that's when I started getting a lot more people saying, “Yeah, I want to be connected with you on LinkedIn,” and that's so not a pitch at all. It's just a “Hey, I'd love to be connected.” 

 And then that first message that comes after the connection request, that’s the message that matters the most once you get that new LinkedIn connection. That's the point where a lot of people jump to the, “Hey, here's what I do. Let's chat. I'd love to help you with XYZ,” and that's what I knew I didn't want to do. So I changed that message just to be really simple as far as, “Hey, I'd love to hear a little bit more about what you do and who you help, if that's something you're open to,” and once I changed that message, once I just started it to open a conversation, that's when people started replying like crazy. 

 I mean, even as I'm recording this, I got a message from my assistant. She actually manages a lot of my LinkedIn inbox these days, and she was saying I have 30 messages to reply to today, which is crazy, the fact that so many people are responding. But at the same time, it makes perfect sense because they're not responding to a cold pitch; they're just responding to a conversation starter. 

 Now, when I was doing something that was probably a little bit closer to cold pitching, it was ultimately easier to turn those yeses or responses into a booked strategy session. But I got so many fewer responses that, ultimately, I was sending messages to a lot of people who were ideal clients, but who were so turned off by my spammy approach that they didn't even entertain the idea of getting on a call with me. Really, what it all comes down to is sequencing; it comes down to this idea that you need to do the right things in the right order. So if you jump to a new conversation and start it with a pitch, you're falling out of sequence there; you're pitching before you know the person, and that's what a lot of people are doing with LinkedIn. 

 But if we do follow the correct sequence, which is to identify a prospect, get to know them, and then pitch them if they're a good fit, the results increase dramatically. And really, the only shift I made is treating the conversation as a conversation and not as a sales call via the DMs. The reason I highlight this so much is that I really want to hammer into your head that when we're seeing a bunch of tactics—whether that's LinkedIn or Facebook or email or whatever—that aren't working, it might not actually be about the concrete, nitty gritty logistics, but it probably has something to deal with how you're approaching that tactic in the first place. So in this example, it's about approaching LinkedIn with the purpose of starting a conversation rather than pitching. 

 Another example of this could be your social media posts, or even your blog. It's really easy, when you're using those things, to jump into this mode of trying to get them to book a call with you or to buy whatever you're selling. Whereas usually, social media posts and blog articles actually need to be focused on creating value for the reader, being focused on educating them and establishing yourself as an authority, rather than making the sale. What it really comes down to is knowing when it's time to make the sale and not trying to make the sale before then. 

 And ultimately, when you're thinking about how to apply this to your business, it is going to be this perpetual experiment, right? You're not going to have it all figured out immediately; you're going to continue to adjust and tweak until you get things so dialed in. But the main lesson is to make sure that things are following in sequence and that you're not rushing things or even moving too slowly, because both of those are big, big issues. 

 So with that, I will leave you until tomorrow when we will be back for our next episode. Thank you so much for joining me. Again, my name is Jacob Ratliff, and if you haven't picked up your copy of my brand new book Client Attractor, you can grab that at But until then, I will see you tomorrow.

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