How to use email and LinkedIn to prospect

How to use email and LinkedIn to prospect

In our digital world, it is becoming much easier and quicker to find and contact people we want to get in front of. Just think of LinkedIn and how easy it is to research prospects by title, industry and company, or using Google to research industries by location, speciality, etc.

There should be no excuse about not being able to find and contact prospects.

So in keeping with the digital world, is it OK to use email or LinkedIn as your initial contact with prospects?

Yes and no.

It’s all in how you do it. Let’s take a look.

How NOT to use email or LinkedIn to prospect


  • Sending out unsolicited, impersonal, text-dense emails is not the way to go. They equate to SPAM.
  • Sending out emails that are all about you and offer no value to the person receiving them is at best useless and at worst insulting.


  • Sending people invitations to connect providing no reason for connecting is incredibly frustrating. Many people I know treasure and protect their LinkedIn contact lists and do not want to pollute them with people they do not know, trust, or understand.
  • Sending IN messages that are straight-out sales pitches is a no-no as well.

How to use email or LinkedIn to prospect

Email and LinkedIn are very useful pathways to prompt new business opportunities. They can be very effective ways to introduce yourself and explain what you want to achieve by contacting the prospect. NB, the prospect can be someone you do not know or someone you do know.

Hint #1: Be clear about your intentions. What do you want to achieve by making contact with this person? Is it to introduce a new concept, product, service or idea? Is it to position you as a key person that may be of interest to the prospect?

Hint #2: When crafting your email or LinkedIn message, make sure that it is centred on a valid business reason (VBR) for the prospect.   

Hint #3: If you know someone – and have their permission to refer to them – who is a mutual acquaintance of yourself and the prospect then use this referral as your way of introduction (See LinkedIn tip below):


  • Be personal, be specific, be brief and to the point.
  • If you do not know the person, say so. However, if appropriate, mention that you are working in their industry sector (this adds to your credibility).
  • Use a referral source if possible.
  • Use a valid business reason (VBR) to state why you would like to speak with them. A VBR is something that is relevant or important to the prospect.
  • State that you will follow up on the email the next day (appropriate time frame).  


  • Same as with email.
  • LinkedIn offers some great features in InMail like letting you know who else is mutually connected between you and the LinkedIn prospect. This way you can make reference to things/people you have in common to warm up the contact.
  • Use the Connect feature on LinkedIn – take the time to personalise your message and explain why you would like to connect. It does make a difference.
  • The Advanced Research functions are excellent to narrow down your prospect contacts.

Prospecting by email or LinkedIn is not a replacement for telephone prospecting. Telephone prospecting, done well, is still one of the most effective and efficient ways to prospect. Email and LinkedIn prospecting should be seen as part of your prospecting resources and used wisely and well.

So think about how you want to be perceived, what you want to achieve and how you want the other person to respond to your approach. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to prospect effectively by email or LinkedIn and if you do it well it can return excellent rewards.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is founder and CEO of and and has written 21 e-books and 500+ articles on the world of 21st century selling.


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