#009: How to Use LinkedIn as an Effective Prospecting Tool

Summary: In this episode of Smarter freelancing podcast Ed will speak with Melonie Dodaro on how to use LinkedIn as an effective prospecting tool!

Ten years ago, when LinkedIn was new, the "newness" of the medium made it stand out.

I remember how easy it was to connect with prospects and start productive dialogue.

But as hundreds of millions of professionals have joined this social network, it's become harder to stand out and drum up great leads.

That doesn't mean you should ignore LinkedIn. It just means you have to be more strategic and deliberate about HOW you use it.

In this episode, LinkedIn expert and author of the new book The LinkedIn Code, , shares simple and very specific steps you can take to find great prospects (and land freelance work) through LinkedIn.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Melonie Dodaro’s company is Top Dog Social Media, a full service social media agency.

She’s just finished writing a book on using LinkedIn for lead generation.

Do people spend time on LinkedIn?

Yes, but not as much as Facebook or other platforms. Unlike those platforms, LinkedIn is business focused. Much of the interaction on LinkedIn happens via email. When you message people on LinkedIn, your message goes to their inbox, not their newsfeed, which can be a real advantage.

You’ve developed a step-by-step lead generation plan using LinkedIn. Can you walk us through it?

LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation than other social media platforms. Yet most people use it poorly. They’re either too inactive or spammy.

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Step 1: Create a great profile

Before using LinkedIn for lead generation, you need to have a great LinkedIn profile. Make it client focused. Don’t just upload your resume. Speak to your clients’ specific needs.

Step 2: Understand LinkedIn etiquette

Breaking LinkedIn etiquette rules, even unknowingly, can turn off prospects. Know LinkedIn etiquette best practices.

Step 3: Find your ideal prospects

Once you know who your ideal prospects are, LinkedIn has great tools to help you find them. For example, LinkedIn Advanced Search allows you to use Boolean search terms to really target prospects.

You can save up to three searches in Advanced Search with a free account. In addition, you can set up LinkedIn to email you when new people meet your saved search.

For more on attracting clients via LinkedIn, see our earlier podcast with Melonie: How to Attract Great Clients With LinkedIn.

The benefits of upgrading to a premium LinkedIn account are:

  1. You can see everyone who’s viewed your profile in the past 90 days, including potential prospects.
  2. You get a larger number of search parameters to better narrow your search.

Step 4: Join LinkedIn groups where your ideal clients are

Join LinkedIn groups where your ideal clients are; not just groups of your peers and competitors.

Once you’re in these groups, it’s easier to connect with fellow members.

Step 5: Send a personalized connection request

Always personalize your connection request. Most people don’t do this. Say why you want to connect. People will almost always accept a personalized request. To speed up the process, you can create message scripts.

Remember, you don’t want to collect connections; you want to build a rapport.

Step 6: Send relationship-building messages

Send a welcome/thank you message once they’ve accepted your connection request. Initiate a dialogue. Provide them with content that’s appealing to them (preferably your own).

Send one to two more messages with something of value over the next week or two.

Step 7: Take the conversation offline

You want to move the relationship forward, but you’re not trying to close the deal online, especially if you’re selling a service. The goal is to eventually take the conversation offline so you can talk more and see if they would benefit from your services. If the conversation stays online, you won’t move forward.

Sending these kinds of messages is a great way to distinguish yourself. Spend time creating great content so that you have something valuable to share.

Tell us about your bookLinkedInCode-Book-Cover-250px

Melonie’s new book is The LinkedIn Code. It covers each of these lead generation steps in more detail and contains lots of samples and checklists. It’s a quick and easy read with plenty of actionable items.

The book will be available on Amazon on June 3. In the meantime, you can register for a reminder and get free, limited time bonuses.


  • Listened to this the day you published it Ed, and came back to comment today. With all this re-focus on LinkedIn as a prospecting tool, I made a commitment a month ago to search for and connect with people who I thought could use a freelance commercial copywriter.

    My focus was on graphic designers within about 50 miles of where I am. This turns up both freelancers as well as guys and gals working in larger firms. Using courtesy and good etiquette my acceptance rate has been about 95% for connection invites.

    This morning I met with the chief graphic designer at a fairly large local company. He responded to my initial query after a couple of LinkedIn messages with, "I really need a copywriter". He sounded desperate (and turns out he is).

    This will likely start out as a steady freelance gig because there's so much work, and once I prove myself could turn into a full time job if I want it. Thanks for this interview with Melonie and for your book Ed. Good job!

    • edgandia

      Oh, that's fantastic, David! Thanks for sharing. Smart of you to try this. And look .. it paid off well!

  • Bobby Burns

    Just got to this one, Ed. Great stuff once again. I had to laugh at the start at the statement about "no pictures of cats or inspirational quotes" on LinkedIn. I am guilty of the latter and a big fan of them. Cats I can do without... ;0

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Bobby! I think we're about the same. I love inspirational quotes, but I can do without the cute cat videos. 😉

  • FrankyFreedom

    Excellent episode!. I recently came across your podcast as a result of a link in your newsletter. As the first episode I have listened to of your I will say I am quite impressed and will listen to other episodes. Well done.

    I have read a handful of good books on Linked In but agree that this kind which focuses on the core "relationship building" aspect of things (that is, the PROCESS) are most helpful. Since social media is a new form of communication I believe it will take time for people (in general) to adjust to the higher mode of thinking which enables you to truly benefit from the new paradigm. Any skills which relate to relationship building, sales, communication, etc.are the most valuable in the digital communication age.

    I have personally found it very helpful to connect with (and give PRIORITY to) those members of my target networking market who have a good web presence. If their web presence has been built to FACILITATE the relationship-building process I can feasibly assume that they are like-minded and open-minded in strategy and goals AND I am then able (as web consultant) to give them helpful and valuable advice and feedback about their site. We can then easily segway into beginning a trust and relationship-building collaboration which benefits BOTH parties in real-time..

    In this way it is a step-by-step but NATURAL process which produces benefits for all parties from the very beginning and can grow solidly.

    I hope this comment is helpful.

    Feel free to connect with me : http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=164824750&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

    • edgandia

      Thanks for your comment! That's a great insight and an excellent way to view this -- look for people who have built their web presence to facilitate the relationship-building process. HUGE clue that they're a good prospect for someone like you.

      Thanks for checking out my podcast. Glad to have you as a listener. 🙂