Your LinkedIn contacts are not leads.

They are contacts, and you have some work to do before they officially become a lead.

I saw a comment in my LinkedIn news feed today where someone said, “I have been on LinkedIn for years. Has anyone got a fresh lead on LinkedIn that turned into a sale? I never have.”

I could feel her frustration and disappointment, especially since the post she was commenting on was promoting a free eBook about finding leads on LinkedIn. (The book was free when you reached the seventh and final hoop of the opt-in, by the way.)

If you are as frustrated as the person I mentioned above, you might be thinking about LinkedIn in the wrong way. LinkedIn is not a massive opt-in list grown from your content marketing campaign. It’s not a list at all or a database: It’s a network. And fortunately for all of us, it gives us behind-the-scenes data about everyone in the network.

If you want to find success on LinkedIn, I encourage you to try something different: Put yourself in their shoes.

Here is one way to approach it.

  1. Have you ever had any communication exchange with this person?

Before reaching out to a new contact, or any contact, do your research. Look over their profile, review their website, search online for articles about them or their business, and read some of their LinkedIn (or blog) posts. Try to learn something about them, and by doing this, you can look for challenges they have that your products or services could resolve. HOWEVER… even if you find something, don’t you dare go try to sell your services yet.

Tip: When you are viewing their profile, you can view their recent activity and get to know them. How about that?!

How To See Someones Updates On LinkedIn

  1. Do NOT add them to your newsletter database or any other database.

Just because they accepted your LinkedIn request doesn’t mean they opted-in to your newsletters or emails. You’ve skipped an entire process in the marketing funnel.

  1. Make your first communication a nice formal hello.

Send them a thank-you for connecting and comment about their profile or something you have in common.

  1. Make your second and third action (get the drift) helpful.

Share or comment on one of their posts as they appear in your news feed. Or use that handy tool I showed you in step one and find an update to comment on or share. Be genuine, and think about what you are writing.

  1. Track your interactions through the Relationship Tab in their profile or your CRM.

Write some notes about what you’ve learned. Set yourself a reminder to follow up, or check in on them in a few days/weeks.

Track LinkedIn Contacts

  1. Later, go back to their profile, updates and information.

Is there something they need that one of your contacts could help with? Send them a note and let them know you would be happy to make an introduction. (Don’t you dare make that introduction until they tell you it’s Ok.)

Make a note of their needs and challenges and when you come across something online, like an eBook or article, send it to them. No strings attached.

  1. Do you think you know them now?

Invite them for a call. When they receive your email, they will recognize your face as that nice person who has helped them in the past. Now that you know more about them, prepare a value item for them. Is there a report or research that you have that will help them? Is there an eBook that your company created that will support their business goals? Is there a case study that shows how your company has saved thousands of dollars for businesses just like theirs?

Let them know there are no strings attached (and mean that). Your call will uncover a wealth of information you didn’t know about them. This I guarantee. You will find all kinds of intersections and the natural flow of the conversation will let you know if they are a lead.

  1. And guess what, even if they aren’t a lead, they will become a referral source.

They will have no problem referring you because you are a nice and professional business contact of theirs.

Is your brain hurting? Are you thinking, ‘I don’t have time for all this.’

Well, do you have time to reach out to hundreds of people only to have a low to zero return on your efforts?

I sure don’t.

While this strategy won’t sell a hundred widgets by Friday, keep in mind LinkedIn wasn’t designed for that. This strategy has made a me a better person, a better LinkedIn contact, and it keeps our company’s pipeline bursting at the seams.