How to decide if InMail® is worth it

Jeff Molander

Sales communication coach & Managing Partner, Communications Edge Inc.

Trainer to brands like:

Do you:

1) have a response rate less than 40%?

2) Need appointments, calls or demos in the near term---more than anything else?

3) use a one-message approach to clients already happy with the status quo?​

In these cases, InMail may not be the best starting point.

** We recommend using it as a "last resort" when all else fails to produce a response.

** We ALSO recommend Canadian sellers use it as a work-around to the very unclear Canadian Anti Spam Legislation.

Make sure you're asking yourself these questions when deciding to invest in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or buying more InMail messages in general.

What is InMail®?

As of today, InMail comes in 2 flavors. Sponsored and regular, old-fashioned InMail. For our purposes (as sellers) We will not discuss Sponsored InMail as it's really a marketing (mass) tool.

InMail is LinkedIn's way of allowing sellers to break its rules—by paying them.

It is against LinkedIn's Terms & Conditions to request a connection with prospects you don't already know. Beware: You can be restricted or banned by LinkedIn for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know.

That's why LinkedIn gives us InMail. This is a “legal” way to reach prospects and attempt to woo them.

#1 What is your current response rate?

Do you have an email response rate less than 40%? Most reps do. InMail may not be the best starting point for making contact if so. Because InMail is an expensive game.

Don't have confidence in your ability to use email to earn leads? Be careful with InMail.

When using InMail you cannot be average. You must be exceptional at messaging. Or you'll go broke!

Prospecting is a numbers game. So is InMail. Your ROI will be determined by one factor: Ability to get at least half of your prospects to respond. This allows you to recover the cost of that InMail—and re-invest it.

Currently, with InMail, you:

  • receive one InMail credit back for each message receiving a positive or negative response;
  • have 90 days to earn that response; (get the credit back)
  • are able to re-use the money (credit) invested again … and again and again

You will gain a credit every time a recipient marks your message “Not Interested.” LinkedIn counts that (and all negative responses) as a response.

However, you are risk of being banned from using InMail if marked “Not Interested” too often.

Remember: Every time you fail to get a reply your money is wasted—gone. 

Bottom line: Prospecting on LinkedIn with InMail demands above average response rates.

#2: Are near-term appointments your biggest priority?

We all need appointments set right away, of course. But the math outlined above is why cold-calling and standard email may be a better option. InMail may not be smart if you need near-term buyers who are ready to meet with you today.

In other words, think twice about InMail if you need replies that ask for demos or appointments now, more than anything else.

Here's the rub. Generally, the average sales reps sends email messages asking for too much too fast. They expect positive response from prospects who don't yet realize they're buyers. They need time to realize the solution is both needed and a fit.

Thus, beware of using InMail if you:

  • typically meet "status quo" buyers that don't realize your solution is needed (yet),
  • are average in earning response from prospects or
  • struggle to identify if prospects are, at the moment, searching for your solution.

In these situations InMail might be too costly for you. However, if you are strong at earning customers' response via email—and are good at identifying near-term buyers using social listening or seasonal buying patters—InMail could work well for you.

Need to get good at writing provocative messages? Consider joining us in our next Email Writing Clinic.  

Overall, don't over-estimate InMail's ability to make things happen. InMail is very expensive e-mail.

#3: Using a one-email approach to buyers who need time?

We see a lot of reps using a single email approach when courting prospects who need time to realize, "hey, I have a problem worth acting on."

This won't work. Be careful. Always avoid asking for appointments (at all) in a first touch email. But especially avoid it with this kind of customer.

Instead, use a sequence of “short burst” emails. First, give prospects the chance to engage in a short e-mail conversation about their pain, fear or goal. By using a sequenced approach you will attract prospects to the idea of talking to you. Literally.

This way you can help the prospect come to the realization you want them to have. That eye-opening moment clients have when realizing they actually do need to change—they suddenly consider escaping the status quo.

The best way to provoke replies from buyers who don't think they need what you're selling (but DO) is to:

  • plant a seed of doubt that irritates them enough to reply
  • validate an uncertainty or fear in a way they cannot resist acting on
  • prove they may not be doing everything possible to achieve a goal or avoid a dangerous risk

Need to get good at this? 

Consider joining us in the upcoming InMail & email writing workshop where we'll work with you, one-on-one, to practice this approach.

Telling prospects, "You should consider X solution because Y research says so" is a non-starter. Pushing information at customers works far less than provoking them.

"People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters, but no one chooses to get cold emails. This simple fact is one of the most important differences between the two," says cold email expert, Heather Morgan.

Ms. Morgan reminds us also how cold emails arrive without context. This is often the first time prospects have heard from you. Further, "you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention yet," says Ms. Morgan.

Context is key. Why talk at when you can talk with? Why push when you can pull, attract the conversation to you? 

Jeff Molander

Sales communication coach & Managing partner

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