What they're not telling you about InMail®

Jeff Molander

Sales communications coach & Managing Partner, Communications Edge Inc.

Trainer to brands like:

"Smoke-and-mirrors." Marketing gimmicks. They have no place in sales. 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator can be a great tool. But you may be sabotaging the chance to start conversations with prospects. And it's not your fault.

Lately, the below misconceptions are causing a LOT of sellers to sabotage their diligent efforts—fail to get replies from prospects.

Without getting into the blame-game I'll cut-to-the-chase. 

LinkedIn is becoming less effective

There. I said it.

Hear me out. Linkedin is weakening as a communications platform—all while the company builds an image as THE "social" sales tool.

This weakening isn't my opinion—it's the accumulated experience of our Spark Selling Academy community.

Our team (and our client's teams) report decision-makers becoming less-and-less responsive. In all B2B industry sectors? No. In most? Yes. 


Some blame the "Facebook-ization" of LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Decision-makers are less-and-less receptive to receiving any messages on LinkedIn. Quick analysis of LinkedIn's public discussions about user base stats and you'll see it too.

Business users are on LinkedIn less-and-less. Those that are are beginning to disguise their authority more-and-more.

In past, LinkedIn has seen massive abuse of its InMail platform. So in 2015, the company re-arranged its rules and response rates increased substantially. There was less spam on LinkedIn.

However, lately, our clients & students are seeing decreasing:

  • Quality & effectiveness of InMail
  • InMail writing skills
  • Communications skills among sellers in general

Decision-makers are replying less

Decision-makers are responding less on LinkedIn's platform. We believe because Navigator's popularity is increasing. More sellers are piling on.

This is resulting in a steady increase in spammy messages on LinkedIn's platform.

What this means for you, bottom line, your message must: 

  • be a high-quality, researched (not canned) one;
  • be distributed using email, voice/calls/voicemail and, yes, InMail toward the end;
  • provoke the pants right off your prospect!

LinkedIn's strength is in its profile database—not its ability to start conversations with customers

I know snazzy LinkedIn adverts claim otherwise. As do the "LinkedIn experts" who arm you with InMail templates. Templates don't work.

Do you use LinkedIn as your primary communications platform when prospecting? If so, you may be weakening your chances to start conversations on it.

Over time, we are seeing decision-makers:

  • Disguising authority on LinkedIn (avoiding sellers who communicate by spamming!)
  • Accepting fewer connection requests
  • Responding to issues-oriented provocations, not meeting requests

Relying too much on InMail®

Most sellers are relying too much on email. InMail is even worse. Most believe the fantastic (unrealistic) claims made by LinkedIn about the "power" of InMail. 

We are constantly advising, "InMail doesn't have superpowers." Sellers roll their eyes and say, "well, duh, Molander." Only to turn around and keep using it ... as if it is capable of more than standard email.

It is capable of less.

InMail is no different than standard email as a conversation-starting tool. However, it is weaker as a sales tool based on how most apply it. With InMail, remember, you have no reliable way to:

  • Understand open rate of messages
  • Strengthen subject lines (and get opened more!)
  • Easily manage follow-ups as part of your cadence

InMail can be an effective tool when integrated with a multi-pronged prospecting cadence. Our most productive students use InMail as a last resort — toward the end of outreach sequence (standard email and phone).

One of the biggest mistakes I'm seeing is expecting InMail to deliver above average response from prospects. It does not.

It is best to use InMail toward end of your cadence. This isn't my opinion; it's what we are experiencing in our community.

InMail® cannot measure open rate

Using InMail without having a proven, effective subject line is common practice. But it's deadly. You're flying blind unless you use a proven effective subject line. 

First, test subject lines outside of the realm of InMail, before you start InMailing. Because InMail cannot help you test subject lines. There is no “open tracking” available in LinkedIn.

If you don't have a strong open rate you cannot effectively use any form of email.  

Open rate is critical because you must know if you're being opened. Then (and only then) you can judge effectiveness of (and adjust) the message. Beware: You may be wrongly judging your message effectiveness because you assume it’s being seen!

Solution: Test subject lines outside the realm of InMail, then bring your strength to it. Bring subject lines that you know people are opening. Aim for a minimum 30 percent open rate. You need at least a 40 percent response rate for InMail to be worthwhile (cost effective).

Now you know... so what?

What will you do with this information? 

Why didn't you have this information before? 

Point blank: LinkedIn doesn't care. And I don't care about LinkedIn. I'm like you. I just want to meet prospects, faster without the bull. 

The free information and courses by LinkedIn—and others on YouTube—are nicely put together. But LinkedIn is not in the business of helping you communicate effectively. They're in the business of selling access to a database of prospects :)

LinkedIn's tips and training shows how to use LinkedIn's tool set—the way LinkedIn wants you to use it. It's like watching a commercial. Of course commercials are free! 

Our private Academy shows how to get conversations started with InMails, standard email... and voicemail. Big difference.

What you take from the Academy (and one-on-one coaching workshops) is based on collective experiences of its members. Not "guru" wisdom.

Now you have something to do with your information. Consider how our community is showing members how to start conversations effectively on LinkedIn and beyond.

Frankly, you might ask, "Why should I pay for what is available free on YouTube and Google?" I will tell you: Because what's available on the Internet isn't effective.

Want personalized, one-to-one help on improving your ability to start conversations with buyers? Consider being one of the ten students in our next 8-week-long coaching workshop

What has your experience been? (leave a comment below)

To your success,

Sales communications coach & Managing partner

Photo credit: Kevin Walsh

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