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How to write InMails that actually get responses

Learn how to stand out in the place where everyone else fits in: the LinkedIn Inbox.

Contents

  1. Prelude: No, no, no, no, no! Some InMails are so bad, they're just plain scary.
  2. Chapter 1: Get it opened If an InMail gets sent and nobody reads it, does it even exist?
  3. Chapter 2: The thing about templates... Templates really are the bane of InMailing. Here's why.
  4. Chapter 3: Short and sweet Take this section into account and InMailing prospects for business will be as easy as taking candy from a baby.
  5. Chapter 4: Get straight to the point Waffles are for breakfast, not for LinkedIn.
  6. Chapter 5: Your tone is key "Write as you speak. Naturally." - David Ogilvy
  7. Chapter 6: What do you want? It's a simple question which salespeople fail to answer far too much.

People claim to be on a weight-loss diet because they’re eating differently, to have stopped smoking because they had 3 days off or be models because they work in the stock room at Hollister. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll lose weight, quit smoking altogether or become the next David Gandy.

Equally, just because you InMail people doesn’t mean you’re doing it right and are going to have loads of people getting in touch to do business.

There’s no faking it ’til you’re making it with InMails; you only get one chance at a first impression, so quality – not quantity – is key to success.

In this guide, I’ll cover the ins and outs of exactly what you shouldn’t do – which, by the way, is exactly what a lot of people are doing – and from that, give you some ideas that might well change your career.

This isn’t a normal blog post – it’s much longer than that. The reason? This is a very important topic and there’s a lot to say.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Or, just read one section, bookmark the page and come back another day. The choice is yours, but if you want to learn exactly how to InMail people for the greatest effect, reading is mandatory.

Prelude: No, no, no, no, no!

Some InMails are so bad, they're just plain scary.

Bad example 1: The Rambler

Hopefully you can see what’s wrong with this one straightaway. The Rambler tends to say a lot of stuff, without actually telling me a thing. The main problem, is that after reading, I still don’t know who the person is, why exactly they want to get in touch or even what their company does. And what does this person want from me now? What’s their call to action? Even if I did like the message, I don’t know what they want me to do about it.

Tips

  • Don’t say anything you don’t need to say or have already said. Concision is the key.
  • Make it clear what you want them to know.
  • Be incredibly clear about what you want the recipient to do next.

Bad InMail example 1

Bad example 2: The No-Go

Example 2

You’ll notice that I had to put this one on an iPad; it was too long to fit on a normal screen. If that’s the case with you, then your InMail is way, way, way too long. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that if your InMail goes on for more than 1 paragraph, it’s still too long. But we’ll come onto that later on in more detail.

Tips

  • If you saw the InMail you’ve written appear in your inbox from someone else, would you honestly read it? Or would you think it looked like too much effort?
  • Again, as with the last bad example, only say things you absolutely have to and haven’t said already.
  • Be incredibly clear about what you want the recipient to do next.

Bad example 3: The Boaster

Again with the iPad – the message was too long to fit on a normal screen. If yours is, then you shouldn’t be sending it.

But that’s not that main thing that makes this example a bad one. When you read this InMail, the person who has sent it seems pretty self obsessed. It’s all about ‘me, me, me’. They just talk about why they’re so great. But in any sales message – recruitment included – you have to make the person buy into you before they’ll buy from you.

Tips

  • Don’t just talk about yourself, make the message about them.
  • If you are going to talk about yourself at all, revert it back to them at the end so they know what you can do for them.
  • Be incredibly clear about what you want the recipient to do next.

Bad InMail example 3

Chapter 1: Get it opened

If an InMail gets sent and nobody reads it, does it even exist?

The first line is ridiculously important in any InMail, email, memo, newsletter or anything else you might send online because, if the first line isn’t good, how can you expect anyone to open it?

In emails this first line is, of course, the subject. InMails, however, don’t feature a subject line, merely a preview of your entire message. Your first line is therefore key to getting your InMails noticed and opened, especially by key decision makers.

But why do we open the InMails and emails we open and ignore the others? Of course, nobody has time to open everything they receive – I certainly don’t – but what’s the psychology behind it?

A large part comes down to who is sending the message across, which is why getting your first few right is so important; once you’ve built some rapport, your first line just has to be straightforward and, as long as they see that you’re sending it, they’ll open.

But when you’re trying to speak to someone who you haven’t yet spoken to, the best way to get their attention in a subject line (or in the InMail itself, for that matter) is to make it personal.

Personalization

Your prospects’ LinkedIn profiles are rammed with key clues about who they are, who they think they are and who they want to be. Frankly, you’d be crazy not to use them to personalize your approach.

If you do your homework on the prospect, they’ll immediately know and respect you for it. But if you don’t and there’s nothing specific about them in your content, they’ll think the email is mass sent.

Let’s say your company has a solution to an industry specific problem which you know affects the person directly; go onto their profile, find out who they work for now – maybe even who they used to work for as well – and have the first line mention the company name, as well as their first name.

This level of personalization doesn’t go unnoticed and will hugely help towards having someone at least open your InMail.

 

Personalized first lines that work

Use any of the following to just get the conversation started. That’s your main aim in the beginning. As long as you do that, you can build rapport.

  • John, could I ask a quick question about your time as a [role name] with [Company A]?
  • John, could I bend your ear about [skill/experience/qualification]?
  • John, is this a fit for [company name]?
Chapter 2: The thing about templates...

Templates really are the bane of InMailing. Here's why.

Salespeople are strapped for time and usually don’t have much technical writing knowledge, so using a template created online by someone who seemingly knows what they’re on about is a great way to go.

There’s just one, small problem…

Everyone else is using them too, and probably have been for a number of years. As a result, the way they get their message across has been used so many times now that nobody’s listening any more.

Want to bore people to death in your InMails?

If so, start them with “Thank you for letting me become a part of your network”, “Excuse my approach today” or – the worst of all – “I was just looking at your profile and thought…”

If you want to stand out, get straight to the point. People will be surprised and refreshed to read something that doesn’t their waste time.

Sales mistakes

Like most people, you can probably tell straightaway when an InMail has been mass sent, but what are the key clues? Because whatever they are, you should be avoiding them at all costs.

The first is that they all say exactly the same thing and have the same structure.

The main issue for salespeople is that they often feel as though they need to throw the net out to everyone at the same time, using the traditional scattergun approach.

But this is where sales and marketing alignment comes in, and we have to look at the differences between the two.

Ultimately, sales and marketing try to achieve the same thing, but in different ways; salespeople communicate on a one-to-one basis, while marketers communicate to the masses.

What salespeople the world over should realize here is that their marketing teams should be throwing out the net, while they sit there and fish.

The second clue to noticing a mass sent InMail is the way it’s written; although marketers get in touch with thousands of people through their messages, they do so in a tone of voice that makes the reader feel like they’re in a one-to-one conversation.

 

Remember: although very similar, sales and marketing are different. Your marketing team should be throwing the net out to catch groups of people; you’re selling on a one-to-one basis.

Often though, salespeople – despite the fact that they’re talking directly to the prospect – write as though they’re speaking to many people all at once.

You’re much likely to get a response if you write for a private conversation than as if you’re giving a lecture to a hall.

Essentially, this is the key problem behind the awful InMails we all receive every single day.

As long as you realize that quality beats quantity every single time, and that a message that’s written in a personal tone of voice will trump a generic one, you’ll have a huge head start on everyone else.

How to write if you want to sell more

If you want to know exactly how to write in a conversational tone to get more sales, you’re in luck: I’ve written another post on the ins and outs of that, which you can find here.

pen and paper

Chapter 3: Short and sweet

Take this section into account and InMailing prospects for business will be as easy as taking candy from a baby.

I’ve opened InMails before and seen paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs of writing.

I don’t ever read them, nobody ever does, but I can guarantee that in each one is a company description, list of benefits and call to action.

What I’ve just described is an elevator pitch, something which was left behind with pagers in the ’90s and has no place on LinkedIn.

The problem here is a really simple one to fix, and it’s all to do with pacing.

(I hope) You wouldn’t go up to someone in a bar and say “Hi”, buy them a drink, tell them your life story, give them a key to your house and ask them to marry you all in the same breath.

So when it comes to your InMails, you need to think about the pace of your approach.

Are you asking too much of the prospect in the first few InMails? A lot of salespeople do.

Don’t be afraid to keep your InMails really short and have one key thing you want answered in each one you send.

Ask one simple question at a time and treat your InMail chain as a conversation, rather than a chain of emails, and you’ll have a much greater chance of getting the exact information you need.

Task: Look back through the InMails you’ve sent. Are they longer than 2-3 paragraphs? If so, try to figure out the main thing you were trying to get across and rewrite the email as concisely as possible.

 

Your first InMail to a prospect could even be as simple as this:

Hi [name],

Just wondering if I could ask you a quick question about [their company name]?

Cheers,

Ollie

But send over a templated email containing a description of your company, of you, your role, with questions about their company and their role, a link to your website and a case study and the prospect won’t even know where to start with a reply.

“If people don’t know where to start with a reply, they probably won’t start one at all.”

I mentioned in chapter 1 that it’s a great idea to personalize your subject line and InMail using the prospect’s information, but what I didn’t mention was that you shouldn’t use all of their information in one go.

If you InMail a cold prospect with everything about them in one go, you’ll come across as some kind of weird, LinkedIn copy-and-paste stalker.

Instead, just use little pieces of the information about them bit by bit throughout the conversation.

This will put you in good stead and help you to build rapport by showing that you’ve actually read up on them and their company and haven’t just sent them an InMail without thought or care.

Chapter 4: Get straight to the point

Waffles are for breakfast, not for LinkedIn.

There’s absolutely no need to beat around the bush with phrases like, “Thanks for letting me become a part of your network”.

It’s pointless and a waste of everyone’s time, including yours.

In your opening sentence, you should set the tone for the rest of the InMail.

Say exactly why you’re getting in touch right away.

The first line or two is always critical because most people will read this at least. Even if they don’t go beyond this, if you put your key points first, they’ll know what you’re after.

But if you start by waffling on about pointless things, that’s the message they’re likely to leave with.

Jeff Molander of the creatively named JeffMolander.com puts it well in this article, in which he describes good InMails as being all three of the ‘3 killer B’s’: Brief, Blunt and Basic.

Task: Look back through your InMails; do you often have an overly long introduction? Try and reword your first couple of sentences so that they explain exactly why you’re getting in touch.

Things to exclude from your InMails

1. Niceties
Leave the niceties for when you actually meet. Anything along the lines of “Thanks for connecting with me”, “I can see from your profile you’re XYZ” and “” are completely unnecessary and have been said so many times that nobody cares now anyway.

2. Your name

The receiver gets an email and a notification saying that you messaged them, you’ll sign off with your name at the end and they can see your name at the top of the message in the LinkedIn inbox anyway. Starting by saying your name is about as pointless as a white crayon.

3. Abbreviations and acronyms

The problem with both of these is that the reader might not know what you’re talking about, lessening the chance of a response. Keep things as simple as possible and use real, full words.
Chapter 5: Your tone is key

"Write as you speak. Naturally." - David Ogilvy

The guy on the background image above is one of the founding fathers of the advertising world as we know it: David Ogilvy. He was a firm believer that all communications should be written in the way that you’d actually say them (to a certain point) or in the way that the person you’re writing to speaks.

The fact is that writing in a conversational tone makes someone far more engaged with what you’re saying.

One thing that all salespeople can learn from marketers on that basis is that it’s much, much better to write the way you actually speak and not the way you were taught to write at school.

That doesn’t, however, mean using bad grammar, swear words and Cockney rhyming slang in your writing.

“Alright geezer? Just wondering if I could get you on the old dog and bone later for a natter about this bees and honey?” isn’t an acceptable InMail though, even if you are from the east-end of London.

You should still use proper spelling, language and punctuation if you want to be taken seriously, but never use words that you or the prospect wouldn’t say out loud in a one-to-one conversation.

Sometimes, I’ve seen words crop up in InMails that look like they’d score 60 in a game of scrabble. Right clicking and finding a longer synonym doesn’t make you look smarter, it just makes you look like you’re trying to show off.

Equally, spelling things wrong, writing sentences that make no sense and not knowing your too from your to or your are from your our will make you look more stupid than you’d want anyone to think.

You’ll just come across as the kind of person the prospect wouldn’t normally mix with or talk to. But if you can make them feel like you’re their kind of guy (or girl), you’ll have, in the wise words of Borat, “Great success!”

Task: Read your old InMails out loud. Are there any words or phrases in there that don’t feel natural when you say them? Is there anything in there that you wouldn’t actually use in a conversation? Try and rewrite the sentences exactly how you’d say them if you were speaking out loud to the prospect.

borat

Learn to write in a conversational tone (unless you’re Borat) and you will have ‘great success’.

Another important point on tone is whether you write like you’re in an intimate conversation or giving a lecture to a group of people.

I touched on this briefly in the introduction and in the bad examples.

As a salesperson, you’re working on a one-to-one basis; even if you’re sending out an InMail to 500 people on LinkedIn in one go, they still only see that it’s from you.

In that sense, you need to write it as though you’re speaking directly to that person and not to 500 people.

I could write another post on this topic altogether, but the main thing is to make sure you keep the InMail – no matter the stage in the sales process – all about them. Do that by using ‘you’ as much as possible and, every now and again (as long as you’re actually on a first name basis by that point) their first name, too.

Secondly, refer to yourself as ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ to make it really feel like it’s just the two of you in the room.

Chapter 6: What do you want?

It's a simple question which salespeople fail to answer far too much.

The last thing I’ll talk about in this article is one of the most important.

If you want someone to give you something – be it their time, their advice, some information, a phone number, anything – you have to make sure that they know exactly what you want.

But you have to be crystal clear about it, otherwise the prospect has a few grounds on which to be indecisive.

“I used to be indecisive, now I’m not sure” – Tommy Cooper

It sounds so incredibly simple but sometimes we can get so carried away with selling ourselves, our company and our product that we forget to tell someone that ever-so important instruction which will move them closer to a sale.

In marketing, this is known as a Call to Action (or CTA for short).

Often, someone will send me something and give me loads of information about their company, but fail to actually tell me what to do next.

At the end of an InMail, make it perfectly clear what you want them to do next.

By simply saying something along the lines of “Looking forward to your response” or “What do you think?”, you’re as good as instructing the person to get in touch with you without actually being pushy and forcing them to respond.

What to ask for?

Make sure you don’t ask for too much from the prospect. Think about how well you know them, how well you know that they’re a fit for your company and where they’re likely to be in the sales funnel.

If you think they need more information before pitching, use your CTA to ask them to look at something when you send it over.

If you think they’re wasting your time, ask them if they’re actually interested because you’re so busy with other business you don’t have time to spend on people who will never buy.

And if you think they’re ready to buy, read below.

tortoise-blog

When it comes to InMailing, spread things out over a number of InMails. Slow and steady wins the race.

How NOT to use a call to action

Never, ever, pitch through an InMail.

There are three key reasons for this: tone of voice, body language and time.

If you set up a phone call, you can learn a lot about their tone of voice when they respond. The way that someone speaks tells us a lot about who they are and how interested they are in you.

If you can set up a meeting, this is even better, because you can learn a lot about their tone of voice, but also about their body language. If they act cagey and uninterested then you know not to waste your time, but if they’re open and honest, you know you’re doing something right.

Task: go back through your old InMails and work out exactly what you wanted from each one. Did you ask for it specifically? If so, did it sound too ambitious given the prospect and their situation at the time? Rewrite some new calls to action that actually fit both the email and the situation and only ask for one thing.

The great thing about both of these things is that they allow a limited amount of time for the prospect to think about their answer, meaning you’re likely to get a more honest, less tactical response from the person you’re talking to.

Pitch through the InMail, however, and you lose all of these advantages, which could be absolutely disastrous for you in the long-run. All of your hard work will be as good as undone in one fell swoop, making the deal much, much harder to close.

About the author:

Hi, I’m Ollie Roddy, thanks for reading my article.

As they’re so important for salespeople nowadays, I thought I’d do some research on how to write good InMails. I’ve combined that with my technical copywriting knowledge to create a solid guide that can actually help you to sell more.

Be sure to check out the rest of the resources across the site and maybe even the product itself: sales-i.

Otherwise, thanks for reading my post; I hope you found it useful and will share it with your friends and colleagues.


 

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