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Cold Prospecting on LinkedIn: A Step by Step Guide

Matt Hlavacka
Matt Hlavacka
December 13th, 2022
linkedin tips

LinkedIn is already a major player in outbound marketing and sales, with 70% of sales professionals using it for business purposes regularly.

That’s because outreach on LinkedIn tends to have better results than your traditional email.

But that’s conditioned on how well you perform your outreach and, more importantly, how good your prospecting lists prove to be.

Luckily, we’ve prepared a step-by-step guide for cold prospecting on Linkedin.


Define Your Ideal Prospects in 5 Steps

While prospecting is probably the longest step of your outreach process, it’s also a crucial step.

People tend to spend quite some time on campaigns with zero responses or cold calling leads that are not actually willing to become buyers.

Effective prospecting by finding the right people you want to target during your campaigns will spare you that time.

Before each outreach campaign, you’ll need to outline who and what you’re looking for, in as many specific terms as possible.

This 5-step process will guide you.

Step 1: Define Your Value

You are not selling a product or a service. You are selling a solution to a problem.

Instead of focusing on what amazingly-executed features your product has, or how many fancy services you can provide, strip everything down to usefulness.

What are the goals and the outcomes of your offer, and what does that mean for your customers?

Create a list of valuable outcomes that help your customer.

For instance, when we pitch Icereach, some of the things we mention are:

Everyone can boost their acceptance rate to +50%

Recruiters might be wasting at least 2 hours per day when prospecting manually, or 40 hours a month with manual outreach

Everyone can reach more people with automatic outreach

Salespeople can perform multiple campaigns simultaneously and generate more leads

Everyone can perform LinkedIn automation safely, without their accounts getting flagged

Marketers can hyper-personalize their messages to reach more relevant potential collaborators, partners, or editors for their campaign purposes.


Based on the value you create, you’ll be able to better understand who truly needs your product, and how your audiences will use it.

Step 2: Define Your Customers’ Profile

Your goal is never to simply reach as many people as possible with your outreach efforts but to strategically target your main audience - people who are actually interested in your proposal.

The more information you have about your ideal customer, the easier it will be to find and reach the right people.

Create a loose persona of who the ideal customer is, and what you’ll need to look for in a profile.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t need to go extremely in-depth into buyers’ psychology, but you should still define some basic information:

  • Demographic information such as age range, location, spoken languages

  • Industry or business sector in which they operate

  • Working at a global or national company

  • Company size of their workplace

  • Role within the company (or hierarchy position within the company)

  • Job titles or departments within the company

  • Experience level and seniority

The above information should be able to give you an idea about how to target decision-makers first of all, working in an industry and role that could benefit from your offer.

Step 3: Split Customer Profiles Into Groups

You’ll notice that a few typologies start to emerge. Little groups of people with more similarities than the rest.

Your list may include all corporate executives that work in 3 or 4 different industries. You can then consider splitting your list based on industries so that your pitches account for specific pain points for each industry.

This will make your messages more relevant, insightful, and convincing.

Take this scenario: You’re targeting professionals with a few different roles in their company that could benefit from the value of your product: some are salespeople, others are marketers, or even developers.

Your offer could benefit all of them, but in very different ways: they might be using separate features or looking for different types of projects.

So you’re faced with different selling points for each category of professionals. If that’s the case, it’s time to split your main prospecting list into smaller, more targeted sub-lists.


Step 4: Match Added Value with Customer Profiles

Each role, industry, or position comes with its own challenges that need different solutions.

This means you’ll most likely have different angles available for your outreach. With your customer profiles in mind, make sure your lists are based on strategic decisions on how to best interact with your prospects.

So ask yourself if your product caters to those distinct roadblocks that each profession faces, and, most importantly, how it solves their issues.

Your message and interaction during an outreach should convey your added value to each group of people.

To give you an idea, let’s say you have a time management product designed for productivity, sales, and task management.

While a salesperson will be more interested in a feature that can schedule and set up their calls and appointments, a marketer will probably prefer a simplified way to create timelines and deadlines for projects and campaigns.

Both will be checking their calendar for their designated schedule but looking for different solutions to job-specific pain points. If you want both onboard, it means separate product pitches to accommodate those needs.

Pro Tip: Create a list of insights and solutions that your product or service solves. Then cross-check that list with your defined customer profiles to better understand how to split your prospecting lists.

Step 5: Review Your Prospects

Once you’ve outlined and organized your prospecting list and sub-lists, it’s time to add people that you want to contact.

While a simple search will give you some overall information about your potential customers, you also need to check each individual profile for extra information. Try to find out if:

  • They can make decisions within the company

  • Their expertise matched your ideal customer

  • They have any business goals mentioned that are aligned with your goals

  • You are familiar with their company (if not, familiarize yourself with it)

  • They are connected or doing business with other companies as well (if so, look into the potential of those businesses for your outreach)

  • They’ve previously worked for other businesses that should be included in your outreach

  • They have connections that might be relevant to your outreach

All of this information can help you narrow down your searches and filter your list more thoroughly, especially if you need to account for search limitations on LinkedIn.

Also, make a note of potential entry points into a company: common relationships, shared experiences, common groups, or events attended.

Finding commonalities makes for a smoother approach and increases your chances of getting replies.

Get inspired from these cold outreach message templates!

#Bonus: Use Search and Sales Navigator for Prospecting

Once you’ve planned your prospecting and defined your strategy, it’s time to execute it.

The first place you’re going to go to for new connections is the search bar in your free account or your LinkedIn Sales Navigator account.

Searches with a Free Account

Your free account offers decent search options that help you organize your search by:

  • Jobs (when looking for employment)

  • People (when looking for professionals with specific job titles)

  • Posts (when looking for people posting on certain topics of interest)

  • Groups (when intending to join professional groups)

  • Events (when looking for attendee lists)

  • Company (when targeting companies as potential clients)

  • Services (when looking for collaborators)

Just type in what you need to find and select the category or categories that might help. Then, select ‘All filters’ and add additional information regarding the location, industry, company, or even relevant keywords.


We created a search based on a job title and selected ‘People’, aiming to find outreach specialists that could use Icereach. We then localized the search to the US and started going through our options.

Note: You cannot save your search list with a free LinkedIn account. Any prospect will need to be added manually to a list.

To solve this issue, an automated prospecting and outreach tool can save your list by simply copy-pasting the search URL into campaigns.

Discover the search limit differences between Sales navigator and free account!

Benefits of Using Sales Navigator for Cold Prospecting on Linkedin

On the other hand, prospecting with Sales Navigator opens up a pool of options and strategies.

The main selling point of Sales Navigator is the advanced search with what seems like endless filters, but also the option of saving multiple sales lists and adding people to your lists as you go.

For those of you who are hesitant to see the benefits, Linkedin states that salespeople get ‘+42% larger deals when using Sales Navigator to connect with decision-makers.

Here are a few extras you’ll get with this paid option:

  • Unlimited searches

  • Uses boolean search to account for more complex search terms (structured searches that use a combination of keywords tied together with operators like ‘AND’, ‘OR’, ‘NOT to’ define, broaden, or limit search results)

  • Advanced filters that include extra positive and negative keywords

  • Options to save leads and lists

  • Alerts for your saved leads


To give you an idea, we used the boolean search to look for people based on the job title: “CEO” OR “Chief Executive Offices.”

However, our targeting also included professionals with seniority, that could potentially be a director or an owner of the company (even though they might not have listed CEO as their role), for which we added positive keywords.

On top of that, we excluded vice presidents, for example, by selecting terms like VP as negative keywords.

To extend filtering and derive even more niched strategies, we could have mentioned the desired years of experience, added a targeted language, or targeted companies of interest directly (and many, many more).

Then you simply click ‘Save search’ in the right-top corner, or select prospects from your search and click ‘Save to list’.

You have the option of creating multiple lists, and constantly extending those lists as you constantly refine your prospecting for future campaigns.

Note: You cannot export your Sales Navigator lists, you can only create and use them within the account.

Wrapping Up

Your LinkedIn sales prospecting consists of 3 major steps: finding valuable leads that are a good fit for your goals, finding contact details (including emails and phone numbers), and considering your messages’ copywriting strategy.

Carefully going through your steps when preparing for your outreach and creating your prospecting lists is a top priority if you want good results.

With that in mind, you can leverage LinkedIn’s native tools or third-party automation tools to perform searches for niched targets, split your prospecting lists based on strategic decisions, and set up your campaign for success.

Happy prospecting!

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