LinkedIn is the place to be for professionals. Whether your business sells to consumers or other businesses, you probably have a LinkedIn profile and enjoy connecting with others. But are you really generating the leads and referrals you had hoped for? If you feel that you could be seeing better performance from LinkedIn, your strategy likely needs a refresher. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to spruce up your presence and grow lead opportunities.

Let’s dive into the steps to take to discover new leads and referrals on LinkedIn.

Optimize Your Profile

Optimization is important for your content and website. Your LinkedIn profile is no different. In order to connect with the right users, you must create a profile that looks professional and legit. Otherwise, people might think you are a spammer. Start with the parts of your profile that visitors will see first: your name, title, and the start of your message.

  • Name and Picture. Ideally, it’s best to get a professional headshot taken. If you’re short on time or money, then you will have to be more creative. Put on a nice outfit, brush your teeth, and practice your smile. Have someone take your photo in front of a neutral background.

  • Headline. The “professional headline” is your title or tagline. Use this space to describe your role. If you own a small business, you can use words such as “CEO”, “Founder”, or “President”. Try to stick with titles that relate to the audience you want to connect with.

  • Work History. You don’t need to do anything fancy with your current and previous work experience, but do take the time to fill out your profile. As people scan through your information, they’ll want to know what type of experiences you carry.

The point of optimizing your profile is to show people that you are legitimate and worth connecting with. Don’t overthink this step, but do make sure everything is complete, accurate, and honest.

Start a LinkedIn Group

LinkedIn gives users the opportunity to create their own groups. Don’t be scared – create a place of your own where you make the rules! Groups are a commitment, but they pay off in the long run. Part of growing your social media presence is positioning yourself as an industry leader, and a group is a great way to do this.

The first step is to create the group. This can be done by clicking on the Work menu, selecting Groups and then clicking on My Groups. From here, you can create your own group. Choose a title, write a short description, and upload a logo. You can also list group rules and have it be open or private in the search results.

Before you invite people to your group, it’s recommended to add some content. This gives the group some life and makes it look more interesting to users. If you need quick content ideas, repurpose some of the content you already have or plug your niche into BuzzSumo.

Create a List of Potential Connections

As you spend more time interacting with others on LinkedIn, you will meet people who will become leads. Luckily, you have a large pool of people to work with, and you can start seeing results right away.

Use LinkedIn’s built-in search functions to find people who match your buyer profile. To do this, use the advanced search options on the right hand side. You can narrow down your search based on keywords, location, job experience, and more. LinkedIn also gives you the option to create and save a search so that you are alerted when the right people come along.

As you are connected with people who fit your criteria, you can add them to your contact list and begin sending them personalized messages. Let’s discuss this more in the next section, as first impressions are everything!

Send Out Connection Requests

No matter how many times you send messages on LinkedIn, the initial contact is always a bit nerve-racking. Will the person accept your request? What will they think of your profile? What happens if no one wants to be your friend?

How you approach the initial greeting makes a huge difference in whether or not the person will be your connection. At this point, you should have an optimized invitation with your professional image and a strong title. You also have a group to establish your credibility.

Now for the message. All you need is a couple of sentences to explain your reasoning for wanting to connect with that person. An example is: Hi John! I came across your LinkedIn profile and thought we would benefit from connecting with each other. I look forward to speaking with you in the future.

If you want your greeting to sound even more personalized, pick out something that you might share in common with the person. Do you have the same interests? Work in the same city? The limit for a connection request is 300 characters.

Grow Your Group Members

Now that you’re sending out connection requests, (and hopefully getting some feedback) it’s time to grow your group. Invite new connections to join your group. You can send them a personalized message once they accept your invitation. Here’s an example: I’m glad we could connect, John! I just wanted to let you know that I have created a LinkedIn group called Best Group Ever. I hope you’ll join and take part in one of our conversations!

Don’t worry if not everyone joins your group. All you need is a small number of people to get things going. As your members start interacting with your content, be there to contribute to the discussion. Over time, you want people to post content without you prompting them.

Take Things Off LinkedIn

As wonderful as LinkedIn is for meeting new people and growing your professional network, it’s not a great sales tool. To effectively sell products or services, you will need to communicate outside of LinkedIn. A phone call, webinar, or networking event are all things you can invite your connections to. Not everyone will agree to this, but some will. And that’s all you need.

Send out a personalized message to the connections that you have the best rapports with. Touch base and let them know that you’d love to talk further. You could write something like: Hi John! I’m glad we connected over the summer. I love reading your comments in the group. I’d like to hop on a phone call with you next week to discuss your small business. Does Wednesday work?


LinkedIn should be part of your strategy when it comes to growing your network of leads and referrals. Nothing is too complicated, but you do need time and patience to be successful. If you plan for the long term and spend a few minutes each day growing your network and maintaining your connections, you will see an increase in qualified leads and sales.