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Digital Ice-Breakers via LinkedIn

As we know, LinkedIn is a must-have for anyone today in sales, marketing, or new business development. There are plenty of gurus out there along with crash-courses on how to best use LinkedIn for maximum exposure and potential business or professional opportunity.

Before you can attempt to converse with someone on the platform, you need to be connected to them- typically via a 1st connection. Thus, your time is well spent on increasing your amount of 1st connections. Quality is important, but don’t underestimate quantity.

But having 10,000 Connections on LinkedIn does (almost) no good if you are not able to actively engage in dialogue with the persons there that may directly or indirectly help your business. So how do you break the ice in an online platform with a virtual stranger?

Back when I ran all USA (outside) sales for a Canadian company, I was a literal LinkedIn troll. I needed to create my own network and opportunities, however possible and most efficient. I sent out a plethora of unsolicited Private Messages to persons I wanted to talk with, every day. I found that I had much better success in trying to do this kind of outreach on LinkedIn than via a “cold” email or a “cold call.” A better response rate, probably by a 2-1 or 3-1 margin. So, the first advice is “Just do it.”

Another way that works surprisingly well is to endorse people on their LinkedIn profile page.  There are actually several 3rd party automated services that will go down your connections list and start Endorsing people systematically. I cannot confirm nor deny if I ever did this. But what I learned was that people like to be publicly endorsed for a skill or talent. And many of them will send along a quick PM back to you saying, “Thanks for endorsing me for Sales Strategy (etc).” From that point, you have an easy opportunity to engage in a 1 on 1 conversation with said person.

On rare occasions, I received a private message from someone I endorsed (but didn’t know) that might look like “Thanks for the endorsement, but do I know you? Why did you endorse me for concrete design?” That could be a little dicey, but generally I just told them that their online experience looked impressive and that I thought they’d appreciate the endorsement. And that usually worked out just fine.

The other (cheesy?) way of a quick ice-breaker into a larger conversation is merely congratulating them (via the simple LinkedIn notification tools) of a work anniversary or a new job/position.  Funny thing, people love being congratulated. Again, in the numbers game- doing this will equate to some pleasant responses which in turn make it easy to have a more significant dialogue.

LinkedIn is not the end-all, be-all for new business development but it is very helpful and a key element of sales in today’s environment across almost all industries. Use it as much or as little as you’d like- but it is often a strong option versus other more tedious marketing efforts.


Ken is a Director of Industry Development and Technical Services at the International Masonry Institute. Some of his writings have been featured in ARCHITECT magazine,, and for U.S. Building News. He can be reached at

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