10 Tips and 5 Templates to Send a Professional Direct Message

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Did you know that LinkedIn InMail senders achieve a 300% higher response rate than emailers?

Direct messaging (DMing) is the modern equivalent of “cold calling.” The person you’re messaging likely doesn’t know you, so your message is all they have to judge who you are.

Your first message is extremely important, as it acts as your first step to sell yourself in a job search, introduce your company’s services, expand your network, or create another professional opportunity.

Short on time? Jump to a specific tip:

  1. Stop and think
  2. Make sure your LinkedIn profile Is up to date
  3. Don’t ask for handouts
  4. Find a personal detail
  5. Keep your first message under 100 words
  6. A/B test with a longer message
  7. If your new connection helped you, thank them
  8. Reply promptly
  9. Follow up if you don’t hear back
  10. If someone doesn’t respond to your DM, email them

1. Stop and Think

Think about your purpose for reaching out.

Before you reach out, stop and think about why you’re reaching out.

You’ll need to optimize your message to show your recipient that you have a goal, keeping in mind how they might help you achieve that goal. To keep your message clear and concise, you shouldn’t make multiple requests in your first message. This is your time to grab their attention and get permission for continued communication.

Think about the person you’re contacting.

You’ll want to tailor your message to their interests and expertise. For example, if you are reaching out to a potential employer, look at their company website and LinkedIn profile to learn more about their business and their needs. Use this information to craft a message that is specific and relevant to their work, and that shows that you have done your homework.

Plan your tone.

Be polite and respectful in your tone. Avoid using overly aggressive or pushy language, and avoid making demands or assumptions.

Instead, use polite, professional language, and show that you are interested in building a relationship with the person you are contacting. This will make it more likely that the person will respond positively to your message, and that they will be willing to help or engage with you.

2. Make Sure Your LinkedIn Profile Is Up to Date

If you’re cold messaging someone on LinkedIn, chances are they’ll look at your profile before responding.

Make sure all of your experiences are current and accurate — they should reflect your progress and tell a story describing your effort toward your goals. LinkedIn gives professionals a glimpse into how you earned promotions or made progress at a company. This can be useful in showing your hard work when someone skims through your profile.

Optimize Your Profile

Here’s some tips from LinkedIn for a better profile. 

  1. Use a recent photo of yourself that truly looks like you. Be sure your face takes up 60% of the space.
  2. Use an attention-grabbing background photo that expresses what matters to you.
  3. Take advantage of your headline by sharing more about your role and why you love what you do.
  4. Utilize the summary section in a more personal way to tell your story.
  5. List your skills by scrolling through the list being sure to select what is relevant to you.
  6. Easily start to grow your network by syncing your address book. This will provide additional connection suggestions to further grow your network.
  7. Share content on your LinkedIn feed. This could be original content or other content you find valuable.
  8. Follow other thought leaders on LinkedIn that share great content. If you find value in something, then share it.
  9. Comment on others content which can help establish your thought leadership by establishing your own opinions.
  10. Further establish your expertise by publishing long form content and start new conversations.

3. Don’t Ask for Handouts

Don’t ask for large favors if you don’t know a person. If you message a stranger and ask them for a job right off the bat, they probably won’t be able to help you. They don’t know you, and they don’t have an obligation to help you.

Asking for a brief conversation or a small favor is a better way to begin a professional relationship. Remember that even asking for something small is still asking for a favor, so be polite.

Use language and etiquette to improve your professional appearance. If you wouldn’t say something in a professional setting, avoid saying it in a direct message.

Look for ways to provide value.

Before asking for a favor, consider how you can provide value to the person you are reaching out to.

  • If you’re looking for a job, think about what skills or experiences you have that could be useful to the person you are contacting. You could mention these skills or experiences in your message, and show that you are interested in helping them (not just asking for their help).
  • If you’re looking for freelance work, you could offer to help them with a project or a problem they are working on.
  • If you’re a domain expert, you could share useful information and resources related to their work.
  • If you specialize in marketing, you could offer a free audit of that aspect of their marketing.

By providing value, you are more likely to get the person’s attention and to spark their interest in your message.

Be specific in your request.

If you are asking for a favor, make it clear what you are asking for, and why you are asking for it. For example, instead of saying “Can you help me with something?”, you could say “Could you give me some advice on how to improve my resume?” or “Do you know of any job openings in your company that I might be qualified for?” By being specific, you are more likely to get a positive response, because the person you are contacting will know exactly what you are asking for, and whether they are able to help.

Be respectful of the person’s time and schedule.

If you are asking for a favor, make sure to ask at a time that is convenient for the person you are contacting. For example, if you know that they are busy with work or other commitments, avoid asking for a favor during those times. Instead, ask if there is a better time for them to talk, or if they would prefer to schedule a call or meeting for a later date.

Template: Cold Direct Message for B2B Sales

Let’s say you’re a marketer looking to help people write email newsletters and copy for their websites. Below is an example of a cold direct message that you could could send a spa owner on LinkedIn. Take this template draft and modify it to suit your goals and business objectives!

Dear [Name],

I noticed that you are a spa owner, and I am a marketing professional who specializes in helping businesses like yours to improve their email marketing. I have a proven track record of success in increasing email open rates, click-through rates, and sales for my clients in the wellness and beauty industry.

I would be happy to schedule a brief call or meeting to discuss your needs and goals in more detail, and to see if my services could be a good fit for your business. Please let me know if you are interested and if there is a better time for us to connect.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

4. Find a Personal Detail

If you can make a personal connection with a prospect — no matter how small — they’ll be more likely to respond and connect with you. You’ll probably be reaching out to more than one person, and you shouldn’t be copying and pasting the exact same message every time. People who receive dozens of messages a day can easily tell the difference between a customized message and a copy-and-paste effort.

Conduct some background research on the person you’re reaching out to — it shows that you care. Then, choose a way to customize your direct message. For example:

  • Draw attention to shared history. You can bring up a connection, a school, or a company you have in common.
  • Comment on an article they shared. If they posted an article on LinkedIn or their blog, comment briefly on one of the article’s talking points.
  • Mention a shared connection. If you share an acquaintance, mention the acquaintance in your direct message. If it’s important, you can even ask your mutual connection for an introduction.
  • Refer to a shared passion or cause. If you both do work or support charities that help environmentalism, animal welfare, or social justice, you can draw attention to your shared cause.
  • Ask them about their recent trip. If you’ve traveled to a place they recently visited for a conference, let them know that you saw they visited the city, share a bit about your experience there, and ask them about their trip.

As you review their LinkedIn activity, look for interests you have in common. Anything small – like skiing or a favorite band – can be the basis for a personalized comment to make your DM stand out.

For some handy DM templates, check out the infographic below, courtesy of Tommy John. You can combine his template snippets to compose your own direct messages.

How to Use Direct Messages to Increase Your Network

5. Keep Your First Message Under 100 Words

Keep your first direct message under 100 words.

Your message should be easy to read at first glance. Avoid sending multiple long paragraphs, because it increases the likelihood of your recipient getting bored and deleting your message.

In a cold email, you can go up to 200 words.

Stick to 4-6 small paragraphs at most, with two or three sentences per paragraph.

Below is an example of a professional cold email.

Template: Cold Direct Message to Ask for Advice

Hi [Name],

My name is [Your Name] and I’m a [Your Job Title] at [Your Company]. I came across your profile on LinkedIn and was impressed by your experience and expertise in [Area of Expertise].

I am reaching out to you because I am interested in learning more about your work, and I was wondering if you would be open to having a brief conversation about your experiences and insights in the field. I am particularly interested in [Specific Topic or Question] and I think that your perspective would be valuable.

If you are interested, I would love to schedule a brief call.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

6. A/B Test with a Longer Message

Many professionals are busy and so respond best to short messages. However, every industry is different. So, it can help you to A/B test by sending a shorter message to 100 people and a longer message to 100 people. See which message works best, and use that message as you contact more people in your target audience.

Template: Cold Direct Message for B2B Sales (Longer Version)

Here is a possible cold direct message that our copywriter could send their spa owner prospect on LinkedIn:

Dear [Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I came across your profile on LinkedIn, and I was impressed by your experience and expertise as a spa owner.

I am a marketing professional with [X years/months] of experience in the field, and I specialize in helping businesses like yours to improve their marketing strategy and results. I noticed that you have a website and a social media presence, but I didn’t see any email newsletters or other email marketing campaigns.

I’m writing to see if you would be interested in discussing how I could help you to create and send email newsletters and other marketing emails that are engaging and effective. I have worked with a range of clients in the wellness and beauty industry, and I have a proven track record of success in helping them to increase their email open rates, click-through rates, and sales.

If you are interested in learning more about my services, I would be happy to schedule a brief call or meeting to discuss your needs and goals in more detail. I understand that you are busy, so please let me know if this is something you would be open to, and if there is a better time for us to connect.

Thank you in advance for considering my request, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

7. If Your New Connection Helped You, Thank Them

You might be surprised by the number of professionals who are open to doing small favors. Be ready to receive a response and carry on the conversation.

If the person you are contacting is able to help you, make sure to thank them for their time and effort.

If you asked them for advice or help, you can let them know how their assistance has been useful to you, and you can share an update on your progress. This will show that you appreciate their help, and that you are grateful for the opportunity to connect with them.

Template: “Thank You” Message to Someone Who Gave Advice

Here’s a template message you can use to say “thank you” to a new connection. This draft thanks the recipient for career advice that helped the sender land a position at a marketing agency. You can change the letter’s details to fit your specific situation.

Dear [Name],

I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to share your career advice with me. I really appreciate your insights and suggestions on how to get a position at a marketing agency.

I found your advice to be incredibly helpful, and I am already starting to implement some of the tips you shared. I am confident that your guidance will make a big difference in my job search, and I am grateful to have connected with you on LinkedIn.

Thank you again for your generosity and support. I hope we can continue to connect and support each other in our careers.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

8. Reply Promptly

You might be surprised by the number of professionals who are open to doing small favors. Be ready to receive a response and carry on the conversation.

Prompt responses show respect for someone’s time.

If your recipient responds quickly, you should do the same. If they don’t, still be sure to respond within 24 hours. Remember, they’re doing you a favor by responding, so you want to be on your best behavior!

By responding promptly, you are demonstrating that you value their time and their efforts, and that you are grateful for the opportunity to connect with them.

Prompt responses build rapport.

Think about the times you’ve established a good connection with someone. There’s a good chance that the communication was smooth, fast, almost effortless.

If you respond quickly to a message, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and to develop a professional relationship with the person you are contacting. This can be especially important if you are looking for a job, or if you are trying to build a network of contacts in your field. By responding promptly, you are showing that you are interested in the person and their work, and that you are willing to engage and collaborate.

Prompt responses will help you avoid missing opportunities.

If you are looking for a job, for example, responding promptly to a message from a potential employer can increase your chances of being considered for a position. If you are asking for advice or guidance, responding promptly can help you to get the information you need, and to take advantage of any opportunities that might come your way. By responding promptly, you are showing that you are proactive and eager to learn and grow, which can be attractive to potential employers or mentors.

Prompt responses will protect your reputation.

Prompt responses can also help you to manage your reputation and professional image. If you are slow to respond to messages, or if you ignore messages altogether, you may be perceived as unprofessional or uninterested. This can damage your reputation and make it more difficult for you to connect with people in your field. By responding promptly, you are showing that you are attentive and responsive, and that you are serious about your career and your professional development.

9. Follow Up If You Don’t Hear Back

Wait 5-7 days, then respond.

Business professionals who send cold direct messages on LinkedIn often don’t hear back from 70-90% of the people they message.

Wait 5-7 days. Then, if you still haven’t received a response, just send a follow-up direct message on LinkedIn.

Find something personal to comment on.

In your follow-up message, it’s more important than ever to create a personal connection. Chances are, the person you’re messaging receives many generic or salesy messages every day. A personal note will make your message stand out.

As discussed earlier, mention something specific about the person’s background or interests that you learned from their LinkedIn profile. People love when you take the time to learn something about them!

Be personal and friendly.

Don’t be generic and impersonal.

Don’t say:

“I noticed you have a degree in marketing.”

Instead say:

“I see from your profile that you have a degree in marketing, which is impressive! I also have a background in marketing, and I’m interested in connecting with other professionals in the field.”

10. If Someone Doesn’t Respond to Your DM, Email Them

If someone doesn’t respond to your cold direct message on LinkedIn, try emailing them.

LinkedIn allows you to view your connection’s contact information, including their email address, so that you can easily email your people in your network.

When you use email, check the SPF record of your email domain beforehand to ensure your emails are securely encrypted and won’t end up in spam.

Benefits to Using Cold Cmail in Conjunction with DMs

There are a number of benefits to using email as an alternative or supplement to LinkedIn.

  • Email is a more personal and direct communication channel. While LinkedIn is a useful platform for networking and making connections, it can also be noisy and crowded. By sending an email, you are reaching out to the person directly, and you are more likely to get their attention and to have a meaningful conversation.

  • Email allows you to provide more information and context. In an email, you can include attachments, links, and other resources that are relevant to your message. This can be useful if you want to provide more detail or evidence to support your request or proposal. By using email, you can also customize the format and layout of your message, which can make it more engaging and professional.

  • Email allows you to follow up more easily. If you don’t get a response to your LinkedIn message, it can be challenging to follow up, because you don’t have the person’s email address. With email, you can send a follow-up message without having to wait for the person to check their LinkedIn inbox.

  • Email lets you guage their interest. By using email, you can also track when your message was delivered and opened, which can give you a better idea of whether the person is interested and likely to respond.

  • Email can be more convenient for the person you are contacting. Some people may prefer to use email instead of LinkedIn, because they find it easier to manage their inbox. By offering to use email as an alternative, you are showing that you are flexible and adaptable, and that you are willing to accommodate the person’s preferences and needs. This can make it more likely that the person will be willing to engage with you and to consider your request or proposal.

The trick is to be respectful while you’re being persistent. By following up, you are showing that you are committed to the relationship, and that you are willing to put in the effort to make it happen.

Template: Follow-Up Cold Email for B2B Sales

Dear [Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I’m reaching out to follow up on the message I sent last week, in which I introduced myself and offered my marketing consulting services.

I’m writing to see if you received my previous message, and to see if you have any interest in discussing how my services could benefit your business. As I mentioned in my earlier message, I have [X years/months] of experience in the marketing field, and I have worked with a range of clients to help them improve their marketing strategy and results.

If you are interested in learning more about my services, I would be happy to schedule a brief call or meeting to discuss your needs and goals in more detail. I understand that you are busy, so please let me know if this is something you would be open to, and if there is a better time for us to connect.

Thank you in advance for considering my request, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Conclusion

Messaging people can feel stressful, but don’t be intimidated. If put effort into writing thoughtful messages, you’ll reach the people who want to hear from you.

Use these 10 tips, 5 direct message templates, plus Tommy’s message snippets, and you’ll soon achieve higher reply rates. Soon, those replies will materialize new opportunities for your business or career.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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