The biggest debate in the history of LinkedIn outreach: is it best to send a blank invitation or to add a message to maximize accepted requests? We have done a lot of tests and our recommendation will be counterintuitive to what you hear.

Curious? Read on!

Looking for ways to expand your network on LinkedIn?
Feel free to read it right away to discover everything you need to know about this topic!
Read The LinkedIn Network Post

Understanding what can affect your acceptance on LinkedIn

Several criteria are going to impact your acceptance rate; not only the message in the invitation but also the following aspects.

First, is your profile optimized to build trust?

If you haven’t already, do read our article on “How to optimize your profile on LinkedIn?”

For all your sales prospecting needs, before you rush into investing in a sales prospecting tool, optimizing your LinkedIn profile is the essential foundation.

Then, provided that you have completed this preliminary step, you can start prospecting on LinkedIn.

For this, we can only recommend you use our own LaGrowthMachine, which will allow you to create automated messages on LinkedIn and gain significant amounts of time compared to all your manual actions, such as:

Likewise, it is up to you to publish engaging, inspiring content from your personal or professional experience.

Who should send the invitation?

If it’s a C-Level profile (CEO, Founder, etc.), you’ll have a higher rate of acceptance than a sales rep for instance. This is because people are more honored by C-Level/higher seniority people reaching out to them.

This also means that you must pay attention to match the level of people in your target audience. Sending a brand new employee to prospect a C-Level executive will have an extremely low probability of ever working.

You must be appreciative of your prospect’s time and match the connection level appropriately.

Interestingly, this is not always true when the sender is a woman. The rate will be higher than a similar male profile. We’ll get into that later on.

Who are you sending the invitation to?

Know your audience! Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself to refine your approach:

  • Are they very active on LinkedIn?

    If so, they will probably beware of no-connection requests and vague messages. Either because they’ve been fooled before and now are careful, or because they also use that same technique.
    Remember, you want to build trust. To do so, be upfront, honest, and respectful of people’s time.
  • Are they highly prospected after?

    If this is an audience that receives many requests and emails (notably on their personal emails) per day, you can be sure they won’t give you any attention except if you’re able to catch it quickly. And by quickly, we mean in a split second.
    Vague notes such as “LinkedIn recommended me your profile so let’s connect,” or sending a blog hoping they’ll read it (even though it’s unlikely they will have the time) because you’re scared of being truthful about the purpose of your connection will work poorly. Trust us.

Depending on your audience, who is sending the request, and the notes you write, your acceptance rate will vary.

We at LaGrowthMachine however don’t usually recommend sending notes along with your connection request.

If you don’t have anything interesting to say, it will likely do more harm than good.

With that said, it will always depend -as it tends to always be the case- on the specific situation you are in.

Sometimes sending a note along with your connection request can be a great way to start a conversation and get to know someone better.

Let’s take a concrete example: You’re contacting Founders or CEOs in the Start-up/Scale-up world. In this case, I advise you to add a very personalized and direct note. They know LinkedIn, they’re aware that it’s a channel used for outreach. They also know that a blank invitation coming from someone random hides a lot of prospection DMs once accepted.

Because of this, they probably filter invitations and will more likely accept:

  • People working in the same field with the same hierarchy level
  • People that will bring them value with their content or their expertise

So share your expertise and your value as soon as you can!

Another scenario: If you’re contacting an audience less aware of LinkedIn usage, your acceptance rate probably won’t vary that much whether you add a message or not.

They probably accept everyone because their beliefs are often the bigger the network, the better.

Okay, there are basically no best practices — How do I know what to do?

Become the king of A/B testing and learn to know each audience you want to target:

  • Create audience A and audience B with the same personas, same industry, and same company size. It’s important that your audience is the same along with the test, otherwise, you’ll get skewed results. Those audiences must contain a minimum of 300 leads each so the statistics are reliable.
  • For audience A, send a blank invitation. For audience B, write a personalized and quite direct message, like a LinkedIn cold message, to explain why you’re contacting this person.
    Generic notes like “Hi I’d love to connect” are not considered proper connection request messages.
  • Compare the stats and learn!

You can also test which identities perform best (CEO or SDR for instance).

Get 3.5X more leads!

Do you want to improve the efficiency of your sales department? With La Growth Machine you can generate on average 3.5x more leads while saving an incredible amount of time on all your processes.

By signing up today, you’ll get a free 14-day trial to test our tool!

Try now for free!

Drum roll… let’s end that debate!

At LGM, we did a load of A/B testing.

The Test — Should we input a message or not

We used a very sales-y/honest sequence with a twist on the connection request:

  • Audience A – No Message
  • Audience B – Honest Sales Message. A very direct message as follows (in French) which translates to:

    “Hello {{firstname}},

    {{identity.companyName}} assist marketing leaders in selecting the best agencies to work with, according to scope and budget.

    From Web design to Ads Campaigns, clients such as {{famous brands in their sector}} trust us with their marketing needs.

    Do you have projects that require an agency?”

    Very transparent and direct, geared towards a clear call to action (CTA).
  • Audience C – Vague Message: a slightly personalized message without any clear context and CTA.

    “Hello {{firtsname}}, I’m responsible for companies {{industry of the target}} at {{identify.companyName}}. I’d like to connect with you.”

The Audience — Marketing Managers/Brand Directors/CMO

We took 9,000 leads working as Marketing Managers/Brand Directors/CMO and split them into different audiences from big corporates. We made sure they were matching the same persona/company segments.

The KPIs — Acceptance rate & Call booked rate

We are monitoring both the connection acceptance rate as well the qualified calls booking rate. This is where most people fail when it comes to their tests. The acceptance rate is a KPI of minor importance.

If what you want is to book calls, then you should aim your LinkedIn strategy to optimize qualified calls booked, not the acceptance rate.

What did we learn?

  • The acceptance rate for audience A (no message): 31%
  • The acceptance rate for audience B (honest sales message): 29%
  • The acceptance rate for audience C (vague message): 32%

First, we noticed that the difference between them is not that big!

But we did not stop there. We are convinced that the acceptance rate is not the ultimate KPI you should track as it does not say much about conversion. Did you get any replies? Have you booked calls? meetings? Have you closed?

Since LGM is connected to your CRM, we can track that data down the funnel :)

We measured the stats at the bottom of the outbound funnel by qualified calls booked. Logically, here’s the trend reversed:

  • Audience A: 3.77% of qualified calls booked.
  • Audience B: 6.62% of qualified calls booked.
  • Audience C: 5.1% of qualified calls booked.

Suffice it to say, it proves two things:

  • Not putting a message made us lose a lot of opportunities from people that perceived it as suspicious. We were not fooling them, on the contrary.
  • Being transparent got way more leads with 3 points higher for audience B in terms of qualified calls booked. This is the difference between a barely surviving company and a growing one.

The note in the message of audience B has played the role of a filter. Only people that saw an interest in the offer accepted the invitation, then were interested enough by the other messages and DMs sent, and finally went further and accepted a call.

🤝 A win/win situation: You should only talk to people that are interested in your products/services. That way, they don’t waste your time and neither do you waste theirs trying to convince them why they want/need to work with you.

And remember: know your audience. In this case, we were targeting highly sought-after prospects from salespeople’s profiles. They receive tons of messages daily and are very conscious of their time. We had a lot of feedback from the inside sales team that they got more qualified calls from senior employees than usual because of the transparency of the approach -which senior people relate to.

You know what to do now 😉

BONUS – Other interesting stats:

We were using the profile of three people:

  • Founder & CEO – Male
  • Country Manager – Male
  • Brand Manager – Female

Unfortunately, gender and seniority have an impact. It’s still an unbalanced world we live in…