1°) Are LinkedIn Prospecting Automation Tools Illegal?
LinkedIn automation tools are pretty popular but they're getting a bad reputation because of how easily your account can get banned when you're using them. Is it because they're illegal?
The short answer is: no. They're not by nature illegal according to the User Agreement but they don't respect LinkedIn general implied rule of making the platform better for its users.
LinkedIn Automation Tools are prohibited by the LinkedIn's Terms of Service
Sample of the LinkedIn User Agreement that is problematic for LinkedIn automation tools
According to LinkedIn's User Agreement, you agree as a LinkedIn user to not "Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages;" (Point 13 under Article 8.2 of the User Agreement).
When you're doing LinkedIn prospection automation, you're technically using bots to send messages so it could be argued that using LinkedIn automation tools are illegal.
However, point 2 of the same article also mentions that you agree to not use software that scrape LinkedIn. However, there are plenty of softwares doing it and LinkedIn is not to killing them (some of these tools even raised $100 million dollars with established VC firm like Sequoia Capital), why?
Because most LinkedIn softwares add value to LinkedIn and help users building B2B relationships without making the experience daunting or horrible for its users which is the case of LinkedIn automation tools.
Example of a software that raised a huge venture capital funding round that use or at least used to scrape LinkedIn
Although all form of tools seems to be prohibited by LinkedIn, they still have the margin to sanction or not the tools that respect the nature of their platform: building genuine B2B relationships.
We should also consider that it's an economic advantage for LinkedIn to have tools built around the platform as long as they don't destroy the platform experience which is the case of LinkedIn prospecting automation tools.
Therefore, LinkedIn automation tools are not technically illegal considering all the other tools allowed but LinkedIn law is being enforced to shut them down which makes them illegal.
How LinkedIn can detect if you're using a LinkedIn automation tool?
LinkedIn can detect if you're using a LinkedIn automation tool if your activity is unusual.
An unusual activity can be the following:
being active on the platform at hours that don't match your timezone (eg sending tons of messages between 3am and 4am)
sending tons of LinkedIn messages at a regular pace that is robotic not human
opening many website tabs
If you used a LinkedIn automation tool in the past, this message must sounds familiar
How to prevent your account of being banned if you used automation tools in the past?
Some people get banned when they're using LinkedIn automation tools.
It's basically because LinkedIn detected that you your session cookies have been overused by the LinkedIn automation tool to send LinkedIn invites, send LinkedIn messages or doing lots of profile views.
Some LinkedIn automation tools still use your session cookies even after you deleted the LinkedIn chrome extension or application. In that case, make sure to clear your session cookies.
To do so on Google Chrome, do the following:
right click on your screen
click on Inspect
click on the 2 arrows next to sources
go to applications then cookies
go to LinkedIn and right click on it to clear cookies
just in case, clear your caches too
Method to clear your session cookies so you won't get banned
2°) Why LinkedIn Automation Tools are bad anyway for your prospecting?
Beyond the facts that LinkedIn automation tools are annoying, kind of illegal and will get you banned by LinkedIn at some point, there are also many reasons why they're bad for sales prospecting.
Reason 1: prospects are getting used to it
In 2012 or 2015, LinkedIn prospecting automation was brand new. Even cold email automation was pretty new like rising tools such as Outreach which launched in 2011/12.
Nowadays, prospects are no longer surprised by LinkedIn automation. They can spot the random LinkedIn invites which arrive out of nowhere. They can spot the generic LinkedIn invite messages. They can spot the awful non personalized and irrelevant LinkedIn messages sent directly once you accepted a LinkedIn invite.
Example of an automated LinkedIn message I received
All of that is common practice now and doesn't work anymore unless you know how to segment your prospecting lists properly (1) or that you target unaware people, generally older people, non tech savvy people (2).
Reason 2: most people are not trained enough to use these tools
Being good at sales prospecting and social selling is a full-time job. That's why Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), Business Development Representatives (BDRs) and Account Executives (AEs) exist.
Even them are not particularly talented with sales automation softwares so the average person (eg solo founder) is not capable or doing it well enough to make it work.
The problem is not the automation tools but people that have a sales spammy mindset. There is a lack of education on how to do B2B sales properly
You'll have a much better ROI to focus on what you already have and get better at closing deals instead of trying to generate more leads.
Reason 3: you won't build meaningful B2B relationships
B2B sales is all about building meaningful B2B relationships. You can't build great B2B connections with LinkedIn automation softwares. They can be great to generate leads but even leads get annoyed by them now.
From my perspective, LinkedIn automation tools should be used for warm outreach and not cold outreach.
Reason 4: it reduces your LinkedIn SSI score if you get banned
LinkedIn is not stupid, they can spot LinkedIn automation and therefore can take definitive actions to affect your success on the platform such as reducing your reach or reducing your Social Selling Index (SSI) score to reduce your overall performances.
This is my LinkedIn SSI score for example, it's doing well on the building relationships side
3°) How I get clients without using LinkedIn Automation Tools
1/ I use data aggregation tools instead of automation tools
Like everyone out there, I tried LinkedIn automation softwares with more or less success. But even by ensuring that my LinkedIn account was safe, I got banned over and over.
At some point, I just gave up on them but the problem was that certain actions on LinkedIn are so much daunting and time consuming if you want to make businesses with it.
That's how we decided to make some adjustments to our cold email software to turn it into a social selling software (which is also a data aggregation tool by nature). From there, I managed to elaborate a technique that brings us more results and clients that if we were to use LinkedIn automation tools.
Example of what a Social Selling CRM looks like
2/ I aggregate all the LinkedIn posts of my prospects into one place
Once I import my cold or warm prospects in my social selling software, I track them so all their LinkedIn posts are automatically aggregated in different curated feeds I created.
I can easily like and comment the posts from Breakcold which is LEGAL according to LinkedIn guidelines. That way, I can like and comment the posts of hundreds of prospects a day in a productive way without getting into trouble.
Letting likes and comments under prospect posts is key to build LinkedIn engagement and have exponential results on the platform.
3/ I engage with my prospects posts
To engage with prospects, I have two options:
I can focus on one lead at a time; or
I can focus on multiple leads at at time
Focusing on one prospect at a time:
First, I go to my social selling pipeline to see where my prospects are in my sales pipeline stages. I like to work in batches, so for example I will focus just on interested prospects before working on the warm ones.
Example of how you can contact prospects fast without LinkedIn prospecting automation tools
Once I decided on which sales pipeline stage I want to focus on, I click on the first prospect of in the stage and I like and comment his/her latest LinkedIn posts. Then I click on the right arrow on my keyboard to switch leads instantly and I focus on the next leads.
Focusing on multiple prospects at a time:
At Breakcold, we created what we call a prospecting feed to rival with LinkedIn automation tools.
It's basically an Instagram feed where you like and comment prospect posts but you're actually making money. The prospecting feed aggregates all the LinkedIn posts of you prospects so you can like, comment and send a message in a productive way.
Example of what a prospecting feed looks like
The prospecting feed will change depending on:
the list you choose
where your prospects are in your sales pipeline
It's the best way to keep track of the most active prospects.
Both LinkedIn prospecting methods will save you tons of data research and will avoid you to open thousands tabs a month. That way, all the time you gained back you can invest it to engage prospects in a personalized and productive way legally instead of doing in an illegal way like automation tools do.
4/ I contact prospects when it makes sense to
When you see something relevant, don't hesitate to send a LinkedIn message to prospects. Thanks to the prospecting feed, you'll be able to quickly send a personalized message using the LinkedIn posts you just interacted with.
Example of a prospect successfully reach out on LinkedIn without using a LinkedIn prospecting automation tool
5/ I repeat step 3 to 5 forever
Finally there are no secret techniques, just repeat step 3 and 5 forever, whatever the sales pipeline stage your prospects are into.
The more you'll repeat step 3 to 5, the more exponential the growth of your sales engine will be. It's basically a social selling loop that you are creating. All these techniques helped us close more than $30,000 in sales.
With LinkedIn automation tools, you can only generate leads constantly but with LinkedIn data aggregation tools you can generate leads and close deals exponentially.
Example of what a Social Selling Loop is