The New Face-to-Face: Lead Generation Without Events

Events are out the window — for now. Here are two other ways to organically connect with leads using LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

We’ve all seen talk of the “new normal” floating around rapid-fire tweets, deep-dive B2B podcasts, and earnest LinkedIn posts.

If you know what this new normal is already, by all means, send me a connection request and fill me in. But for now, we’re all trying everything to see what sticks.

In between the Zoom all-hands screenshots and kids-as-coworkers posts, I’ve seen plenty of actionable tips from sales leaders on how to manage remote teams, how to address COVID-19 in your selling and more.

They all are fantastic additions to a new digital toolbelt. But, I’ve been thinking: I see only a handful of certainties shaking out for the remainder of 2020. And one of them is sales and marketing having to hit the proverbial pause button on B2B events.

But 7 out of 10 B2B marketers use events for lead generation.

So what can sales and marketing teams do in the meantime?

Social media and Zoom webinars can approximate events, but that can be hard to scale for lead generation. You could also plan a virtual event, but that’s not a quick solution. It takes time to put together a quality event.

Yes, face-to-face discussions and deals are still your best bet for sales — in terms of response, not efficiency. Let’s face it: sales activities were already becoming more digital before this crisis hit.

“In-person meetings are the most inefficient process imaginable. In today’s world, actually meeting face-to-face is a nice-to-have, not a requirement. I’ll sometimes do business with people for years without ever meeting them!” —Dan Tyre, Sales Director, HubSpot (before COVID-19 started hitting the headlines)

Since in-person events are on hold for the foreseeable future, how can you best replicate that experience digitally?

Here’s our bet: use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to connect with the decision makers you would have been likely to meet at events in 2020 and expand the scope of your outreach.

Keep reading to learn how we’re doing that at Wiza. In particular, I’m going to give you two tactics for tailoring Sales Nav lead generation with events in mind.

Whether you’re new to Sales Navigator and its higher price tag or use the platform on the daily, you may just learn something.

Related: Top 50 Lead Generation Tools in 2023, Ranked & Rated

First Things First: Get Your Targeting Nailed Down

If you don’t already, you need to know exactly who’s in your target market, so you can spend as much time focusing on those people as possible.

Now is not the time to “scale” outreach by cold emailing thousands of leads at once. We’re trying to emulate events, after all. The true value of events is that you meet people by taking time for handshakes and coffee breaks, not shouting at every passerby on the sidewalk.

The goal is hyper-personalized outreach for a more organic connection.

Remember that before you start exporting the 2,500 leads your LinkedIn search returns all at once. Effective targeting looks unique for each industry and solution, so I won’t preach. But I do recommend keeping one thing in mind for this particular exercise:

Go for mid-tier decision makers.

You most likely wouldn’t land a lunch date with a keynote speaker. Instead, plan on reaching out to those you’d sit across from if you were in a breakout session.

Tactic #1: Connect with Event Attendees & Sponsors

Step 1. Many conferences and events will release who’s attending or sponsoring their events. Usually it’s just company names, but that works for us. Step one is to find these lists.

In this example, we’re looking at AA-ISP Leadership Summit, an event for inside sales professionals. Here, we’ve found a whole bunch of sponsors that we want to target, right on the event page.


Step 2. We’ve found our first list of companies. Now we’ll save each of these accounts to a new Account list within Linkedin Sales Navigator.

This will make it easy for us to find our target audience at these companies later. Simply search the company and click “Save,” then create a new account list for the event. For example:

  • Search “Terminus”
  • Click “Save”
  • Save to “AA-ISP Sponsors”


Step 3. Once we’re done with the entire sponsor list, we create a new lead search in Sales Navigator and apply our new Account list as a filter.

Now Linkedin will only show me prospects that work at the accounts sponsoring the event.


Step 4. We apply our job title and seniority filters to narrow down who we want to target at those accounts, and now we have 44 contacts to reach out to. Since our tool is for sales enablement, I focused on Head of Sales and Sales Director positions.


Step 5. From here, we can either export emails from this Sales Navigator search or begin reaching out with InMail (or a combination of the two). Both options are valid, but remember that you’re limited to just a handful of InMail credits — so use them wisely!

Writing your event-replacement email

This initial email is your chance to show some personality. Mention how you believe their company was a sponsor or attendee of this year’s AA-ISP event. Unfortunately, you won’t get a chance to see them this year — so you wanted to get in touch and get a digital conversation going.

If you’ve followed Sales Hacker for any amount of time, you already know how to write a compelling cold email. But here are a few ideas to step it up a notch for this particular use case:

  • Include the event name. They’re a sponsor of a cancelled event — this will be an attention catcher.
  • Mention any mutual connections. Take an extra minute to see if you have shared connections on LinkedIn (or narrow your search by 2nd-degree connections). If you do, mention them by name.
  • Don’t pitch too hard at first. This isn’t your traditional cold email; don’t try to sell something right off the bat.
  • Include an open-ended CTA. Calls to action don’t have to be limited to selling. Include a link to your Calendly and invite them to a call, ask what they were looking forward to most about the event, or even just how their organization is handling the shake up.
  • Open it up to a real (digital) face-to-face. You’re not aiming for a “quick 15-minute call.” You’ll get the chance to pitch your value prop down the line; for now, make it about the connection.

Tactic #2: Organize Your Own Get-Togethers

The first tactic was about forging a path to connection despite event cancellations. It’s the fastest, most effective path forward in our new paradigm.

But if you have both time and expertise, our second tactic will expand your opportunities further. This tactic is about finding common ground based on the keywords, interests, and groups your target audience participate in on LinkedIn.

You don’t have to host your own sponsored, 1000-attendee event to connect with and collaborate with your target audience.

People have a lot of time on their hands right now. They’re missing collaboration with people outside of their company. Now is your opportunity to create mini-sessions that can live on even after the quarantine.

Step 1. Choose a topic or niche for your session and figure out titles that will be relevant to your discussion. You don’t have to be an expert on the topic, per se. Just do a bit of research beforehand and the group will come up with some brilliant insights. Just make sure to prepare 10–15 questions so the discussion never goes flat.

Step 2. Nail down your audience in Sales Navigator. We like to stick to one industry to create a more relevant discussion for everyone involved.

In this example, we target sales operations managers at tech companies since we want to host a breakout session on managing sales teams’ effectiveness remotely.

I’m also keeping it local to my area (Toronto) to add another level of personal touch to the outreach.


Step 3. We found our leads. Now send them an email or InMail letting them know when you’re planning to host the breakout session. If they’re game, we send them a calendar invite with a Google Hangout or Zoom link. Here’s what I sent:

Hey Alexander,

My team and I are hosting a (virtual) breakout session on managing sales teams remotely on April 8th at 10AM EST and I wanted to invite you to join the discussion.

It’s completely free and will involve 10 sales ops managers in North America sharing their best tips and tricks for remote management of sales teams.

We’d love to have you join us. If you’re interested, let me know your email and I’ll send over a calendar invite.

Thanks and hope to meet you soon!


Step 4. Use the opportunity to expand the value of these sessions. Bring a notetaker (or record the call). Have someone summarize the discussion and send it to all the participants after the call. It can also be used as content to invite others into your session.

Make the Most of It

Of course, you don’t have to set up a webinar or group call to reach out. You can widen your reach even further by simply sending an email that mentions a particular interest or LinkedIn group.

“If you’re anything like me, it feels like it’s time to start talking to strangers again. Since we’ve both got some extra time, I’m interested to talk to you more about what you’ve found works well for remote teams. What do you think?”

That’s about as organic and as timely as you can get.

You don’t even have to sell at this stage. In fact, I recommend you don’t. At least not at first. You just have to keep building.

Try It: LinkedIn Sales Navigator Lead Generation

By running with both of these tactics, you’ll find new opportunities to meet people in your industry, connect with leads in a more organic way, build your network and add value for your target audience.

As long as you don’t go out trying to sell too hard, your audience will remember these efforts positively once the “new normal” goes back to just being normal.

Key Takeaways

To keep moving forward in sales operations, we need a temporary replacement for cancelled B2B events through 2020.

Cold email isn’t the spammy outreach tactic it used to be — you can create hyper-personalized, warm messages that get responses.

Start by reaching out to event attendees and sponsors, using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify the accounts and leads you want to reach.

Use the event as your reason for making contact with a cold email or InMail message, opening things up for a conversation on whatever niche the event was focused on.

Use keywords, groups and interests to expand your outreach beyond event attendees, offering virtual meetups and breakout sessions on a niche you’re familiar with.

Treat these tactics as a means of expanding your organic connections and network, rather than pure lead generation. Focus on driving the discussion and adding value. Above all, be genuine.

Stephen Hakami knows cold email like nobody else. He ran his own cold email agency in Toronto, but the biggest problem was getting emails from LinkedIn. After jumping around with virtual assistants, manual email finders, and bounced emails, he built a tool that allows his team to scrape LinkedIn for thousands of prospects in a target market at once. He turned that tool into his own bootstrapped startup: Wiza. Launched in May 2019, Stephen has grown Wiza from $0 to $500k ARR in under a year.

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