Do I know you?
I get dozens of LinkedIn requests from people I don’t know each week and occasionally I want to connect to someone I haven’t met. Yet LinkedIn cautions you to only connect to people you know. What is the best way to connect with those you don’t know, whether they are asking to connect with you or you would like to connect with them? When you find people you want to be connected to, it is always best if you can leverage a strong relationship to get an introduction. When those you don’t know ask to connect, research before you reject. Figure out what connections you have in common and how a relationship might be beneficial.
There are a couple of key ideas to keep in mind.
- Don’t connect with anyone you are not willing to develop a business relationship with. “Why?” you may ask. It isn’t about how many connections you have; it’s about the quality of your connections and the ability to leverage them.
- Don’t connect to people solely to sell to them. It’s just another cold call if you do this. Sales, referrals and resources will come. Focus on building relationships.
- Keep an open mind when connecting. Think, “Is this someone I can collaborate with or develop into a referral source (not just, is this a prospect).”
- Leverage your relationships to get the introductions you want. If you are connected to someone you don’t know, why would they make an introduction for you? They might, but what is it worth? An introduction from someone who knows, likes and trusts you, who will brag about how great you are, is worth a million bucks!
- Always send a personalized message when sending a request or after responding to a connection request. Tell them who you are and why you want to connect. Look at their profile to find things you have in common and mention those to build the relationship. Offer to be of service or send a link to an article they will appreciate.
Connection Requests from People You Don’t Know
So what should you do if you get a request from someone you don’t know? It’s up to you, but before you click ignore, consider this. You are at a networking event and someone you don’t know is walking toward you smiling. They put out their hand to shake yours and introduce themselves. Would you turn your back on them? Probably not. My motto is “Research before you reject.”
I consider each request individually. Here’s an example. Vanessa sent me a request. I have no idea who she is. I took a look at her profile to learn about what she does and noticed that she does something similar to me. I then looked to see what contacts we have in common and saw that we share several. It would have been nice if she would have done #5 above and sent me a personalized note telling me why she wanted to connect, but she didn’t, so I had to decide if she was someone I wanted to develop a business relationship with based on what I read. Since we both work with entrepreneurs, I wanted to determine if there was any chance for collaboration. Perhaps we have information we can share with each other’s audiences that would be beneficial. So I wrote the following note after I accepted her request.
If I look at a profile and can’t figure out any reason to connect or if it looks suspicious, I click ignore and choose, “I don’t know this person.”
Getting an Introduction
Once you have identified someone you’d like to be connected to, the best thing to do is find out who can connect you. Leveraging a relationship to get an introduction is the best thing to do.
One of the things I love the most about LinkedIn is that I can see who all my friends know. When they know someone I need to know, I can use LinkedIn to get connected or better yet, I can pick up the phone, yes, I said, “Pick up the phone.” I can call and ask them about the person I want to meet and discuss the best way for them to make the introduction. They can call, email, or schedule coffee or lunch for the three of us. Either way, they are making a personal introduction so the person will be open to meeting me because my connector already transferred some credibility. This is the best possible way for me to start the relationship. If I had to cold call that person or send a blind request on LinkedIn, they might not respond. I would always rather have an introduction.
If I choose to use the introduction feature on LinkedIn, as LinkedIn suggests, I always write a personal message.
Connecting without an Introduction
What if you find someone you want to know and you don’t have anyone to introduce you? There’s a couple of things you can do. You can use the “ Send InMail” feature and send a personal note about why you want to connect, but you only get a few free and then you have to purchase them, which may be worth it.
You can find a group they are a member of, that you are also interested in, and join that group and then use that feature to connect. You can send a connection request from their profile. Caution, if you do this frequently and people report you, LinkedIn will frown upon that and possibly take action. Be sure to send a personalized note about why you want to connect. This increases the odds that they will accept. To sell them something is not a good reason. Learning more about their business, offering an opportunity to collaborate or asking a question that they may have the expertise to answer, are good reasons. Look at their profile and find something you have in common so you can mention that in your note. Once they accept, get busy building the relationship. Take a look to see what they are posting in their activity feed and click like, comment or share. Let them know you are paying attention and are interested in them, not just selling to them or using them for a connection. To effectively utilize LinkedIn you simply need to be genuinely interested in people.
Networking is Essential to Your Career
Meeting new people and continuing to build strong relationships is essential to your career. Use LinkedIn to connect to all the people you do know so you can effectively connect to people you want to know. Randomly connecting to people you don’t know has little purpose. Those connections are just another cold list. To utilize LinkedIn and get results you need to connect to the people you know, continue to build those relationships and then appropriately leverage them to get the introductions you need. Don’t forget to reciprocate. Everyone is trying to build their network and your connections can be helpful to them also.