With 260 million monthly active users, LinkedIn may seem like your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to sell their product or services to 260 million people?
Let’s remember, however, that LinkedIn in NOT about sales: It’s about building connections and developing relationships with people who may (or may not) be interested in what you have to offer.
Here are some tips for networking naturally on LinkedIn so you don’t develop that pushy “used car salesman” reputation that make people want to run away:
1. Do your research first. Do some Google searches and peruse company websites to search for ideal clients instead of bombarding employees at that company for introductions. You may have a great track record helping Fortune 500 executives but spamming them with connection requests out of the blue won’t win you any favors.
2. Personalize your messages. When you finally decide on sending connection requests, don’t fall for the easy way out by using the LinkedIn sample text. That’s a perfect way to show your prospect that you have no idea who they are or what they do, so why would they want to connect with you? Instead, include a snippet of how you met. Did you hear them speak at a conference? Mention that. Were you introduced at a networking luncheon by a mutual friend? Say that. Prospective connections will pay more attention to your personal message than any automated, text template.
3. Ask for personal introductions. Stalking someone’s connection list on LinkedIn is a little creepy, especially if you cold call these people and say, “We’re mutual friends with Jamie Smith,” as the start of your conversation. Instead, ask Jamie Smith directly for an introduction. Remember, most people will only make introductions for those they actually know and who they trust, so make an effort to befriend Jamie Smith first before asking for those introductions.
4. Build the relationship first instead of going straight for the sale. Don’t be the person who accepts a new connection request and immediately sends a message with a sales pitch. Not only will that new connection cringe at the tackiness but they will likely tell others about your spammy tactic and you’ll have others hesitate or ignore your connection requests. Instead, send a “nice to meet you” message, thanking them for connecting. Publish consistently on your feed. Like valuable information they have posted on their own feed. Ask to meet in person if you’re local or if you’re attending the same conference. Show your new connection that you are interested in them and what they do.
5. Keep your profile up to date. New connections will most likely check your profile before joining your network or responding to your messages, so keep it up to date. Always post a current headshot; fill in your headline and description with power words so prospects know exactly what you do; and don't lie on your resume.
One note: There’s a huge difference between introducing yourself with your company name and what you have to offer versus introducing yourself with a hard core sales pitch. Craft your introduction carefully and you won’t be perceived as a tacky salesperson desperate to make a sale.