Today marks seven years since I first began using LinkedIn. As a raving fan, I use the networking tool daily for making connections, sharing referrals, prospecting, conducting pre-sales call research and more. It is an amazing sales tool with power far greater than what most people realize, which is why salespeople need to to invest the time to learn how to use LinkedIn effectively.
Making and accepting invitations is the first step in building your network, so I’d like to share 3 brief tips about how to do it the right way. Before I do, I need to tell you that I do not subscribe to the “open networker” philosophy, and I do not say yes to everyone who asks me to connect with them. Our networks are business assets and should be treated as such. If I’m going to allow someone access to my connections, I need to know that I can trust them to behave professionally. I’m about the quality of connections not the sheer number of them.
Ok, now that I’ve set the stage with my feelings about building my network, here are 3 tips for making and accepting LinkedIn invitations.
1. Invite people that you know. LinkedIn’s official policy is that you connect with people that you know. Daily, I receive invitations from people that I’ve never heard of, never met and never conversed with in a LinkedIn group. These invitations usually indicate that we are friends when we aren’t. Or, they suggest that we’ve done business together, which we haven’t. I keep an open mind about connecting with people that I do not know yet, but you have to give me a compelling reason to do so. What’s the benefit to me? That leads me to point number two.
2. Personalize your invitations. I’m pretty much over the standard “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.” Really, why? Why am I a good connection for you and vice versa? The “you are a person that I trust” message also gets under my skin. These invitations are especially irritating when I have no idea who you are. How do you know that you can trust me? The way I see it, if the connection is important to you – stop and take a moment to customize your message. Guess what, I don’t have the time to look up your profile and figure out if we’d be good connections for each other. Other people don’t either. Your job is to make it clear why connecting makes sense for both parties.
3. When you accept a connection, send a personalized message saying “thank you”. It’s a small, but very important way to stand out. In fact, I conducted social media training for a group of salespeople on Wednesday, and one gal in the room said that it bugged her when people never responded to her after connecting. All it takes is a minute to click on “send a message” once you’ve accepted the invite. It lets the other person know that you actually care about being connected.
People buy from people that they know, like and trust. Sales referrals are shared with other professionals for the same reasons. Relationships matter. Remembering that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, make your first LinkedIn interaction count!