So, you’ve read my blog on 7 Reasons Not to Accept Connection Requests From Strangers but you are still keen to grow your network and LinkedIn remains a strong tool for engaging with key influencers in your field and with potential partners and prospects.
But what if they’ve also read my blog on not connecting with strangers? When you approach people who don’t know you, how can you do so in a thoughtful and considered way that will increase your chances that they’ll accept your invitation and engage with you?
Here are four simple tips on how to reach out to strangers on LinkedIn. It’s amazing how few of them I see people use when they seek to connect with me! Which makes it easy for you to stand out from the crowd.
Tip One – Personalise Your Connection Request
It’s incredible how few people bother to do this. A generic connection request to someone you don’t know is highly likely to be ignored, unless they are an Open Networker and accept requests indiscriminately. It can make you look lazy and complacent and it doesn’t exactly encourage ongoing conversation. At best, you’ll simply exchange clicks without ever knowing any more about each other.
Be aware that if you simply click ‘Connect’ on LinkedIn suggestions of possible contacts, you will automatically send the generic invitation. To personalise a request, click on ‘Connect’ on their profile on a desktop computer and follow the prompt to add a message, or click on ‘More…’ on their profile on a phone or tablet and then ‘Personalize invite’.
Tip Two – Make it About Them, Not About You.
Avoid the old sales pitfall of ‘wee-ing all over the place’. You know, the classic sales presentation:
“We were founded in…”
“We are based in…”
“We have xx number of staff”
“We specialise in a, b and c”
“We, we, we” – the poor customer is thinking “What about me?”.
If you want to connect with someone you don’t know, it can be very tempting to tell them all about yourself and build yourself up so that they want to connect. Don’t. If you engage them well enough with your message, they will look at your profile. And if you’ve done your homework properly, your profile will tell them all they need to know at this stage about you.
Dale Carnegie said, ‘The sweetest sound to any man is the sound of his own name”. Talk about them. Focus on what you took from their profile, what you know about them already and why it would benefit them to connect with you.
Tip Three – Make it Meaningful
I recently had someone invite me to connect with the message:
‘Solid effort being the Director at H & A Lopata. Keep up the great work, Andy.’
As soon as I read that line, I knew they had not actually read my profile or tried to learn anything about me and why we should connect with each other. They had literally lifted our company name, which is not in use in our day-to-day work, off the page and copied and pasted. How many other people have received exactly the same message with just the names changed?
Meaningless and pointless.
Make sure you read the other person’s profile first. Look for what you have in common; look for things that really stand out; look for what makes them interesting and include that in your personalised connection request.
If you show that you are genuinely interested in them and have done your homework, they’re far more likely to be amenable to connecting. Show that this is a truly personal message, not a cut and paste job; one of hundreds your PA has sent out for you.
Tip Four – Don’t Tell Me That We Share Mutual Connections
Tell me how you know them.
So many connection requests that I get say we should connect because we know people in common. Well, as far as I know you’ve sent them exactly the same message. You only need to connect with one person you don’t know who has an open approach to connecting and suddenly you can connect with hundreds by inviting based on mutual connections.
Instead, if you genuinely know the people that we share in common, think about which are likely to be most relevant to our relationship – then feel free to name check them. Focus on the people who have the most credibility and who would vouch for you. If you’re going to leverage associated trust, make sure that it is both there in the first place and is easily understandable and visible.
If you are only on LinkedIn to get eyeballs on your blogs and posts and you don’t care about genuine connection, then feel free to ignore me and play the numbers game. It’s not an approach I favour and I believe it runs contrary to the values of community and connection that underpin social networks like LinkedIn, but I also recognise that it works for some businesses. That is a choice for you to make.
But if you believe in my mantra of ‘Connecting is not Enough’ and seek to build genuine, mutually beneficial relationships, then please be more thoughtful in how you reach out.
It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.