LinkedIn networking philosophy is a highly debated topic. In my opinion, there truly is no hard line right and wrong. It really depends on your purpose and goals for using LinkedIn. I just want people to really think it through and make the decision that’s best for them and their business or career goals.
Personally, when Lewis Howes first said “Connect to the World on LinkedIn!” back in 2010, my response was, “Uh, …no.” I’m a huge believer of referral/relationship/introduction marketing. My background is financial services and fundraising – two sales methods where the relationships and the introductions matter to the success of the sale. So, having a ton of threadlike connections who don’t know me, would not be of help at all because they could never give me a solid enough introduction that success would be probable. I need to be able to see where the strong relationships are in order to be successfully introduced.
So, of course I’m not a fan of blindly accepting invitations to connect from people I don’t know and who have sent only the default invite. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to connect with someone just because I haven’t met them yet either. But, even if you’re a LION and the quantity connection strategy works for your purposes and goals, you shouldn’t blindly accept those default invites either.
Why not? Because you don’t know the person’s reason or interest in connecting and you are throwing away the momentum of their invitation to connect and your ability to take control of the situation. If you’re using LinkedIn for sales and business development, people will invite you to connect because they are interested in your products or services. If you simply accept, then you may never know. You’re leaving the power of the sales opportunity in the hands of the prospect. They may not be ready to take action and are connecting for “some time down the line.” But when that time comes, someone else may be more front of mind. You’ve lost a sale and you didn’t even know it.
You need to know why people are wanting to connect with you in order to capitalize on the sales opportunities. I take two approaches to the default invite. First, if the person is not a direct fit for my target market and it is not evident why they want to connect, then I simply send a message before accepting to find out more.
If they are interested in your services, they’ll tell you. If they want to connect for another reason, you’ll start a conversation. If they never respond, then you can decide if it’s someone you want to connect with or not – it’s your call.
Recently, simply by asking a person why they wanted to connect, I landed a $50k deal . Maybe it would have still come to pass if I hadn’t asked, but maybe it wouldn’t have. By opening a dialogue, I was able to take control of the situation.
Second, if the person is a direct fit for my target market, then I’m not letting that person get away. I do accept that invitation, but then send a follow up message. The follow up message should try to elicit information about their intention and offer them additional information that will require a sign up to your list. If the person is interested in what you have to offer, they will reply back and let you know or sign up for your other information. You now have control of a lead that has demonstrated interest – how good of a sales person you are will determine the outcome at this point!
The bottom line is, that if you’re blindly accepting invitations to connect, you’re missing out on opportunities – sales opportunities and relationship building opportunities. You should look at your LinkedIn Network as a collection of relationships and not just Rolodex of people.
Crystal Thies has been known as the LinkedIn Ninja since founding her company, Crystal Clear Buzz, in 2009. Although well versed and experienced in all social media, Crystal specializes in the utilization of LinkedIn for sales and business development. As a past financial planner, Crystal is one of the few social media strategists with expertise to work with those regulated by FINRA, the SEC, and IIROC. She is the co-author of “The Social Media Handbook for Financial Advisors” published by Bloomberg Press.