Why sellers should not use LinkedIn connection requests

By Jeff Molander

linkedin connection request

Time to read: 3.5 minutes. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know. Being restricted from sending connection requests (phase I) and being totally banned (phase II) by LinkedIn is common. Ask around. You’ll be surprised.

Want to avoid being restricted or banned? Plus, want more appointments from LinkedIn?

Stop sending out connection requests. Sound crazy? Hear me out.

Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships. There is a much better way to get appointments, fast.

Plus, if your connection requests are not accepted by prospects often enough LinkedIn will remove your ability to make connection requests. Ouch. Today I’ll tackle:

  • why you don’t need a connection on the approach,
  • when you should ask for the connection and
  • how LinkedIn fits in (best) with your prospecting process.

How LinkedIn connection requests hurt you

Connecting with a newly-targeted prospect on LinkedIn is a terrible idea. Yet I still see social selling “experts” recommending sales reps make connections—as a means to introduce themselves to prospects! But what if you didn’t need the connection?

What if connecting was preventing you from getting more response & appointments? (hint: it is)

“Ok, Molander. So why isn’t it a good idea?”

  1. It’s against LinkedIn’s rules
  2. Connection requests are truly “blind” (do not support your context)
  3. Requests are increasingly abused

Yes, requesting a connection seems like a logical first step but it’s blind, cold. It’s also against LinkedIn’s terms & conditions–and punishable.

You don’t know the other person and LinkedIn’s goal is to protect people from un-solicited correspondence. Yours!

Also, over time, more-and-more people are a victim of accepting a connection request from someone they do not know–and immediately receiving a poorly-written pitch. Some disconnect immediately (like me). Thing is, you’ll never know your prospect disconnected. LinkedIn doesn’t report it to you!

Finally, LinkedIn makes it difficult (sometimes impossible) for your prospect to read the customized request for connection you sent. Often, customers accept without any context for accepting … all while people like us assume they read the customized connection request.

This makes your “first touch” email message seem completely out of context to the prospect–no matter how well-written it is!

So what is the best way to make your approach on LinkedIn?

Instead, make LinkedIn fit your process

When I first meet students I pop the question: “How does LinkedIn fit into your prospecting process?” 95% of the time I get the same response.

“I need to figure that part out.”

Fair enough. I know it feels right to use connection requests as a way to make contact—once you’ve identified a potential buyer’s profile. After all, there’s a big CONNECT button staring you in the face!

But connecting makes no sense from a process and relationship perspective. It can also get you banned.

For example, LinkedIn connection requests are:

  • Restricted to 300 characters
  • Impersonal (automated requests are forced on mobile devices)
  • Against the rules if you don’t know the prospect!

LinkedIn connection requests can be accepted, ignored or declined—just like your calls or emails. They offer nothing better. In fact, they come with restrictions, are often impersonal by default and are not permitted. They’re risky!

Connect with prospects later

It is best to “connect” off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to nurture the conversation forward.

This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids risk of being restricted).

Think of it this way. Outside of LinkedIn, what’s the difference between a successful sales rep and one who struggles at prospecting new business? Getting connected on LinkedIn?

Nope!

It often comes down to this: Your ability to give prospects an irresistible reason to talk.

Why & how connecting later works

When prospecting your goal is to create an urge in the prospect to talk to you. If you don’t create that urge you don’t get to talk with them. Period.

Social selling on LinkedIn is all about helping prospects feel honestly curious about how you can help them. How you can solve a problem, relieve a pain, avoid a risk or fast-track a goal for them.

Once you’ve attracted them, then you’re in a stronger position to:

  • understand when (and if) they’ll transact;
  • discover how many decision-makers are involved in choosing you;
  • have your connection request accepted (avoid going to jail!);
  • effectively nurture & close your lead!

This is why it is best to meet off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

Once connected, you can message freely, monitor prospects, allow them to monitor you and such. You don’t need to worry about any of that until you’ve been given a reason to—by the prospect. First, you need their permission.

You need them to want the connection.

But what if LinkedIn is my start point?

The most dangerous (yet common) LinkedIn mistake sales professionals make is asking to connect with new prospects as a starting point. Avoid this practice.

You are smart to use LinkedIn—to identify and pre-qualify buyers. Next, use InMail, email or the phone to make initial contact with them. Confirm your prospect is a viable near-term or future buyer.

Then connect.

Having connections serves you better by earning them. Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships.

LinkedIn InMail (or standard email) is a better path toward earning a relevant discussion first—then the connection.

Keep connections in context of your selling process. LinkedIn connections are a nice-to-have, not a must have! Do you have questions about making this LinkedIn connection request and lead generation technique “come alive” for you? Let me know!

Photo credit: Andreas Levers

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About the Author

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting sales conversations online. He teaches a proven, effective and repeatable communications process to spark buyers curiosity about what you're selling. He's a sought-after sales prospecting trainer to individual reps, teams of sellers and small businesses owners across the globe. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe.Jeff also serves as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

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