Back in the day, LinkedIn was intended to be an intranet of sorts … you were only supposed to connect with individuals you knew. Try to connect with someone “outside of your network,” and you’d get a not-so-friendly slap on the wrist.
That has changed the past two years since Microsoft purchased LinkedIn. Now, LinkedIn is meant to be a networking tool. You can reach out to individuals you don’t know personally to expand your reach – much more beneficial for business owners and job seekers!
I have based my business on this practice, helping individuals connect with relevant professionals on LinkedIn as a way to grow their businesses. I see connection requests as a great way for professionals to grow their networks while engaging in active lead generation. In my opinion, using InMail for cold reach-outs sends a warning to the recipient, which is: I’m trying to sell you something!
I generate a lot of interest with my lead generation service, but have had the same question asked multiple times over the past week:
“Does LinkedIn limit the number of connection requests you can send out?”
The answer is yes and no. There isn’t a publicized limit, but LinkedIn does pay attention to whether your connection requests are converting. In other words, if you are sending request-after-request-after-request and people aren’t accepting (or worse, they’re reporting you), your account may get flagged for spamming.
“If you’ve sent a large number of invitations, your account may be limited from inviting more members. This is generally due to many of your invitations being rejected or ignored by the members you’ve invited. We recommend you send invitations only to people you know and trust to be part of your network, as stated in the LinkedIn User Agreement. Having only quality connections in your network greatly improves the relevance of content shown in your feed, surfaces more appropriate matches in your searches, and better guides other features to help you discover opportunities on LinkedIn.”
Does this mean you can’t send connection requests to individuals you don’t know? Absolutely not. The key is to send relevant connection requests.
What constitutes a relevant connection request in my book?
The relationship must be mutually beneficial.
This, to me, is Sales 101, but it is critical to recognize that what constitutes a mutually-beneficial relationship is always relative to the business making the request and the person receiving it. There is a spectrum of “sales asks” on LinkedIn, ranging from connecting as a way to network to connecting as a means to sell. I will use three “for instance” examples to illustrate my point.
Example 1: The direct sell
Let’s say you manufacture desks. You want to connect with furniture stores on LinkedIn to ask if they want to stock your desks in their stores. Because you know before you reach out that they have a vested interest in purchasing desks, it is a reasonable reason to connect. In fact, the person you’re reaching out to may be thrilled you did. They are on LinkedIn as part of their profession and you are connecting with them to directly benefit their job.
Example 2: The information share
You also may connect with someone outside your network to share relevant information. If you are a financial advisor specializing in real estate, you may send connect requests to real estate professionals on LinkedIn with a note letting them know you publish articles they may find relevant to their business. This helps them by providing them with information and helps you by expanding your reach.
Example 3: The survey request
It is reasonable to connect on LinkedIn as a way to increase knowledge of your target audience. If you are a business coach, perhaps you send connection requests asking individuals what they look for in a business coach or how they find their business coaches.
With all three of these examples, though, one thing is critically important:
The note you include should be truthful.
Whether you’re looking to sell directly, share information, or request information, be honest about what you want. There is nothing worse on LinkedIn (or sales, for that matter) than a bait-and-switch. Don’t tell someone you want to learn from them only to send them a hard pitch 48 hours later.
Approach your LinkedIn strategy realistically and truthfully, knowing what you want to get out of your cold reach-out strategy and staying true to that goal.
Finally, know that every single professional and industry is unique. You may work in a field made up of people who hate to be solicited. That happens. If that’s the case, go with a networking strategy for connection requests and use InMail for your sales pitches.
The point is that no two situations are identical and it’s critical to approach your situation as a unique one. Know yourself and your audience and stay true to both. That is the best way to be successful on LinkedIn and to avoid being flagged as a spammer!
About Chrissie Wywrot
Chrissie Wywrot is a B2B lead generator and personal brand strategist who works with passionate entrepreneurs and professional athletes. To learn more about her services, visit her LinkedIn profile or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.