Sending messages on LinkedIn? Please don’t be any of these 4 tropes
Maybe it’s the pandemic and the vibe is more desperate out there with sales people eager to hit quotas, coaches, and consultants looking for business, but I’ve suddenly been bombarded with connection requests and messages that do not give me any good reason to connect. Most of you don’t need this because you’re too smart, I know that, but there might be a few of you out there committing InMail crimes, especially if you’re new to virtual networking. If you’re new to sales and business development, you could be frustrating the people you are trying to engage.
Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting people. I consider myself a pretty good networker, and I have met about 95% of my 1,000+ connections in person. My account includes a collection of friends, people from my various communities, colleagues, former classmates, cool people I met at events, or those I’ve served in a business context. Like most of us who value our time spent over the years building and fostering our very real connections, I don’t want just anyone to pass through the velvet ropes.
Before diving into these messages (that will instantly be blocked) and offering solutions, I want to show you what I’m talking about. Yes, the following messages are real though not all are my own experiences.
Example 1: The Networker
“I’m in real estate. No, I’m not selling anything. I’m purely networking and spreading the word.”
“I noticed your background in [industry name] so I wanted to reach out…happy to just network. Always beneficial to have an expert like me in your contacts!”
Translation: You don’t know me but I would like to have YOUR validation as a connection in order to leverage the power of YOUR network to enhance MY business. Cheers!
Example 2: The Biz Dev Challenger
“Check out this video link. Think about it. What makes your approach different?”
Translation: I’m lazy, but I’m also pretty smug. I don’t know what my differentiator is either. Why don’t you go ahead and do some homework that you didn’t ask for to figure out why I’m contacting you. Also, you don’t know what you’re doing. Get in touch.
Example 3: The Wide Net Caster
“I help professionals to take advantage of high performing franchise opportunities as semi-absentee owners. If this sounds like a good next step for you…”
Translation: I don’t care about what you do professionally, my bar is low, hell, I don’t care about what I do either! I’m just spraying and praying. Help me to help you to help me?
Example 4: Wika Wika Slim Shady Sales Guy
“Hi Sarah, [insert former coworker name] has expressed great things on your profile about you. Let’s connect.”
Translation: I’m a 3rd degree connection, but I did scan your profile unlike those other guys! Please re-accept compliments from your former colleague but regurgitated through me, because I can’t find anything else to say. Gold star because I mentioned something in your profile? Let’s connect!”
Bonus Example 5: The Dater
“I saw you on [insert dating app] and knew I had to get in touch here. I am a kind and sincere person looking to make a real connection. I’m a thinker who likes hiking, staying up for hours just talking, and looking forward to lots of laughter with you.”
Translation: I have boundary issues and this is a red flag. Run. I just went out of my way to get your attention by injecting myself into your professional orbit because it’s not about whether or not you’re interested, after all you ignored me on the dating app, but about my interest in your attention. I feel so close to you, as if I were just outside your office…
(1) For the Networker: We are gatekeepers of our networks. I have a responsibility to my network and so do you. I’ve spent years building my network with countless coffees, happy hours, work projects, dinners, weddings, baby showers, you get the idea. To real networkers, there’s a relationship. When you reach out to ask me to “network”, you are putting my reputation on the line and asking to be in a club of vetted friends, colleagues, bosses, and other people where trust has been built. If I blindly connect with you, you might SPAM my network and devalue my credibility. Is a network full of strangers even helpful when the time comes for a favor? This is the harsh truth. Solution: If you want to reach out to someone, ask for an introduction first. If you don’t have a shared connection, then ask to connect on the phone, in a real way. They are more likely to help you if they know you; you’re much more forgettable as a random person they added on LinkedIn 4 months ago.
(2) For the Biz Dev Challenger: Do your own homework. Don’t make someone else figure out why they would need your services, or how it would save someone time or money. Solution: If you are a savvy enough business person, you will study the people you are reaching out to and make your message relevant to them or their business problem.
(3) For the Wide Net Caster: LinkedIn is a context-rich rolodex, not a phone book. There is a good chance that LinkedIn will boot you off of the platform if a sensitive person from the myriad of people who you reached out to decided to take a small action and put you to rest by reporting you. This is LinkedIn’s definition: “Spam” means someone advertises a product for monetary gain or posts irrelevant content for high visibility. Solution: Focus on quality vs quantity. Research appropriate targets and send personalized messages by mentioning something from their profile vs just stating what you do. It’s less risky than the “spray and pray” sales method.
(4) For the Slim Shady Sales Guy: Find meaningful affinities, not random information from a profile, otherwise it’s frivolous and a little weird. Unlike the Wide Net Caster or Biz Dev Challenger, this person finally looked at profile information! However, they were the wrong particulars to comment on and showed that there was no real material on my page that would inspire a connection. Here’s a bit of perspective. I was just listening to a podcast about the types of compliments we give. There’s a lazy compliment, for example “you’re so great”, then there’s a real compliment “you did a fantastic job on this specific thing which was difficult and I am impressed”. Solution: Did the person you are trying to connect with recently write an article (hint hint)? Win an award? Show up in the news? Compliment those things, not the superficial and meaningless. Be sincere. What about this person’s profile that urges you to connect?
(5) For the Dater: Think about context. What time of day is it when you’re on LinkedIn? It’s likely during your work day, right? What head space are you in? Let me guess, you’re trying to get work done, you might be a little stressed, but took a break to grab coffee and get your mind off of a deadline by responding to a LinkedIn message. Same for that person you contacted to pitch yourself as a suitor. Reaching out in a context outside of a professional interaction on LinkedIn shows bad judgement, and we look for people to join our networks — and lives — who have good judgement. This person may no longer be on the market and you are pitching yourself without knowing much about them. They were on a platform with some anonymity, but alas, you outed them in a semi-stalker manner. Solution: First, if you’ve reached out on a dating platform and got no response, let it go and don’t take it personally. If this is an initial interaction, try to establish rapport by becoming a real contact vs a dating prospect. Ask about a mutual contact if that’s an opportunity to engage or have a different reason for connecting other than dating. Take an interest in who they are; it’s not about you. Same goes for when you’re on the dating apps!
For all of these tropes: Build a real network based on meaningful interactions. Establish rapport to build a real relationship and don’t forget the WIIFM. Connect the dots and make it about them. What about their profile says “we should totally connect!” Same industry? Mutual friends? Same school? What they wrote in a post? Find it and mention it! Don’t make them do the homework for you. Always remember the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) when reaching out to stimulate versus frustrate your potential new contact.
For more tips on LinkedIn etiquette, check out LinkedIn’s own list of 20 Do’s and Dont’s.