Originally published on Inc Magazine’s Process Playbook column by Chris Ronzio
If you’re flooded with LinkedIn connection requests, here’s how to separate the authentic from the obnoxious.
I’m using it to recruit new employees, to share my articles and insights, and to connect with the new people I meet day-to-day. But for every familiar connection request I receive, I get a dozen strangers spamming me with their services.
Unlike Instagram, where influencers collect thousands of followers in a one-way opt-in, LinkedIn still follows a request approval structure that requires a double opt-in.
So, which connections do you ignore, and which do you accept? And, if you’re genuinely trying to connect with someone, how do you get through their ever-expanding filter?
Let’s start with the nine people I always ignore:
1. The blatant salesperson
The easiest of all culprits to ignore. This person simply copies and pastes his or her Yelp bio into a connection request. It is the digital equivalent of the flyers I find on my car’s windshield or the supermarket coupons that I can’t seem to rid from my mailbox. I didn’t ask for this. Mark as spam.
2. The sneaky self-promoter
This person starts with a harmless connection request, likely without any message. So, I’m left to judge their profile simply by their title, and no one gives themselves a bad title. But, minutes after I accept the connection request, I get the follow up sales pitch. “Thanks for accepting my request! Now let me tell you all about me.” Nice try! Remove connection.
3. The mass scheduler
More sophisticated than the sneaky self-promoter, the mass scheduler has a call to action. This person uses the same spray-and-pray connection tactic, but hits every accepted connection with an automatic message to the effect of, “Hi, I know we’re strangers, but click this link to schedule a call with me!” On one hand, I’m glad to see more people using productive scheduling software. But, the only circumstance in which a completely cold connection will immediately schedule a call with you is pure loneliness.
4. The casual caller
The casual caller also wants to get on the phone. But, they don’t have a calendar link, and they don’t have a purpose for speaking to you. Instead, they simply ask, “Do you have 10 minutes to get on a call and learn more about each other?” Oh, certainly, I reserve a good chunk of my week for impromptu phone calls with strangers.
5. The offshore agency
The downside of writing about my remote teams around the world is that I get solicited nonstop by web development, design, and SEO firms from every corner of the globe. But, in talking with other business owners, it seems that everyone is getting hit up. If you are running one of these agencies, the market is flooded, so it’s time to find a better way to connect.
6. The fake prospect
A few weeks ago someone sent me a simple message, “Can you tell me more about Trainual?” I totally fell for it, and fired back a quick elevator pitch while waiting in line at the grocery store. Bait taken, they immediately replied, “That’s cool. I do business development for an offshore web development shop that can save you a billion dollars a year. Do you have 10 minutes for a call? Here’s my link.” Woah! 1-5 combo punch!
7. The rapid recruiter
Somehow, 11 seconds after we post a job, I receive a flutter of messages from recruiters that claim to have hundreds of capable candidates at the ready. Now, I totally appreciate the work that recruiters do. But something about how forward certain recruiters are strikes me as desperate. If they’re so eager to work with me, I’d question the quality of candidates that they would place. So, ignore.
8. The random resource
This one mostly applies to realtors, financial advisors, business brokers, and other professional service providers. But, each week, I get connections from people that use the line, “Please use me as a resource”. As if, when the situation arises that I need a specialized advisor, I will reach out to the stranger that asked me to connect on LinkedIn 19 months ago. I trust Google more than you.
9. The nonstop networker
Call me old fashioned, but I believe in protecting my network. Because as the quality of the network diminishes, so too does its value. The last type of person that I often ignore is the nonstop networker, connecting with everyone they can just for the sake of having more connections. They’ll say something like “I see we have several people in common,” or “LinkedIn suggested that we connect,” or “I would love to help you connect to anyone else that I am connected to.” I see those things are red flags, and I don’t want my connection to someone to be an endorsement for another person to also connect with them.
Now, if you want to actually connect with someone cold on LinkedIn, here is how to do it right.
Read their articles or listen to their interviews. Pick out some specific tips that you took away, and use that as your opener. Explain why you’d like to connect, and be genuine. If you have a solution in their space, say that, but don’t pitch it. Last, don’t ask for anything. Don’t say you want to grab coffee, or chat on the phone, or send a package. Those kinds of things feel like a burden and a reason to not accept your connection.
In short, start a conversation on LinkedIn the same way you’d start one in real life. Get to know someone, build a relationship, and then if it makes sense to work together at some point, you’ll get there.