The LinkedIn Connection Conundrum

a phone showing social media icons

I love connecting with new people on LinkedIn.  I see it as a great tool for curating a diverse collection of people I want to know, learn from, be inspired by, and collaborate with.

Most of those I have connected with have had at least a brief conversation with me.  Many have connected in person or virtually for a meeting.  Some have turned into brainstorming sessions and collaborations.  Several have become friends, colleagues, mentor-based relationships, and even clients.  But unfortunately, it seems that many are doomed for a disconnection.

When I spoke with author and connection Stu Heinecke for his podcast “How to Get a Meeting with Anyone” and his book “Get the Meeting,” I dove into the importance of building deep connections within my network.  Over a year after that chat, I still feel that learning more about my connections helps me to help them reach their goals and build rapport with people who have common ground.  It seems, however, that many people are missing the point of the LinkedIn platform.

LinkedIn is unique in that it is a business-focused platform, not like the many social sites that focus on our personal sides.  With the ability to easily connect with so many professionals comes abuse in the form of the unwanted and unwelcome sales pitch.

Sales can be tricky, and with the ease of connection on LinkedIn, representatives have a false sense of confidence for reaching out to people without understanding their actual business needs.  This leads to awkward cold pitch emails that come seconds within a connection request, and can leave the recipient frustrated and bothered.  Many of us did not sign up for the platform to be bombarded with multiple unvetted and forceful pitches in our inbox.

What makes these connections gone bad even worse is that they pitch immediately without doing even a little bit of investigation to see if they are an actual solution to a problem that you actually have.  Worse still is that they expect you to respond to their unwanted solicitation, and if you don’t, they send even more emails.

Making a connection with someone doesn’t not mean that they owe you whatever time you think they do, especially when you are trying to hard sell instead of investigate if they need what you offer.  I get so many messages that feel like a guilt trap – but they don’t understand that I owe them nothing.

These are not the connections I seek, and moving forward in start weeding out and declining these contacts.  The fact is, I’m looking for true connections, not just sales pitches.  I’m not against the eventual probing to see if a connection offers something I need, but only after they ask questions about me, my company, and my unmet needs or struggles.  I have purchased products and services from my LinkedIn connections – and actually search there first when a need arises – but when I receive a product pitch seconds after accepting your connection, I’m more likely to remove you from my network.

If you want to catch my attention, try this instead:

  • Publish articles about your company, problems you’re solving and for whom, the features of your product, stories about customer satisfaction, and impact you’re having
  • Offer value in your posts by sharing your point-of-view, more stories, or articles you’ve found that are interesting
  • Comment on other’s articles and posts and continue conversations you find important
  • Reach out and ask a specific questions based on an actual observation you’ve made about my content, website, or industry trends
  • Be interesting and find common ground

I’ve worked hard to build a network that offers value and is appreciative of the value I offer.  LinkedIn is not a place to collect connections.  It is a place where you can build a professional audience that helps to move you forward in your career in many ways.  Sales is an important part of that, but it is not the beginning; however, with a pitch-first approach, it will be your end.


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