Before the advent of social media, conversation was easy.

And by easy, I mean unencumbered.

I’m certain that accomplished sales and marketing professionals will disagree with that statement – and with good reason – the evidence is on their side.

The sales/marketing pros who have fully embraced the concept of Social Selling have leveraged social media for unprecedented access to key decision makers.

A platform like LinkedIn, the epicenter of the Social Selling universe, has made conversing and connecting with buyers and prospects a relatively pain-free process.

Or has it?

One of the most common functions executed on LinkedIn is the act of making a connection. With more than 332 million LinkedIn users, that’s a significant task.

But something noteworthy is somehow lost among the approximately 1 million or more of these daily connection requests: common sense.

It seems that many LinkedIn users are overly preoccupied with what truly is a relatively simple act – deciding upon whether to accept a LinkedIn connection request.

You’ve undoubtedly read these excerpts from prominent sales and marketing industry bloggers lamenting their dire decision making process:

A noted sales leader: “They didn’t do any research and just reached out to connect.”

Famous marketing person: “I turned them down. The request was poorly written”

Even yours truly got into the act (almost), describing the best way to craft a personalized connection message. (Full disclosure: Upon further reflection, I was wearing my cranky pants that day.)

And yes, it is frustrating when the buyer or prospect or decision maker you’ve nurtured with content and conversation responds like this:

“I want to keep my network small and only connect with people I actually know.”

But don’t take it personally.

At the end of the day (or in this case, the end of the message), as sales and marketing professionals, you are faced with one decision, and only one decision:

If you want to connect, then connect.

It really is that simple.

Let’s review inbound connection requests only. (Hmm, maybe my post did have some value, after all…) Here are three reasons why you should adopt a more “accepting” view of these messages. Consider the following:

The Person

Review the profile of the person requesting a LinkedIn connection. Does this person fit your ideal buyer persona? If so, stop. Don’t over think it. Click “Accept Invitation” and send an immediate follow up message. Thank him/her for reaching out and express gratitude that s/he is now part of your network. Opening your LinkedIn network will have a cumulative effect: as the number of connections increase, more people will see, will be influenced by, and will share your content, which is the life blood of Social Selling.

Their Network

Perhaps the person who sent the invitation to connect isn’t an exact match to your specific prospect profile (incorrect job title, or function), but his/her network is attractive because s/he works for a company on your hot buyer or target list. Once again, don’t over think it. Someone is opening a door, and although you may not want to speak with the doorman, access is what you ultimately seek and what is being offered. Savvy sales and marketing professionals will tap their expanded networks for introductions, or leverage them for further conversations. The same connection rules apply as above: be gracious, say “thank you,” be welcoming.

How You Can Help

You should actually give this category primary consideration. In an era of “me-first” and “what’s in it for me,” the easiest way to differentiate yourself from others is by your actions. Remember the old adage – character is what you do when no one else is watching. One of the tenets of building integrity-based relationships is selflessness. Ask yourself this question: how can you help this connection? If it requires thought, you must connect – immediately. The benefits of this burgeoning relationship will be substantial.

Do you have a strategy for connecting on LinkedIn? If you want to talk about building integrity-based relationships and improving your team’s performance, click the green button below to schedule a call with me and we’ll chat.

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Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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