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The Guide To Networking On LinkedIn For Business

using linkedin for businessDo you struggle with using LinkedIn for business lead generation?

Have you wondered how you can expand your network in a way that complies with LinkedIn’s rules while meeting your business goals at the same time?

You don’t have to spend much time to figure out that I’m a huge proponent of LinkedIn business networking but I still get so many people reaching out to me who are confused and ask questions like:

  • How can I connect less with random people I don’t care about and more with potential prospects?
  • How can I get new connections more interested in me when I connect with them?
  • Who are these LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) and should I be one?
  • How am I supposed to meet new prospects when LinkedIn constantly tells me not to connect with strangers? (My personal favorite)

If you have ever found yourself asking any of those questions, read on. By the time you are done reading this article you shouldn’t have any more confusion over how you should be using LinkedIn for business when it comes to connecting with new people.

A Rule That Is Meant To Be Broken

Before I really get started, I feel like I should address that little pesky rule that plagues us every time want to connect with someone we haven’t met before…you know, that little rule that says you should only connect with people you know?

Those who have been using LinkedIn for business might have asked themselves at some point why LinkedIn discourages connecting with people you do not know. After all, this is a social network albeit a business social network, so if we were only supposed to connect with people we already know, that doesn’t feel overly social, does it?using linkedin for business

Here’s why I sometimes do NOT follow this rule…if everyone did this, LinkedIn would be limited to family reunions and connecting with co-workers. To me (and many others), that’s what Facebook is for. I don’t know about you but the last thing I need is another social network dedicated to sharing cat pictures.

Ask yourself how much value you would gain from LinkedIn over email, phone or even Facebook if you can only connect with people you already know well. If the answer is none then you are in the right place.

LinkedIn Groups: A Strategy For Finding New Connections

Without a doubt, my favorite place to meet and connect with new people on LinkedIn is through LinkedIn groups. This is for a few good reasons:

  1. Groups can contain large amounts of highly targeted prospects
  2. People in groups are generally more interested in meeting other people
  3. Groups give you an opportunity to be positioned as a thought leader prior to reaching out to a contact (this is great leverage in an introduction)
  4. You can message group members for FREE if you are both in the same group vs sending paid inMails to people before you connect with them

Now the best benefit of all comes when you are reaching out to new contacts you meet inside of a group because LinkedIn doesn’t require you to enter an email if you both are members of the same group.

Being forced to input an email when you want to connect with someone can be a pain for more legitimate reasons then not knowing the person. Many people have had more than one email account since the birth of the Internet and might even use a totally separate email for business. If you don’t have the email, you aren’t going to be able to send an invitation.using linkedin for business

For this reason, the email requirement is easily the greatest hurdle anyone will experience when using LinkedIn for business networking and LinkedIn groups is the perfect solution. LinkedIn doesn’t want spammers to thrive on the network so I see this option as a perfect win-win for keeping the site business oriented while accomplishing the goals of its users at the same time.

A Quick Word on LIONs [LinkedIn Open Networkers]

If you don’t already know, LION stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. These people refer to themselves as a LION in their LinkedIn headline as a method to let others know they will connect with anyone for no reason other than expanding their network. using linkedin for businessI must admit…I used to accept their invitations when they reached out to me but only for purely selfish reasons: anyone in their network that was previously a 3rd level connection becomes a 2nd level connection for me. The other benefit of growing your network is to have more opportunity to show up in the search results.

using linkedin for businessAt the end of the day, it’s important to understand that many (not all) LIONs are a waste of time and only looking to serve their own goals. It’s inevitable that the reason they want to connect with you and anyone else is so they have another opportunity to thoughtlessly pitch their product or services.

I personally no longer accept connection requests from LIONs. The main reason is many turn out to be spammers and we don’t need any more spammers in our networks. The second reason is, it is better to have a quality network rather than just look at it as a numbers game. Quality over quantity!

4 Primary Types of People on LinkedIn

From what I see there are four basic ways people use LinkedIn:

  1. To meet and network with business contacts and meet new professionals (but are not a LION and are still somewhat discerning) – this is me
  2. LinkedIn Open Networkers that will connect with anyone and have one purpose only and that’s growing a large network
  3. To find a job or a recruiter looking for talent
  4. To connect exclusively with existing business contacts only (these people guard their networks closely)

If you fall into number 4, we will likely have fundamental disagreements about the business context of social media.  And we won’t be talking about how to find a job pretty much ever on this website.

The importance of you realizing these four types of people and their objectives is so you understand that you must learn to differentiate them from one another as best as possible. Consider this your first major filter when looking for new LinkedIn prospects to connect with.

The Hook: What’s In It For Them?

So let’s say you found someone that seems like a great potential prospect after your thoughtful interactions inside LinkedIn groups. Now what?

The biggest mistake I see people make when reaching out to new connections on LinkedIn is they make it all about themselves. Always ask yourself why someone would want to connect with you…and the answer isn’t because they are so eager and excited to learn more about your products and services.

Always think about what their goals might be and the type of value you can bring to them in their pursuit to accomplish said goals.

Those who joined me for my LinkedIn Domination Bootcamp know that we put a lot of effort writing and testing different messages to see what works best to get the other person talking because that is the key.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when connecting with new people you don’t know on LinkedIn:

  • Never, ever send the default message LinkedIn provides when connecting – ALWAYS personalize!
  • Be very clear about why you are connecting, give them a reason to want to accept your connection request
  • Follow up with a “welcome” message to initiate dialogue – make sure this message is NOT about you, it must be all about them
  • Whenever possible, provide value without the expectation of anything in return to earn trust and build rapport

This article is meant to give you just an idea about how and why to approach people on LinkedIn while addressing some of the issues that impact our ability to do it well.

If you want more tips on how to use LinkedIn effectively for lead generation, check out my in-depth feature on 5 Steps To Social Selling & Using LinkedIn For Business.

How are you using LinkedIn for business? Tell me a little bit about the people you do (and don’t) connect with on LinkedIn in the comments below.