The year was 1993. I had on my best (and only) pair of Girbaud jeans and I was wearing enough Polo cologne to revive a grown man from a coma. The song "Lady in Red" was blasting from the speakers as I walked up to a pretty blonde girl who was four inches taller than me. I looked up, and with a cracking voice asked, "would you like to dance?" My heart was beating out of my chest, and I was suddenly dehydrated as she looked me in the eye, smiled and said, "sure." Asking a total stranger to dance at a junior high mixer with no context worked out for me then, but you likely won't be as lucky with that type of approach on LinkedIn.
Each time you ask a stranger to connect on LinkedIn, expect skepticism. The secret weapon to combat this wall of skepticism: a custom comment. But what should you write? Following are three tips to dramatically increase the chances your next LinkedIn connection request will be accepted. To make it easy to remember, try to remember the acronym PEN.
Begin by letting your potential connection know why you would like to connect with them specifically. You might mention a common interest, connections, groups or some thread that makes them feel like you have made a thoughtful decision to connect with them. Building on commonality also increases the chances they will connect to you because it helps them relate to you. It typically isn't difficult to find multiple areas of common ground with someone you have an interest in doing business with.
You need to let the connection know why you would like to connect with them and make sure it is not for a selfish reason. Perhaps you share information from time to time or meet people in certain circles that would be useful to introduce to them. You could also pay them a compliment, as long as it is sincere, and say that you would like to align yourself with people who have similar values or passions. The important part here is to not come across as overly self-interested.
N- Never Pitch
If you knew 100% of the time that it was a telemarketer on the other end of the phone, would you even answer? NEVER! So why would someone connect with you on LinkedIn, only to be pitched to? It doesn't make sense. According to business author Bob Burg, people do business with people they know, like and trust — in that order. Think about it… if someone doesn't know you and you immediately pitch them, then you have already lost the war before the battle has even started. Pitching in your connection requests is a huge red flag that will not only get rejected 99% of the time, but it will dramatically increase the chances that you will be blacklisted by LinkedIn. If this is your fate, you’ll be required to enter the email address of each and every person with whom you try to connect.
Adrian Dayton is the Founder of Clearview Social, an internationally recognized speaker on social media for business development, and author of multiple books and white papers including most recently the strategy guide, “10X Your Website Traffic.”