Note: This article was filed by a paid contributor to Xerox Corporation.

With more than 460 million members[1], LinkedIn has become a rich watering hole for Xerox Channel Partners to identify prospects across all industries. However, in order to successfully generate demand, connecting with those prospects is key. Unfortunately, this can be a difficult step due to the perceived “cold calling” quality of sending connection requests to a virtual stranger.

On LinkedIn, there are two schools of thought when it comes to connecting strategy. Those seeking to connect only with people they have met in person (selective connectors) and those seeking a large network of connections despite never having met (open networkers). Both connecting strategies have merit but if you are aiming to generate demand, the “open networkers” are the easier connections to make.

Before connecting

Before sending invites, it’s important to check your profile and make sure it’s in good order so that when a prospect views you on LinkedIn, they have a good idea of who you are and the potential value you represent. The basics include ensuring your profile was created with your customer in mind. If you’re not sure about yours, this step-by-step guide from LinkedIn about establishing your professional brand will help.

The barrier to connecting

LinkedIn requires users to identify a reason for sending a connection request in the form of radial button selections and an optional text box to add commentary:

Chances are if you send a connection request to a potential prospect without a valid reason it will be rejected or ignored. The form with the radial buttons practically ensures that outcome by way of a link to LinkedIn’s official stance on the topic. So, smart utilization of the optional text box can make a big difference.

How to increase the odds of connecting

It’s human nature to respond to a personal note especially when someone is asking to connect. In this way, the optional text box is your best friend and there are many valid reasons to offer a potential new connection:

  • Remind them if you’ve previously met and where
  • Let them know why you want to connect
  • Explain why connecting will be mutually beneficial
  • Mention people or groups you have in common

Use LinkedIn Groups

Of course it’s optimal to directly connect with prospects on LinkedIn and turn them into 1st degree connections. Doing so makes it easier to remain up-to-date with their activities and interests. Sometimes connecting is not possible especially if the prospect is a “selective connector” type of LinkedIn user.

Look for groups where prospects frequent

Joining groups and adding value to conversations and then asking for connections is common practice. Even when you’re not yet connected, it’s still possible to see the groups your prospects belong to by scroll towards the bottom of their public-facing profile:

Finding groups where potential buyers frequent and then joining those groups and adding value to conversations fits within good social selling strategy. Participation and tracking conversations will help with demand generation and look for group members asking for a product recommendation, which is common practice on LinkedIn. Once you have joined a group, the common membership can be used to garner a connection and don’t forget; chances are if your prospect is a member, other group members will be prospects too.

After Connecting

Just because a connection accepted your request does not mean they invited a sales conversation. Take the connection as an opportunity to post valuable thought leadership content on your feed daily and share, like, and comment on the content your connection posts or publishes on their feed. Doing so will create trust and is the first step in becoming their trusted business partner.

[1] statista.com https://www.statista.com/statistics/274050/quarterly-numbers-of-linkedin-members/

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