Friday, January 27, 2017

Networking Is Not Trolling For People Who Will Pay You Money

Last week, something happened on LinkedIn, and for me, it was the last straw. I received (for the hundredth time in a few months) an autoresponder from someone’s LinkedIn account that pitched their business hard, offering me a free consultation on something I had less than zero interest in, immediately after connecting with me.

When an action like this hits me as really off-putting and annoying, it’s usually affecting lots of others this way too, so I wrote the following LinkedIn tip as an update:

Here's a LinkedIn tip - don't program your account so that you immediately send a business pitch when someone accepts your LI connection. It's the wrong way to go. It's really off-putting and personally speaking, I'll immediately delete the notification and not want to connect with you. Do you agree?

As of this writing, that one update received 155,980 views, 969 likes and 129 comments. It truly hit a nerve. At least 95% of the comments I received (either underneath the post or privately) were along the lines of “I agree 100%! I’m so tired of this!” A few of the comments were a bit nasty or defensive such as, “Aren’t you the ‘Brave Up’ expert, Kathy? Why are so off-put by this?”

But several people responded with legitimate questions like:

“Isn’t this what LinkedIn is for – to network?”


“I’m new to LinkedIn and I’d really love your help on this. How IS the best way to reach out to people and share my business services, which I’m really excited about?”

I appreciate these sincere questions, and would like to share my personal take on what networking is and what it isn’t, and how to best go about reaching out to a stranger online and making an authentic connection.

First, what not to do:

Don't pitch your business to every single person you meet, and never immediately after connecting.

I like to think of LinkedIn as the “great cocktail party in the sky” and I find that analogy really helpful for my clients. So, if you were to think of connecting on LinkedIn as you behave in person at a cocktail party, think about how you approach and interact with people you just meet.  Once you get introduced to someone new, do you, one second later, regale them with information all about your packages, services and programs, and offer them a free one-hour consultation? I’m hoping no (but if you do this, you should stop).  It’s a huge turnoff.

Pitching people you don’t know, whom you have zero idea about in terms of their needs, wants, goals, visions, professional focus, etc. is like casting a net into the shallow tide of the sea and expecting to catch a whale. You have to know where the whale lives – how it operates, what it needs and wants, and what would entice it to seek you out.  And you have to understand that the number of people who will want anything you have to offer is very small, particularly when you’re dealing with LinkedIn, which has 467 million members and growing. While you’re understandably excited about your work, you have to help others become excited about it and allow them to know, like and trust you before they do – and that doesn't just happen in an instant.

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