When trying to connect with someone on LinkedIn that you don’t already know, the key is to be professional, personalized, and provide value. Avoid coming across as spammy or salesy. The goal is to start a mutually beneficial relationship that could lead to networking opportunities, career advice, job prospects, business deals, and more.
Research the person first
Before reaching out, learn about them by looking at their LinkedIn profile and doing a quick Google search. Get a sense of their background, role, company, interests, skills, goals, etc. This will allow you to craft a more personal and relevant message.
Personalize your connection request
When sending a connection invitation, customize the default message. Don’t just send generic invites. Demonstrate you did your homework on them. Reference shared connections, groups, employers, schools, experiences, skills, interests, locations, etc. This shows you looked at their profile and that you aren’t just blindly adding contacts.
Highlight why you want to connect
Explain the reason for connecting. Be clear on how you could mutually support each other’s professional goals and interests. Offer a potential way to collaborate or exchange knowledge and insights. This gives a purpose for the relationship beyond just expanding networks.
Share a bit about yourself
Give a short background on yourself – your role, company, skills, experiences, goals, etc. Help them understand who you are and what you bring to the table. Show how your interests and aspirations align or complement each other.
Ask an open-ended question
Pose a thoughtful question to start a dialogue vs. a simple one-way connection request. Get their perspective on industry trends, challenges, or opportunities related to their expertise. This sparks mutual interest and gives them a reason to respond.
Compliment their work
If relevant, compliment their accomplishments, work products, projects, writing, speaking engagements, media coverage, etc. Recognize their contributions and demonstrate you did more than just glance at their profile. People appreciate genuine praise.
Suggest meeting for coffee or a call
Propose getting together for a quick coffee, video chat, or phone call to continue the conversation. But don’t be pushy. Make it a friendly invitation they can easily accept or decline without feeling pressured. This moves the relationship forward offline.
Connect first before pitching
Avoid pitching your business or asking for a job right off the bat. Establish a connection first before promoting your own interests and needs. Once you build rapport and trust, then you can gradually mention potential opportunities to work together.
Focus on giving, not getting
Come from a mindset of contributing value without expecting anything immediate in return. Offer advice, share ideas, provide resources, help make connections. Don’t just view people as transactional contacts. Give first and the returns will come later.
Send an InMail if you share no connections
If you have no shared connections, you’ll have to send an InMail message to contact someone, as you can’t directly connect without a shared contact. InMails still allow you to introduce yourself and request connecting. But avoid sounding like a sales pitch.
Follow up if they don’t respond
If they don’t respond after a week or two, follow up. Send a quick note checking in, re-expressing interest in connecting, and offering to provide any helpful information. But don’t stalk or harass them. If they continue to ignore requests, move on.
Connect with others in their network
If your requests get rejected or ignored multiple times, consider connecting with others in their professional circle – colleagues, employees, former co-workers, etc. Building connections across their network can organically lead to an introduction down the road.
Recommend them for opportunities
Proactively look for ways to add value – share job openings you come across that match their background, recommend them for projects or roles in your network, endorse their skills, write them recommendations. This builds goodwill and incentive to connect.
Join common groups and follow companies
Join industry groups, alumni associations, local organizations that they are also members of. Follow and actively engage with their current and former employers. Being more involved in areas of shared interest gives you more reasons to connect.
Comment on and like their posts
Interact with their posts, articles, updates, media, etc. Share positive feedback and insights. Ask thoughtful follow up questions to continue conversations. Become a familiar positive presence in their feed and network community.
Connect in person if possible
Try meeting in person at industry events, conferences, trade shows, seminars, networking happy hours, etc. Making a personal connection in the real world can be more powerful than any online outreach. Get introduced through mutual contacts.
Don’t take it personally if rejected
Understand that not everyone will want to connect, even if you do everything “right.” Don’t take it personally. Respect their space and preferences. Maintain a polite and professional attitude. You never know when your paths may cross again down the road.
Demonstrate shared values and priorities
Beyond just similar jobs and interests, highlight shared outlooks on business, leadership, innovation, company culture, social impact, etc. Connecting deeper on beliefs, causes, and vision builds stronger relationships rooted in common values.
Focus on quality over quantity of connections
Don’t spam every contact you can. Prioritize quality connections with mutually aligned people you can build strategic relationships with over the long-term. Nurture a targeted network of meaningful, high-value contacts.
In summary, when connecting on LinkedIn, focus on personalization, adding value, sharing common interests, and relationship-building over self-promotion. With persistence, patience, and a genuine desire to engage authentically, you can establish productive networking contacts that advance your career and business opportunities.