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BLOGLinkedIn Prospecting — A New Social Contract?

by Randall CraigFiled in: Make It Happen Tipsheet, Blog, Business Development, Marketing, NetworkingTagged as: ,

How often have you received a request to connect, followed (usually within minutes) with a sales pitch for an unwanted product or service?

LinkedIn Prospecting — A New Social Contract?

Without a doubt, LinkedIn is the premier business networking tool. It has come a long way as a repository for your contacts and an online version of your resume: It has a complete suite of recruitment tools, sales tools (e.g. LinkedIn Sales Navigator), advertising tools, and more. But strangely, not everyone is effective using the tool for prospecting. And in fact, many are killing what could be a golden goose.

From a prospect’s perspective, LinkedIn has always been used to warehouse relationships, and perhaps search for a job. They never signed up to be a “prospect”: the social contract has been changed, but no one bothered to inform — or even ask — the users if this was OK.

Back to the question of the unwanted “pitch” from your newest connection. What we have now is salespeople who are using LinkedIn for prospecting, often quite clumsily, and sadly, with silly pitches that are really no different than spam. Yes, some might hit the mark, but most are irrelevant, unwanted, and reduce users’ affinity to the platform — and to the LinkedIn brand itself.

So how might you use LinkedIn prospecting — without violating the existing social contract? A few suggestions:

  • Become active in LinkedIn groups which contain large numbers of your prospects, to build a reputation as an expert in your area. Then begin to build real relationships with fellow group members.
  • Consider starting your own LinkedIn group in your specific area of expertise, if one doesn’t exist already. Then build relationships with your group members.
  • Comment on others’ posts and status updates, adding value and your perspective. This will begin building relationships with these people.
  • Add your own thoughtful articles and posts. Then build relationships with those who comment, like, or share.
  • Reach out to those who drop by your LinkedIn profile — they likely had a reason for doing so. Then begin strengthening your relationship with them by reaching out.
  • Review the connections that each of your connections has; when there is an interesting prospect, ask your connection for an intro. Then start to build a relationship with your new contact.

By now, you probably recognize two important factors in this strategy:

  1. Prospecting is designed to build relationships (duh).
  2. None of these are cold outreach, whether by LinkedIn InMail or by asking to be a connection.

While there is absolutely a place for cold outreach, and possibly using tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, the waters are being muddied by those who aggressively and thoughtlessly use this approach.


It’s sometimes easier to fall back on a more quantifiable process (e.g. 100 outreaches, 10 leads, 1 sale), but this focus can obscure the importance of building relationships… which will also yield sales, but without annoying so many prospects along the way.

Brand Insight #1: Your organization’s brand is directly affected by the actions of those on the ground. Aggressive prospecting can definitely lead to a sales uptick… but how much brand equity must be spent to achieve it?

Brand Insight #2: A marketing group that remains in its marketing silo is unlikely to even consider the brand impact of shoddy LinkedIn prospecting. And a sales group that ignores the question will eventually pay the piper.

Related post: Trust is the Currency of Transaction, LinkedIn Groups: To Join or Not, LinkedIn Connection Policies

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