If you’re looking to make important business connections, LinkedIn is the premier social media platform to use. You’ll find recruiters using LinkedIn to find job candidates, CEOs looking to grow their influence and build trust with buyers and solopreneurs looking for freelancers to build their dream team. In the world of business relationships, you just never know who you’ll meet that will possibly send you your most lucrative client, so growing your network steadily and consistently makes good business sense.

However, if you think blasting LinkedIn users with connection requests is the way to go, put the brakes on your plans and rethink your strategy. Here’s some well-researched advice:

1. Nobody likes a spammer.

Logging in to your dashboard and sending out a blast of connection requests is not a good use of your time. And if you think blasting your current connections with your latest product, service, or event will make you instant friends, think again. These are typical forms of spamming which will lose you connections instead of gaining them.

2. Don’t use people just for introductions.

When someone accepts your connection, get to know that person and their company before asking for introductions to others in their network. People are very protective of their networks and will pick and choose whom they allow access. If they refer you to their connection, and that introduction or meeting doesn’t go well, then THEIR reputation is at stake. Building relationships goes two ways for this exact reason.

3. Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.

Follow your simple common sense: If you don’t want to be bombarded with connection requests and product offers or offers to join teams and you don’t know the person asking, why would you do those same things to others? Connect with others who have a common interest or whose companies compliment yours. A personalised connection request makes a big difference, too.

4. Allow time to build relationships and to build your network.

Your network will NOT grow overnight, especially if you use spam tactics to connect with people. Think of networking as the “planting of seeds,” where you certainly talk about what you do and who you are but in a natural, organic, and authentic way instead of in sales mode. Over time your connections will remember what you do and if they like your style, they will readily refer people to you but they need to know you better and that takes time. ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY!

5. Provide value to others.

One way to showcase your expertise to your LinkedIn connections is to share consistently. Write articles, participate in groups, ask questions, and share about your mission and why it’s important to you. Educate your followers about what you do or the problems you can solve. Done consistently, this type of sharing will keep you in people’s minds and you just never know when they will be ready to hire you or send you a referral.

Networking on LinkedIn really boils down to common sense: Act professionally so you portray your business in the best possible light and be authentic in your interactions. Your ideal clients will be drawn to you once they get to know you as a person instead of as a salesperson.

Networking Tips: How to Find Leads on LinkedIn Naturally

With 260 million monthly active users, LinkedIn may seem like your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to sell their product or services to 260 million people?

Let’s remember, however, that LinkedIn in NOT about sales: It’s about building connections and developing relationships with people who may (or may not) be interested in what you have to offer. Someone they know may be interested in you though.

Here are some tips for networking naturally on LinkedIn so you don’t develop that pushy “used car salesman” reputation that make people want to run away:

1. Do your research first.

Do some Google searches and peruse company websites to search for ideal clients instead of bombarding employees at that company for introductions. You may have a great track record helping Fortune 500 executives but spamming them with connection requests out of the blue won’t win you any favours.

2. Personalise your messages.

When you finally decide on sending connection requests, don’t fall for the easy way out by using the LinkedIn sample text. That’s a perfect way to show your prospect that you have no idea who they are or what they do, so why would they want to connect with you? Instead, include a snippet of how you met. Did you hear them speak at a conference? Mention that. Were you introduced at a networking lunch by a mutual friend? Say that. Prospective connections will pay more attention to your personal message than any automated, text template.

3. Ask for personal introductions.

Stalking someone’s connection list on LinkedIn is a little creepy, especially if you cold call these people and say, “We’re mutual friends with Jamie Smith,” as the start of your conversation. Instead, ask Jamie Smith directly for an introduction. Remember, most people will only make introductions for those they actually know and who they trust, so make an effort to befriend Jamie Smith first before asking for those introductions.

4. Build the relationship first instead of going straight for the sale.

Don’t be the person who accepts a new connection request and immediately sends a message with a sales pitch. Not only will that new connection cringe at the tackiness but they will likely tell others about your spammy tactic and you’ll have others hesitate or ignore your connection requests. Instead, send a “nice to meet you” message, thanking them for connecting. Publish consistently on your feed. Like valuable information they have posted on their own feed. Ask to meet in person if you’re local or if you’re attending the same conference. Show your new connection that you are interested in them and what they do. Spend that 15mins a day you usually spend on WordswithFriends, engaging on LinkedIn.

5. Keep your profile up to date.

New connections will most likely check your profile before joining your network or responding to your messages so keep it up to date. Always post a current headshot (always a shocker when you actually meet otherwise); fill in your headline and description with power words so prospects know exactly what you do (and don’t lie !!)

One note: There’s a huge difference between introducing yourself with your company name and what you have to offer versus introducing yourself with a hard core sales pitch. Craft your introduction carefully and you won’t be perceived as a tacky salesperson desperate to make a sale.

For more detailed strategy advice, please book a 15min intro call or 1hr strategy / training session here.