Did you know that there is a right and a wrong way to use LinkedIn? The common mistake that sales professionals make is that they treat it like a “sales” tool, but the truth is, no one likes to be “sold” to. Put it this way: if you attend a live networking event, you don’t walk into the room and throw a bunch of business cards on the table and walk out. It’s impersonal and to be honest, quite rude. This is the same thing as “selling” on LinkedIn.

Remember, no one cares about what you know until they know how much you care. And it’s impossible to determine if what you have to offer will be positively approved until you know more about a prospective client.

Here are some guidelines to follow that won’t leave people feeling like you’re just pushing your product or service onto them.

1. Use the “permission” connection method when reaching out.

This simply means tweaking your wording when you send a connection request. Instead of using the default, “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network,” customise your message – provide some context as to why you’d like to connect and ask permission to connect.

e.g.: Hi [name], I’m looking to expand my network of sales leaders in the [suburb/city] area. Would you be open to connecting on LinkedIn? Kind regards, [Your name]

2. Refer to the challenges your prospects face in their role or business.

People react positively when they see you care about what their challenges are, so be sure to ask questions around these areas. The majority of professionals are on LinkedIn for network building, career advancement and skill development. If you can discover what their greatest challenges are in accomplishing these goals, you’ll have valuable insight into how the product or service you offer can be presented to the prospect in a “non-salesy” way.

You can ask a simple question like, “Many of my clients in your industry say that XXXX is their biggest frustration….do you find the same thing is true for you? Or, is there something else that frustrates you?”. Think of what you would like to be asked that might take your business a step forward, address an item on your to-do list or ease/eliminate your frustration.

3. Offer value for free to build the relationship.

This can be in the form of providing information, training, etc. If you have an expertise that you can offer for free in a training video or discovery call, or perhaps came across some valuable information, such as a white paper, offer that. The person you reach out to will appreciate the fact that you’ve taken some time to address their needs and your willingness to help them.

Remember, 64% of buyers report (https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/sales-solutions/global/en_US/c/pdfs/linkedin-6-steps-to-accelerate-your-sales-in-2015-en-us.pdf) that they appreciate hearing from a sales person who provides knowledge and insight.

Don’t shy away from messaging your new connections. Approach your interactions on LinkedIn the same way you would in person; and remember the rule, “Treat others the same way you would like to be treated.”

So before you send that message to a prospect, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you would be offended or annoyed by the message. If the answer is “yes,” focus on how you can add value first.