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With 310 million monthly active users, LinkedIn may seem like your pot of gold at the end of the business rainbow. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to sell their product or services to 310 million people?

Let’s remember, however, that LinkedIn is 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.

Here are some tips for networking naturally on LinkedIn so you don’t develop that pushy “used car salesman” reputation that makes 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 favors.

2. Personalize your messages. 

When you finally decide on sending connection requests, don’t fall for the easy way out by using the LinkedIn default 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 luncheon 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 tad bit creepy, especially if you cold call these people and say, “We’re mutual friends with John White,” as the start of your conversation. Instead, ask John White directly for an introduction.

Remember, most people will only make introductions for those they actually know and trust, so make an effort to befriend John Smith first before asking for any introductions.

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

Don’t be the person who accepts a new connection request and immediately sends a message with an obnoxious sales pitch. Not only will that new connection cringe at the tackiness, but they will likely let others know about your spammy ways, and you’ll have others hesitate or even ignore your connection requests. Instead, send a “nice to meet you” message, thanking them for connecting. 

Publish valuable information consistently on your feed and like the content they post. You can 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.

5. Keep your profile up to date. 

New connections will most likely check out your profile before joining your network or responding to your messages, so keep it updated. Always post a current headshot; fill in your headline and description with powerful keywords, so prospects know exactly what you do and never lie on your profile. 

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 pushy salesperson desperate to make a sale.

These 5 LinkedIn networking tips will jumpstart your relationship building on the platform and keep your network growing strong.

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