Inside sales and field sales professionals should all have a LinkedIn profile. If not, 10 Reasons why you need a LinkedIn profile should have a effect on you. It’s always nice to meet with a group of people to discuss the use of sales 2.0 tools like LinkedIn and hear their opinions of what works and what to stay away from. One of the more interesting discussions is around who you should make as a connection vs. who you should ignore. After some internal discussion on the subject, I brought the question to a popular LinkedIn group and the contributors of Focus.com. [tweetmeme source= “insideview” only_single=false]

Adding Anyone and Everyone to LinkedIn

One school of thought is that LinkedIn is a social network that people should be very open with. There are groups of LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networker) that have collected upwards of 30,000 connections on this professional social network. If you get a connection request from someone, blindly add them into the fold and continue doing this and watch you numbers of connections skyrocket. There are actual websites that get you added to lists (for a fee) to increase your LinkedIn connections. An unofficial site known as the TopLinked.com tracks the connection counts of many LIONs.

Outside of an organized group of LinkedIn connection collectors, there is some value in regular people trying to build a large network in LinkedIn. As members we are only able to see certain information on other members based on our level of separation from them. The larger the connections you have, the higher chance you will be more closely associated with other people and see more details in their profile.

LinkedIn InsideView

How to connect with strangers on LinkedIn

When I was starting off in sales, I had the idea that the more connections in LinkedIn I could collect would somehow equal more leads and opportunities. Since then I have learned that this is actually very counter productive. There is no way to manage let alone network with 2000+ people on a realistic level. I had to make the tough decision to ignore many of the requests for connecting that I was getting on a regular basis, mostly from sales trainers and SEO marketers. As many of the comments in the groups suggest, there has to be some sort of perceived value in the connection other than just adding a number.

Paul Castain has a large following especially in his LinkedIn group. He joined the conversation and added this:

I speak to lots of people each week about their social networking efforts and I can tell you that this pretty much never comes up.

What does come up are their perceptions of online idiots, combative people in the groups, people who are takers in their network, people who pop up out of nowhere and want an instant favor and by far the most popular are people who connect and immediate try to sell something.

Only Add People You Know

The flip side of the coin is only adding connections that you actually know. These are people you have done business with or have met or had conversations with in the past. Obviously this is a much smaller group of connections and can only be leveraged in limited ways.

Alan Prefer • …I dont believe that LinkedIn is a place for strangers, I dont have a contact on my list that i dont know…what would be the benefit be?

Limiting the number of connections you have to ONLY people you know seems a little counter productive also. If you already know the person then why would you need to add them to LinkedIn? Alan (comment above) followed up his statement by saying that he uses his connections in a very selective refferal network. In this case I can see why it would make sense to have a very select number of connections but that’s not how I think most people use LinkedIn.

Connecting with the Right People in the Right Way

Since LinkedIn doesn’t have the functionality to “follow” people outside of groups, the only way to keep up to date with some people is through an official connection with them. If there is a contact in LinkedIn that you want to connect with, the best thing to do is send them a request. If you are going to send a request to a stranger on LinkedIn, take the time to add a personal note, and by personal, I do not mean the template provided.

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In the end it comes down to you personal preference. Your profile on LinkedIn is yours to control and the size of your network is something you should be aware of.

What are your personal rules for adding connections in LinkedIn? Let’s discuss it below.

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