Cold outreach is a part of life for most business owners. A prominent way this is currently done is through LinkedIn connection requests.

But if you’re not sure how to go about it, you may feel uneasy connecting with others on LinkedIn.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for small business owners to consider when connecting with potential contacts.

Note: These tips are meant for when you want to connect with people you don’t know.

1. Send a message with your request

If you haven’t met this person in real life, or you don’t think they’d remember you, don’t just send a connection request without any context. There are close to 800 million LinkedIn users. If they don’t know you from Adam, how can they know you’re not a spammer, stalker, or scammer?

2. State why you want to connect with this person

Context can help someone feel more comfortable accepting your connection request.

In your request, you could include something like, “I love connecting with small business owners like yourself,” or “I saw we have some mutual connections, so I wanted to add you to my network.”

3. Don’t act as though you planned to connect

Here’s a line I’ve had more than one person use on me: “Looking forward to connecting!”

That’s it.

The problem with this is that it sounds like I’ve met this person before, we discussed connecting, and now they’re following up.

But in all instances I’ve received this, I never met the person. This made them come across as presumptive and a little manipulative.

4. Be transparent in the fact that you’ve never met

Here’s a better message to include in a request:

“We’ve never met before, but I’m a small business owner who enjoys connecting with other small business owners. I regularly post on topics relevant to the small business world that I think you’ll find useful. If you’d be up for chatting sometime to see if there’s any way we could help each other in our respective businesses, feel free to connect with me and reach out when you’re ready. Have a great day!”

I know, it’s a bit long. But I think a longer message in this case is a good thing. It gives you ample room to discuss who you are, why the person should follow you, and that you’d love to chat with them, but only if they’re up for it.

Networking on LinkedIn can be a bit confusing to navigate. But for many small business owners, it’s beneficial to use as a networking tool.

Here are four more tips to consider when connecting with strangers on LinkedIn.

5. Give them a reason to connect with you

In your invitation, I recommend saying more than something like, “Let’s connect!”

Providing zero information on how the other person can benefit by accepting your invitation may lead them to believe you’re just another spammer.

For instance, you could say something like, “I post financial tips to help folks manage their money.”

6. Don’t try to make a sale in your connection request

This may sound controversial, but hear me out.

Pitching your product or service in a connection request may appear a bit too forward to some folks. People, especially small business owners, want to know there will be more to their new LinkedIn connections than a sales pitch.

Take the time to turn nurture the relationship before making a pitch. This leads me to the next point…

7. Try to make a mutually beneficial connection in your request (and pitch them later)

Instead of pitching someone in your connection request, ask if you could talk with them to see if you could mutually benefit each other. If they agree, listen to their needs and see if you could help them out aside from giving your pitch.

If—towards the end of your conversation—the timing seems right, you could close with a pitch.

You never want to come across as self-serving or invasive. Ask for permission to speak with them—don’t just come out the gate swinging.

8. Clean it up

Proofread every message you plan to send with your connection request. Try to avoid basic grammatical/spelling mistakes (but don’t be stodgy in this). If you mention any names (such as the name of their business), be sure to spell them correctly.

Wrapping up

It’s true that not every stranger will connect with you, no matter what message you attach with your invitation. But there are ways to avoid coming across as another spammer and there are ways to be transparent when sending your invitation. If you’d like to talk about using LinkedIn to grow your brand, let’s chat. Book a call with me here.