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To social selling expert Jill Rowley, ABC doesn't mean "always be closing." It means "always be connecting." She believes that because a sales rep's network is their net worth, salespeople should live on LinkedIn, researching and requesting thought leaders, industry influencers, and potential prospects.

The upshot of this mantra is that sales reps should be connecting with people they know online, but have never met in person. And the difference between being perceived as a valuable contact rather than a stalking stranger in these situations comes down to your LinkedIn request. "I'd like to add you to my professional network" just isn't going to cut it.

LinkedIn allows you to write personalized invitations that contain up to 300 characters -- take advantage of this real estate to make a strong first impression. Confused about what to write? Let the following template be your guide.

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Let's dig into the components. 

1) Start with their first name.

This makes it clear right from the beginning that this request is specifically for them and you're not mass sending it out to your entire email contact list.

2) Mention how you know them.

It's okay to request people you haven't met face-to-face as long as you've done your research and familiarized yourself with them virtually. You might've come across their profile due to something they wrote, shared, or were quoted in. Make sure to call out the specific piece of content that perked your interest.

3) Comment on the content. 

Add a genuine and specific reaction to their article, blog post, or discussion. Just be sure to make it brief -- you only have 300 characters to work with, after all.

4) Further the conversation.

Salespeople should always strive to help others -- whether the person they are helping is a prospect, or not. After you remark on the person's content, keep the conversation going by sharing a post or article of your own, or making a book, group, or blog recommendation. This not only shows the person that you share similar interests, it also demonstrates your ability to add value.  

5) Ask to join their circle. 

Make it clear that you understand being accepted into their network is a privilege, not a given. 

6) Sign your name.

It makes the request all that more personal and friendly. 

These six elements will help you write a solid sales LinkedIn request every time. But did you notice what isn't on the list? Your pitch.

This might seem counterintuitive -- a salesperson's job is to sell after all -- but it's important that you leave the hard sales stuff out of your first social contact. 

"Get them in your network, build a relationship, and then you can address other ends -- but that’s much farther down the line," Jill Rowley writes. "Think “jab, jab, jab, right hook” as “give, give, give, ask.” Establish credibility and build trust before anything else."

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Originally published Feb 2, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Social Selling