Numerous times, I have either sent or received a blind LinkedIn connection request. These requests are sent when no prior relationship exists. Sometimes, they are people I want to connect with or struggled to contact. Sometimes, they are influencers in the community I want to get to know. Sometimes, I just like their profiles and find them interesting. Blind requests are one of the things I get questioned about the most regarding LinkedIn.
The question of connecting with someone you do not know is interesting because it depends on how you want to use the platform. Many sales people connect with anyone who sends a request because the more people they are connected to, the better. People in other careers are often more selective, usually only connecting with established relationships.
To decide who you should and should not connect with, figure out what you want the platform to do for you. Determine whether you want to keep your connections intimate or if you want to expand your influence and take a chance on individuals you do not know. Set some basic rules for how to deal with blind connections when they do come in.
My first rule is always connect to anyone within driving distance. If I can drive to you in less than a day, I will connect with you. By being in driving distance, I may get to meet you face to face.
My second rule is connect with anyone I find interesting after viewing his or her profile. If we have common hobbies, I connect. If we work in the same industry, I connect. If we studied the same things in school, I connect.
My final rule is try to meet all blind connections face to face at least once after we connect.
I like the final rule because it is another step in building real relationships instead of relying on online ones. I also like it because I am rarely turned down when I request a meeting after accepting a connection.
These meeting requests are done right in the LinkedIn messaging service, and I use the same dialog each time I set one up. “Thank you so much for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I noticed we have (specific detail) in common, and I would love to get together to learn more about you. Are you available for coffee next week?” This approach has led to long-term, beneficial relationships with people I may not have otherwise met.
The next time a blind connection comes through in your inbox, take a second before deleting it and go into the individual’s page. There is a reason they sent you a request. Maybe it is to sell you something or to expand the number of connections they have. More often than not though, the requests are made for nobler reasons.
Instead of denying the request, figure out if the stranger on the other end offers value. Schedule a meeting and turn that blind connection into an actual connection. You may be surprised by the results.