Salespeople: Adding Connections? Think Twice

March 31, 2015


If you’re a salesperson who has more than 500 LinkedIn connections already, I've got a surprise for you. It might be time to trim your network down to the people you actually know and can add value to. I realize this may seem counter-intuitive if you've invested a lot of effort building up your network, but hear me out.

One good rule of thumb for salespeople goes as follows: If you know you could call that person on the phone and be certain that he or she would take your call, or return it within 24 hours, then you should keep the person in your LinkedIn network.

On the other hand, if you were to call that person up out of the blue, and you know you would have to say more than your name and company in order to keep him or her from ducking or rejecting your call, then you may not want that individual in your network.

More than 500 LinkedIn connections may sound like a great idea for salespeople, but if many of your contacts are inactive or even hostile, there comes a point where the numbers don’t really help.

Of course, if you are just getting started or have less than 150 connections, you can approach this question very differently. In that situation, you should consider taking advantage of LinkedIn’s suggested connections for you. This is a great place to start.

LinkedIn can tell how much you have in common with someone and how likely you are to know him or her. These lists typically go on forever, so don’t feel that you need to sort through all of them. The most likely candidates for good connections show up at the top, and you can check back in at any time.

Another good way to build your network is to download the LinkedIn app and sync your phone connections. Not only will you add your phone contacts to LinkedIn so you can connect with them, but you can also download your LinkedIn connections to your phone! In many cases, this will give you additional contact information.

Beyond that, you should think about your real life network. Who do you know, like and trust, and who knows, likes and trusts you? All those people should be in your network.

You probably have good relationships with vendors, investors, coworkers, clients, association and other networking partners. You might also know industry influencers, referral partners, government or media contacts. I also recommend reaching out to complementary businesses. Think about who knows the people you want to know. Who calls on the same prospects as you, either before or after they need your services?

Mike Montague, a Sandler trainer, has some very good advice on this subject. Mike tells his clients: “When in doubt, connect with people who are likely to want to talk to you about what you do … and who you want to talk to. Remember, in social selling, your goal is to build relationships, not an audience. Too many contacts can actually make it difficult to start conversations, because your network will be clogged up with people to whom you can’t really add any value.” Good point!