Social Selling: How to Build Relationships with Second Degree Connections

Learn how to expand your social selling opportunities by understanding the do’s and don’ts of engaging second degree connections.

December 28, 0204


On LinkedIn, first degree connections represent only a small portion of the total opportunity your network holds. Your direct connections have professional networks of their own, meaning your second degree network is exponentially larger than your current professional network.

Knowing how to properly engage with second degree connections can be the difference between a good year and a great year. Gaining the ability to identify the right people and gain access to them can increase your social selling opportunities dramatically.

It’s important to note, though, that the etiquette for engaging second degree connections is different than for people you’re directly connected with. Here are do’s and don’ts for contacting second degree connections:

Do: Ask for an Introduction

Usually, the most effective way to initiate relationships with second degree connections is to secure an introduction from your connection in common. After all, when you have the backing of a mutual connection, prospects are 5x more likely to engage with you.

Seeking an introduction on the basis of the connection alone, however, isn’t good practice. Instead, find legitimate reasons for your mutual connection to put you in touch. In other words, do your homework to understand the needs of a second degree connection before reaching out.

Don’t: Use a general message of introduction

An impersonal message of introduction is likely to be perceived as cold outreach, even when sent through a first degree connection. It is important to clearly explain why you are looking to connect with a second degree connection. You don’t want your first impression to be that of a spammer.

A first degree connection should feel good about forwarding your message to the person you are targeting. If your message doesn’t meet a certain threshold of personalization and relevance, it’s possible that your direct connection may not even send it. Even if sent, a general query is far less likely to fetch a response.

Do: Research, research, research

A superficial scan of your prospect’s profile typically won’t cut the mustard in terms of research. Instead, work to understand all you can about a prospect’s business and needs so that you can craft a relevant, appealing InMail.

You might incorporate insights gleaned from your prospect’s education or experience, status updates from your LinkedIn feed, or information from the LinkedIn Company Page of your prospect’s organization. Mutual involvement in LinkedIn Groups can also be a rich source of material for connecting. In addition to focusing on your shared professional interests, highlighting personal commonalities – for example, your alma maters are in the same conference, or you share a similar hobby – can make a second degree connection more likely to respond.

Don’t: Engage at an inappropriate level

Coming out of the gate with a huge request, overly personal messaging, or irrelevant communication can inhibit your relationship building efforts now, and in the future.

Rather than going big out of the gate, start out small and seek to build the relationship over time. Think about how you can provide value to this person, and show that you’re interested in building a mutually beneficial relationship. If it’s clear you’re only looking to take, prospects are unlikely to give.

Do: Be direct and respectful of their time

People know when they’re being sold. This is especially true of B2B buyers, who can see sales shtick from a mile away. If you go in with a pitch that’s easy to see through, you’ll have little chance of making a meaningful connection.

When you’re genuine and up front about what you do and why you feel there is a mutually beneficial reason to connect, you’ll have a far better chance at success. A direct approach respects the time of your prospect, allowing both of you to quickly establish whether it makes sense to move the relationship forward.

Don’t: Hound prospects

If you don’t hear back from a second degree connection after sending your initial request, sending a barrage of follow-up messages is not going to help your case. Instead, you might ask your mutual connection for additional information that you can use to draft a more informed follow-up message.

If you don’t get the result you are looking for right away, don’t consider the opportunity wholly lost. By continuing to publish insightful status updates, sharing relevant content, and answering questions in LinkedIn Groups, you will continue to increase your visibility and reinforce your credibility. In time, the prospect you feared got away may just reach out to you when you least expect it.