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Adding targeted prospects to your network will boost your odds of making a sale, so be choosy

One of the most common questions I get from people looking to use LinkedIn proactively to prospect for their business is: “Should I connect with everyone who sends me a connection request?”

I believe you should absolutely connect with strangers, but make sure you follow these guidelines to decide which connections are worthwhile.

1. Be selective about whom you allow into your network

You shouldn’t connect with everyone who wants a moment of your time. Random messages from anonymous people based in another country, for example, aren’t worth responding to. And if someone hasn’t taken the time to add a photo to their LinkedIn profile, it’s probably not worth connecting with them either. After all, this is a site for business professionals who shouldn’t be hiding who they are.

2. Focus on your ideal clients and potential partners

The first step in a buyer’s journey is awareness. The more you focus on adding targeted prospects and partners to your 1st-degree network, the more likely these connections will be interested in what you have to offer.

You want to ensure that these leads will take the time to learn about your product or service, see that you know what you’re talking about and be convinced that you can add value to their business by addressing one of their challenges or pain points.

Adding these types of prospects to your 1st-degree network means you’ll be able to message them directly. Just don’t make the biggest mistake that sales professionals do.

3. Think of LinkedIn as a powerful CRM tool

Once these targeted prospects are in your 1st-degree network, you’ll have the ability to download their information, including their email addresses. You should definitely not abuse this data by sending them random cold emails, but you can upload this information into another platform like Facebook’s Ads Manager to create a custom audience to which you can send relevant, timely ads.

Think of LinkedIn as a massive customer relationship management platform where your target audience updates its info so you don’t have to (like you would with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Insightly, et cetera).

So if you’re already spending money on buying industry email lists, or wasting your money running ad campaigns that aren’t as targeted as they could be and where you can’t directly measure ROI, stop doing those things now.

Instead, focus on growing your targeted 1st-degree network on LinkedIn. Then leverage that data to position your product or service in front of your ideal target audience.

Remember, building your 1st-degree network has a multiplying effect. And everyone starts with zero connections, so start today. Add five new contacts a day, and keep making progress!

This article is the sixth in a series about how sales and marketing professionals can leverage LinkedIn to turn cold leads into warm prospects and more clients for their business. For Part 5, click here.

Trevor Turnbull is CEO of Vancouver-based Linked Into Leads and founder of the 30 Day Sales Machine online training and support system and the LinkedIn Accelerator Program. For more information on how you can leverage LinkedIn for your business, click here.