Time to read: 3.5 minutes. It’s easy to be restricted or even banned by LinkedIn—simply for requesting connections with prospects you don’t know. Being restricted from sending connection requests (phase I) and being totally banned (phase II) by LinkedIn is common. Ask around. You’ll be surprised.

Want to avoid being restricted or banned? Plus, want more appointments from LinkedIn?

Stop sending out connection requests. Sound crazy? Hear me out.

Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships. There is a much better way to get appointments, fast.

Plus, if your connection requests are not accepted by prospects often enough LinkedIn will remove your ability to make connection requests. Ouch. Today I’ll tackle:

  • why you don’t need a connection on the approach,
  • when you should ask for the connection and
  • how LinkedIn fits in (best) with your prospecting process.

How LinkedIn connection requests hurt you

Connecting with a newly-targeted prospect on LinkedIn is a terrible idea. Yet I still see social selling “experts” recommending sales reps make connections—as a means to introduce themselves to prospects! But what if you didn’t need the connection?

What if connecting was preventing you from getting more response & appointments? (hint: it is)

“Ok, Molander. So why isn’t it a good idea?”

  1. It’s against LinkedIn’s rules
  2. Connection requests are truly “blind” (do not support your context)
  3. Requests are increasingly abused

Yes, requesting a connection seems like a logical first step but it’s blind, cold. It’s also against LinkedIn’s terms & conditions–and punishable.

You don’t know the other person and LinkedIn’s goal is to protect people from un-solicited correspondence. Yours!

Also, over time, more-and-more people are a victim of accepting a connection request from someone they do not know–and immediately receiving a poorly-written pitch. Some disconnect immediately (like me). Thing is, you’ll never know your prospect disconnected. LinkedIn doesn’t report it to you!

Finally, LinkedIn makes it difficult (sometimes impossible) for your prospect to read the customized request for connection you sent. Often, customers accept without any context for accepting … all while people like us assume they read the customized connection request.

This makes your “first touch” email message seem completely out of context to the prospect–no matter how well-written it is!

So what is the best way to make your approach on LinkedIn?

Instead, make LinkedIn fit your process

When I first meet students I pop the question: “How does LinkedIn fit into your prospecting process?” 95% of the time I get the same response.

“I need to figure that part out.”

Fair enough. I know it feels right to use connection requests as a way to make contact—once you’ve identified a potential buyer’s profile. After all, there’s a big CONNECT button staring you in the face!

But connecting makes no sense from a process and relationship perspective. It can also get you banned.

For example, LinkedIn connection requests are:

  • Restricted to 300 characters
  • Impersonal (automated requests are forced on mobile devices)
  • Against the rules if you don’t know the prospect!

LinkedIn connection requests can be accepted, ignored or declined—just like your calls or emails. They offer nothing better. In fact, they come with restrictions, are often impersonal by default and are not permitted. They’re risky!

Connect with prospects later

It is best to “connect” off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to nurture the conversation forward.

This takes full advantage of what connections give you (and avoids risk of being restricted).

Think of it this way. Outside of LinkedIn, what’s the difference between a successful sales rep and one who struggles at prospecting new business? Getting connected on LinkedIn?


It often comes down to this: Your ability to give prospects an irresistible reason to talk.

Why & how connecting later works

When prospecting your goal is to create an urge in the prospect to talk to you. If you don’t create that urge you don’t get to talk with them. Period.

Social selling on LinkedIn is all about helping prospects feel honestly curious about how you can help them. How you can solve a problem, relieve a pain, avoid a risk or fast-track a goal for them.

Once you’ve attracted them, then you’re in a stronger position to:

  • understand when (and if) they’ll transact;
  • discover how many decision-makers are involved in choosing you;
  • have your connection request accepted (avoid going to jail!);
  • effectively nurture & close your lead!

This is why it is best to meet off of LinkedIn first—then connect on LinkedIn to further (nurture) the conversation.

Once connected, you can message freely, monitor prospects, allow them to monitor you and such. You don’t need to worry about any of that until you’ve been given a reason to—by the prospect. First, you need their permission.

You need them to want the connection.

But what if LinkedIn is my start point?

The most dangerous (yet common) LinkedIn mistake sales professionals make is asking to connect with new prospects as a starting point. Avoid this practice.

You are smart to use LinkedIn—to identify and pre-qualify buyers. Next, use InMail, email or the phone to make initial contact with them. Confirm your prospect is a viable near-term or future buyer.

Then connect.

Having connections serves you better by earning them. Being connected is more useful for nurturing leads—less effective for earning near-term meetings or starting relationships.

LinkedIn InMail (or standard email) is a better path toward earning a relevant discussion first—then the connection.

Keep connections in context of your selling process. LinkedIn connections are a nice-to-have, not a must have! Do you have questions about making this LinkedIn connection request and lead generation technique “come alive” for you? Let me know!

Photo credit: Andreas Levers

In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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  • Hi Jeff

    I really do agree with this approach .. kind of inbound prospecting
    I does coincide with my personal experience in the past and even if your have a strong reason to connect , if you start by the connection request , then is harder to move the relationship further.
    Actually one of the key components of our new launch (we have re-engineered our product completely) is based on that concept of first discovery to qualify the right prospects and then start a soft touch ( a like , comment or twitter follow) before taking the engagement further and depending on the reaction , go for the direct message and then connection .. a kind of interaction path
    so thats why a see a really good fit with your message
    Lets keep in touch and thanks for the good tips

    • Hi, Jorge. You’re welcome. You’re right, your approach sounds similar/complimentary. I see so many people who want to AUTOMATE everything. It isn’t really possible in my business. A combination is what works for me! The sooner I can get OFF of my automated email list, for example, the better I am able to motivate people to eventually consider a purchase! You cannot automate a sense of actually caring for someone — and being available too!!

  • Hello Jeff, I am so confused and discouraged. It is my job to simply get someone to watch a 3-minute commercial. I have been “personal messaging” people telling them in 300 words or less, EXACTLY what I was doing…. I would love to show you a 3-minute commercial showcasing our flagship product, which may or may not be for you, bla bla bla… I always tell the prospect that I am just the messenger.

    People are connecting with me and many are watching the video, which I NEVER send unless they specifically say to me that they want to see it. I have had a few which are very interested in my product and converse back and forth about it, most give me their email to send further information.

    Yesterday I received back a message from someone who had connected with me only to tell me that they did not approve of solicitation on LinkedIn only networking, which made me question what I was doing and why she would even connect with me in the first place.

    This morning I saw a negative response by someone saying that someone LIKE me was solicitating and would be reported.

    BUT…. I connected with a doctor a few days ago who watched my video, researched the product and is now very interested in what my business will do for his business and we are about to go into a partnership… slam dunk!

    Bottom line….. I would never bother anyone who didn’t want to be bothered, I am trying to connect with people from other countries, I am not sending out massive amounts of scripted messages and I am not trying to hide what I am “selling”. I feel like you are now telling me that the majority of people are not even reading my person invitation message????? If I wasn’t interested in what I was offering I wouldn’t connect with me, so why are they connecting with me when they are not interested in what I am asking?

    Help. I am lost as to what to do next.

    • Hi, Lorie. Don’t feel lost. Feel alive. The fact is you should trust instincts. You seem to have good ones. For the latest advice and “does of reality” (and what to do instead) see here http://oth.me/2ffmopf and here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-popular-yet-failing-linkedin-prospecting-tactics-jeff-molander/ I’m sure these articles will help guide you… in a direction that makes sense. Bottom line: The reason someone would connect with you and then get angry is simple: They didn’t read your connection request message — at all. It is VERY common in some industries more than others. But it an INCREASING trend. Read both articles I shared. LinkedIn is a great DATABASE to harvest leads from… and research them. But a poor communications platform. Combine all of this with LinkedIn being a “social” platform (increasingly, NOT about business) and you get that kind of experience. EVERYONE is feeling this. Not just you. But nobody really blogs about it 🙂

  • Interesting article and it kind of points out the obvious I guess! Thanks for the reminder on the get to know first – connect later…

    BUT – With GDPR kicking in anytime soon, even the cold call will not be permitted to allow you the chance to speak with your prospect first.

    The whole marketing landscape is going though a major change thanks to these new regulations in Europe.

    Are we to now solely rely on inbound marketing techniques, now GDPR won’t permit us to call or email contacts who have not given their permission to be contacted!?

    Be great to hear others thoughts on this…


  • Use the phone to connect with prospects first? Hello 2002 calling! Do you need a new CD update for your ____ software today?

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