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Last week, we reviewed basic LinkedIn communication skills: how to optimize your profile, how to find and share content, and how to publish long-form articles.

In this article, we’ll look at how to build your network and find prospects.

1. Make a new connection

Build your LinkedIn network the way you would your offline network: one connection at a time. When you meet people in business situations and exchange cards, connect on LinkedIn after the meeting.

Here’s how to connect with someone you know in real life.

  • Search for the person after you’ve met them and exchanged contact information.
  • Click the “Connect” button on the person’s LinkedIn profile page, then select “Customize” and enter a custom message. For example, you can say: “Pleasure to meet you at the breakfast networking meeting today. Let’s connect on LinkedIn and stay in touch.”
  • In some cases, you need to enter the email address of your potential connection, so having his or her business card makes this easier.

Note: It is generally poor etiquette on LinkedIn to request connections with complete strangers. More on that later.

Read: 11 ways to use LinkedIn effectively

2. Search for new connections and prospects

LinkedIn’s search function can identify new connections or prospects.

Here’s how you search for new connections and prospects.

  • Click on the Advanced Search link to the right of the search field at the top of the LinkedIn screen.
  • Select the parameters you want to use to filter your search, including geography, industry and job title. For instance, if you specialize in disability insurance for medical professionals, you might want to search for “dentist” in the location “Toronto, Canada area” in order to get a listing of all dentists in Toronto with LinkedIn profiles.
  • Filter search results by your second-degree connections. Chances are you know the professions of most of your first-degree connections, so filtering by second-degree connections will tell you which of your immediate circle of connections already have your target prospects in their networks. But how should you approach these target prospects?

Read: 6 tips for attracting new clients on LinkedIn

3. How to reach out to people you haven’t met

When you’ve identified your target prospects through search or through another investigative means, you can reach out to them on LinkedIn.

Here’s how to approach people you haven’t previously met.

  • Identify which first-degree connections are already connected to your prospects. Ask your first-degree connections to introduce you to your target prospect. This is a traditional prospecting method that uses LinkedIn as a source of business network intelligence.
  • Alternatively, you can reach out to your prospect directly through InMail which allows you to send a message to someone with whom you are NOT already connected to. You should customize your InMail message to mention your mutual first-degree connection, as well as why you think connecting would be in their interest. Most people have thousands of second and third degree connections to prospect on LinkedIn.

4. How to reject a connection and/or block or report a spammer

As LinkedIn becomes more popular, more people are connecting with strangers for the sole purpose of pitching. Don’t be that person.

Here’s how to handle connection requests from people you don’t know.

  • Ask the person making the connection request if you have met before or to remind you where you met.
  • Look at the person’s LinkedIn profile and evaluate whether you feel there would be a benefit to connecting with them.
  • If you don’t see a benefit, click on “Decline” to reject the connection request. It’s OK to say no to someone.
  • If the stranger trying to connect looks suspicious in any way (for instance, they are from a country in which you have no business interest or there are few connections within their network), you can click the “Block” button on their profile and report them to LinkedIn.

Read: Better ways to find prospects on LinkedIn

I’m always interested in hearing about your experiences with LinkedIn. Please share yours in the comments below.

Jay Palter is a social media strategist and coach with two decades of experience in financial services, software development and marketing.
Originally published on Advisor.ca

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