You’ve run into this, I’m sure. You get a connection request on LinkedIn—somebody wants to be part of your professional network.

Maybe you accept automatically. “The more, the merrier,” sums up your approach to social media.

Or maybe you check their profile, see if you know people in common, and give it some thought. Then you decide there’s a good reason to be Linked to this person.

Next thing you know, you have a message. Imagine that! Miraculously, they help people just like you!!! “Sign up for my program,” they urge. Or come to their workshop. Or buy their book. Ugh.

Sometimes it’s not your money this brand spankin’ new member of your professional network wants. They’re looking for a job …they need your help getting one.

They may have combed your connections already; they ask you to hook them up with a specific person. Or they know you know people at a company they’ve targeted; they want those contacts. Or more generally, they just tell you they need leads or introductions.

How do you respond to those messages?

Turns out there’s a huge range in receptivity to requests on LinkedIn. They rub some folks the wrong way. Others are pleased to pitch in and offer help. And, of course, there’s an “it depends” group.

I surveyed my own network to find out how they respond to a quick request from a new connection.

Some say, “Don’t ask me for help.” 

  • “Someone asking for a favor & you have no idea who this person is or what they are about? It doesn’t feel kosher.”
  • “Why would you connect them (risk your reputation) with someone or spend any time on them without knowing them first? Ugh. Blech.”
  • “I think the person is a con artist who wants top tier contacts.”
  • “I ignore requests like that and “disconnect” from the people who make them.”
  • “There is too much opportunity for trolls and phishers. Let this person develop their own contacts one at a time like all the rest of us.”
  • “No, no, no, just no, don’t do it. It could even be a hacker, thief, killer just say no!”

Really? Con artists, phishers and thieves?

You can’t be too careful online, I suppose, but still. The negativity about folks asking directly for support on LinkedIn surprised a lot of people.

  • “I thought LinkedIn was about business networking and connecting and now everyone has a problem with it!”
  • “Isn’t that what LinkedIn is for … connections and building your network? I would respond with “looking forward to connecting and learning what you do and the types of people you’re looking to connect to. I’ll help anywhere I can.”
  • “I think we are often too quick to close the door on people … it is important that us older, wiser, more experienced professionals take a chance to mentor and hold a hand out to others, with discernment of course.”
  • “I prefer transparency as opposed to feigned interest in my business, when really what they want is intros or to sell me something.”

Timing is everything.

LinkedIn is about business networking. That’s why we’re there, right? To establish ourselves as experts by sharing valuable content. To attract potential clients or employers. To keep up with colleagues and former colleagues, maintaining those connections. And to grow our professional networks.

So, what’s wrong with requesting support? For a lot of us, it comes down to one question. How soon is too soon to make an offer or ask a new LinkedIn contact for introductions?

  • “Never join a group and lead with “what can you do for me?” Most people are turned off by that. How can you or why would you recommend someone you don’t know?”
  • “She’s asking for your support too soon. You don’t even know her – why would she expect you to give her leads?”
  • “At least buy me a drink first?” ????

To address the question of timing, LinkedIn Profile Writer and Trainer Julie Bondy Roberts suggests you take it off-line.

“When you connect with someone, immediately request a 15-minute ‘get to know each other’ conversation. No sales or asks.”

“Create a foundation of a relationship,” Julie recommends. “Consistently share content, post comments on their activity – support them! Doing the middle work of relationship-building is so important before you have the right to ask a favor.”

LinkedIn expert JD Gershbein: “Under no circumstances should anyone sell to another person outright on LinkedIn or ask for introductions at the point of connection. I would not make the ask until I have met with that person or engaged in a lengthy phone or Zoom conversation.”

JD calls a right-off-the-bat request for help “offensive and an egregious breach of ethics.”

Some folks argue for reciprocity—I should get something from you before I offer support. JD points out the person doing the asking may not be in a position to return the favor.

“Many professionals understand that you have to give (first) to get. If you are asking the universe for something, be prepared to give it back — either to the person helping you, or pay it forward to someone else. What goes around comes around on (and off of) LinkedIn.”

I’m on the same page with my Daisy Chain Theory of Referrals.

And you? How did you respond when you got that offer or help-me message on LinkedIn?

And how do you go about connecting when you’re the one who needs a favor, a referral, or a sale?

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