Why LinkedIn Connection Requests Aren’t Working for Sellers

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.” But then? Usually crickets. Right?

“Hold on, Molander. I request LinkedIn connections when regularly approaching buyers cold — and they accept.”

But then?

Usually crickets. Right?

True: Connections may earn sellers the ability to message (for free) in the near-term. But it’s a matter of time before my students see erosion in post-connection response rates.

Prospects (in all categories) are burning out on sellers’ LinkedIn pitches. Some industry segments experience fatigue faster than others. How about yours?

Why Are They Connecting and (then) Ignoring Me?

It’s easy to have a positive impression when a prospect accepts LinkedIn connection request. In fact, it’s logical to think, “aah, great!” But what, exactly, is on buyers’ minds when they accept? Why did they accept?


Out of an urge to grow their networks by increasing their connection numbers?

Because they’re in the market for what you’re selling and waiting for you?

Until you’re on speaking terms, there’s no way of knowing.

Thus, many of my students are confused: “Why am I being invited to connect — only to be ignored?”

3 Factors You’re Forced to Consider

Most sellers’ post-connection messages fail to start conversations. Here’s what I’ve learned is causing this:

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s system is (over time) discouraging personalized invitations from being read. Thus, sending “false positives” to sellers.
  2. Saturation: Most sellers use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch. But requesting a Connection (by itself) is increasingly signaling “I’m a sales person looking to spam your inbox.”
  3. Context: Being connected on LinkedIn is (over time) becoming a highly personal thing. It’s increasingly being seen as a privilege.

In essence, LinkedIn is combining with sellers’ behavior for a one-two punch.

False Positives

You may interpret acceptance of a Connection request as an invitation to start a discussion — but the other side doesn’t. Why is that?

Short answer: The personal message within your invitation is often not seen.

Remember all the agonizing over the personalized content inside your Connection request? It’s squandered.

LinkedIn has, over time, updated its user interface. These changes are great for LinkedIn’s network growth but not helpful for the quality of your communications.

LinkedIn continues to make it:

  • easier for any connection request to be blindly accepted (in general);
  • more difficult to see who sent a personalized request and read it.

In many cases, your request to start a conversation has, actually, never been seen. Worse, it’s not your fault.

You’re Just Part of the Spammers

Most sellers using LinkedIn at the free or paid level use Connection requests as their first “cold” touch when approaching prospects. Problem is, sending a Connection request is increasingly (as time marches on) signaling, “I’m a salesy spammer.”

As sellers rush into social selling most are taking the lazy route: Spamming marketing messages. I’m talking about sending mass marketing, non-personalized messages to prospects via LinkedIn.

This has trained prospects to accept fewer Connection requests in general! If this practice hasn’t trained them (past tense) in your business sector yet, it will.

Bet on it.

Because this is how a majority of sellers use LinkedIn. They’re sending poorly-written, unsolicited sales pitches. Even if you know better, you risk getting caught-up in that crowd when requesting a Connection as your first point of contact.


Against my advice, most sellers still ask for Connections first for a number of reasons.

  1. Cost: You want to message the prospect directly at no cost. You don’t want to pay for InMail.
  2. Saving InMail credits: If you hold a Premium/Navigator account, you would rather not risk losing the InMail credit. InMail messages cost money and are subject to monthly use limits.
  3. Connecting seems like the most logical thing to do on LinkedIn. That said, LinkedIn’s policy tends to confuse users: Connect only if you know the other person yet use it for sales prospecting.

Bottom line: Asking to connect with a prospect is becoming less-and-less effective because it is a tactic used by low-quality sales practitioners.

Stranger Danger: Customers Are Camouflaged

Being connected on LinkedIn is, increasingly, becoming a highly personal thing. Perhaps for you too. But especially among decision-makers who are being bombarded by social sellers. We are trying to help customers … but we are strangers no less.

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

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