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5 Steps to Connecting with the Movers and Shakers on LinkedIn

Finding, Connecting and Building Win-Win Relationships

Networking is the cultivating of positive, give-take relationships between two or more people that are beneficial to one another. In the past you had to set aside specific time with which you could network with a group of people, think Chamber of Commerce mixers, industry get-togethers, and conferences.

With the onset of web 2.0, a plethora of social networks and the desire to become more connected, networking can now be an everyday occurrence. One of the major draw backs with using social networks to connect and build mutually beneficial, win-win relationships is the fact that it's almost too easy. In other words people collect followers, likes, connections and friends as if they were baseball cards; what that really means is most people put very little value on those connections.

Having said that, it's not too difficult to stand out from the crowd if you follow my suggestions in this post. The following process has been adapted using Bob Burg's amazing book, Endless Referrals. Much like in his book, Endless Referrals, this post will push forth the idea of being a giver. By being a giver you will be able to create an endless stream of referrals through the law of reciprocity. One caveat though, do not be a giver with the intention of just getting. Be a giver because it's the right thing to do; even if the idea behind being a giver is to be seen as the type of person that deserves to receive referrals. In other words, be genuine.

Step 1: Finding The Right People To Connect With

While what I'll be covering in this post can be used on other social networks, with slight modification of course, I will be talking in terms of LinkedIn. If you don't have an account yet I highly recommend that you get one.

First, make sure that your profile is completely filled out, with no typos or grammatical errors. If you're like me, you may need somebody to edit it for you. Once your profile is filled out completely it's time to go searching for the right people. Also, keep in mind that you're about to go big so it's important that you've defined your personal brand.

When searching for people to connect with, look for and search out the centers of influence. These are the people that have a lot of connections, a lot of recommendations, give out a lot of recommendations, engage in groups and use LinkedIn fairly consistently.

Complimentary Businesses

When looking for people to connect with, try to find people that compliment what you do, people that would be a good referral source and work with the same clients that you work with. An example would be that if you were an automotive insurance agent you might want to connect with people that work at a car dealership, or if you're a cake decorator, it might be a good idea to connect with wedding planners.

Using LinkedIn's advanced search you can search by geographical area, group affiliations, job title, company, industries and even school. Once you have narrowed down the people you want to connect with make sure that you read their profile, some of their group posts and maybe even their website. With the internet you never have to go in "cold."

Other Services

We're going to talk more about this in step 4 but it's also a good idea to connect with anybody that can benefit from receiving a referral themselves.

Step 2: Connecting With the Right People

First, and most importantly, it's important to note that you're not trying to collect a huge number of connections, but are instead looking to create mutually beneficial win-win relationships. Also keep in mind that LinkedIn doesn't like you to connect to just anybody, so it's important to have a reason for doing so. An idea would be to look for local groups, on LinkedIn, that you can join. Once you join the group, LinkedIn will allow you to chose which group you and the person you're trying to connect with have in common.

Another idea would be to join the group of the person you are trying to connect with, before you attempt to connect with them. Group affiliations are usually on their profile and will usually help to establish a sort of social proof. Just make sure that you comment or start a discussion in the group beforehand.

Stay Away From The Default

The default connect message on LinkedIn is:

"I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn."

Stay away from it. It doesn't set you apart from everybody else and it sure won't help to establish yourself as a person with whom the person you're trying to connect with wants to connect to. Instead use something like this:

"Hi Mark. My name is David Johnson, we're in the Cool People That live In Colorado Springs group together and I'd be honored to connect with you here on LinkedIn. Also, I really enjoyed your comment on connecting with your customers on Facebook, I will most definitely put that to use! Talk to you soon."

- David

Again, the idea is to stand out from the crowd, to say something that requires thought, not just the click of the mouse. Of course this will take more work, but what's three minutes of your time compared to the obvious benefit of connecting with the movers and shakers? Also, not everybody will accept your request to connect, that's okay, but if you word your initial message correctly your chances skyrocket!

Once they have accepted your request, take another look at their profile and think of a few questions that you can ask them. Usually they will respond back if you worded your request correctly, in that case just reply to their message.

The questions you are going to ask, maybe just one or two, should be open ended and all about your new connection. Remember, you're a giver and your new connections favorite topic will always be themselves. Below are a few questions you can ask:

  • How did you get your start in the widget making business?
  • What advice would you give to somebody just start out, advice that you wish you'd have known when you first started?
  • How does Widgets For Hire stand out from the competition?

For more question idea grab a copy of Endless Referrals.

Warning: Don't just ask the questions above, give reason for asking them, say something like:

Mark, I'm a new business owner and would love some advice from somebody that has been there, somebody such as yourself, that I can no doubt learn from. What advice would you give to somebody just starting out, advice that you wish you'd have known when you first started?

Questions phrased like that will be answered, will hopefully start a conversation and will set you apart from everybody else. Remember to keep the conversation on them and their business, then ask the question that Bob Burg says will separate the pros from the amateurs:

How can I know if someone I'm speaking to is a good prospect for you?

This one question will set you apart from everybody else, I've used it religiously for years and have had really great success with it, it shows the person you are talking to that you trust them enough to send them your valuable referrals, they will want to reciprocate.

Now it's time to do something so far out there, so crazy that you will forever be etched into the mind of your new best friend. I want you to send them a note card. That's right, not an email but a note card and if your new connection is local they will more than likely get it the very next day.

Think about it, you met through a social network, which makes things very easy to communicate back and forth with, but instead you take the time to hand write a note, stamp it and place it in the mailbox. This will set you apart! Again, in Endless Referrals, Bob Burg gives this example of what to say on the note, with slight modification:

Hi Mark, thank you. It was a real pleasure chatting back and forth with you on LinkedIn. If I can ever refer business your way, I certainly will.

Step 3: Give, Give, Give

Now that you have connected, started a conversation and sent them a note, it's time to give! If you feel comfortable enough with your connection I want you to consider leaving them a recommendation on LinkedIn. One, this is giving and two, your new connection will be influenced to do the same for you.

Now, I know that you may or may not have done business with this person or their business before; in that case leave them a character recommendation. In other words say something about how helpful they were in answering your questions and how much you learned from them.

If done correctly the odds are very much in your favor that they will write you a recommendation as well.

While you're out and about, surfing the web you will no doubt come across an article or video that may be of interest to your connection, share it with them . Don't do this every day of course but by sharing things with your connections that will help them in their business they will come to see you as a valuable friend and will also help to keep you top of mind.

Step 4: Be A Connector

Over time you will, while growing the number of people you're connected to on LinkedIn, see opportunities to connect two or more of your connections. Do it. Do it as often as possible. This helps to establish yourself as a center of influence and goes back to you being a giver.

Other Services

I like the idea of being able to refer somebody in my social graph for everything, whether it's a plumber or an electrician, a chiropractor or a mechanic. Which is why I recommend that you use what you have learned in this post with as many different industry as possible. That way if your best friend mentions that he is looking for somebody who can paint his house, you know somebody. If you hear of a person, while standing in line at a grocery store, looking for a mechanic you know somebody.

Be a connector. Give.

Step 5: Don't Be A Single Serving Friend

Don't be on one day then off for the rest of forever. Relationships take time. I'm not talking about talking to every one of your connections everyday but intermittently you should pop your head in and say hi, virtually of course. Comment on their threads in LinkedIn groups, or even on their status updates.

Always remember to add to the conversation, never take away from. Give, give, give.


Yes, what I've outlined in this post will take time. But it's well worth it. Put it this way, it's much better to be connected with 20 people that send you referrals, than 1000 people that don't even know you exist. Build quality connections. Ones that are mutually beneficial and win-win. Remember, success takes work, success takes time; in other words put in the time required to be successful, along with the things that need to be done and success will be yours!

I created a follow up to this post, also on, called LinkedIn: 5 Ways To Turn Your Casual Connections Into Financial Windfall.

Join The Conversation

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Jun 21 Posted 4 years ago DavidJohnson4

    No, I'm no familiar with it buyt I will check it out! Thank you for sharing.

  • Jun 21 Posted 4 years ago KyraFrom

    This was a great article! Thank you for writing it. I love LinkedIn for networking online. I use it to network with other people for work, etc and I use this other network to get feedback on all of my work, have you heard of it?

    Anyway, thanks again!

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Mar 31 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    I appreciate that Les, I'm glad that you enjoyed the post!

  • Les Dossey's picture
    Mar 21 Posted 5 years ago Les Dossey

    Hey David,

    I didn't read through all of the comments but it should be noted that you provided a wonderful formula for becoming a mover and shaker yourself.

    Thanks for sharing

    Only the Best,

    Les Dossey, CEO
    Now Business Growth

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Mar 21 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Thank you Rahul, I'm honored that you liked it!

    I agree, those get introduced buttons are powerful especially if you have built a good relationship with the person you're asking to connect you.

  • Raul Pandey's picture
    Mar 20 Posted 5 years ago Raul Pandey

    Dear David,

    Some very useful tips! Thanks for the article.

    Adding my 2 cents, I belive that LinkedIn's " Get  Introduced through a connection" button/tab is rarely used and cointains a huge hidden potential to connect and network with the members in similar field. 



  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 27 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Agreed, by approaching your social networking in a different way you go a long way to creating powerful win-win relationships with the people in your social graph. That and it's just plain fun meeting new people! lol

  • Feb 26 Posted 5 years ago PaulWeb

    I think LinkedIn is a great way to start networking with like minded people on the internet. It opens up plenty of opportunities to find business partners or people from the same industry to exchange ideas that would be beneficial to all parties. I am definitely going to update my profile and fill up all the personal and professional information as accurately as possible.

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 24 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Well said, people like to mentor others, they like to feel as if they know it all, so let them feel that way! lol

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 24 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Thank you Jim! We should always aim for Social Depth over Social Breadth, thats exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote this. Relationships go deep and we should network accordingly.


    Forgive the link, it does fit with what I just said! LOL

  • Feb 24 Posted 5 years ago jimeffect Every company that has a web presence should read this article, definitely useful for starters and pros alike!
  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 20 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    To be a good networker you have to work on your shyness, the best way to do that is arm yourself with knowledge. I find that people who aren't sure what to say or how to act come across as shy because they aren't sure what do in a certain situation. In networking make it all about the other person, ask them questions about their business, get them talking about them. Make sure that you grab a copy of Endless Referrals by Bob Burg, it's a great book and will get you started on the right path to being a pro networker.

  • Feb 20 Posted 5 years ago reem07

    You are quite right.People always like to show their competence and their mastery.

  • Feb 20 Posted 5 years ago reem07

    Thank you David,

    Your advice is very helpful.I will try them and will follow up with you, if you do not mind.I would like to learn how to be a successful networker.You really seemed to touch one of my personal traits, I do not like to be just as you  said a follow-up pest.I have to overcome my shyness.May be this is also why I did not want to be demanding this is why I did not specify my rates and left it to her to start this discussion but maybe she didn't get that.Well, I will follow your advice and thank you once again for your kind interest.


  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 20 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    It's always important that when asked specific questions by a would be client that you answer them to the best of your ability, of course if you can't give them a price based of the information given then specify the reasons in the email and ask for clarification.

    Since you have emailed the client already and are waiting on a response it is okay to shoot a follow up email as long as it's not one that puts her in a defensive position, such as "I havent heard from you yet, did you get my email?"

    Yes, something as simple as that can make somebody feel defensive because you are putting them on the spot. Instead, follow up with some aditional information, maybe an article you've written on the importance of a proper translation. An educational email sets you apart from everybody else and puts you back in front of your would be client without coming across as a follow-up pest. Of course, you should end the email with some sort of call to action, such as, "I'd really like to talk to you about what I can do for you, when would be the best time to call you, or would you prefer just to email me?"

    Ending with a question such as this will help to elicit a response because the email is left hanging. It's begging to be answered and if it's the last sentence in the email, instead of the first, it goes a long way to increasing your odds of a response.

    I hope that helps, let me know if I can assist you in any way, thank you for the comment!

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 20 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Questions that make others feel like they are the expert are the best kinds to ask. Lets face it, everybody's favorite subject is themselves and the more you can get them to talk about their favorite subject the better the conversationalist you will be in their eyes. I appreciate the comment James, thank you!

    I just acceoted your request!

  • Feb 19 Posted 5 years ago reem07

    Hi David,

    Thank you for such a great article.Your advice is really logical and seem to come out of personal experience.Which catches the attention of anyone reading it.It interested me very much that I decided to ask your advice.I am a freelance translator.I have been an active member of Linkedin for several years now.I join group discussions, recieve invites and even recieve invites to other sites too.I always answer these invites.Well I just recieved a request to connect as an answer to a job offer. I was asked certain questions like expereience, if working full time, how long it would take to translate a 500 word atricle and my rate.As I was told that it was a new agency, I said I could discuss financial matters, did not specify any details and expressed good wishes for her new business.Unfortunately, I did not recieve any answer.I noticed that this person seemed to correspond with another candidate too.Is it ok that if this person reached an agreement with someone else, she does not have to give me any feedback?. What do you think I should do?.I would appreciate it if you could give me some advice on such an experience.Thank you in advance.



  • Feb 19 Posted 5 years ago woodrailing

    One technique I use for group discussions is to ask questions. People love to answer questions expecially ones that are related to their field. Here's an example I recently asked regarding my deck railings I'm working on a product information guide and would love to hear your questions about mountain laurel handrails" It's a good technique to connect with those that are genuinely interested in your product or service.

    I'm sending you a connect request!

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 18 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4


    I'm glad that you found the post useful, I hope that somewhere in there some piece of advice will lead you to more business. Being a giver is important, not only because it will lead you to more business but because it will also lead you to a more fullfilling life...and of course THAT is good for your health!

    Thank you for commenting!

  • Feb 18 Posted 5 years ago amyknight51


    Thanks for the tip on creating an Engagement Calendar.  I get overwhelmed by emails with comment threads on linkedin groups.  Learning to build it into my days is a terrific idea.



  • Feb 18 Posted 5 years ago amyknight51


    Thanks for the pointers.  That "be a giver" idea is really the heart of it.  Learning to ask the right questions and genuinely show interest in someone's answers is so important in building relationships.  I'm a new business owner and made myself some notes about your article.  I'm a licensed social worker, so I'm comfortable with talking to folks and asking questions, but this new gig of my very own as a Certified Health Coach has added a whole new twist.  


  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 17 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    I'm glad that you find them usefull, it takes more time but well worth the extra effort. Thank you for commenting!

  • Feb 17 Posted 5 years ago Helping You Hire

    Thank you so much for these incrediably heplful tips. We have been using LinkedIn as a tool for sourcing in our Executive Search-by-the-hour model, and have found it to be very useful. Your tip on personalizing our connection email is a great one.

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 17 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Very good question, the answer is in this post. The idea is to interact in ways that don't require you to sell. I get a ton of traffic to my blog from LinkedIn; because while I am conversing with people they check out my profile, from there my blog. I make it all about them though, I talk to them about what they do and how I can be of service to them. It's the law of reciprocity through and through.

    Thank you for the comment!

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 17 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    I agree, I like sending the note the very same day, if they are local they will get the next day. I've even overnighted a note to a new connection before, but I don't do that all the time. I did it because he was a big fish, I landed the deal. Notes work wonders! Thnk you for commenting.

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 17 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    I get most of my leads from LinkedIn, Its also one of my biggest referal sources to my blog. Take social out of social networking and you're left with networking. Networking has been a tried and true method for gaining referals and earning business for ages, LinkdIn is a way to connect with the influencers.

    Of course if you have no need for referals or leads then it may or may not be for you. There are other reasons of course, in fact I wrote a post yesterday talking about depth vs. breadth in your social networks:

    5 Reasons To Aim For Social Depth Over Social Breadth

  • Feb 16 Posted 5 years ago Eric Indiana

    I'm not really sure why I need LinkedIN. I mean, I'm not looking for a job... is the idea that I'd be investing in a future connection for when my situation is drastically different? Or can LinkedIn somehow help me get people to read my bog - ?

  • Feb 16 Posted 5 years ago Stephen Ellzey

    Good advice for building a strategic and productive network. The note is a favorite of mine and the quicker I send it the stronger the impression. Thanks for sharing some very solid tips.

  • GrassRootsGuy's picture
    Feb 16 Posted 5 years ago GrassRootsGuy

    This was helpful in several specific ways and I'm also curious about this situation. In my own LinkedIn life, almost all the people in groups and who are active are trying to sell me something. I don't want to be like that. On the other hand, I am a vendor of services and can easily identify people who might - might - benefit from what I do. They are corporate employees who are not selling anything to anyone and I'm curious how I can connect positively with them without offending them.

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 14 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    I agree, they need to change it, and it's happened to me as well but not since I've been using the above methods. I take my time building my network so I comment on something they've posted in a group so they at least have seen my name before I try to connect with them. Then, by not using the defualt message when trying to connect, I am able to set myself apart and show myself as being worthy to connect to.

    Fool proof? No, then again not many things are. Facebook has adopted the same sort of thing so you have to be careful there as well. Thank you for your insight!

  • Feb 13 Posted 5 years ago oldhuskyrider

    Your techniques are great and I use a variation myself.  However, there is one major fallacy - people that decline your request and then click "I don't know this person."  Linkedin only allows 5 "I don't know" replies and then they put your account on probation, meaning that you have to enter the matching email address of the person you are attempting to connect.  If you have their email address, then there isn't much reason to connect on Linkedin!  After a couple weeks, they will lift the probation with a stiff warning that if it happens again the probation will be permanent.

    I know this because it happened to me.  Linkedin needs to revise this policy in my opinion as it counters the whole purpose of a networking site. Imagine going to a Chamber mixer and worrying that if 5 people say they don't know you, you get kicked out!

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 13 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Thank you for commenting Joel, I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the post! I'm just finishing up a piece on social depth vs. Social breadth. Its all about being personal and getting to know your contacts.

  • yoavburger's picture
    Feb 12 Posted 5 years ago joelburger

    Great article, David.  Thank you.  Great advice about not using the default LinkedIn for connecting - I like your personalized approach.  I also agree that by linking people together you will create good will and if possible, both parties will try to help you in the future.  Thanks again for the great advice.  Joel

  • Feb 12 Posted 5 years ago DThompson

    Anytime David! I look forward to your next post! 

  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 12 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4 That's probably the best comment I could get! I'm thrilled you found it usefully!
  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 12 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4 Thank you for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it. Taking a close look at their profile IS important, it helps you to phrase the right open ended questions that will set you apart.
  • DavidJohnson4's picture
    Feb 12 Posted 5 years ago DavidJohnson4

    Thank you for sharing your valuable insights! As I was trying to convey in this post, success takes planning; success takes work. As they say "if you fail to plan you plan to fail!"

  • Feb 12 Posted 5 years ago DThompson

    This is really a great articile! Thanks David for sharing your insights! I'd like to add a few things. 

    1) When you find the right person to connect to: Look for the groups that you share that have a smaller number of members. This way when you comment or start a new thread you have a better chance of engaging other people in the discussion. Often times the larger the group the easier it is to get lost in the clutter. 

    2) Create a engagement calendar and plan your time. On Sunday evening, plan out how you are going to interact on LinkedIn, Twitter etc for the week ahead. What are the peak times for sharing content on Twitter? (content that will help build your personal brand) What are you going to share and with whom? For instance: on Wed, I make an effort to like and or comment on 3 posts from my people in my network. (usually ends up more than that) This keeps me connected with them and also helpe keep me up to date on everything that is going on in my industry. 

    I couldnt agree more with your idea about sharing content. It's always a good thing to share web pages, blog posts etc with your social network. I would make it a point to start reading the blogs of the companies and people you want to connect with. Share, comment and connect their material with your network. Give, Give and give some more!


  • Feb 11 Posted 5 years ago Helmut Maertin

    Thanks David,


    Some good points. I do some open networking but my main focus is on strategic networking similar to what you have outlined.


    It can be ver rewarding connecting network contacts so they can lead to business, or sharing articles with contacts that you know will find them interesting.


    It is sometimes both amusing and frustrating to get a new connection start a Linked In conversation with "where are you from" or "what do you do".....which clearly indicates they have not even looked at my fairly expensive profile.


    Thanks again to you and Bob for his material.


    Kind regards

    Helmut Maertin

    Welcomes new connections: (Use “Groups”, or “We’ve done business before”)
    Asian production, procurement / sourcing and quality control / inspection services:

    Get more from Linked In: Power Users – Tricks, Tips and Wish List

    QPI Ltd Linked In:

    QPI Ltd Twitter:

    QPI Ltd Sina / Weibo:

  • Feb 11 Posted 5 years ago mdehrlich

    I enjoyed this article and will start looking at my Linkedin contacts much differently now.

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