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The LinkedIn “Invitation”

by David Brock on September 27th, 2013

I’m receiving a surprisingly–and disappointing—large number of  “unusual” invitations to connect in LinkedIn.   Here’s one I’ve had sitting in my Invitation “Inbox” for a couple of days.  I’m confused, I don’t know how to handle it, so I’m seeking your help:

”  [So and So] has indicated you are a fellow group member of [This Group]· If you are a VP of Sales who understands [this aspect of sales tools] and desires to stay-in-the-game, but stay off the road, this email is for you. Become a reseller of our [sales tools] software and process. Investigate us at [Company Website] and click on reseller program. Call [So and So and his phone number].”

So, I’m confused and need your help.

I don’t know this individual, but he’s connected to a large number of friends that I respect.  Surely, they would only accept “trusted” people.

I wonder about the message.  Why is he asking me if I’m a VP of Sales?  My profile clearly indicates I’m a consultant and CEO of a few companies.  I have been a VP of Sales, I count hundreds of VP’s of Sales as friends and colleagues, a lot are my clients.  But it should be pretty clear that I’m not a VP of Sales, so why is he asking me?  Perhaps he misunderstood my profile–I’m sure he read it.  Maybe it isn’t really clear that VP of Sales isn’t a current job title, maybe I should re-write my profile to clarify it.

I certainly understand the sales tools he is talking about.  In fact, my profile indicates that I have a very high degree of expertise (I say somewhat immodestly).  I think I’m already in the game–but I’m always wanting to keep my competitive edge–so that’s a little provocative.

As a sales strategist, I’m confused by his offer.  It seems the majority of VP’s of Sales, particularly of this group, would be interested in buying-not reselling his stuff.  So why is he asking them to resell.  In fact, consultants might be more interested in reselling his solutions.  If he had addressed me as a consultant wanting to “stay in the game,”  it would at least be more accurate and targeted at a better set of potential resellers.   But I consider it, clearly he’s demonstrating his process and methodology in his approach in this invitation.  I wonder, “Is this approach one I would recommend as a leading practice to my clients……Hmmmmmmm”

I also consider, “This is odd, I thought the purpose of an invitation is to extend or build a relationship.  I didn’t think it was for a full court sales pitch to someone who is apparently the wrong audience.  Am I missing something?”

And the invitation message ends there.  He doesn’t ask me to connect with him, he’s just asking me to buy from him.  The guy’s profile is interesting.  If he had just said, “I’m a cool person, you look semi-cool, would love to connect”  I probably would.  But he isn’t asking me to accept his invitation, he’s just asking me to buy.

So clearly, if I “Accept” his invitation, I’d be doing the wrong thing and I certainly don’t want to piss him off.  So I’m in a real quandry how to handle this.  I could ignore him.  I could “report as Spam,”  I could let it just collect digital dust in my Inbox.

What should I do?  I’d love your advice.

It’s becoming a real problem.  I get 2-3 of these types of invitations a week.  Currently they are accumulating in my Inbox.  What would you do?

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19 Comments
  1. Hi Dave,

    This is something that is definitely on the rise. The other thing is someone will attempt to connect based on some common interest but the main reason is to send a sales pitch.

    The only thing to do is ignore those. I decline invites from people that are clearly not looking to build a relationship.

    I have been getting more and more InMail also that I report as SPAM.

    I don’t believe LinkedIn should be a venue for this at all, it is in very poor taste to reach out with canned messages and poorly thought out pitches.

    I appreciate someone that reaches out and puts some thought into it. A couple of examples to note:

    1. Yesterday someone did just that, they sent a message that was personalized and I was interested in what they do. We have a call next week.
    2. The week before, someone that is a member in the group I have is continually posting quick money jobs and things that are inappropriate to keep the group high value–so I sent a message to “check” them on it and said they now are having all of their posts moderated. Their response? A sales pitch email and asking for an appointment. Didn’t even acknowledge the behavior in the group. I deleted it.

    LinkedIn is a public forum so we have to do our best to manage our own relationships on it and not allow that into our personal network.

    I have “Contacting me” preferences, if those are ignored it is an automatic delete.

    If someone is genuine in their outreach, then there is a potential connection–if someone is just looking to pitch something, they can do it somewhere else.

    • Thanks for the great comment Mari. One of the problems with any great tool, like LinkdedIn, is that too many will find ways of abusing–often ruining the whole experience for all of us. Regards, Dave

  2. Here is what I would do:

    1. Ignore the invitation in LI, actually push the “ignore” button.
    2. Then you will be offered the choice between telling LI you don’t know the person or marking it as spam. I tell LI that I don’t know the person.

    When LI gets enough “I don’t know the person” responses, the person will have to request a connection using your email.

    Slows them down.

    • Thanks Michael, actually my tongue was planted very firmly in my cheek when I wrote this piece. I immediately hit the ignore, as you recommend. It’s just interesting that a person who is trying to position himself as a leading thinker on sales process and tools, would choose such a horrible demonstration of his approach. Regards, Dave

  3. dan collins permalink

    David,

    Or if he had said “You appear to be cool, connected, and a respected authority in our field and I could obviously benefit by being more so in all the aforementioned areas. I would like to connect with you.

    Dan

    • Wow Dan–who are you referring to 😉 Great to hear from you! Thanks for the comment. Regards, Dave

  4. David Desmarais permalink

    David,
    You asked for advice, here’s mine: Invitations like these erode Linkedin’s “trust” model. I’ll admit early on I accepted a lot of invitations I probably shouldn’t have. For a time early in Linkedin’s existance people sent invites just to build connections and numbers (it was a like a game in some ways. Newbie mistake! I have been reformed and I’m now a discerning connector) Most young , eager, and aggressive sales people miss this. They gather behind a herd and fire wildly hoping they’ll hit something.
    This is what I think might of happened here.You could do a couple of things. You could ignore this person but, better you might connect and tell give him a quick lesson on how to do this better. Tell him about your first reaction and help him get better.
    What missing in many of these social platforms is the “social” factor. We connect ,but don’t engage. Want to make an impact ? Call him out!
    A key moment in my Linkedin reformation was when I made a semi-blind connection request. 30 minutes after I sent the request my phone rang and it was my new connection calling me to introduce himself and he wanted to know how we might serve each other ( I didn’t give my phone number so he had to dig to find my info !) Wow, talk about impact ! From that phone call we actually had a few more conversations and now I have a TRUE connection not just a number.
    Want to curb the amount of these you receive? call them out !

    • David Desmarais permalink

      ” I’ll admit early on I accepted a lot of invitations I probably shouldn’t have”
      I sent many to!

      • We all did/do. There are also an increasing number of “false members.” By that I mean, people who develop a completely false persona and pawn themselves off as legitimate. Pretty soon I will get invitations from Nigerian Lawyers who want to offer me my share of some windfall of money 😉

    • Great advice and ideas David! I really like the one of offering him my services to improve his sales and prospecting ability 😉

  5. Steve Kaye permalink

    He obviously doesn’t understand sales process. He’s trying to circumvent the build up of trust and therefore he shouldn’t be trusted! I would be tempted to ping one back and offer some consultancy around understanding what the problems are for his target customers and how to profile his suspects correctly.

  6. David,

    I’m glad someone as diplomatic and thoughtful as you wrote a post about this despicable practice. These types if sales and marketing practices taint our profession, and they are not new either.

    One of my friends forwarded me an email that opened with “If you know Gary Hart, then you want to…” My friend asked if the sales organization had my blessing and of course they did not. I forwarded to the CEO of sales company and asked if he was aware of his marketing department’s slimy practices (I did not write “slimy,” but was thinking it).

    The CEO wrote back apologetically and told me he would make sure it did not happen again. A week or two later, I received another email from them targeting me with the same copy! They added my email to their email address without my permission from my note. And had the audacity to send it again.

    Dropping names of people you do not know for deception to develop “confidence” is con artistry. It’s a shame that our profession is so broadly tainted by people like these.

    • The fact this is done by so-called thought leaders–setting and “example” of great practice makes it even worse. Thanks Gary!

  7. Hi David,

    This quote clears up a mysery for me: I’ve had a number of invitations from people with little info in their profile, all have pictures that look professionally taken, or at least heavily photoshoped. I’ve wondered why they did this, now I know–the posters are trying to gain credibility for their sock puppets..

    When I get this sort of invitation I use Google image search on the profile picture, and it often finds that the person in the picture has a name different than the name on the profile. Some pictures are of TV or radio personalities, some are from stock photography sites, and some are just scraped off facebook pages.

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