How to build a strong network on LinkedIn

By Anders Björklund

How to build a strong network on LinkedIn

It's tempting to make as many connections as possible when developing a solid network on LinkedIn. But it's often better for you to focus on the most valuable people who will likely find your offering relevant.

What connections does a modern commercial user need?

Does a modern commercial user need a lead list and a phone? Or do modern users get all they need from their robust networks? As the business world evolves and becomes increasingly complex, your business connections are outsised in your sales ability.

All your contacts are important, but your LinkedIn connections represent a valuable resource that you can tap for contacts, leads, knowledge, and insights.

Let's look at why you should prioritise building a strong network on LinkedIn from now on, whom you should have in it, and how you should connect and interact with them.

LinkedIn is your business network, not a target list

To help you understand what your LinkedIn network should look like, you must realise that your LinkedIn network is your business network.

Too many sales reps look at their connections on LinkedIn purely as sales targets rather than as individuals with unique challenges and priorities. Then they wonder why sales and sales reps have gotten such a bad reputation!

Your LinkedIn network should include existing and former business relations and customers. Yes, all these people can be potential customers - but only when handled correctly. 

Before you reach out, please remember that all your connections on LinkedIn are sick of getting cold InMails from random sales reps. Whether seen as a pitch or spam, your connections have seen it, are sick of it, and are wary of it. I don't know anyone on LinkedIn who loves to get pitched to by unknown sales reps. So when approaching potential customers on LinkedIn, keep these three "don'ts" in mind.

  • Only try to sell to people after a period of time.
  • Please don't make any automated messages asking for meetings or demos. 
  • Don't send things directly after someone accepts your invitation. 

First, building relations and social capital would be best – you have to earn trust. 

What an ideal LinkedIn network looks like

In a sales role, you regularly interact with people, and one of your goals should always be to broaden your idea of whom you can and should be invited to connect with you.

Building a network also means creating your process around connecting with people. For example, if you book a new meeting with someone, look at their profile, and after the meeting, you ask if they want to connect. You can also follow someone that seems interesting and that follows you. If someone regularly engages with the content you post on LinkedIn, etc. Then you can ask to get connected and have a reason why.

The people you definitely should be connecting with to create long-term relationships that might bring business opportunities are:


One of the best ways to find exciting contacts is through your colleague's connections and networks. For example, perhaps your prospect or customer and one of your colleagues worked together at a previous job or went to the same university. 

This is why TeamLink on Sales Navigator is so powerful. Could you make sure that you connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn?


The days of getting the deal and never talking to a client again are long gone. More and more companies finally realise that satisfying existing customers is as important as bringing in new business.

You can interact with your customers, follow their activities, ask them for recommendations, and get referrals. Then, if you still need to be connected, feel free to reach out to check in and see how they're doing and create a connection.

Target contacts 

If you're a B2B company, several people are likely involved in the buying process at your target companies. So connect with your target accounts or companies' users, decision-makers, and internal experts.

Knowledge leaders

Regardless of your offer, some opinionated people share advice, best practices, guidance, trends, and insights related to your industry. If you strive to be on the leading edge of knowledge, these are the people to identify, follow, and connect with to get the content to share with your prospects.

Potential customers

Potential customers are an essential group that needs to be remembered when building a strong LinkedIn network. I'm often asked: "How should I connect with people I don't know but want to get to know?" No matter how interesting it would be, I don't connect with them directly. Instead, I follow them to get to know them and see what happens over time.

Traditional LinkedIn sales trainers need to admit there's more than one way to invite people into your LinkedIn network. But in my opinion, your approach should depend on some variables: 

  • What industry you're in,
  • How active and influential you are,
  • What type of prospect do you work with,
  • The complexity of your sales cycle,
  • and more.

There are various approaches to sending invites, whether to a friend, prospect, customer, knowledge leader or colleague. But there are best practices, and if you keep in mind that you are reaching out to another person, it gets pretty uncomplicated.

Do you always need to customise your invites? They may know you and why you are reaching out. Just to let you know, people you know don't require a personalised invite, like colleagues or clients. 

You shall always add a note if they don't know you or why you are reaching out. For example, prospects need a reminder unless you've already spoken to them. 

You can get a decent acceptance rate without personalising your invites, but if they accept your connection request and don't know you, you can't think of that as a warm connection. You have yet to build any social capital or engagement with them.

Personalising your connection requests

When crafting one of these notes, just saying, "I found you on LinkedIn", isn't enough.

If you reach out to someone you don't know, whether a prospect, a partner, or just someone whom you'd like to know better, here's a three-sentence template you can use:

  • Why are you reaching out,
  • Why should they want to accept,
  • Invite them to have a conversation on their terms.

The key here is to be genuine, "We have some shared connections" isn't going to cut it. 

Even if they are a prospect you don't know much about, a generic invite will show that you view them as another target. So, research to discover why a connection makes sense from their point of view.

Build your network – and see the benefits.

Modern networking is to build connections and relationships before you need them. Then, you can position them as a resource before they need to buy.

You'll need help if you reach out to someone for a sales meeting or an introduction to a hiring manager. 

But, if you reach out to new contacts and find ways to create relevant value, you'll make it easier to get the attention and support of those contacts.

This doesn't replace your existing outreach efforts but adds to them. In addition, it complements your other channels so you can engage with your prospects, clients, and partners.

However, you'll have set yourself up for that success now and in the future. 

Suppose you'd like more knowledge about social media for business. In that case, you can look at our detailed guide - and download our presentation about developing an effective social media plan for your company.

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B.
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