Connections and relationships are what count.

Should I accept every LinkedIn invitation? I’m frequently asked that question. It’s a personal choice. Some people do. Some people only connect with people they know in real life. Others screen every invitation; they write to people first and ask why they want to connect. I’m in-between. I view every invitation. If people pitch in their invitations, I ignore them. Otherwise, if they’re in a sales-related field, I’ll often accept.

However, when I invite someone to connect, I always include a personal message. I never pitch. Instead, I explain why I think the connection would be valuable for us both.

Salespeople often forget that social media is the place to begin a conversation and begin a relationship. That starts with a personal invitation, which most people don’t even bother with. How many people in your network do you know really well? Well enough you’d feel confident referring them? Very few, I expect.

Social selling success is not about the number of contacts, but about the number of true connections you have. In the world of social media, less is more.

There’s research to prove it. In recent years, much has been written about Dunbar’s Number—the theory that the human brain can only maintain 150 “genuine relationships” at once. In other words, even if you have a thousand LinkedIn contacts, you only have 150 true connections—the kind that drive sales and generate referrals. And those are the ones you should be nurturing.

Anne Gherini, in her post, “What Dunbar’s Numbers Mean for Professional Networking,” outlines four steps to maintain professional networks:

  1. Narrow your network ruthlessly
  2. Nurture other relationships asymmetrically
  3. Unlock new networks
  4. Play the long game

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My takeaways from Anne’s article: There’s a difference between how you communicate with your 150 and the others in your network. Above all, lasting relationships take time. Be willing to play the long game.

I couldn’t agree more.