You’ve found an ideal prospect on LinkedIn but have no mutual connections and no introductions to leverage.  Your prospect is outside of your network.  What do you do?   You could ask this person to connect.

But how do you answer the “how do you know them” question?  LinkedIn requires you to define the relationship - but there is no relationship.  They are not a “colleague”, “classmate”, “friend”, etc. – you feel stuck.  I’ve seen some advisors select “friend” when they don’t even know this person.  Stop!   Do you want your first impression with this prospect is a lie? (Sorry, personal pet-peeve).

Here is your workaround. You can use LinkedIn groups to connect with people completely outside of your network.  If you share a group, LinkedIn considers this person a part of your network and gives you the ability to connect.  Simply, view your prospects profile, identify a group in which they are a member, and join the same group.  Then, identify this mutual group when sending your invitation to connect.  Success!  (Tip: Also reference why you want to connect in your message!).  In full disclosure, this is not a social sales method we normally endorse, but in rare circumstances it make sense.

Note: If you are positive you share a group with your target and the option is not available to select the mutual group you are a part of, watch this quick video on a way to make it available. For some reason, I’ve found this to be a quirk within LinkedIn.  Here is a ninja-trick around it.

Kevin Nichols is a thought-leader with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.  Follow him on twitter @KevinANichols   www.Oechsil.com