A Linkedin request was the original function of Linkedin to get people who were separated by degree to connect and exchange value with each other through intermediary introductions.
However, most people have turned to the Groups function to find opportunities and people to open doors for them. And that works until you need to get to someone not in a group who is integral to an opportunity or business deal you want to consummate or explore. Then you must turn to the original way of reaching out to someone through the requests system. They are not easy to do successfully unless you are in sales and coming up with a pitch is your second nature.
You have to give the intermediary a good reason why they dhould pass on the request even if you know them well. Why? Because the recipient of the request will be seeing what you write to the intermediary. The messages have to seam together with a congruent and compelling thread that incites the recipient to accept your request. It is not easy. People are busy and they don't want to be bothered.
Read the suggestions for contacting him that the Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman writes in his profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/reidhoffman.
Advice for Contacting Reid: Unfortunately, I'm extremely busy.
First: if you have an interest in getting my attention for an investment, working at Linkedin, a business development deal (for Linkedin or another portfolio company), then I *highly* recommend that you get an introduction to me. I am almost certainly not going to engage without a reference/introduction.
Second: I am generally not available for new projects. If it’s a new project, you must have a great introduction. Otherwise, I generally recommend you indicate who you would like to be connected with at one of my organizations to proceed.
Third: sadly, because I’m busy, if your communication to me is just a generic “ask” of me, I’m very likely just to decline it. Nevertheless, I wish you the best success if your project is a good improvement in the world.
A generic "ask" is the kiss of death for any request especially if it self-interested. When making a Linkedin Request, especially job opportunity related, the more important the person is in the scheme of things the better the story you have to make to get a piece of their time. This is not about you and what the recipient of the request can do for you, but rather what you can do for them.
There are two different messages to write and both will be read by the intended recipient of the request. Here is what to write:
- The message to the intended recipient of the request: tell him the story of the product, why he wants it, and what problem it solves for him. See Reid's points above.
- The message to the intermediary who will pass on your request: tell me how cool the company/product/service etc is and how excited you are about it and allude to ideas/questions you have for the recipient.
This is essentially an abbreviated elevator pitch and your Linkedin summary should echo the messaging delivery and style as it is a full-blown elevator pitch about you. The better you get at this kind of deliver, the more improved will be your networking and interviewing results as well. Too often we rely on the kindness of contacts who make introductions that go nowhere when we follow up and tell an uncompelling story.