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If you dread making cold calls, you're not alone. I mean, who doesn't? But the good news? You don't have to.

Not anymore. LinkedIn has changed the game as far as getting in touch with people you don't yet know. Picking up the phone still has its merits, but it's not the best way of introducing yourself. LinkedIn's messaging feature allows others to get to know you first, on their own terms, which is preferable to pretty much everyone. If you craft a well-written message, you can use it to connect with like-minded individuals and potential business opportunities. Here's how.

Like anything else, in order for your use of LinkedIn to be effective, you have to go about it the right way. If you rush in too fast, if you say the wrong thing -- your efforts won't be successful. I know you're in a hurry. Your time is precious. But we're all staring down deadlines and working as hard as we can to move our businesses forward.

Here's the truth. If you're unable to take the time to word your inquiry correctly, don't bother sending one at all. It won't work. The busiest people know how to reach out to others to grow their business.

I receive inquires via LinkedIn frequently, sometimes three or four times a day. I'm always happy to hear from people who are genuinely trying to connect with me. In fact I'm eager to reply to them. On the other hand, I receive plenty of messages that are totally ineffective. If you cut corners, if you're lazy -- what do you really expect is going to happen?

Here are a few tips.

1. Flattery always works.

You will be amazed how far it gets you. Study up on the person you want to message. Take the time to understand his or her business. Then comment on it. Consider explaining how the individual has inspired you or what you admire about him or her. Just a few words -- any sort of acknowledgement really -- go a long way.

I cannot tell you how many times I have reached out to people who don't know me with a little flattery. It works. It cracks open the door.

2. Do not spam.

Every once in a while, I receive a request from someone who does not know what I do for living. It's blatantly obvious this person has not done his or her homework. I delete these messages right away. I don't get it.

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3. Do not copy multiple people.

It's impersonal. And reveals you to be lazy. First impressions are everything. No one is trying to start up a conversation with multiple people they don't know on LinkedIn.

4. Keep it short.

I don't know you yet. If you write a lengthy saga about your life, the result is that I feel like you don't value my time. That's a non-starter. It's better to try to establish a relationship first. Give the individual the opportunity to want to know more about you. Pique their interest.

5. Keep your profile up to date and looking good.

The first thing the person you contact is going to do is check out your page. So it better look fresh!

6. Don't make your pitch right off the bat.

It's tempting to include a link to your webpage or some other external link, but I advise waiting until you get an initial response. You're simply trying to move too quickly otherwise. Sometimes I'm even a little surprised. Most of us know confidential information can put us in an uncomfortable situation. In fact, some people won't want to engage until there are some protections in place.

7. Asking for more information and / or clarification is always a good idea.

Let's say you're trying to get in touch with the right person at a company. Asking around with the intent of identifying that person makes sense. Asking about how the company's processes work is also appropriate. These questions are easy to answer. On the whole, I find people want to be helpful. So make it easy for them.

It's easier than ever to network online, but it's still all about effort and intention. Use these tips to make the most of our increasing interconnectedness. And breathe a little easier. Because cold calling is old school. None of us have to fear it anymore.

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