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Let’s talk about some LinkedIn advice that I’ve seen others offer – connecting to people you compete against.

And I’m not meaning complementary services, situations where you’ve partnered in the past, or best friends where you’ve both entered the same field – I mean the people that will take bread off your plate.

You’d think keeping them at a distance would be the smart thing to do…

The logic of this position

The belief is that you’ll either A) see what they’re up to, or B) eventually partner with them.

You know how you see the activity of direct connections through the LinkedIn update mechanism? Yes, that’s right, every time this competitor connects to a new user or posts an update, you’ll see what they’re doing. (And because you’ve taken my time-saving advice and connected your updates to an RSS reader you’re on top of this activity, right?)

And this might give you some idea of what the competition is up to.

But please look in the mirror – they’re seeing the same things about you!

And aren’t you more competent, successful, and active on LinkedIn?

They’re getting much more out of the relationship than you are! (and besides, it’s hardly ever a good idea to focus and chase what others are doing – have your own agenda and run with that;-)

And on the partnering front – let’s be serious – how often do these potential partnerships work out? If 100 people say to you that they’d like to partner, the one and only deal that might happen is when it’s immediate, specific, and good for both of you. Connecting to 100 competitors that might one day become partners sounds like wishful thinking to me.

(And please – least the nay-sayers jump on this bit – I say talk to everyone! Network, communicate, spread the word. but when it comes to connections, connect after you know and trust the other person. And that logic holds up as safe and effective in most situations.)

Somebody else as information gatherer

That’s how it works for those espionage types, right? The idea is that if some third person gathers the information, it isn’t you gathering it.

When you’re the one doing the surveillance, you’re obvious sitting out front…

(Now – I’m fairly certain I’ve written in the past that you can use LinkedIn to gain access to public information about your competition, but cozying up to them and connecting is perhaps not the way to go about it…)

Your VIP contacts

Because the #1 reason not to connect to your competition is that they get access to your VIP contacts – your little black book!

That’s right – if you use LinkedIn to reach out through your strong connections to forge new relationships, you are giving away that knowledge and access to your competitors.

And I don’t want to see you do that.

If you connect indiscriminately

But I suppose – if you connect to any Tom, Dick, or Harry, then you may not be giving away much information. (But what do you then get out of LinkedIn?-)

So when you’re hearing others talk about how they once struck a deal with some competitor that they forged a LinkedIn relationship with over 6 months, you keep your mouth shut and let them be proud. You know that in the same period of time you asked for 6 introduction and built direct relationships to new customers yourself;-)

To your continued success,

steve

Steven Tylock
http://www.linkedinpersonaltrainer.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevetylock