Growth Strategies

Know Who You Want to Know

Boost your chances of making a good connection--or even a sale--by doing your homework.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the April 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Tell me, what's wrong with this introduction?

"Michael, thank you for accepting my friend request. Tell me about what you do. I see you have written a book. What's it called? What's it about? I'm also working on a book and a project you might be interested in. I would like to discuss potential business opportunities with you."

Yes, that's from an actual e-mail I received in my Facebook account. Of course, my Facebook page explains what I do and lists all four of my books. So perhaps it's just my ego talking, but one would hope that this person would make an effort to at least scan the page. To fast-forward the process and ask for business without first gaining some intelligence is more than ineffective, it's a turnoff.

It doesn't matter whether you are prospecting, door-knocking, outreaching, introducing or just plain canvassing. If you do any or all of these without knowing the person or business you are contacting, you might as well be calling the president of the United States. At best, you'll find yourself winded, time wasted or wares unwanted. Or at worst, humiliated. And no one wants to feel like a cheesy, shady, pushy or unprepared salesperson.

So you say you want to create a never-ending pool of prospects? You want to capture more sales? You want to get booked solid? Make more money? Create a nest egg? Then do me a favor: Show up in the know with all the people you want to know. There's no minimizing your overall effectiveness and confidence when you're packin' preparation.

So find out:

  • What motivates them. What really gets their juices flowing? What makes their eyes sparkle? It might be business, family or hobbies. Look at the photos, books and other things sitting on or near their desk. What are they reading, referring to others or genuinely interested in?
  • What they have accomplished. Do an online search. Start with a Google image search if you don't know what their smiling faces look like yet. Who is singing their praises? Have they won awards, received public recognition or publication announcements?
  • What you have in common. How have your paths crossed? Express your compassion, enthusiasm and understanding for these shared interests. Keep your focus coming back to the person. Use these common interests as a starting place to learn more about how he or she feels and thinks about the world.
  • Who they know. Do you have any mutual friends? Do you have common Facebook friends or Twitter followers? Be informed and stay connected.
  • What challenges them. Know the opportunities and competition they face in their business. What challenges will you help them overcome? What opportunities will you help them fulfill?
  • How they have helped you. We all want to feel appreciated, acknowledged and respected. Share how their work and opinions have influenced or affected you. Be yourself and be complimentary.
  • Why you are indispensable. Do you truly know why they should know or work with you? Do you believe that their lives will be happier, easier, fuller, richer or just plain better with the benefit of your services?

Sales isn't always sensible. Even if your proposition seems picture perfect, life, decisions and relationships are always wrapped up in underlying influences.

But when you show up knowledgeable and prepared, you address the human needs of the people you want to serve. Then you might have a shot of getting what you ask for. Doors will stop slamming. People will start playing--and start paying.

Michael Port is a New York Times bestselling author of four books: Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect, and his latest, The Think Big Manifesto. Learn more at

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