How to Connect With Just About Anyone
We’ve all heard it before: Networking is important. It can lead to new opportunities, push your career to the next level or even just help you make new friends. And, according to a Virgin infographic, 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking.
Related: The Secret to Organic Networking
Networking has been key to my own success, but it hasn’t happened overnight. I’ve carefully built relationships with key people in the industry through email and Slack groups; I've hosted dinners.
In her book, Stand Out Networking, Dorie Clark wrote: “For any meaningful business transaction, trust -- built up over time -- is the essential ingredient.”
There’s plenty of information out there on how to network successfully, but how are you supposed to get in the door and start building that trust? Whether your partner in this task is your biggest role model, a potential customer or just someone you want to connect with, you should consider these six tips.
They'll help ensure you’re able to make this person's acquaintance.
1. Focus on your contact, not just yourself.
When you try to get in touch with somebody, don't make it about you. You can’t just start off with what you want. You’ll look needy and unprofessional, and you most likely won’t get a response.
I get so many messages like, "Hey, check out my company, this is what I need you to do." But instead, it should be, "Hey, here's something I can do for you."
Think about your contact’s needs and how you can help him or her, rather than how this person can help you. How will the or she benefit from connecting with you? The best connections are the ones that are mutually beneficial.
2. Try a bit of flattery.
While this next tip may sound silly, trying a bit of flattery can sometimes be helpful. You’ll want to be careful not to overdo it, but a sincere compliment can have a positive effect. People like compliments. After all, we’re only human.
If you’re contacting someone you look up to, tell this person that he or she inspires you. What impact has this person had on your life? The story you have to tell will probably mean something.
3. Do your research.
If you’re sending out a mass email to all your target contacts, you’re probably not going to get a lot of responses. People can tell when they’re getting a formulaic email, and you can bet they’re going to immediately hit "delete."
Instead, you have to tailor your communication to the contact you’re reaching out to and show that you’ve done your homework.
For example, if I get an email inviting me to grab a coffee, I'm probably going to ignore it. But if I'm speaking at a conference in Austria and you're an entrepreneur in that country who says, "I see you're going to be here next week -- can we grab coffee while you're in town?" that's a message much more likely to get a response.
4. Be helpful.
The worst question I get asked is, "Is there anything I can do for you?" That's a loaded question. If you want to offer some kind of help or service, you need to be specific and mention a context.
So, say you're a designer and you saw my blog. If I didn't have any custom images, you might say, "Hey, I see you're blogging. One thing that would be awesome would be custom images." You could send a sample. That would get you a foot in the door.
5. Identify the gatekeepers.
Whomever you want to get in touch with, you have to know who the gatekeepers are. Some people have assistants or people who check emails, but you might be able to get in touch with your desired contactly directly on Facebook, LinkedIn or another social media site.
Again, do your research to suss out the situation. You may be able to find a better "in" than just cold-emailing the contact.
6. Find the right channel.
If you reach out to me on Facebook Messenger, I'll never respond. I've got an inbox full of people who want something from me. But if you email me, I'm probably going to get back to you. I always include my email in tweets and other messages, so if you do your research, you'll see that that's the right channel to get in touch with me.
A while back, I put up a Facebook post that used Taylor Swift lyrics, so I sent it to her. Her social media team loved it, and they shared it with “the Swifties” (their words). But I didn't want to get in touch with Taylor's fans. I wanted to get in touch with her.
You have to do your homework and find out what the right channel is. Is it a comment on your blog? Is it email? What's the social channel your target's most active on? Find that out, and you’ll be on your way to opening those doors.
How have you built your network? What are your top tips for reaching out to new people? Let me know in the comments below: