Approaching someone you don't know to ask them a favor doesn't work online any better than in real life.
There’s a trend emerging on social media. Someone you don’t know but who may be connected to some of your friends or your network sends you a friend request. Shortly after, they send you a private message or email telling you what they want from you.
Every single day, I get these type of friend requests and messages. Someone’s first interaction with me is to ask me to write about them or their company, or they want to pick my brain about how to book paid speaking and consulting gigs internationally. No “hello,” no small talk. They just get right to what they want and and how it somehow benefits me.
This is a terrible way to network and will never make a connection with fellow entrepreneurs. Social media works a lot like real life. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger, say “hello” and then try to kiss them. There are three things you should understand in regards to networking.
1. Lead with value.
Human nature is to focus on what we want and what will help us. Networking done right leads with value for the person you're approaching.
I’m not going to give you the old-school advice to tell people you will work for free just to get their radar. It can be as simple as sharing a book suggestion or a helpful article that complements what that person has shared on social media. It's not about a grand gesture, it's about finding some way to approach that person with value.
Also, understand that trying to get them on the phone right away is too much. They don’t know you, a phone call right off the bat is not a great ask. Your asks should not exceed the realities of your relationship.
2. Do your research.
It amazes me how many people lead with the message “what do you do?” Hello, have you heard of Google?
If you are trying to get to know someone, start with their social media posts. Google what they’re up to and read their website. Do your research before you approach a person with a silly question. You don’t want to be that person whose first impression gets them ignored forever.
When you’re doing your research, look for something that interests the person you’re approaching and use it to get their attention. I’m not telling you to be a stalker, just do some light research to understand the person and what they do.
3. Realize there is no silver bullet.
A lot of times, entrepreneurs want to connect with an “influencer” or someone they follow. They think they’ll get some magical “answer” that takes them to their goal. Just about 100 percent of the time, it’s not. A conversation with the right person can unlock some strategy piece in your mind but there are 10 other steps that go along with that conversation.
The reality is that you are your key to creating success. You are the one who has to do the work that leads to results. It would be great to connect with someone who can help you move faster, but it’s not necessary. We have all the tools, technology and access we need to begin building a successful business without connecting with someone else first.
You can make good business connections that lead to joint ventures or collaborations but only if you approach the conversation and relationship in the right way. Lead with value but don’t go overboard. Spend a few minutes doing some research and send a message that shows you respected the person enough check out what they’re up to. Understand that you, more than anything, are the key to your own success. Even if you can’t connect, you can still build on your own. Here’s to you and networking in a way that helps your business.
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Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.