I have a confession to make.
I hate business cards.
Odds are if you give me a business card at a meetup, like this one in NYC, I’ll ‘forget’ it at the bar. It’s not because I don’t like you and it’s not because I’m an asshole, it’s because I don’t need a business card to remember the people who make a real impression on me.
Networking is a learn able skill, but first you have to forget all the bullshit Top 5 Yahoo! articles on proper networking tips. Those are 99.9% of the time mediocre tips and written by a fresh college grad making $35k a year and sharing a 1 bedroom with a roommate they met off of Craigslist. Check to see if a co-worker is lurking over your shoulder, hunker down and get ready for me to drop one helluva big ass comprehensive post on what it really means to network.
The best example is showing you gentlemen a real-life case study of good networking in action, so here is a practical case of where a reader of this fine blog reached out to me. I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy, but all of the emails are exactly as they were written, with only specific locations and names omitted. My comments are in Bold Red.
June 24th, 2014: 1st email received from this gent
“Good article you put up yesterday.. (Note how he starts out with a compliment. Never a bad way to start)
I shot you an email on your website, but no reply, not sure of the amount of them you get on there. (He didn’t just take one path to contact me, he also reached out on Facebook where these emails are from)
I want to talk business when you get a chance and get some insight on your next move. A few things you have written about align with what myself and a few others have been doing/planning and it would be good to chat with you to see if you have any interest. (A little vague, but also piqued my curiosity. Note he also doesn’t try to ‘Hard Sell’ me. He simply suggests that I might be interested and chatting more could confirm or not)
Let me know the best way/time to contact you, thanks.” (Super good, because he assumes the ‘sale’ that I will email him back, but is considerate to ask what is the best way/time to contact me)
June 25th, 2014: my email response to him
“Thanks for reaching out.
I get roughly 300 readers emails a month, so it takes a while to respond. (It’s more now, but this was 7 months ago)
Shoot me over what you’re getting involved with business wise and I’ll take a look at it here on FB. (My first method to screen him and see if he has substance or another ‘talker’)
June 25th, 2014: his response to my email (this is within 3 hours of me emailing him back)
No excuse man, you should read them all asap when you get them. Just kidding. (Humor used the right way)
*Insert business idea and possible strategy*
I can imagine your pretty busy trying to get on that Time cover so I understand the constraints in responses. I’m in San Diego, but make occasional trips to LA for a few networking things and I’d be more than happy to get lunch so we can chat one of these days, let me know what works best. (This was the big kicker: he was willing to drive a couple of hours to meet. This shows me he is a Man of Action and will do what needs to be done to get shit done)
I wound up emailing him a few days later because I was swamped as fuck, but we arranged a date to meet. He was responsive and clear in setting this up. Guys, never underestimate being prompt when responding to business emails. Unless you’re trying to fuck the guy (which why the hell would you be??), then don’t play ‘games’ with response times when it comes to business. Leave that for your texts with girls. There are exceptions when it comes to negotiating, but when it comes to setting up business meetings strike while the iron is hot.
Before meeting with this gentleman, I perused his Facebook page and liked what I saw. He was professional, put together and exuded a positive attitude in his posts. Cool. I like positive go-getters and am always happy to meet with them.
Negative talkers and couch potatoes have no place in my life.
The day of the lunch came and he was prompt, dressed sharp and we had a great lunch. He had driven all the way from San Diego and picked up the tab on the meal. When we left the restaurant he said he had something for me. We went to his car and he gave me a copy of his excellent book he had written. In other words, he came bearing a gift.
Fast-forward to my 30th Birthday Bash and he once again drove up from San Diego and guess who was the very first person to offer to buy me a drink at the bash? That very same guy. He was never a kiss ass, he simply showed respect and made a great impression, because he put forth effort.
If you are thinking, “Well, I guess Christian expects free lunches and gifts in order for me to reach out to him”, then you’re missing the point. The point is he didn’t come with his hand out expecting. He came bringing value to my life and showing that he isn’t just a taker, but a giver.
Who am I more likely to respond to? This guy, or to this guy below who wrote me:
“Christian!! Wassup bro?
Hey man I’m broke but if you can give me your books then when I’m rich I’ll pay you back, and then some. Promise!
Oh shit, by the way I have a good business idea if you’re interested…
-Cheap Tirekicker Who Will Get Nowhere In Life” (It’s kinder for me to change their name to this, then print their real name)
Networking is about seeing how you can bring value to someone’s life who you are interested in doing business with and then reaching out to them in a professional and personable manner. You don’t need to kiss ass. You don’t need extravagant gifts. But, you do need to show that you’re a human who has genuine interest in them and not for just what you can get.
This is just one example. I’ve been reached out to by many of you with offers to work on the site for free, one gentleman even made a video intro for me and countless others have written badass emails simply saying ‘Thank you’. Those are awesome and even if I haven’t responded to some of you (I’m backlogged like a motherfucker), I read every one and greatly appreciate the thought.
But enough about me, here is a Top 5 List that will help you network like a boss and not a clueless schmuck.
#5. Know Your ‘Target’
Get to know them. We have the internet gents. Scope their LinkedIn, Facebook and any social media they have. Find out everything you can know about them and in detail. Information is power and the more you know the easier you can find common ground and figure out what makes them tick. Everyone has interests, goals, desires and hobbies.
#4. Have An Offer
You don’t have to get crazy or weird with your emails to stand out. Simply do your homework and do something like the following that shows you’ve done your homework.
I’m writing to say a big ‘Thank You’, for your article you wrote on Investment XYZ yesterday. It struck a chord with me due to XYZ and how this correlates to ABC. (Showing you have a brain and made a connection between what he wrote about and something he could be interested in)
I’m sure you’re quite busy and inundated with emails for your time, so I’ll keep this brief. Being a loyal follower of your column and blog, I’m aware you’re a big fan of cigars and would like to extend an invitation to be my guest at the Grand Havana Room private cigar lounge in Beverly Hills sometime for lunch or dinner on me and a cigar from my private collection.
I look forward to hearing back from you and have a great week.
Thank you for your time. (Super important. This shows that you’re aware their time is valuable. A man who respects time shows that he is about his business and isn’t a lazy time-waster)
Sincerely (or Best),
Email/Cell Phone/Social Media” (This establishes you are a real person and not an internet troll)
If you feel that you might not have anything to offer them, you can also send them a link to an article that they might be interested in, or something that backs up their writings, and/or opinions on a subject. You don’t have to break the bank, but the idea is that you show THOUGHTFULNESS to what they like and you make a real effort to extend that to them. Note: this is not bribery. This is a way of showing commonality, high value and that you do your homework. I cannot stress enough how much people do not do this, so it stands out in a HUGE way when you do.
#3. Be Prompt
Like I mentioned before, if the busy business guy responds to you, don’t wait a few days to email back. You don’t have to email within 5 minutes, but try to respond within an hour or two. Not too eager, but be on top of things. Nothing irritates me more than taking the time to help someone, asking for specific details so I can understand the situation better and then get an email back a week later. It must not be that pressing, so I simply cannot be bothered to respond anymore.
#2. Follow Through
Unless your Mother passes away the day of the appointment, you had better make it. And you might even need to leave the funeral early to get there. You think I’m kidding? The first impression is the ONLY impression you get in business. Fuck that up and kiss that business contact goodbye.
I had a business partner some years ago who fucked up a SUPER important business meeting with a very important business man by getting there so late that it killed the meeting (as in missing a flight and getting in the next day). That specific meeting carried the weight of a potential $300,000+ profit deal of which we lost out on. Needless to say, that guy and me ceased being business partners after that fiasco. Follow through no matter what it costs you and what sacrifices you need to make. Make a great first impression and you might just reap huge benefits.
#1. Follow Up
A simple email thanking them for their time and keeping that ‘line’ open with your new contact is super important. Don’t just have a successful meeting and then never follow-up. Busy business guys have lots of meetings. How many actually follow-up?
If you did your job successfully and made a real connection with your new contact, then they’ll be happy to see your follow-up email and will make themselves available again to continue the discussion. Becoming closer is the key. Don’t just have a good lunch/dinner/whatever and never talk to them again, because that defeats the purpose.
Having great networking skills is the difference between being the Office Bitch
and playing 18 holes with the CEO.
Lastly, not everyone you network with will turn out to be someone you actually do business with. Sometimes the deal falls apart. Sometimes you both click on a personal level, but the business angle doesn’t line up. Sometimes it’s just not meant to work out, but never burn bridges for no reason. Keep your contacts alive and extend your network. You might just be the Connector who brings an even bigger deal together and that has very real value. A man who can network is a man who will get the hell ahead in life over a guy with 3 college degrees and the personality of a brick.
Work on your personality, become a man who is engaging, curious, interesting and driven and you will make serious moves in your life.
Get my books here.
Read More: The Power of Who You Know