It’s challenging, right?
You know that having the right relationships can explode your business – in the best way possible.
But you don’t wanna come across as a weirdo, feel pushy, or make them believe that you’re just in it for selfish reasons.
I hear ya.
I used to struggle with this a lot.
How do I make friends with influencers – people who can help me grow my business – without feeling like I’m selling my soul?
Well, in order to learn you on the subtleties of making friends with the big-wigs, I gotta share an example of the absolute wrong way to rub elbows.
This was sent to me via my Facebook page a couple weeks ago…
Now I’m not sharing this to personally bash this person, or make fun of them, or anything negative like that.
I actually Googled them after they sent this message and it seems like they probably have a solid business going. They even had some great testimonials from well known people in “the biz”.
However, this message did make me cringe when I got it.
I had no idea who this person was and the second sentence was, “Would you mind writing a review for one of my eBooks?”
Ummmmm… I’m gonna go with no. Just no.
Actually, I responded with, “Thanks for reaching out and the kind words. I’m gonna pass but good luck!”
But what I felt like saying was, “Are you kidding me?! I have no idea who you are. How about you at least pretend to want to get to know me first before you ask me to spend an hour+ reading your eBook and – on top of that – write a review for you? Hmmmm?
P.S. If you’re gonna name drop, at least drop the name. Don’t leave me guessing who this mystery ‘New York Times Bestselling author’ is. Do they even exist? Or do you say that to all the girls you wanna get in your book?” 😉
All jokes aside, I believe there are some valuable learning moments here, my friend.
In the interest of helping you hobnob with people you want to make business friends with, let’s dissect this message more and see why it doesn’t work (and how we could make it work better).
Now, before we go any further I want to make it clear that I have no ill-will towards this person.
I’ve been there.
I’ve been the person emailing someone the absolute wrong way to try to become business friends with them.
I’ve made networking mistakes that make me want to palm my face.
But I’ve learned from those experiences – especially from being on the receiving end of some bad outreach efforts – and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes.
I’m not above it all, but I’ve seen the other side – the better way to network – and I want to help you get there.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
How about you prove that you’ve actually read my blog post?
If you’re gonna butter me up, butter me up.
Show me that you’ve actually read (and enjoyed) the post by telling me your biggest takeaway, your favorite part, how you think it’ll help you, anything that stands out for you.
You see, there’s a big difference between, “You look nice” and, “Your hair is amazing! It’s like a unicorn’s tail – all perfectly braided and shiny. I want your hair. Bad.”
If you want to make friends with influencers, go out of your way to tell them why you think they’re amazing.
Don’t just say, “You’re great.” Everyone says that.
Think outside of the box.
Tell them how that blog post they wrote in 2009 was a pivotal part of you quitting your day job.
Tell them how you never miss an episode of their podcast and that you especially loved the one from last week where they talked about how their grandma made the best chicken pot pie. (Bonding over a mutual love of your grandmas is so full-goody great!)
Tell them how you bought their “Win Your Girlfriend Back” course and now you’re married to the one that got away – the one who came back thanks to their help.
If you’re gonna try to start a relationship with me by complimenting me, stand out by not giving me some generic compliment.
Give me a compliment that actually makes me feel like you mean it and you’re not just trying to conceal your real (self-serving) motives.
Would you at least buy me a drink first?
This second sentence is the equivalent of walking up to a girl or guy at the bar and saying, “Hey! Wanna go back to my place and do it on my couch? Don’t worry, I’ll lock my cat in the bedroom so Mr Twinkles doesn’t disturb us.”
At least buy me a drink first.
Here’s how networking should work:
Step 1: Introduce yourself.
Step 2: Go out of your way to provide value to the other person – i.e., do favours for them.
Step 3: Get the relationship to the point where you could invite them for coffee and they wouldn’t ask, “Who is this?!”
Step 4: Ask them to do you a favour while still going out of your way to do favours for them, too.
Here’s how this Facebook message went down:
Skip Steps 1, 2 & 3 and go directly to Step 4.
Favours all the way!
Whatever you do, do not ask someone to do something for you the very first time you reach out to them.
I’ve done this. Embarrassing confession, but it’s true.
I’ve asked influencers to share my blog posts when they had no idea who I was and you know what kind of response I got? No response!
No shock there, right?
When you get a message from someone you don’t know, no matter how nice you are, your immediate reaction is, “I’m sorry, who are you?!”
So, before you catapult yourself to Step 4, work your way through Steps 1 – 3 first.
Yes, this will take time.
But the time will be so worth it when you look around – after a few months or years – and you have a handful of influential friends who will go out of their way to help you and promote you.
Please don’t make me work for it
“Either way, please let me know if I can do anything for you, or if you need help with something, OK?”
Ain’t nobody got time to sit around and brainstorm ways someone else can help them!
They just want someone to swoop in and help them.
Now, full disclosure: I have, and continue to do this all the time with friends, family and people in my network.
I’ll ask, “How can I help you?” Or, “Just let me know if I can help with something.”
Guilty as charged.
However, when you’re deliberately reaching out to someone to develop a relationship with them, don’t make them work to think of ways that you can help them.
Best case scenario: you do them a bunch of favours without even asking them what they need. You just figure it out, and do it.
Worst case scenario: you at least brainstorm some ways you could help them and ask if they’d like you to go ahead and do that.
Wondering how little ol’ you could possibly help them?
There are plenty of ways…
- Write a comment on their blog post.
- Share their blog posts on social media.
- Ask them (or their team) if you can volunteer your time to help them out at the next conference they’re speaking at. Something like, “I’m really great at grabbing coffee or lunch for people” Or, “I can stack chairs like a boss” comes to mind.
- Respond to their emails when they ask you to fill out surveys and such and let them know you’re happy to chat with them (or their team) more about this so they can get even deeper responses, if they like.
- Let them know that that link on their website takes you to a 404 page instead of their sales page.
- Sign up to be an affiliate for their stuff and work your buns off to be their #1 affiliate.
- Buy like a hundred copies of their book to give to friends and family, take a picture of the stack, send it to the Insta-verse – #bestbookever – tag them, and publicly thank them for being so awesome.
Instead of making them come up with ways that you could help them, take the time to get to know them (i.e., pay attention to everything they put out there via their email list and social media). Get to know them well enough that you know what they might need/want help with.
Time is our most valuable resource. And when you use some of your own time to help someone without them even asking you to, that’s pretty much the most awesome gift ever.
I get it. You’re a big deal. But what’s in it for me?
Notice how no where in this message does this person say how their eBooks will help me?
They say a New York Times Bestselling author loves their eBooks.
That they’re gonna speak at NYU about ’em.
That their eBooks are generating “some buzz”.
But my question is, “What’s in it for me?”
Now I get that that’s a totally selfish question to ask.
But let me throw it back to you.
Do you think I’d be more likely to help this person out – read and review their eBook – if they actually cared enough to tell me how this book will help me? If they actually gave me some idea of what this eBook will help me have, do or be?
There’s definitely a better chance I’ll read it if you tell me the results and benefits I’ll get from reading it, instead of just saying, “Read my eBooks that I’m not even going to bother telling you the titles of!”
The truth is, we’re selfish by nature. We’re always thinking, “What’s in it for me” because, again, time is limited.
We need to figure out what’s a priority, and what’s not.
And if I have no idea how doing something will benefit me or someone I love, I probably won’t do it – especially if someone I don’t know is asking me to do it.
So, when you’re networking, always be asking yourself, “What’s in it for them? How is this benefitting them?”
When you’re asking yourself that, it’s almost impossible to come across as self-serving.
And when you’re not coming across as self-serving, that probably means you’re coming across as giving.
People like giving people.
People like to do giving people favours.
Being giving is super rewarding – it feels good, and it makes developing mutually beneficial relationships a whole lot easier!
“Oh, you thought I meant you didn’t have to buy it first?!”
Perhaps the worst part of this whole shindig?
When they said, “I attached it” what they meant was, “Here’s a link to the Amazon sales page where you can buy one of my eBooks for $14.58 and then review it for me.”
The lesson, my friend?
If you’re gonna ask someone – especially someone you don’t even know – to review your eBook, at least give ’em a free copy of it!
Networking isn’t that hard if you just remember this…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love getting emails and messages from people.
I don’t want to scare you away from ever emailing or messaging me because you think I’m gonna rip your head off if you don’t do it right.
I won’t. Promise. That’s just not my style.
In fact, I let this person down gently…
But I thought it was important to use this as an example to show you how a seemingly harmless ask has left a bad taste in my mouth. One that I’ll probably remember for quite a while.
This person is probably a relatively good person.
But I’m just not interested in being their business friend because I have a feeling it’ll be a very one-sided relationship – i.e., they take, I give.
Yes, mingling with others – especially people you take inspiration from – can seem like a daunting task.
You’re constantly worried that you’ll come across the wrong way.
But if you just continue to always ask yourself, “How can I help them?” instead of, “How can they help me?” you’re golden.
Come from a place of giving, rather than getting.
It’s unfortunately a rare trait in our gimme society so you’ll be able to more easily stand out. Or, at the very least, you won’t come across as totally selfish.
And remember, before you ask for a favour, get to know the person first. And, even better, do them at least 3 favours before you ask for your first favour.
It’s just the cool thing to do.
Networking doesn’t have to be so hard.
The key is to just make it more about the other person, than about you.
The right kinds of people will acknowledge and appreciate you for that and they’ll be happy to send business your way.
How can you go out of your way to help someone?
Lots of love,
P.S. Know someone who has a tough time with networking? Send ’em this post! (no obligation, of course).