This is a continuation of the “How to Network With Busy People” series. The first post in the series can be found here.
Continuing on with our tips…
Don’t apologize for reaching out.
Never begin your first contact with an apology.
Every week people send me emails that begin with phrases like, "Sorry to bother you, but…" What does this tell me about the other person’s expectations for connecting with me? It tells me they expect to bother me. Who am I to argue with them? Delete… next.
If you hint that you’re about to irritate or annoy someone, they’ll assume you’re right. Why should they do otherwise?
You might think that you’re just being polite and respectful. Are you really? Or would it be more accurate to say that deep down, you don’t feel equal to the person you’re contacting?
If you have to apologize for bothering someone, maybe you shouldn’t be contacting them at all… at least not until you do a bit more work on your self-esteem.
“Excuse me…” is another weak opener. Why do you need to be excused? Are you doing something wrong?
If you’re going to approach a busy person, do so as an equal. Don’t act like an equal. Know you’re equal.
It doesn’t matter which person on this planet you wish to connect with – the President of the USA, the Dalai Lama, Oprah, etc. Don’t chode yourself with anyone. We’re all equal. We’re all part of the same whole. Why should you feel intimidated to meet another piece of humanity?
Don’t put busy people or celebrities on a pedestal. They may have a lot of accomplishments under their belt. They may be famous. So what? They’re still human just like everyone else. Don’t mistake the public image for the real person underneath.
Be secure in who you are. Know that whenever you reach out to connect with someone, you’re offering something of value. The value is who you are. If you don’t think you’re worth knowing, you need to spend more time getting in touch with your own value. Of course you’re worth knowing.
If you want to be worthy of a busy person’s time and attention, then know that you deserve it.
The surest way to have your communication devalued is to signal up front that you’re a low-value contact. High-value contacts don’t apologize for reaching out.
Get to the point.
If you conclude that making friends isn’t right for you, and you opt to communicate some kind of offer straightaway, then do your best to be concise and direct.
Never ever begin your emails with a paragraph like this:
I know you get a lot of emails, but I just had to send you this message. I’m sure you must be very busy, and I definitely respect your time, so I’ll try to be as brief as possible. This request will take a bit of explaining though. But please take the time to read it all the way through. I’m sure it will be worth your time to do so.
This is the point where a busy person will often hit delete. When I see a paragraph like this, I probably hit delete at least half the time without bothering to read the rest of the message, regardless of length. Historically speaking, such messages have rarely been worth the time to read. Also, when I answer the phone and someone offers up the verbal equivalent of the above paragraph, I know it’s best to get off the phone ASAP.
Plainly state the purpose of your communication in the first sentence. Get to the frakkin point as quickly as you can. Let the other person know the context for the rest of your message.
If you really don’t care to connect on the basis of friendship, then don’t act like you do. That’s inauthentic. You’re better off sending an android-like email and cutting out the fluff. Keep it short and sweet.
Never send a wall of text.
More than two paragraphs is usually overkill when you’re trying to solicit business. If you send long-winded emails, busy people will hit delete long before they make sense of your offer.
Making an offer or suggesting a deal doesn’t require sharing the entire history of your business. Really it doesn’t.
Some people think they should include as much detail as possible in their first message to a busy person. That way the busy person will have all the important info up front. They figure they’ve only got one shot to make a first impression, so the more words they use, the better. So they send first-contact emails that are upwards of a thousand words.
This is a mistake.
If your first contact with a busy person is to send them a wall of text, you immediately give the impression that you’re going to be a time drain. This makes it much harder for a busy person to want to follow up with you.
Make your first message to a busy person as short as you can. Busy people are more likely to read and reply to a 100-word email than a 1,000-word one.
People send me wall-of-text emails every week, but I stopped reading such messages a long time ago. I don’t even skim them anymore. I’d be afraid to reply to them for fear of receiving another wall of text in response.
If you already have a close relationship with someone, a wall of text is questionable but ok I suppose. I’d still suggest you pick up the phone if you have more than a couple paragraphs to communicate – it’s usually a lot faster. But definitely don’t send a wall of text as your first contact to someone new, busy or not.
If you want to share the history of your business or the complexities of your business model or your personal history, it’s inappropriate to do that in an email. Instead, offer to schedule a phone call or face to face meeting, and share the details then. Don’t propose marriage before you’ve had a first date. If the busy person is interested, they’ll follow up with you.
Keep your personality switched on.
The way you normally behave with your friends and family – that’s how you should behave when connecting with busy people. That’s what it means to be yourself.
I’ve seen people act like a deer caught in the headlights when meeting someone they consider famous or popular. It’s like they switch off their personality and freeze up. They can still talk, but it’s not how they normally communicate.
No one wants to connect with an automaton. That kind of communication is very boring.
I think a lot of people hide their personality because they’re worried they might say or do something that will lead to rejection. Can you see that this is a very fear-based way of thinking? You’re going to create exactly what you fear.
Don’t worry about getting rejected. It’s really not a big deal. If you’re secure in who you are, it shouldn’t matter whether or not someone else likes you. It’s much better to relax and be yourself instead of tensing up and worrying about every word that comes out of your mouth. It’s not like such mistakes are fatal. In most cases they’re easily correctable.
When you make a social faux pas and then become aware of it, brush it off if it’s minor. If it’s more serious, acknowledge the mistake and apologize for it. Most of the time the other person will appreciate your candor, and you’ll form a closer bond because of it.
A few years ago, a friend with a very “switched on” personality treated me in a way that some would regard as slightly rude. This happened in front of a bunch of our mutual friends. He didn’t notice it at the time, and I simply brushed it off, but someone else noticed and pointed it out to him later. He quickly realized that he goofed, and he took me aside and apologized. I was touched by the gesture and actually came to respect him even more because of it. He and I are still good friends to this day.
People tend to be very forgiving of personality quirks when they see you’re just being your natural self.
As a human being, you’re going to make social mistakes. That’s perfectly okay. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. And definitely don’t assume that other people expect you to be perfect. They don’t. When you take things a bit too far and screw up, fess up to it and move on. Learn from your mistakes. This is much better than tensing up or using fake routines and communicating like a social robot.
Keep your real personality switched on, even in circumstances where you might feel inclined to clench up. You’ll make some mistakes now and then, but the honest social feedback will allow you to hone your personality over time. “Being yourself” is not a static state. You’ll continue to evolve.
You can’t grow if you hide your real personality whenever you encounter unusual social situations. The uncommon situations are often the best teachers.
To be continued…