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…
Communicate like a human being, not a marketer.
If your email looks even remotely like spam, expect that busy people will treat it as such.
If an email looks impersonal at all or seems like it’s being sent to more than one person, busy people will often delete it without reading it. Busy people get enough personal communication that they don’t want to bother with anything that isn’t personal.
Sometimes I get messages sent through my online contact form that start with salutations like “Hi Marc…” I actually prefer these copy/paste blunders, since it saves me from having to read them before hitting delete.
If you’re going to contact a busy person, make sure your message is personal and specific to that person.
Get clear about why you want to connect with a particular busy person.
Do you want to become good friends? Do you want to do business together? Do you want to ask for advice or mentoring?
Don’t put up a false front, pretending to want one thing while secretly desiring another.
Don’t pretend you want to be friends and hang out if you really just want to do a deal together. Similarly, don’t pretend you’re interested in doing business if you just want to hang out and be friends.
When you communicate inauthentically, other people will often pick up a creepy vibe from you. They may not even notice it consciously, but they’ll feel turned off by you.
Inauthentic communication is a big pet peeve of mine. It’s such a huge turnoff when someone is being fake with me. You may think you’re good at hiding your real intentions, but someone who deals with a high volume of communication has the opportunity to get pretty good at discerning patterns, so what seems invisible to you may be glaringly obvious to them.
Authenticity is the best policy. Putting up a false front simply isn’t necessary.
I’m not suggesting the approach of radical honesty, blurting out whatever you’re thinking and feeling no matter how offensive it may be. I think a little decorum and politeness is reasonable. However, to say one thing while secretly intending something else is a bad idea. You’re a lot more transparent than you realize. People usually won’t call you on it, but they’ll sense that something is off with you, and their shields will go up.
If you want people to lower their shields around you, make sure your expression reflects your intention.
Don’t buy into the myth of the once-in-a-lifetime networking opportunity. If you maintain an abundance mindset, interesting opportunities will come up again and again.
Think of networking like playing in the World Series of Poker main event. You aren’t going to win the whole thing on the first day. It’s a long road. You probably won’t make it to the final table. That may be a goal to strive for, but most of your experience will involve playing the game and making new friends along the way. The try-hards usually just make fools of themselves.
Networking with people is much the same. Sometimes you’ll encounter what appears to be an opportunity, but it doesn’t quite work out. Don’t force it. Be patient and wait for a better spot. Maintain your poise and self-respect, and don’t be a try-hard.
A few years ago, someone from Oprah’s production company called to offer me an “opportunity.” They were looking for someone to help teach Eckhart Tolle’s material for some webcasts they were doing. Was that a good spot for me? Heck no. I have no interest in presenting someone else’s material when I have so much of my own to share. I knew they could find hundreds of people to fill that role, so it’s not an area where I can make a unique contribution. It may have looked like an opportunity, but it wasn’t a good spot for me. To say yes to that would have been to act out of desperation. So naturally I turned them down. The “better spot” is to share my own material in the form of a 3-day workshop.
When you network with people, do so from a place of abundance. Know that opportunities are everywhere. When a good opportunity comes your way, accept it. But when the opportunity isn’t right, just relax and let it go.
Realize that the rules change once you’re in.
Once you’re “in” with a busy person, it’s still important to be respectful of their time, but if you’ve made it past the slush pile, your status will likely change, and their shields will go down when they’re communicating with you.
Once I’ve established a solid friendship with a person, my rules change. Now my attention shifts from processing their emails and voice mails to managing a relationship.
There’s a continuum here of course. I might spend one minute typing an email to one person, an hour on the phone with another, and a half day in person with someone else. When I’m typing emails, I normally want to process them fast and move on to something else. But when I’m talking to someone face to face, I’m just going with the flow and having fun, not looking at my watch and worrying about the time investment.
Almost every busy person I know experiences a similar dichotomy. Busy people are usually tight with their time in some areas but much looser with their time in other areas.
The people who will send you a one-line email to save a few minutes are the same people who’d have no qualms shooting the breeze with you for hours under different circumstances.
I think the reason for this is simple. Typing emails and returning voice mails isn’t much fun, especially if you have to process a high volume. I certainly don’t want to spend hours each day typing emails. But I like connecting with people face to face – that feels much more natural, and it isn’t tedious at all.
Sometimes when people pop over to my house to visit with Erin and me for the first time, they start feeling anxious after a while. They might look at their watch and say, “Oh I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I just chewed up two hours talking with you. I’m sure you’re very busy and have better things to do.” I have to reassure them that it’s okay for us just to hang out and chat.
I’ve had one-on-one conversations that have lasted as long as eight hours. I’ve had people hang out at my house for days at a time. Why? Because it’s fun. I enjoy it. But if I spend more than an hour answering emails, I start feeling squirmy.
I’m certainly not alone in feeling this way. Other busy people behave much the same way. Even so-called productivity gurus will sit around drinking coffee and chatting for hours about the most mundane things. Why? Because they enjoy it. They apply their productivity tactics to efficiently process the tasks they don’t enjoy much, so they can free up more time to do what they enjoy most.
Therein lies another good lesson. If you try to communicate with a busy person through a channel they don’t enjoy much, you’re going to get processed. But if you use a channel they enjoy, you have a much better chance at connecting.
This was a long series, and it should be largely common sense, but these tips aren’t commonly practiced. I hope that by sharing what it’s like to network with busy people (from both sides of the fence), I’ve helped you gain some distinctions that will help you become a more effective networker – and a better friend as well.