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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…
Avoid cold-calling if possible. Busy people get cold calls (and a lot more cold emails) every day. This is yet another pattern that gets filtered. Cold calling is essentially the same thing as spam.
As with spam, cold-calling will sometimes result in a hit. But it requires that you pester and annoy a lot of other people for each hit you generate. It’s a very low-class form of networking and very inefficient.
When I refer to cold-calling, I’m talking about blasting the same message to large numbers of people in an untargeted or semi-targeted fashion. I’m not talking about sending a very targeted email to a specific individual.
The main reason cold-calling is so popular is because it’s brainless. It may take some courage to contact large numbers of people you don’t know, and there’s clearly a skill set that can be developed along this route – people have written whole books about it – but the main reason you should reject this approach is that it’s a desperation move. There are far more intelligent, more efficient alternatives available than spamming people.
When someone sends me spammy messages more than once, I simply set up a filter, so I don’t need to see anything from them again. That saves me a lot of time in the long run. I know other busy people who do this too. If you spam them, they will blacklist you (by name, email address, domain name, caller ID, telling their assistant to stonewall you, etc). Obviously you can bypass their filters if you know you’re being filtered, but is that really what you want to spend your time doing?
The face-to-face equivalent of this is the person who goes around handing out business cards to everyone they meet. Realtors often do this. Again, this method is lame, low-class, and wastes people’s time.
Another problem with cold-calling is that when you do get a lead, it’s usually not a very good one. Deals that arise from cold-calling often take a lot of massaging to make them work. You end up with a lot of mismatches, near misses, and partial matches. This means a lot more work and more stress.
People who truly have something of value to offer don’t need to resort to cold-calling. Busy people know this. So when you cold-call a busy person and they don’t know you from Adam, the simple fact that you used cold-calling to contact them sets off internal alarms. Your method of contact signals that they can almost certainly blow you off without serious risking of missing out on a good opportunity.
Busy people are often on the lookout for golden opportunities, but the hit ratio from cold-calling is just so low that most seem to feel confident blowing off any communication that comes via this method. Like many other busy people, I have so many higher quality leads coming to me through other channels that I simply don’t need to wade through the stuff that comes via cold-calling. The opportunity cost of dealing with cold callers is just way too high.
Ask for an intro.
If you want to connect with a busy person, try not to introduce yourself if possible. A better approach is to see if you can find an existing contact that knows your target and can introduce you. This immediately elevates your status in the eyes of the busy person and makes it easier for them to lower their shields.
I have many existing friends and contacts that I trust. They introduce me to other people, sometimes by email or phone, sometimes in person. The hit ratio of good contacts that come to me through my existing network is probably 100 times higher than what I’d see with incoming cold calls. With cold calling the hit ratio is maybe around 1 in 500. But with intros from my friends, it’s probably closer to 1 in 5. Every friend is different though. Some friends refer higher quality leads than others.
I pay attention to the leads that come through my long-term friends and business associates, especially those that know me very well. They understand what kinds of friends and contacts would be a good match for me. They automatically filter out the bad leads.
I do the same thing for my friends and contacts. I’m not going to waste my friends’ time by introducing them to low-quality leads, but if I notice a good potential match, I’ll make the intro. To me this is simply part of being a good friend. It’s always gratifying to help connect people who really hit it off.
This isn’t something that people do for referral fees – at least not in any field I’ve worked in. It’s simply done out of friendship.
Intros can be a bit tricky when friends are involved. I’m pretty clear up front with my friends that I will only do intros when I think it will potentially lead to a win-win relationship for all involved, so I’m very selective. My higher loyalty is to the truth. I check in with myself to see what consequences would likely result from an intro. If the consequences look good, I make the intro. If not, I pass. Usually when the consequences don’t look good, it’s because the introduction would be very lopsided – one person would simply suck ideas and energy from the other without offering much in return.
For example, a fellow author asked me if I could introduce him to my book publisher, Hay House. I had read his book, and I thought it was outstanding. I thought they’d be a good potential match for each other, so I made the intro. But in other cases when authors have asked me to do this, and I didn’t know them or didn’t think they’d be a good fit, I declined to make the intro. To do an intro for everyone who asked would simply annoy my publisher and hurt our long-term relationship.
To be continued…