Dear LinkedIn Connection,
One of the fastest ways to insult someone is asking them out for coffee. What you're saying, probably without realising it, is please give me 1-2 hours of your undivided attention, knowledge and network access and in return I'll pay you $3 for it. There is no value exchange. Such a proposition affects your credibility and reputation. Remember, there's only one opportunity for a first impression and your personal brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room. Instead, you need to think about the other person first and what they need and what they would value and what you could do for them, which we'll get to in a moment.
First up, if you are wanting to get someone's attention find out which events they are going to and approach them face-to-face with something of interest. You need to be memorable. Being memorable is something Jennifer Goddard specialises in and she released a great book on it called The Most Important Graph in the World.
Reflect on the last networking function you went to. How would you rate yourself on a scale from 1-5?
- You may have been in the same room as potential clients or investors, but who knows?
- You were standing in the same circle, perhaps were even introduced.
- You made a few comments.
- You introduced new thinking, new perspective, new information.
- People are still thinking about you and what you said days later
When you get to a four or five you will have people following YOU up.
What about if the person you want to contact is in a different city or country from you? Of course strongest introductions are referrals but this does take time you may not have. Whether you take a referred or direct approach it's still about being memorable and giving new value. The important distinction here is NEW value. Not value they probably already have or could get elsewhere - NEW value. New insight, new technology, new perspective, new opportunity, new knowledge, new help, new something. New anything. It's also about GIVING the new value, not doing a sales pitch. When you sell you attempt to, or need to, convince someone. When you try to convince you don't have an opportunity as your offer is clearly not an urgent need. It needs to be obvious.
This all comes back to the value exchange. What NEW value do you want from the other person? What NEW value do they need?
Rather than ask someone for coffee, make a proposal. Say hello and state in one sentence (which demonstrates you are focused, efficient and do not waste time on immaterial detail) that you propose dialog on you giving them X and in return they give you X. Suggest an event to meet at they may already be attending or a coffee shop where they are located. Plan for as little of their time as possible. Never take it personally if you are directed to a webpage instead of a face-to-face, this is a step in the process, not a rejection. Time is the most valuable asset we have as it's fixed and can only be leveraged. If you've nailed the opportunity for the person to explore with you then you won't even need to pay for their coffee and the initial fifteen minutes they allocated to you can turn into hours. That's usually how life-long mentoring starts, co-founders get together, JV's come about and deals are done - ignited from a value exchange. If you are just after something for free, the ultimate lesson will be an expensive one.