The saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ might be incredibly cynical. At the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Who you know is incredibly important as this decides what positions, projects and jobs you can get to. The thing is, that doesn’t mean that if you don’t know anybody you’re therefore screwed. You can get to know more people and you don’t have to do any fake schmoozing to do so.
Instead, all you need to do is master the art of the network email. These are great, as when they’re well written, they’re honest, effective and can open doors that otherwise would have remained closed to you. So how do you go about writing a high-quality networking email?
The first thing that you have to make sure of is that you have a handle on the person you’re trying to connect with. Because ultimately, as you’re trying to win them over, you have to move into their territory.
There are a lot of ways to research people. But you don’t have to go cyber stalker. Instead, once you’ve got the email (and that is important) go on and Google them and read what is out there. Then find whatever social media platforms they’re on. Some of these are directly accessible. For example, you can see somebody’s Twitter account immediately.
By checking out what they write about on these open social media accounts, you can get a good feeling for what they’re interested in and what motivates them. And that will make it far easier to connect with them – particularly if you happen to share an interest.
2. Warm up
If you’ve got the time, then why not avoid the cold call? It’s not that hard. Most of us can now be reached on multiple platforms. So follow them in a few places, like what they’re doing and if you’ve got something to say, go ahead and comment on what they’re doing.
In a very rare case you might even be able to avoid the networking email entirely. Of course, that shouldn’t be the goal. But it can work.
The best strategy is to start connecting a few weeks before you send out those networking emails. If you do this with several people you’d like to reach out to, this isn’t half as big of a waste of time as you might otherwise think. After all, the networking email when it finally does come is going to be far more likely to be well received as you’re not just a voice from the darkness, but you’ve already paved your way through such psychological effects as the mere exposure effect.
3. Reach out
Now comes the actual email. Here is what you need to realize:
It’s not about you. It may seem like it should be about you, but really it’s about them and why it’s good for them that they connect with you.
No, that doesn’t mean you sit there and blow your own horn. Didn’t I just say it isn’t about you? It still isn’t. So if you’re about to write about yourself in that first sentence, you’re again heading down the wrong track. No, ‘My name is Bob and I’m great at sales’. Instead, talk about what you respect about them.
Here you can talk about yourself a little bit. For example, you can say ‘I loved your article about how to improve your sales numbers. I’ve shown it to all of my colleagues’ or ‘I feel you’re the preeminent expert on thin-slicing sales strategies’.
The great about starting along these lines is that you’ve done two things:
1. You’ve demonstrated this isn’t just some script you send to everybody and that you’re actually interested in this person personally.
2. You’ve given them a little self-esteem boost and spoken about their favorite topic.
This will make it far more likely they’ll give you a bit more time to get on with your actual spiel.
4. Give them something
Remember what I said above? Where I said ‘it’s not about you?’ Even though you’ve managed to get through the first paragraph and you’ve still got your attention, that hasn’t suddenly become less true.
It’s still about them. So don’t ask them for something (Which is about you) but offer them something of value instead. There are many ways to do this:
1. You mentioned their company in an article you wrote.
2. You shared what they were doing across your network.
3. You’d like to invite them to an event.
4. You have some great resource you believe would be very useful to them.
5. You have some kind of insightful feedback.
And so on, and so forth. Really, what you’re doing here is creating a relationship. You’re trying to get them indebted to you so that by the norms of reciprocity they’ll feel they’ve got to give you something back. But don’t ask for something! Don’t ask them to put in a good word or to write my essay. For when you do that, your email will just amount to an exchange.
At best, they’ll give you what you want and then forget about you. At worst, they’ll feel resentful because they don’t want to give you what you want, but are feeling pressured because you gave them something first.
Sure, they might sense the other shoe will drop somewhere in the future, but they don’t have any proof this will actually happen.
5. The other shoe
You’ve built up a positive relationship. You’ve given them something valuable. Now it’s time to cash in. After your original email (and the resulting exchange) you can go ahead and ask for something.
But make sure it’s something and not everything. Really, you want to ask for only one thing and preferably you don’t want it to be too big.
Why? Because they’re far more likely to say yes and once they have, they’re far more likely to feel highly of you. Yes, you read that correctly.
So make sure that whatever you ask for is something they’re likely to give you. And when you ask for it, make sure that you ask in a short, to the point email. If they reply right away, great! If they don’t then you can follow up a week or so later.
Now, does this mean that you’ve done all that work for only one favor? Absolutely not. Once they’ve done you this favor (and you’ve been reasonable about it) you’re well on your way to establishing a working relationship.
Follow up by sending them more information and more valuable resources. Stay on their radar by liking and commenting on what they’re doing. Stay involved.
You see, because they did that favor for you, you’ve now firmly lodged your foot in the door. It will be far easier to ask for something else in the future again. And so, you’re well on your way to forming a new relationship.
This strategy should become second nature to you. If you’re reaching out to people regularly in this way, then chances are you’re forming a lot of new connections – ones that will be incredibly valuable whenever you need to get some thing done.
And the best part? If you’re building a network like this in all directions all the time, then when you actually really need something you’re very likely to get it. After all, you’ve already got a relationship with these people and so they are far more likely to say yes to your latest request.
And that has to be the point of the networking email, no?