Going up to a complete stranger and saying ‘hello’ can be one of the most daunting things in the world, especially if you’re shy or introverted. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it in real life at a networking event, or online in an email or Facebook group, making the first move is hard and can make even the most confident of us feel vulnerable and squirmy. Especially in a business setting, where the connections you make can have a direct impact on the health and sustainability of your business.
However, there is a gentle formula that you can follow to make the whole thing a little easier.
1 – Choose ten people that you’d love to connect with.
Try to choose people who are roughly on your level, i.e. at the same stage of business as you, or a little ahead. If you’re just starting out you’ll have a much higher success rate connecting with your peers, than if you try to be business besties with someone like Marie Forleo or Danielle LaPorte right out of the gate. Choose people you genuinely think you’d get along with – a bit of Googling and a research can usually give you what you need to know in terms of whether or not you’ll ‘click’.
Why only ten people? Well, ten is a manageable number to get the ball rolling. Some relationships will develop at a much faster rate than others, and some will be total non-starters. Once you’ve developed a relationship with someone you don’t need to be quite so ‘on it’ all the time, so you can switch your attention to new connections. Think of it a bit like plate-spinning – it takes a bit of effort to get it going, but once it’s spinning away it needs less effort to maintain it.
2 – Be where they are and show your support.
Make sure you’re following them on their various social media accounts, sign up to receive their emails, and join their Facebook group if they have one. Give their business a shout out on your own social media and tag them – share the offering they’re currently promoting, or their latest blog post. Be genuine and make sure you’re coming from a place of service and giving, rather than hoping for something in return.
3 – Engage with them on social media.
Make sure that you check in on their socials every couple of days and like their posts, as well as leaving thoughtful comments, answering questions they post, or offering advice if it’s requested and relevant.
4 – Reply to their newsletters.
When you get an email from them (you signed up for their newsletter, right?) then send them a thoughtful, valuable, helpful reply. Depending on what they write you could offer words of encouragement, point them in the direction of a useful article or resource, or just honestly tell them the value that they’ve given you and say thank you.
Continue to engage with them on social media and via email for a while and see how the relationship develops. If you’re getting enthusiastic responses, that’s a very good sign that they’re interested in being connected to you as well. Once you’ve developed the relationship to this point then you can move on to step five.
5 – Invite them out for a coffee.
When you’ve developed a bit of rapport, you can gently move to the next stage – an actual face to face conversation (gasp!). Invite them out for a coffee (if you live close enough), or for a video coffee date on Skype or Zoom (if you live in different countries or just can’t get to them for some reason). There’s something very different about meeting someone face to face, even if it’s just via video. You can get a much clearer idea of someone, and you can both see if continuing the relationship feels good.
Bonus tip - Follow up and stay in touch
Once you’ve made contact in this way, it’s important to make sure you keep in touch. Continue to respond to their emails and social media posts as much as possible, and set yourself a reminder for a couple of months in the future to circle back and send them a personal ‘how’re you doing’ message.
Using a CRM system like Hubspot (it’s free) can help you to keep track of who you’ve spoken to and when. You can set reminders to get back in touch with people, and also leave notes about their interests (so you can send them useful articles they’d love, for example), conversations you’ve had, and any other salient information.
Why not get started today? And do drop me a line to let me know how you get on - I’d love to hear from you.