On my desk at home I have stack of business cards. I’ve collected them at conferences, colleges, speaking engagements. The majority of them were given to me by very polite, very well-mannered people that I can’t tell you a thing about. Even though it’s under my nose, I can tell you that the next time I go to look for a new employee or seek a new investment, I will not be looking through that stack. Sadly I think a lot of people can identify with that.
What I have found that true networking is a much more organic experience than throwing your business cards at people and hoping one of them sticks. I’ve learned through the years how very powerful people network. If you’re trying to get a powerful person to talk to you, the usual methods—e.g., door stepping business cards, cold calling or emailing an intro—almost never work. I say almost because for one of our Radiate Experts, Brad Keywell, doing just that actually did get him a meeting with billionaire George Soros.
The fact of the matter is that most uber-successful people are just too busy. They field hundreds of phone calls and emails a day, and the last thing they have time for is a generic correspondence from someone they don’t know.
Instead, think of how to make yourself someone they would want to connect with. Effective networking comes when you put your time into marketing your own unique talents/knowledge/expertise and not solely focusing on the other person. You should aim to generate interest from outsiders so that they seek you out.
Here are 3 time-tested ways to do just that:
1. Create a brand that you’re known for. What is it that people immediately think of when your name comes to mind? If you’re the problem solver, build on that brand. If you’re the genius marketer, build on that, too, and become known for it. Once you have carved that niche, you can bring much more to the table in any situation than if you’re just a generalist. Before long, powerful people who need help will seek you out, or you’ll become the person others refer to for special situations.
2. Turn from powerless to powerful yourself. Serial entrepreneur Kevin Ryan gave me a light-bulb moment during an episode of our Radiate podcast. Ryan goes into pitch meetings with the mindset that, rather than asking for money, he’s offering investors an opportunity to make money with him. That little change in mindset is all you need to go from hat-in-hand beggar to powerful warrior. Some ways to get yourself in that mindset include hosting dinners where you invite powerful people to connect; writing articles that turn you into an expert; and even, if you have some cash to invest, becoming an angel investor so that people turn to you for help and advice. (Watch Kevin talk about the biggest mistake people make when raising money here.)
3. Make yourself interesting and memorable. When successful people get together, they almost never talk about business. They prefer to discuss politics, sports, pop culture, and whatever else excites them. A lot of successful people have hobbies or interests like golf, wine, and sports; a classic example is Warren Buffett and his love of bridge. I guarantee that your being a great bridge player would get Buffett’s attention far faster than your being a smart investor. Think of how you can expand your knowledge and areas of interest to make yourself much more memorable when people meet you.
So, LinkedIn readers, what are your tried-and-tested networking tips? How do you make yourself irresistible to powerful people?
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