Last week's Get Some Victory newsletter laid out a simple gameplan to get to know more people. Got some good questions about it -
I appreciate the possibility of the web for making valuable relationships. Before some time a guy interested in marketing come by my blog. In the blog there is a category about marketing. He contacted me offering to swap cases or problems to solve. First he tested me with a case to see if he will be interested in the cooperation. He liked my solution to his case. We talked over skype for things of mutual interest and a relationship started. Although we dropped the thing with solving cases we help each other with information or advice.
This is a good case of creating a valuable connection by Internet. I wish to connect with more people like that and create a mutual beneficial relationship.
The problem I encounter with creating valuable relationships over Internet is how to frame, approach the situation so the result to be productive relationship. I guess there will be failures, people are different . I need an approach that will lead the contact in a mutal beneficial relationship or by other word to help each other with our problems concerning mutual interests.
I call it approach but it can be named also a strategy. In your newsletter you give advice about making a contact but not developing that contact in a cooperative relationship.
Can you suggest some guidelines \startegies\ that could help me in creating cooperative relationships.
Great email, good questions. Yes, I can give some advice.
First, there's roughly three general ways to meet someone online -
1. You reach out to them
2. They reach out to you
3. You're introduced by a third party
They're all worthy ways of meeting people, but they go differently. The success rate you're going to have when you reach out to someone is going to be lower than when they reach out to you. Like, always. Always, always, always.
It's still worth reaching out to people you don't know. But when you do, you have to put a heavy amount of attention into researching and refining what you're going to send, and then you've got to expect a low response rate. That's just how things are.
Thus, I'd strongly recommend you make it as easy as possible for people to contact you, and then you treat people who contact you really, really well.
Most people won't. I put "drop me a line" notes all over the place, and it doesn't happen that often. Since the blog started, I've had in the neighborhood of 203 people reach out to me via email? It's probably a little higher than that - right now I'm not so systematic about tracking who I meet, but that's got to change. I've got 207 emails with a Gmail label that we met the first time through them reaching out. So it's probably in the 220-240 range total.
Of that, I've chatted on the phone or Skype with somewhere in the 30-40 range? Most of them being from when I put up open hours to talk to anyone who is a reader of the site back in December.
When someone drops you a line, they're going to be cool and receptive when you write back. If they wrote you, they're not in hyper-busy-totally-overloaded mode, they probably already respect you to some extent, etc.
Thus, I'd recommend, right now, today, you go fill in or put better contact info anywhere you hang out online and like the crowd. Make it explicit that you like unsolicited emails for any reason at all, and that you're cool and you pretty much answer them all.
I'd recommend you make yourself very accessible in places you already are - it's never easier to meet someone as when they dropped you a line.
Except perhaps a warm introduction from someone they really respect, though I've been random and haphazard about that so far. If someone introduces me, cool. Though I like the story Derek Sivers lays out in "Don't be afraid to ask for favors."
One bold musician I know called me up one day and said, “I'm coming to New York in 2 months. Can you give me a list of all the important contacts you think I should meet?” What guts! But I laughed, and did a search in my database, emailing him a list of 40 people he should call, and mention my name.
That's something to maybe try with people you already know and get along with very well - "is there anyone I should know that I don't?" - I'll try it sooner or later and report back to you. A lot going on right now so not trying new things too much.
So okay, let's call rule#1, "It's a lot easier to connect with someone who you're introduced to or who reaches out to you, than someone you drop a line out of the blue." The natural question is, isn't that kind of a game theory problem where it's true for everybody so nobody wants to act first and risk the other side not replying?
Yes, it is.
How do you solve it?
Credibly commit to being really cool, and then deliver on it. Make yourself known as someone who is good to people who drop you a line, and then encourage it a lot. And then actually deliver.
If not many people are currently exposed to what you're doing, starting a blog is free these days. You can also reach out to people creating other forms of content/media and offer to appear or contribute. If you're running a business, make a free consultation available. Etc, etc. The "How to do something interesting and have it get popular" question is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but do something interesting, have it get popular, encourage outreach, and treat people who reach out well... that's probably the easiest way to meet a lot of interesting people.
But okay, let's say you're not there yet and still want to meet and connect with people.
There's a few things you could do. I think you're going to have a higher success rate if you get to know each other in passing a few times - a few @messages on Twitter, commenting on their site if they've got one, commenting on their updates if you're on the same social network, replying to their threads if you're on the same discussion forum.
I'm pretty sure those all work and help, but to be very honest, I'm not so strategic yet about meeting people. Maybe I should be, but I've never really put together a battleplan to meet someone I don't know. I usually just drop them a line out of the blue. The response rate is rather poor when you do that, but it's still worthwhile if you wind up connecting with someone you respect occasionally.
If you do write someone, keep it as short as possible, be gracious and grateful, be useful, and if you have a request or question or something, make it as precise as possible. Here's why:
*Short: Everyone cringes at long emails, especially from people they don't know.
*Gracious and grateful: Say thanks, be specific about what you like about their work.
*Be useful: I try to be useful if I reach to someone. This might mean spending 30-60 minutes going through their work and output that you can find online. Then think about what they're working on, what they'd like to hear about, make a valuable recommendation or ask if they'd like an introduction, something like that. It's not always possible, but goes a long way when it does.
*Precision: If you make a request, make it as precise as possible. One of the biggest challenges in the digital world is figuring out what action is required when you get a new piece of information. If you're vague, that really increases the work the other person has to do to figure out what you're saying. So if you wind up rambling in the first draft of an email, try to edit it so that your request or question becomes very clear.
After you make contact, keep that mix up when communicating - short, gracious, useful, precise. As long as you're writing short, gracious, useful, and precisely, it's cool to reach out somewhat often - most people err on the side of too little instead of too much (though, too much is also possible and sucks, so don't do that - this is where tact/sensing things out comes in).
I try to make myself crazy-useful. If you can do that, and you're likable (and short and precise), then it's pretty easy to connect with people. Just keep asking, "How can I be useful here?" Interestingly, the more useful you work to be, the more useful you become. You wind up figuring out the answers to common questions, you figure out recommendations/guidelines to common questions and problems, and you start to know a lot of people you can mutually introduce. So it definitely builds on itself over time.
Final note - this is something I'm not doing that I should be. As I describe in, "Your Journal Has (Not) Been Updated)," it's very easy to lose track all of the little interesting loose ends going on in your life.
So, you probably want to get some sort of database or tracking system or CRM-esque software to keep track of all the people you're meeting, their interests, what they're working on, etc, etc. I'm not doing this right now, but should be - it's something for me to get going on sometime this year. So as you start meeting more people, look to keep track of them all with their interests somehow. I'm currently not doing that, so I can't give you great feedback on the best way to - if any of the readers here are really on the ball on that score, suggestions are very welcome.
Good questions, good topic. Cheers and thanks for reaching out.
On leaving contact details, this really works. I tested pretty much this method a few days ago, giving detailed advice on a forum plus contact details and an offer to help anyone getting stuck on it. Had a quality email on a related query the next day.
I suspect at least three behavioural trends underly this: making it easy for people to get in touch; prompting them to evaluate getting in touch as an option at that moment; and making a public commitment to be helpful, so people who might write you an email know they won't be wasting their time.
Thanks for the post, I'll be trying some of the other advice in it.
Question from a reader -
Hi Sebastian, a question. I'd like to know how you came to be so... gracious. I've noticed that not only do you preach for others to spread gratitude, but you really do go over-the-top with it. It's a bit unbelieveable at times. But I have a good friend who is always very glad to see me (and everyone else). We aren't close anymore, but I always feel we are. I get the feeling you're similarly genuine. How did that come to be? Have you always been that way? I've been trying to be more thankful, but I don't want it to come off as meaningless as a forced plastic smile.
Well, first, that email totally made my day. Thank you.
Before I answer, I've got to pose a hypothetical question to you. Trust me, it's relevant:
Do you think it's more virtuous to do $5,000 worth of good for someone and get $0 in return, or to do $10,000 worth of good for someone and get $2,000 in return?
I already know that this post is going to get a lot of negative comments like the religion one. And that's because this "every vote counts" dogma that everyone loves so much shares a lot with religion. It's a belief that's held true without a single bit of compelling evidence, and it's a strong belief.
But before I get into that, let's talk about some other things.
First, Obama won and I'm happy about that. I don't think that he's a superhero like a lot of people do. When I look at his positions I disagree with most of them. I disagree with most of McCain's positions as well.