When you make friends with successful people the sky’s the limit. This is how partnerships are made, handshake deals are done, and new audiences found. And it’s not as difficult as you might think.
The biggest reason why connecting with people benefits you is simple: It allows you to extend your reach further, which in turn allows your ideas to make a much bigger impact.
The result is that you achieve your goals a lot faster with a few key friends to help you out than if it is just you, banging your head against the wall.
Additionally, the more successful people you’re connected to, the more likely you are to be successful yourself (“You’re the average of your five closest friends”).
It’s just a good idea to get close to as many winners as possible. But this is the part where most of us throw up our hands:
Duh. Connect with successful people. But how?
Today, I’m going to teach you how to connect with anybody in the world.
I think the term is “played out” at best. At worst, it’s completely repulsive.
Nobody wants to think of themselves as a “networker,” nobody likes to think of themselves as part of someone else’s “network,” and without question nobody enjoys “networking” mixers.
There’s something predatory about the whole experience.
So from here on out, we’ll frame our conversation in the context of meeting and connecting with interesting people for the simple joy of making new friends and living a better life. We’re not collecting people or trading “contacts.” We’re not dealing with baseball cards.
These are real people (just as we are) and if you think of everyone as a human, not a potential step in your ego-driven ladder-climbing to success, I guarantee you that you will actually climb said ladder faster.
It’s counterintuitive, but it works. I promise.
Step 1: The Internet cocktail party—how to find people with mutual interests and make them love you.
Do you ever suspect successful people all know each other? Like an elite secret society?
Well, you’re partially right. But you can get an invite to the club (meetings are in a basement in Southeastern Utah BTW).
When I first started my blog Rich20Something, I didn’t know anybody. It was like walking into a cocktail party by myself where everyone was already acquainted, and not knowing a single soul.
In that situation, the only logical thing you can do is start introducing yourself to people in a way that prompts them to respond to you.
You don’t want to be the only one babysitting a drink in the corner, do you?
I didn’t have much to give at the time, but I did have my little website. So I decided to conduct interviews. Why interviews? Well, let’s face it: Everyone likes to talk about themselves — and anyone who’s been around the Internet block a few times knows that having your name in as many places as possible is helpful. It all adds up.
So I just searched on Twitter, Facebook, etcetera to find people with sizable audiences who seemed like they had something interesting to say. I wrote literally DOZENS of emails to different bloggers and entrepreneurs asking the simple question, “Can I interview you?”
Looking back on it, my approach was juvenile and ugly. But it got the job done. I’ll remind you over and over again, it’s more important to just do it than to get it 100 perfect right.
I personalized each message, pressed send, and prayed. Soon I started getting actual responses–mind blown. Then I created a page of interviews — which ended up being the first page of this website. In one fell swoop I’d created some cool content for my readers (which at that point, was basically just my mom) and I’d made some connections.
People began to know who I am. I was no longer a complete stranger at the party.
If I were doing this entire exercise over again, I would keep it super short and distill the information into only the essential points. Most people aren’t jerks – so they’d like to be able to read your stuff.
But EVERYONE is busy and overwhelmed. So make it easy on them. Use this template:
Hey NAME, My name is Daniel and I do ________ (insert job, blog, etc). I saw your work on _______ and really enjoyed it. I’m just reaching out because __________ (insert common interest, solution to their problem, etc). Do you have 5 minutes to chat any time in the next 2 weeks? I have some time on __________ (name a few specific days/times) Thanks! Daniel
If you do this 100 times and make 10 new friends, that alone is completely worth the effort. However, as you practice more and more, you’ll start refining your process and most likely, your response rates will increase.
I got to a point where nine of 10 people were responding to me. That’s when I knew I was onto something.
“What if I don’t have a blog?”
Get one! Building an audience is one of the most powerful things you can do with your time.
But if you’re not there yet, you need to find something that adds VALUE to the person’s life.
Do some research to find out some of their passions, hobbies or pain points, then send them related content. Are they looking for the solution to a particular problem that you can help them with? (HINT: following them on Twitter often reveals those little annoyances that you can fix. Twitter is where people go to complain.)
Basically, be interesting and relevant. It’s not as hard as it sounds to find common interests, connections or ways to help someone.
Something to remember: You have to choose the RIGHT time to reach out to someone. Just because you got your hands on the email address of a New York Times bestselling author doesn’t mean it’s the right time to connect with them.
Do your research. I’ll frequently get the contact information of people I’d like to connect with but hold off on getting in touch. It’s not the right time if I know when we talk, I won’t have anything particularly interesting to say.
Again, we’re not just collecting people here, we’re making friends. Be a good friend.
Step 2: Ride the value wave.
I almost hate using the world “value” so many times, but it does a pretty good job of describing what you should be giving to your new friends. “Value” can mean many things — from a physical gift, to an important connection, to simply a warm feeling.
There’s always something to contribute.
That being said, now that you’ve started that friendship, it’s time to give, give, give. Really start digging deep and think about how you can be of service to people. But the key is to think of the relationship as a “long game.”
I want you to completely forget about what the other person can do for you. At least for now. For the time being, it’s all about them.
Many people, myself included, make the mistake of thinking that as soon as you’ve made a connection with someone and offered a sliver of value, you can immediately extract value from them by asking for a favor, connection, etc.
SO WRONG! In fact, think of this whole value process as depositing money into a savings account. All the things you do for the other person is the principal. That’s not to be touched.
You can only start “withdrawing” value from the relationship once you’ve contributed enough to generate some interest. Trust me, I learned this the hard way – often bumping my head and wondering why – as I asked important people I’d JUST met to immediately do something for me that was equal or greater value to what I’d just done for them.
Don’t be that guy (or gal).
Step 3: Reap the rewards of real friendships.
Now that you’ve become friends with and demonstrated your value to whatever organization/blogger/entrepreneur, you are officially part of the team. You’re someone who can be relied upon. Now you can take on MORE responsibility to help shape the brand and direction.
Here’s what I did: I leveraged my new credibility to reach out to more influencers! With the support of organizations I believed in and media outlets I subscribed to, I asked my new friends if they’d be interested in doing a guest post on Rich20Something.
Does this entire process take a lot of energy?
YES. But the rewards are quite literally PRICELESS. It’s not about connecting with SPECIFIC people. It’s about the PROCESS of identifying individuals you want to meet, becoming great friends with them, and seeing where things go.
Now imagine doing this for decades. You could go anywhere you want, have access to almost anything you desire and know that in an instant, you’d have the resources to solve your toughest problems. Your friends become your biggest assets.
This piece was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.
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How Your Friends Influence Your Success
Why You Should Never Accept Business Favors From Personal Friends