Dear Sir or Madam, You Suck at Networking: Part Three.

If you’ve been following this series, you by now have sufficiently stalked your networks and you probably have a pretty solid subject line in place for your email.

You might even know that using a chicken to bolster your networking skills is a terrible idea. What you don’t yet know however is why the email you’ve penned after watching the new teaser for Game of Thrones a hundred times (SPOILER: Glenn dies) might not be as effective as you’d like. Well mon amie, allow me to offer you some advice to keep you out of the trash folder.

In part three of this series of blogs on how you’re all terrible at networking, we’re going to take your networking emails, throw them out, pack up your computers, set them ablaze, and watch them float out to sea while muttering “nothing gold can stay.” Then I’m going to go all Six Million Dollar Man on you. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

OK. You’re prepped. You’re ready. You know who you’re reaching out to. You know why you’re reaching out to them. You’ve got a subject line that works on mobile and keeps you out of the spam folder. You’ve created the curiosity gap, and you’ve bought a new computer to replace the one you ruined by setting it ablaze and floating it out to sea.

You begin.

“Dear sir or…” STOP! Ugh… go, take this computer to the ocean. Do the whole thing again, and don’t come back here with any of that “To whom it may concern…” crap either! You’re better than that! In fact it’s probably best to actually skip the greeting in the intro, and leave it for after you have their attention (like someone does with their blogs *cough cough*). This keeps the most valuable real estate in an email for the most valuable stuff! The content.

The content of a networking email should be hyper-focused. You want to use the 1:1 ratio here, one email for one result. But it’s typically unwise to ask for anything in an email that is being used to network. Networking isn’t simply asking for something, networking is building up a collected set of resources that you can exchange information with. And as you’d know if you read my two previous blogs, you want to bring value to your network before you ask for something. But we’re past that… we’re talking about the ask. How do you do it?

First, don’t write an essay. In fact, try to write less than a paragraph! Think about when someone is trying to sell you something. If the product they’re selling is at the end of a 3 minute pitch, you’ve probably already stopped caring. On the other hand, if someone comes up to you and asks you if you’d like to buy their stapler… that doesn’t work either because there isn’t really enough detail to have any context. Instead, give them an extremely focused, but extremely detailed spiel about the stapler.

ultimate-stapler

Some examples:

  1. “We’ve developed a new stapler that uses specialized staples. What do you think our strategy should be to bring this to market?” – This is too open ended. Anyone worth their salt could answer this question 100 different ways, but they probably won’t because they have better things to do than to try and run your company.
  2. “We’ve recently developed a new stapler that can revolutionize the industry. It’s able to not only staple 400 pages at once, but also up to 5 separate documents as well! It uses a specialized type of staple, and we’re trying to decide between selling at a low opt in price and going with a subscription model, or simply selling it at a higher upfront cost. What do you think the benefits of these two options would be?” – This example is better, but it has some unnecessary details in it.
  3. But if we remove some detail… “We’ve recently developed a new stapler that can revolutionize the industry. It’s able to not only staple 400 pages at once, but also up to 5 separate documents as well! It uses a specialized type of staple, and we’re trying to decide between selling at a low opt in price and going with a subscription model, or simply selling it at a higher upfront cost. What do you think the benefits of these two options would be?” – This example is ideal. You’re giving them enough detail to not have to think, but leaving enough out that you might create that curiosity gap (which stimulates interaction), but ultimately, they have what they need to respond to this email using their off the cuff expertise.

You want to be sure that you’re not causing them to do more work, you want your mark to want to help you. As we’ve discussed previously, the best way to do this is by stoking their ego.

Asking your boy Dr. Stephen Hawking to help you launch your new car insurance company probably isn’t going to be that beneficial because Stephen Hawking probably doesn’t care that much about car insurance.

Just the same way that if you were developing some new advanced nano-craft that uses solar sails and LASERs, you probably aren’t going to ask that lizard from the insurance commercials for his advice. Plus… that lizard is fake… so like… there’s that. If you were perhaps developing some new nano-craft and you did want to ask your boy Dr. Stephen Hawking for some advice, do some of the work for him! Dude is a busy guy!

You want to tailor your call to action to your specific reader. This is one of the number one reasons why mass emails fail, because they have a call to action that’s so generic, it comes across as disingenuous. Dr. Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds the world has ever known, doesn’t have time to explain theoretical physics to you, so be sure that you’re tailoring your call to action to his skillset and schedule. Detailed specificity is probably the best way to state it. You’re providing a succinctly detailed explanation of your idea/product/car insurance, and then asking a specific question.

So now we know that we need our sales pitch to be right there. Like… WHAMMO!

We know that we need the information to be extremely focused in a “one question, one answer” type of way, and we know that we need to write succinctly and with detailed specificity making sure that we’re doing the work for them. The last thing though – and it’s a big one – is to understand what you can and can’t ask someone. Remember, we’re networking here… we want to build this relationship by nurturing it, and growing it into something big. Maybe an investment? Maybe a business partner? Maybe a mentor? But you can’t email someone out of the blue and say “wanna be my mentor?” No. No I don’t, random brodude who just emailed me out of the blue. Go away. You should expect that you’re going to build this relationship over time… MAYBE, over the course of years! Small asks and then big asks. You wouldn’t ask some random person you’ve never met to house sit for you, but you might ask them for directions.

Bottom line. Networking is a practice, and it’s going to take practice.

The first time I asked my flight students to land the plane on their own I used to tell them… “Everyone has to land a plane for the first time before they can do it a second time.” The same is true for many things in life. You may have sent some really bad networking emails… heck, maybe those emails have even burned a connection for a time. But ultimately it’s going to make you a stronger networker, and that’s what we’re working towards.

In the next blog on how you’re all terrible at networking, we’re going to discuss what to do if you haven’t gotten a reply even though you’ve followed all of my advice.


 

About the Author

Tweet DC @HeySeeDC He doesn’t use twitter, but instead has an account that is roughly analogous to his real life digital persona.

DC is however a real live person that works in the Garage at NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. He is a contributor for their blog which they apparently thought was a good idea. In his spare time he literally wonders if people know what the word literally literally means, and also once told his 16 year old cousin that “anything is a jump if you’re going fast enough” while teaching him how to drive. He also wrote this entire bio himself, in the third person.

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