Greg Isenberg has cracked the networking code.
“Entrepreneurship is hard and can get quite lonely — having friends who know what you’re going through can be the support system that keeps you going when you have thoughts of giving up.”
I obsess over how entrepreneurs become successful. One common thread is that that these founders have strong networks. Chipotle became the success it is today ($17.8 billion market cap) because Steve Ells, founder at Chipotle, knew some folks at McDonald’s — which became their lead investor.
I first realized the power of networks when I started getting into tech startups as a teen. When you surround yourself with successful people who share your values, you will learn from the best and might even eventually conduct business with them. You learn how they’ve achieved their success and how their thought process works. By simply associating with intelligent and successful people who challenge and inspire you, your probability of success for your own venture increases.
Now, I’m not telling you to go befriend successful people simply to use them for your own gain. The only way you’ll achieve true success is by creating genuine relationships with people you admire. From there, the potential benefits for your own business will happen naturally.
Want proof? Here’s a graph demonstrating how a handful of people in Silicon Valley — who have created some of the largest companies in tech like Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — are all connected with one another.
So the question is, in a world where your network is one of your most valuable assets, how do you systematically network your way to the top?
Today, I’m going to teach you how to connect to anyone (including a billionaire). It’s a tried, tested and true approach that’s helped me connect to anyone I have an interest in meeting — from regular start-up entrepreneurs to billionaires. It’s kind of like online dating, in that you don’t know where those connections could lead, but it’s always better to put yourself out there because — who knows? It could develop into an incredible business opportunity, or even a deep friendship that lasts a lifetime.
Entrepreneurship is hard and can get quite lonely — having friends who know what you’re going through and can be there for you (and vice versa) can be the support system that keeps you going when you have thoughts of giving up — they can keep you inspired and motivated.
So let’s suppose you want to connect with a super influential entrepreneur. Let’s take Gary Vaynerchuk as an example. Gary is a New York Timesbest-selling author, entrepreneur and investor who is one of the de facto authorities on social media. Maybe you’re building the next Snapchat and your goal is to get Gary to invest. Here’s what most people do — and it fails 99.9% of the time:
1. Find his email
This is actually pretty do-able. The trick here is to Google “Gary Vaynerchuk” + email. The quotation marks help ensure that all the search results return Gary Vaynerchuk exactly as written, as well as the term “email.” You’ll probably be able to dig something up.
2. Have him respond to you
This is highly unlikely. Why? Because he gets bombarded with emails on the daily. There’s a good chance he’ll never even see your email. But if he does, even if whatever you’re doing is game-changing, he’ll probably be wondering: Who is this person? Remember, you haven’t gotten a “warm” intro from someone he respects and trusts. We’re only at step two, and we’re already in “highly unlikely” territory. It’s not looking good.
3. Have him agree to a meeting
Even if he does see your email, the chance of him responding and agreeing to a meeting is even less likely. He doesn’t know you and unless you’ve got a ton of social credibility by selling companies or raising a giant venture capital fund, chances are you won’t be able to close him.
4. Get him to open doors for you
In the event that he agrees to a meeting, you’ve got one chance to charm his pants off and make him think that whatever it is you’re doing is the greatest thing since sliced bread. That’s the only way he’ll invest or open other doors for you.
Bottom line is, the approach most people are taking to connect with highly influential people just doesn’t cut it.
Here’s What You Should Be Doing:
1. Find out who Gary is connected to
The amazing thing about social media is that everyone’s social connections are mapped. That means you can see who he’s following on Twitter, who he’s interacting with, who he’s connected with on LinkedIn and, if you’re lucky, you can get a glimpse of who’s he’s tagged with on Facebook. Don’t feel like you’re “stalking” them by doing this. This is how people connect in this day and age. Social media is a great tool to meet people with like-minded interests. All of this information is available to the public — that’s what it’s there for.
2. Connect with his network
A lot of Gary’s connections have less name-recognition and are likely easier to get in touch with. Think of his connections as spokes on a wheel, and think of Gary as the center. Befriend and connect with the spokes and you have a much better chance of eventually reaching the center. That said, the spokes themselves also have independent networking value — it’s always great to expand your network, as you never know where it could lead.
3. Never ask to be introduced to Gary
It will come organically. If you mesh well with Gary’s contacts, you’ll probably get along with him, too. Just continue to nurture the relationships you’ve started. You may find yourself at an event with Gary where his contacts can give you a warm introduction — which has a lot more value than sending him a random email as a stranger.
Yes, this approach takes time. But if you are a serious entrepreneur, building deep and sincere relationships is worth the effort. Even if you don’t end up connecting with Gary in the long run, you will have created other meaningful relationships along the way — so it’s a worthwhile experience, regardless of the outcome.
For more entrepreneur lessons, check out 5by.com/entrepreneur
This article originally appeared on AskMen. For more like this from AskMen, try:
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