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When it comes to growing and sustaining your own business, few things are more important than networking. The connections you form in the business world can help you land new clients, forge valuable partnerships, or even serve as a great source of reliable input and advice as you grow your brand.
Of course, connecting with successful and influential entrepreneurs can feel quite intimidating. Doing so in a meaningful way that delivers value for both parties can also prove a challenge in its own right.
The good news is that forming valuable connections in the business world isn’t impossible. This became especially clear during a recent conversation I had with Selena Soo, founder of S2 Groupe, who has proven especially talented at connecting with influential people in a meaningful way. By implementing the following tactics, you can make these meaningful connections, too.
1. Go Out Of Your Comfort Zone
One thing that became clear during my conversation with Soo is that entrepreneurs must be willing to go far outside of their comfort zones in order to meet influencers. Ultimately, you never know when an opportunity might present itself, but you do a lot to put yourself in the right situations—and prepare for those chance encounters.
“I was walking home from my summer internship and I saw Ramit Sethi on the street,” Soo recalled. “A lot of people, when they see a person they admire so much, run away or just get scared and freeze up. For me, I just knew I was never going to see him on the street again, so I just went up and introduced myself. We really hit it off!”
Though Soo was quick to note that such encounters are understandably rare, entrepreneurs have many other avenues for meeting and connecting with influential people—both in-person and digitally. You just have to be willing to make the most of the opportunity that presents itself, even if it makes you somewhat nervous.
“Whether we’re going to a conference and there’s a speaker there, or maybe your friend knows someone, whatever it is, oftentimes we don’t take advantage of the opportunities in front of us. We just shy away. One of my biggest philosophies is don’t just wait for opportunities, create them. Part of creating opportunities is going up and introducing yourself, getting yourself on their radar, getting to understand these people’s needs and figuring out how you can contribute to their most important goals.”
2. Show That You Actually Care
It’s not enough to simply introduce yourself. If you want to make an impression, it helps to demonstrate genuine interest in the influencer and their work.
During Soo’s initial conversation with Ramit Sethi, she brought up parts that she remembered from his book, even citing specific chapters, “and he was just floored.”
Soo explained, “Because I was so familiar with his work and because I could talk about how it impacted me, he became more curious about me. I started going to his local New York meet-ups and finding different ways to add value, like connecting him to different media people, giving him feedback on projects, joining all his courses and being a star student.”
Gupta shares, “The key to fostering quality relationships with influencers is to show that you legitimately care. Beyond simply expressing an interest in their work, you could even send small gifts to thank them for sharing their time with you. These small touches are what help you stick out amongst the many other people they meet.”
Whether you’re commenting on a blog post or speaking with an influencer in-person, adding a personalized touch shows that you actually care (and think about their work). It’ll leave a much stronger impression.
3. Get On The Train
When you meet an influencer, it can be all too tempting to focus on how they can help you with your business goals. But this selfish outlook will rarely lead to lasting relationships. Instead, you have to focus on how you can somehow satisfy their needs first.
“I always think about busy influencers like a train. They’re on a track and they’ve got this end destination in mind. They’re going full speed ahead. And this train will open up its doors for a few moments to let people on the train, but then the doors close and they go full speed ahead,” explains Soo.
“I find that when many people meet an influencer, they get so excited and they try to pull the train off the track, essentially asking them to divert course and do something else, rather than taking the standpoint of jumping on the train and helping this person reach their end destination faster.”
When you choose not to hop on their train, the relationship derails.
As Gupta also adds, “You should always look for ways that you can provide value first in a business relationship. Look for what you can do to help an influencer reach their own goals. When you do this, you become an integral part of their business network. And as they start reaching out to you for help, they will be far more willing to offer you assistance in the future.”
In other words, don’t be selfish or short-sighted. Influential relationships can last a lifetime if you nurture them well.
Be selfless, and the connections you make will deliver far greater results in the future. Building a strong reputation—whether as a freelancer or the founder of a new business—will be largely dependent on your ability to make meaningful connections with others in your industry.
As you continually find ways to offer value and build genuine relationships, you’ll be better positioned to grow your brand and reach greater heights.
April 24, 2019 at 01:28PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs