I hated “networking”. I was doing it completely wrong, because advice on the internet was shitty (to me). That’s why I want to share what worked, reflect on mistakes and help others to suck less in getting new connections.
Benefits of socialising
If I could say only one thing, that shifted my mindset in the last 3 years, it would be this:
“Having 1000 subscribers might not make you any money.
But knowing one important person can bring you $10M in cash.”
I always wanted fame, having many subscribers, many followers, and brand deals. Also I was an introvert, which proves, that I’m an idiot. I thought having many followers would allow me to have “community”, to launch products, to get quick feedback, to get positive reinforcement, etc.
And this is true! That’s why it’s so misleading. But all of those things, including having “many followers” — are not reasons, they are outcomes. Amount of followers is not and output, it’s an outcome!
So to increase amount of followers, I went with the most unscalable way to do that — I decided to advertise my profile during calls. Which means if I go to a call — I assume I can earn a follower. And I will have the same amount of followers, as the calls with new people. Do you think it worked? (I will write about this sometimes later)
5 levels of socialising
Most of people I know are on level 2. It’s hard to skip levels. I’m on Level 4-5. Maybe there are higher levels, that I don’t know about. Level of socialising doesn’t depend on your main skillset.
Level 1: You never meet new people, always wait to be introduced on events.
Level 2: You are responding to messages, but rarely meeting with new people.
Level 3: You outreach a lot and meet people regularly to exchange intros.
Level 4: You are meeting Super Relevant People and help them during call.
Level 5: You are getting recommended to Super Relevant People.
Setting right goals
I think the mistake #1 in socialising is lack of research and setting the goals. I prefer to define a persona for a month, and I want to meet mostly with them. I call them SRP — Super Relevant People. Current persona sounds like this, it might sound a bit too specific, but here we go:
Second time founders, not-agency business
Approx net worth between $500K and $10M
Have hard skill in particular area (development / sales / operations)
Appreciates good design, owns tasteful things
Ethical principles, doesn’t work with terrorists and casinos (you will be surprised how many founders still do)
The mistake I usually see, is that when I share these with people, they have wrong assumptions and they only look at first parts of these criteria. But the second part is usually more important, because it excludes people from my pipeline and makes the filter really selective.
Let’s make an exercise. Let’s imagine, you can invite any person to lunch. Sounds exciting, but you will run out of people in couple of lunches, and most importantly — you will be tired with meeting all those Hollywood and Silicon Valley stars. You met 10 billionaires, now what? Mission accomplished, no more networking?
Wrong, socialising is a life-long game. You should think about it as infinite amount of people coming to you throughout of your life.
You don’t want the best outliers — they’re usually too lucky and their results unreachable. You want “regular Joe”, people who have the same starting points as you, who live in your century, who have the same chances and they get things right.
You don’t want to focus on specific people. After meeting 50 designers, you will be sick from design. Everyone reads the same shit, everyone thinks the same. Meet a fucking carpenter or barista. You will get 100 times more inspiration. Diversify connections, to multiply positive outcomes.
Tweaking previous exercise: assuming you will meet 10’000 people in your life — who would it be? Make a spreadsheet and try to plan it.
How to start online and not get hated
If I could say one thing, I would say this: people hate irrelevant.
So as long as you keep your communication relevant to people, you will find a way to connect and bond with them. Yes, people hate cold messages. So warm it up!
Compliment the product they work / worked on. Buy something from their service. Small fee, but it’s a 10$ ticket to people’s heart (if basic consumer product).
Compliment their skills based on something you saw
Ask a relevant, deep enough question in their field of knowledge
Record a loom where you mention their name, visit their website, show interesting open tabs and mention why it’s interesting to you
Again, the main thing is not to be useful to write — you can be very egoistic in your requests. But it should be relevant to them! It’s ok to ask for help, to ask for second eye or feedback, but ask about something they are passionate about.
As you can see in example above, not a single message is “templated”.
Templates don’t work in socialising.
I spend 30 seconds on person’s profile and then 1-2 minutes to write something custom. It works and the conversion is really great!
Are you afraid of bad reaction?
People usually ask me “do people react poorly to your messages?”. I would say it’s 80/20.
80%: actively engaged in conversation and want to talk
20%: just ignore my messages
I never met anyone who was “mad” at me for messaging them. And those who didn’t respond were usually too busy/too overwhelmed/too burned out to talk, when I followed them up a year later or met somewhere on event (of course they could lie to me, but I think I would spot the lie, unless they were really-really good at that 😅 )
Biggest misconception is that people are divided in levels, like a leadership table and you can’t skip levels. This is wrong and this mindset steals many great connections you could have. Mostly, people are waited to be introduce to other people and if someone makes a step towards connecting you — it seems like a compliment itself to me.
This is hard. I had experience with many CRM software, including gigantic Spreadsheets. In the end — there’s no perfect tool. Something I kept using is Clay, because it has the right limitations for me to not overthink my socialising game.
Usually I try to take notes about: what person is excited about, what person hates, what person is challenged by, what can i ask from them, links to their work, and groups to quickly find them again.
I need to teach myself using “Reconnect” feature, but I find more natural reconnecting — better. If we don’t keep talking — it’s probably not the best time for us right now. It might feel awkward, but not every connection should end with relationships. Sometimes it’s just “one-zoom-call” type of relationships.
Structure of meeting/call and questions
I’ll just share what works for me:
Share personal story:
big names from your work
joke about family/weekends/personal fail
Listen or ask about their story
If they didn’t share all points — ask them
Always ask more details about something from their story
“Why have you decided to work on this?”
“Wow, I heard about them, are they doing well?”
“How do you unwind after a week like that?”
“I can’t imagine how hard it is, was it hard to start?”
Share the current struggles
Think about this question before the call, you can change it according to person’s profile
Be authentic, mention why are you anxious about it
State what have you tried, failed attempts
Prepare to be amazed, if they have a solution
Listen about their struggles
Offer to help somehow, if you can
Send useful links
Share about the same experience or just empathise
End with a joke, about something person mentioned at the beginning
Shows you actually listened, leaves good impression, makes a warm ending
For example: “I wish you to spend this weekend as you planned” if person is really overworking type.
If you are still awkward, try this…
Make better research before meeting person
Think about the greatest potential outcome of the call
Think about collecting new asset into your account
Structure is always fluid. After 1000 calls you will feel it like a dance — you can make riskier moves, sometimes you have a chill personality, sometimes you’re more active, sometimes you want to be provocative. You can follow this at the start, but you will develop your style based on your results.
After hundreds of call you become faster at spotting:
Great people (vibe, mindful, smart)
Time wasters (selling you stuff, too self-centric)
Too junior (unconfident, hard-to-pull into conversation)
You will learn to make calls in under 20 minutes or end irrelevant calls fast. Being honest is a trainable skill in this case.
Serendipity and Chance
I will return to philosophy again. Meeting the best person of the world is not the end goal. Building a relationship with Super Relevant Person to you — is! Yes, you can meet wealthy client, or super busy founder, but they will be regular attendees in your calendar. But meeting real vibing buddy, reliable partner will be 1000x more valuable. Optimise the right thing for you.
Do you want to reach someone specific?
Roll your sleeves. Sometimes you need to spend hours exploring people’s profiles and understanding their values and needs. And be ready to do days-worth of work for the person, if you really want to get close with them.
Examples from my life: when I’m super interested in making friends with people, I just convince myself, that I need to make it interesting for them — I genuinely want to help by doing something for them.
This is not a manipulation, as long as you don’t expect anything in return. This is a key towards good impression and healthy relationships. You need to help, but never expect people to do the same or even close to that. Let it go, if they are not interested, don’t be a creep.
I usually do some complimentary reviews of businesses, register myself in person’s business, even buying premium subscription if needed. It’s a small thing, but a great introduction and magnet.
TFQ (Too Frequent Questions):
Q: I’m bad at small talk. Do I have a chance?
A: Perfect, I hate it too. Think about small talk as a way to “slide” into deeper conversations, without looking like a socially-awkward person. Small talking for 30 minutes is a bad idea and people get it wrong. Do you need ideas? Here are things people love to hear about:
1. Tell about your recent purchase (good or bad)
2. Tell about your recent fuckup
3. Tell about new furniture piece
4. Tell about recent stupid business idea
5. Show your dog
Ok, if you read until this point, you’re interested in the topic. Let’s get vulnerable. Leave your LinkedIn profile below in the comments and tell us what kind of people are you looking for? My newsletter articles are viewed by ~1000 people, so there are 1000 chances to meet someone relevant.
Thanks for this. I'm intrigued by your approach to socialising, and I'm trying to figure out how this could apply into my own life. I love talking to people when we have a reason to meet. Either I can help improve their life by sharing useful, they can do the same for me, or we can work on something together. Practically speaking that often rotates around work I do (I'm a product designer). Is there a way I could apply this line of thinking to finding folks who could benefit from my work? That feels like selling myself, and I'm not sure if it fits.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jnwold/