Once every few weeks I receive an email from the CEO of a new tech company who is "asking for advice" about user acquisition or another business-related aspect of the company. As the conversation drags on, it becomes increasingly evident that this person didn't contact me for advice -- they contacted me for a favor.
Whether it's an introduction to another company, a partnership, or a job opportunity -- there is usually a hidden agenda. And that's fine; no one says you can't open a conversation by building rapport, before introducing your actual goals. In fact, that's the name of the game. However, most people fail miserably at trying to find this balance. Instead, they initiate a seemingly aimless conversation that is frustratingly void of any distinguished purpose.
The unfortunate reality is that this scenario, the episode of the CEO-who-tentatively-dances-around-a-question-without-actually-asking-it, is still better than most entrepreneurs can muster. Many people are too timid to contact others when they want an introduction or favor. Instead they stick with what they have, and hope that hard work and patience will pay off some day.
I am hoping to shed light on the flip side of this scenario - the entrepreneurs who do know how to effectively communicate to achieve their goals. I believe that this ability to communicate is the single most important leadership quality that a CEO or entrepreneur can posses.
I have witnessed this process performed effectively, resulting in partnerships that double a company's clientele, enabling access to huge amounts of media outlets and press, and providing assisted utilization of the latest software, along with other immense benefits.
When done correctly, communicating with your prospective partners, clients, and network is the single most potent tool in your skill set. Here are four tricks to communicate effectively:
1. Talk About Their Business
People love talking about themselves. If you want to build rapport with someone, ask questions about them and their business. When they're talking, maintain eye contact and listen. Try to get an understanding of their business, their triumphs and struggles, their goals, and everything that makes them tick. Asking the right questions will get them talking and feeling more comfortable with you. Once you have a solid understanding of their position, reflect and empathize with their problems, praise their successes, and instill confidence and optimism by expressing compliments. If possible, draw commonalities between your situation and theirs, and build common ground.
2. State Your Value
Before they get bored, introduce an immediate value to them and their business. This involves finding a value before reaching out to them. This value could be an introduction, information, resources, anything. Entice them with an explicit offer of value that is tied to their current goals or efforts. Perhaps the value statement is that you possess the quality or skills they are looking for, or that you can connect them with someone in your network.
3. Connect Your Goals with Theirs
Now that you have built rapport with them, and have spiked their interest with a relevant value proposition, introduce your goals in context with theirs. The idea is to make them realize that achieving your goals will benefit them as well. This requires creativity. If your goal is to get an introduction, figure out a way that this will benefit them, and demonstrate the value to them.
4. Call to Action
Don't waste their time. Once you have elicited a clear path for both of you to achieve your goals, present a course of action. This needs to be easy, actionable, and measurable.
Try this out. If it fails, shoot me a message on LinkedIn. But don't say you're just asking for advice.