How (not) to make a first contact
If you are in business for at least a couple of years, you probably get lots of sales e-mails, LinkedIn connection requests and other types of messages that try to establish a relationship with you.
There are basically 4 types of people reaching out to you:
- people you know/have met before
- head-hunters who try to expand their candidate base
- people who try to sell you something
- those who are new in business or in a specific sector and are trying to build a network
In case I cannot identify, which of these categories people fall into, I send back a message asking them where we have met or what are the fields where we could co-operate. In some cases, if I have the time and energy, I am even more specific trying to figure out what could have been the idea behind the connection request.
In many cases what they reply is that we should „co-operate”. This, again, can mean many things:
- in most cases this means they want access to my clients,
- or they probably want to sell something to me, but do not dare to say this clearly,
- or just want to expand their connections (by the way this last one I don’t really get and never give a positive answer to, simply because if I don’t know someone, I don’t want to give the impression that we know each other, let alone worked together – this would be like contributing to fake profiles).
If I have had all the coffees offered to me with the promise of some vague future co-operation, I would have serious health issues by now. On the other hand, I make lots of good business through partnerships and connections, therefore I usually take the time and try to invest into building new partnerships. But as I grow old, I am more and more cautious.
Let me tell you a recent example of how NOT TO connect (and offer partnership). This one happened on LinkedIn, which is the number one platform for establishing a network. A guy with an HR background connected me a couple of weeks ago and I sent him back the usual message, even indicating that we have some co-operation models with people like him. He replied that it is nice to meet me, my profile is interesting, etc. and asked how I would imagine our co-operation. I sent him some examples, offered to have a call to discuss details and thought this might lead somewhere. After a couple of days, he shortly replied that he was not interested in such a co-operation. I was in a good mood, so asked back what would be then an ideal model for him, but he never replied again.
Let me translate this into a sales situation:
- you have a prospect whom you identified somehow
- you reach out him/her without a specific value proposition
- your prospect replies and offers ways you could sell yourself to him/her (this rarely, I mean never happens in real sales situations)
- you turn him down saying you are not interested
In most cases, if you want to grow your network, you HAVE TO make outbound efforts, establish new connections. You can do it via e-mail, but LinkedIn connection request is also a great sales tool – so please, use it as one!
Some basic advice on how to do it right:
Say why you are connecting someone, there is enough space there (on LinkedIn you can add a note to your connection request)!!!
Please, take your time and try to think of why your prospect could be interested in talking to you! Remember, you reached out to him/her/me, we never asked for this message!
Don’t be afraid of rejection!
I know you reached out to me because you want something, these platforms are built for that reason. I will not buy your stuff because you only reveal it later or let alone at a personal meeting, unless it is really relevant (see point 2 above).
Though it sounds awkward at first, but be happy if someone, for whom your offer is irrelevant, turns you down quickly! The sooner it turns out you are not „meant for each other”, the better. Time is our only asset that you cannot scale and grow, so don’t waste yours, don’t waste mine!
If the prospect replies, rejoice and then answer!
Relationships and networks are built on trust. The first step to build trust is to show that you listen, you care. If you don’t reply, don’t expect these people to be open to you later on!
I know you can connect your other accounts, e-mail databases with other, e.g. social media platforms, but please, don’t use this feature (unless you have a very clear and up-to-date database)! Don’t spam me because 8 years ago I was in cc in an e-mail and your e-mail account remembers that!