How to Network With Busy People – Part 3

This is a continuation of the “How to Network With Busy People” series. The first post in the series can be found here.

Continuing on with our tips…

Avoid making threats.

An example of a threat is, “I really need a response from you, so I’m going to keep calling/emailing you every day until you respond.”

In my experience most people have the good sense not to use threats, but it does happen now and then – enough that I can call it out as a pattern.

Threats are almost always counter-productive. If you behave with such gross immaturity, you’ll simply paint yourself as a psycho, and the busy person will want nothing to do with you.

I know it can be frustrating when you don’t get the reply you’re hoping for, but don’t make matters worse by threatening someone. Your threats will quickly burn the bridge and cause the other person to regard you as a stalker. If they respond at all, it’s mainly because they want to appease you and get you off their back, not because they’re interested in having a relationship with you.

I’m well aware that there are stories about persistent people who refused to take no for an answer, like the guy who camps outside the CEO’s office until the CEO will see him. In my experience those stories are the exception, not the rule. We hear those stories because the successes that stem from this approach are so rare. What doesn’t get much attention are the thousands of other stories about people who were dismissed as nutters for making unreasonable demands of busy people.

There’s a fine line between being persistent and being downright annoying. Following up once (maybe twice) when you get a non-response is okay, but if you still can’t get in, don’t make it worse by resorting to threats or leaving daily voicemails.

Yes, in most cases the other person is getting your messages and is intentionally blowing you off. This happens all the time. In some cases they may not have gotten your message, but probably 99% of the time they got it and chose not to respond.

When you notice that you’re not getting through, take it as a sign that you need to wait for a better opportunity to build a bridge. Realize that a non-response means “not right now” as opposed to “please keep bugging me until I take your calls.”

I’ve never seen consummate professionals use threats. I’ve only seen it from people who are new to business or who lack experience dealing with busy people. Such people erroneously conclude that “more” is better than less when it comes to trying to get through to someone.

People who use threats signal that they’re desperate to make contact, but worthwhile contacts are seldom desperate and impatient.

Think of how this would play out in a dating context. Imagine a guy walking up to a woman in a bar, trying to hit on her, and getting blown out. Then he tries again. And again. Then he says to her, “I’m going to keep hitting on you until you give in and agree to go out with me.”

How will the woman respond?

Well… in very rare situations, I suppose she might actually cave in. Maybe she’s really desperate for a date, has low self-esteem, or is very submissive, so she caves. But that’s the exception, not the rule. Most of the time, the woman is going to get a creepy vibe from this guy, and she’ll want nothing to do with him. If she engages with him at all, she’ll be trying to convince him to leave. If she feels threatened, she might seek help from a friend – or a bouncer.

And when the guy gets thrown out on his ass, how does he react?

“What a bitch!” Sad but true…

There are some situations where you can use threats in a very joking way, as a form of irony, but this should only be done in person, never via email. You need good social awareness to pull it off, so your gesture is received humorously and not in a creepy way.

For example, within the past week, two different authors gave me pre-release copies of their new books to ask for my endorsement. If one of them had jokingly said, “Steve, I’m going to call you every day to see if you’ve read it yet,” I wouldn’t see that as creepy – it’s just light-hearted teasing.

But overall I would caution you to never use threats. Don’t communicate out of desperation. It’s bad form and very unprofessional.

Now if you’ve been rolling your eyes this whole time, wondering who’d be stupid enough to behave like that, I love you for it! But unfortunately not everyone on this planet is as smart as you, and for some people making threats is a bad habit they need to drop.

Bypass clogged channels.

For any busy person, some communication channels will be more clogged than others. If you try to get in through the busiest channels, you’re jumping into the slush pile along with everyone else.

For anyone with a strong online presence, it’s a safe bet that email is an extremely clogged channel. I’d say that’s probably true for most busy people these days. If you want to drop someone a casual note and don’t need a response, feel free to use email. But if you want to establish first contact with someone for networking purposes, email is perhaps the worst way to do it.

Instead of email, use less clogged channels. Pick up the phone. Make contact through a social networking site like Facebook. Or go out and meet people in person.

I rarely try to make first contact with someone via email or phones, since those are usually the most clogged channels for busy people. My personal preference is always to make first contact face to face. Another way is to ask a mutual friend to do an introduction. Once you make a lot of friends in a particular field, it’s usually not that hard to find someone who already knows the person you’d like to reach.

It’s not a good idea to enter through the slush pile if you can possibly avoid it. If you use a generic communication medium, your message has a much higher chance of being regarded as generic and unimportant.

My online communication channels are usually very clogged, especially email. Most people don’t have a good chance of building anything more than a very casual connection with me through these channels.

One of my least clogged channels is postal mail. I only get a handful of personal letters each month on average. I suspect this is true for most other busy people as well. Email is clogged because it’s fast, easy, and free. Postal mail costs money and is less convenient. That’s why my physical mailbox is a ghost town while my email inbox is Grand Central Station. Don’t you also pay more attention to a letter someone sends you by mail as opposed to an email?

Even more distinctive is to send a handwritten letter on nice stationery. Most people send printed letters on plain white paper in a plain envelope. Some are using online services to send cards on their behalf – I don’t recommend this because it looks too much like postal spam.

Someone once sent me a letter and decorated the envelope with pictures they drew, like hearts and rainbows and such. Another sent me a letter that smelled like perfume. This was probably years ago, but I still remember them. I still have those letters in a file folder. Why? Because they stood out from the crowd. I love letters that express personality.

When I receive a handwritten card or letter in the mail, I always read it. It seems special because it’s rarer. I don’t always respond, but I definitely respond to written letters more often than emails, especially if the other person includes an email address to make it easy for me.

Some people have even sent me gifts over the years. This definitely isn’t necessary, but it’s another order of magnitude less common, so how can it not get more attention?

When I talk to other busy people, they don’t remember all the emails they receive, but they often remember the gifts. For example, Jack Canfield has a bunch of little golden motorcycles that people have sent him as gifts. (The story behind that is a bit complicated, so I’ll skip it for now.) Dr. Wayne Dyer has a collection of scurvy elephants people have sent him, a play on the “disturbing element” label he was once given as a child.

Believe me – I’m not saying this because I want more gifts. I really don’t need the stuff, and too many gifts can create clutter. But do they make an impact? Yes, of course they do. How would you react if someone sent you an unexpected gift in the mail? Would it get more attention than a routine email? Obviously it would.

If you’re curious about the gifts people send me, they’re mostly small items sent for personal reasons. Musicians send copies of their new CDs, especially if they feel I helped inspire their work. Authors send signed copies of their newly published books for similar reasons. Sometimes these items are sent for PR purposes, but often they’re genuine gifts sent with gratitude. One person sent me some hand-made jewelry. What was the biggest gift I ever received? It was a flat panel computer monitor. That was a few years ago, and I still use it to this day.

Now, don’t just show up at someone’s doorstep because you think it’s a less clogged channel. You’ll be regarded a stalker. That’s never happened to me, but it has happened to other bloggers, and they didn’t take kindly to it. Don’t go so far as to creep someone out by invading their privacy, but do be different and take the road less traveled.

To be continued…