October 8, 2015
Once every few weeks, I’ll get an email or LinkedIn message from the CEO of some “hot” new tech company who is “asking for advice” about user acquisition or some other aspect of the company. As the conversation drags on, it becomes more and more evident that this person didn’t contact me for advice at all – they want something more palpable; however, they didn’t clearly communicate to me what they wanted.
Whether it’s an introduction to another company, a partnership, or a job opportunity – there is always 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. In doing so, they facilitate a painfully aimless conversation in which I am insulted by their reluctance to address their actual wants, and even more so by their negligence in wasting my time.
The sad truth is that this scenario, the episode of the CEO-who-tentatively-dances-around-a-question-without-actually-asking-it, is still better than most people can muster. Most people, from what I see, 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.
The reason why I am writing about this is not to vent about my frustrations. The reason is because of the flip side of this scenario – the few CEOs and entrepreneurs who do know how to effectively communicate to achieve their goals. In fact, I would argue 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… all for free.
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
Know their business, understand their triumphs and struggles, and know what makes them tick. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and about their business. Asking the right questions will get them talking and more comfortable with you. Listening is the most important part. 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 the call. This value be an introduction, information, resources, anything. Entice them with an explicit offer of value that is tied to their current goals or efforts.
3. Connect Your Goals with Theirs
Now that you have built rapport with them, and spiked their interest with a value proposition, introduce your goals – in context with theirs. This requires creativity. If your goal is to get an introduction, figure out a way that this will benefit them, and let them know it.
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.
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