Before we can ask, we need to build trust
The fundamental problem here is that we haven’t yet built enough trust with our new acquaintance to ask for their time and attention. We’ve all felt this before – when we get a LinkedIn message or an email telling us to ‘Check out our services’ – why should we?
On top of that, most people have too many things on their own agendas to stop long enough to listen to yours! Simply asking someone you don’t know for a coffee can have limited results.
In his book Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini describes research showing that much of our ability to influence someone comes from what we do before we make the ask. Things like the environment we set up, our body language and the questions we ask before the main request have the potential to set up the ‘yes’ we are looking for. In my workshops, I teach people how building an online personal brand and choosing language that helps people trust us can create a powerful introduction that opens doors for us and gets people to listen to what we have to say.
But even a trustworthy first impression doesn’t guarantee we will get that crucial first meeting. We are still competing with a long list of other priorities in our contact’s diary, and they still basically don’t know us.
Sometimes it’s important to spend a little time getting on someone’s radar before we can ask for a business chat with them – we might engage with their LinkedIn content, or seek an introduction from a mutual connection. These can be important ‘dating’ steps before getting any sort of commitment from a new business contact.
The one thing you need to have
Owen Fitzpatrick says that ‘Influence is easy. You have to know what the other person wants, you have to know what you want, and you have to connect the dots.’ To cut through the noise and ensure you get the attention of your new contact, you need to be able to ascertain what they care about and figure out how you can meaningfully help them with those concerns in a way that helps you, too. In other words, you have to have clarity on the answers to these questions:
- What do you know about the other person? What are their motivations, interests, current projects, goals, connections?
- What do you need to find out, in order to ‘connect the dots’ between what they want and what you offer?
- With this information, how can you set up a conversation with win/win value?
- Where will you take the conversation, so that it feels like valuable time spent for both parties, and so that you have a meaningful outcome and obvious next step?
So while a strong brand, a powerful introduction and a great first impression can begin to build trust with a new contact you have only casually met, the one thing you absolutely have to have is CLARITY – clarity on what they want, what you want, and how to bridge the gap. If you can communicate that, clearly and succinctly, in your request for a meeting, you are on your way to a great conversation and the start of a new business relationship.