Looking to Network? Admitting You Need Advice is the First Step

Stop and think back in time for a moment. How often have you said no to someone when they asked you for advice?

The answer for most is likely never. As leaders and professionals, most relish the opportunity to share their expertise and be seen as an “authority” on a topic—even if it is only for a short period of time. It is also why many leaders, like yourself, write blog posts for their company to share their insight and advice into the world they work in.

Why is this important? Well, the idea of asking for advice can help open up a bigger world of networking for most people, they just never really looked at it that way.

Let’s face it, in large part the reason professionals network is an attempt to create new business opportunities for their company and find a new way to meet their monthly sales quota. Very few people really want to go to a networking event for two hours AFTER they have been at work all day long, but they bite the bullet for the drinks, appetizers and possibility they may have a good conversation with one prospect who can make their month go from okay to great when it comes to reconciling their bottom line.

While I am sure some of you thoroughly enjoy the repetitive nature of networking events, what if you took a different approach when it comes to networking? Why not reach out to people—either at the events or through great tools like LinkedIn—and ask for their advice?

How could this work? Why would someone who does not know you take the time to give you advice? Well, let’s look at a scenario.

Let’s say you have identified a company you would like to do business with in the future. Furthermore, you have identified a key member of that organization who you would like to be in contact with because you know they can influence the outcome of the decision. How do you go about reaching out to them?

Most would start with something like, “Dear (insert name here), my name is so and so and I think our businesses would align well in the future. I’d love to set up a meeting with you to discuss. Please let me know if you have 15 minutes on (insert date here).”

If you are laughing right now, it is probably because you sent that email—or one like it—at least 10 times this month alone. On the other side, how many times have you ignored an email just like that from someone you do not know? Probably quite a few times.

So how do you get around this “blocker” of an email?

Well, it is time to turn back the clocks and do some good, old-fashioned research on the person you want to reach, then ask for their advice. “Dear (insert name here), I came across your profile on LinkedIn and notice your company is doing (insert stat from profile or website here) in the (insert industry here), that is amazing! I was wondering if you could share some advice with me on how you motivated your team to reach numbers like that. I have a great team here, but I really want to do something to take them to the next level.”

Your message does not have to be exactly like that, as you will tailor it up to fit your need and the person’s industry, but you get the picture. The identified prospect is much more likely to take a couple minutes to provide you with advice on how they were successful, than set up a 15 minute-fact finding mission with a person they do not know. On top of that, they will likely look into your organization through any links in your email signature as well to find out who you are and what your company does (boom, you do not really even have to spend time establishing credibility). And if you are really lucky, they may extend an offer to “talk more.”

But Wait …

Now that you understand how to ask for advice, I have to tell you something—the message of the email or LinkedIn message is great, but it does not get you in the door. You need to make sure of one thing above all else.

Your request for advice MUST be in subject line or everything we just discussed does not matter.

Finding a way to make your need for advice stand out in the email subject line is paramount. If they are from the same college you went to, point that out (Fellow Viking Grad Looking for Advice), if they are in your industry, mention that (Fellow Marketing Professional Who Needs Your Advice). These are just a couple of suggestions, feel free to get creative with it when reaching out, but unless you draw attention to the fact you need advice before they open the email, they may never see your request!

The moral of the story here is simple.

Everyone is looking for a way to grow their network and develop better business contacts, it is just a natural part of our professional lives. Furthermore, everyone is looking for a way to stand out from the crowd.

Well, standing out has never been easier. All you have to do is stop looking for a cheap trick that has worked for someone else on the internet. Instead, swallow your pride and be genuine—and just ask someone who is doing it right for a little advice.

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