Vishal Agarwal is the founder and CEO of ItsaCheckmate.com. He is also the EVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Choxi.com. Follow him @vishal1982.
Recently, YEC spoke with Vishal about his experiences networking and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience. His best advice is below.
Maintain Your Humility
Be humble and polite while reaching out to others who you think may be helpful for growing your business. As a young entrepreneur, sometimes we let a little success get to our heads, which causes us to lose our humility. We should always look up to successful people and learn from their humility because they are already more successful than we are, but still grounded.
As part of this humility, when reaching out to build your professional network, think about what you can offer to the other person instead of just asking for something. Offer to meet up at a convenient time and place for them. If they realize they don’t have to travel to meet you and it will only take them 30-45 minutes, they may be more open to meeting.
I was at a PayPal conference in San Francisco in 2014 where Sir Richard Branson was the guest speaker. Just coincidentally, after his speaking session I left to go to my room and we ran into each other by the elevator. It was obviously very daunting. I told him he was an inspiration because of how humble he was even after all that he had achieved, and he politely thanked me and held the elevator door open.
Do Your Research
Do your research about the person you want to connect with. Try to find out as much as possible about the person. LinkedIn provides the best information. This, added with humility, helps people remember you and increases their propensity to respond to your emails.
Meet New People and Follow Up
As an entrepreneur entering a new industry (hospitality), I try to meet as many people as possible to learn from them and understand if what I’m trying to develop is actually going to solve their problems.
Out of the hundreds of meetings I’ve had, only a few have turned into long-lasting relationships and have had an impact on my business. But the one common aspect among all of them was follow up. Whoever you meet, go back and send them a note. Summarize what you discussed, or just send a thank-you message in a brief email follow-up (preferably on the same day) goes a long way.
All you need is Gmail and Google Contacts. That’s it! Whenever I meet someone and get a business card, in addition to sending a follow-up, I make sure to make a note in my Google Contacts. Google Contacts is very versatile and allows you to store multiple details, but I also add small details about the meet up in the notes section, i.e. where we met, what the situation was, what he/she does, etc. This gives me the benefit of quick recall in the future.
In addition, I simply keep all follow ups in my inbox. If I’m expecting an answer from someone, I keep that email in my inbox or put a 7-10 day reminder on it to follow up again. Everyone is busy, and not everyone is going to be able to get back to you right away. But polite follow-ups always help.
Attend and Participate in Exclusive Events
Coming from the e-commerce industry, one of the best events for me was eTail West. Similarly, people should seek out the most sought-after events for their respective industries and, in addition to attending, see if they can participate in a panel discussion or keynote speech. This helps you become “connectable.”
Take the Time to Listen
What you should avoid: talking about yourself. Listen!
So many times I’ve seen people go up to someone who could be an important contact and then immediately blast them with a sales pitch. This is a surefire way to turn someone off.
When meeting someone, introduce only the basics about yourself and then ask more about the other person. Listen to what they have to say, and then pick up the conversation by trying to see if there is a common thread. Do not simply go off on what you’re doing and what your problems are. I learned this the hard way, but saw much better results and recall when I took the time to listen.
I’ve also made the mistake of trying to recall a name and then addressing someone with the wrong name because I wasn’t sure. When you’re meeting someone and you aren’t sure of their name, it’s better to politely apologize and ask them for their name again instead of getting it wrong.