You and I have some seriously MAD storytelling skills.

We might not always tell the best marketing stories, but we sure do tell ourselves some pretty amazing things on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, those stories get in our way and keep us from creating the kinds of businesses we say we really want.

Yep, I’m talking about mindset.

It’s not enough to get clear about your brand, or to master the art of blogging. Even the best marketing won’t be enough to kill those monsters in your head.

So let’s deal with a few of those now, shall we?

The truth is: We all have something we’d rather not do.

Cold calling is one of mine. Also: filing, bookkeeping, doing dishes, and sometimes yes, even writing.

Mostly because these things (depending on my current state) fail — in that particular moment — to inspire me.

I pre-judge them as either futile or mindless (occasionally, both).

Does any of this sound familiar?

“I don’t have anything new to say about that, so why bother blogging?”

“I’m not really making an impact here, I should just throw in the towel now.”

“My life is too crazy. I’ll do that thing I need to do when everything calms down.”

Sometimes I categorize these thoughts as things that will, at best, bore me and at worst, be horribly painful.

You might have some of these, too. Things like networking? Asking for the sale? Writing your marketing plan?

Gah!

This resistance thing bites.

But you still gotta find a way to do those things that need doing. (Those dishes ain’t gonna wash themselves!)

And of course you want to give your best self to the process. (Chop wood, carry water and all that.)

So what’s a highly creative, whip smart entrepreneur to do?

Simple. Explore your difficult thing through the lense of humor.

Let’s take something most introverts (or introverted extroverts) like to avoid doing: asking a stranger to meet them for coffee.

A few weeks ago, I belly laughed at an article on The New Yorker website: “Everything I Am Afraid Might Happen If I Ask New Acquaintances to Get Coffee.”

(The post was written for 20-somethings who’re trying to make new friends).

Guess what? Reaching out to a prospective client or partner is also a HUGE challenge for a lot of biz owners. (No, it’s not just you.)

It’s nearly akin to the horrors of cold calling. Or elevator speech making. :::shiver:::

I thought, why not create a version of that article for entrepreneurs? And wouldn’t it be a fun group project? (The more fears, the merrier!)

So I started a list over on Facebook in our After Hours group and asked folks to add to it.

The point was to be as outrageous and/or snarky as you wanted to be.

This is what we’ve come up with so far:

Everything I’m Afraid Might Happen If I Ask a New Contact to Get Coffee [The Small Biz Owner’s Edition]

  1. They’ll say no.
  2. They’ll say no because they don’t have time for silly coffees with people they don’t know and they’ll tell me their hourly rate is $500 and I’ll feel 10 times smaller than I did before I asked.
  3. They’ll say yes and that their hourly rate is $500 (and they’ll send me a bill).
  4. They’ll say no and laugh at me for being naïve enough to think they’d appreciate a working or referral relationship with me. As if *I* could do anything for *them.*
  5. They won’t answer my email or my voice message, and after a week or two I will forget I even asked them and then later I’ll ask them again (still not remembering I asked them before) and they’ll think I’m a crazy stalker.
  6. They’ll say yes, but with a tone that says they don’t really want to and when we try to make an appointment they’ll never be able to find a spot on their calendar that works for them.
  7. They’ll say yes, but then try to recruit me into their weird network marketing or MLM scheme.
  8. They’ll say yes, and we’ll have a perfectly nice time and bond over what it’s like being entrepreneurs struggling to find clients on a day-to-day basis. We’ll talk for hours and when we finally say goodbye, we’ll agree that it was kismet we came together and that we’ll definitely do something soon, and then we’ll never speak or email each other again.
  9. They’ll say yes, and we’ll have a great time and become fast friends and then they’ll make me participate in some sort of beta-test that will be expensive and time-consuming. I will end up hating them.
  10. I’ll forget my wallet at home and not realize that I’ve forgotten it until after I’ve already ordered an entire meal and they’ll pay for my food while secretly believing I’m a loser.
  11. They’ll hit on me.
  12. They’ll ask me all sorts of questions about my business model and my revenue and use that information to destroy me.
  13. They’ll say yes, and I’ll get excited about our coffee date and then, on the planned day, I’ll get sick or feel too out of it to make a good impression and I’ll cancel and they’ll never give me another chance.
  14. They’ll say yes and it will actually be a huge success and we’ll end up doing something together and then I will make a bad impression because I have migraines and the person will be disappointed and the project won’t go well and I’ll feel like a loser.
  15. They’ll say yes and then want to pick my brain for free advice and I will feel put on the spot and either set boundaries awkwardly or spill my guts. Both of which will make me hate myself.
  16. They’ll say yes but be a no-show and leave me sitting in the coffee shop looking like an idiot and hating that I wasted an entire billable hour, a gallon of gas, and $4 on a coffee.
  17. They’ll say yes and end up being an obnoxious Chatty Cathy who won’t let me get a word in edgewise and I’ll go home with a migraine.
  18. They’ll say yes but with caveats (like only if they can bring their 2-yr-old twins along or a basket of the scented candles they sell.)
  19. They’ll say no and bend my ear with a long speech about how face-to-face meetings are old school and recommend I download Skype to modernize my thinking.
  20. They’ll say yes and then show up sick and cough all over me. Then I’ll get sick and end up in bed for a week.
  21. They’ll say yes, but then tell me they don’t feel like coffee or that the place is too expensive for them, so we’ll go back and forth trying to find something that works for both of us and it will take so long we’ll give up and never speak of it again.
  22. They’ll say yes, but suggest a hole-in-the-wall place where we find three of their older relatives lurking at a nearby table. Which makes me think this was some sort of a weird ploy but I don’t know what the ploy is…God, I have to pee, but have no idea of the conditions of the tiny bathroom because I haven’t cased this place out myself…and I’m horribly uncomfortable the entire time.
  23. They’ll say yes and then after a short conversation, they’ll decide I’m weird and once again, I’ll be left sitting there, feeling like a freak, and like I’m totally unfit for the real world. Which is true, but having it rubbed in my face HURTS.
  24. They’ll say yes and then judge me by the absence of a manicure and my lack of fashionable attire.
  25. They’ll say yes and when we meet they pick apart my business. I leave the meeting feeling like a total moron who should just give up and get a job.

Crazy list of excuses, right?

The point is that we ALL have some level of fear around reaching out to people we don’t know very well. There’s a very real (usually unspoken) expectation that the person doing the inviting is only doing so because she wants something. And who wants to look like THAT?

But relationships are THE main way you’ll build your business. In fact, “direct contact and follow up” with individuals is the most effective method of finding new clients. (According to every unnamed and uncited “expert” on the internet.)

Marketing tasks (like blogging, sending e-newsletters, and posting on social media) will NEVER be enough to close a sale on their own.

And that’s because relationships are the secret ingredient in every successful project, organization, or mission.

The greatest expression of your business requires other people.

Just like the best stories require an engaged audience. You can’t have one without the other.

That’s why — as challenging as it is sometimes to work into my schedule — I make a point of getting out of the house to meet other human beings and look them in the eye.

It’s why speaking gigs and webinars and in-person workshops get you a lot further with folks than writing a book or blogging alone.

When we see and hear each other up close and personal, we’re better able to determine the answer to questions like: Do I trust her? Does he really know what he’s talking about? Is this someone I want to work with?

When we’re in close physical proximity to each other, we also have a greater likelihood of sharing something personal. Being vulnerable. Exposing our hearts.

And when that happens, we’re finally seen as the three dimensional human beings that we really are.

So what’s the best way to reach out to a prospective client or partner?

Before you pick up the phone and ask them “out,” I recommend you connect with them on social media first.

Keep things short and sweet. Let the person know what attracted you (in a business way), but don’t ask for anything more than a slightly tighter connection than the one you’ve already got.

For example, you might say something like…

Dear Julia,

We haven’t met yet, but I loved what you wrote in our {name of LinkedIn or Facebook group} the other day about X. It really got me thinking about it on a whole new level. I appreciate having smart folks in my network and I’d love to add you to my friends list, if that’s okay? 

This is a pretty simple formula:

1. Let them know how you know them.

2. Pay them a sincere compliment.

3. Ask for something simple like a FB friend request or LinkedIn connection (NOTE: this one is super easy AND nobody else does it so you will look like a wonderful human being. It’s highly unlikely they’ll say no.)

Once you’re connected, make a point to interact with that person further. Leave comments on their status updates. Reply to their tweets. Share something of theirs with your peeps (be sure to tag them so 1) They know you did it; and 2) Your network can find them and learn more about them, if they want).

Perhaps send them a link to an article you think they might enjoy. And then, only after you’ve done your best to nurture the relationship into something warmer and you feel like there might be some mutual interest, reach out and invite them to coffee — either virtual or in-person.

(Note: I often find a virtual coffee is a much easier “yes” these days. We are all busy and taking time to travel somewhere means a greater investment in time and energy.)

The virtual coffee is the phone call. And all of that other stuff you did before you got to that point has warmed them up.

So…it’s no longer a scary proposition.

And it it IS still making your knees knock, try channeling Julia Child just before you hit send on that email invitation:

“The only real stumbling block is fear of

If you’ve had a virtual coffee with someone and it went well, make a point to invite them to other things — a fun meetup you enjoy, a webinar you’re hosting, or even an in-person coffee.

Remember, relationships aren’t created out of thin air. At least, not the good kind.

So take your time, be brave, and reach out to someone new.

 

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Special Thanks to the following folks for contributing to this list:

Melanie Kissell (editor and proofreader extraordinaire); Sari Grove (bridge builder between arts and medicine); Birdy Diamond (bardic storyteller and founder of Journey Birds Wonderland); Connie Flanagan (editor and marketing superstar for very special authors); Kelli Proia (attorney and founder of Lawducate); and Jill Sheldon (distinguished leadership and career coach).

***

So what stories do you tell yourself about networking?

Are you comfortable extending invitations to (and following up on) one-on-one conversations that could help you grow your business? Do you have something to add to our list? Leave a comment below and let’s keep this important conversation going.

 

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