by Dillon Forrest

The tactical networking guide for introverts

Why am I writing a guide about networking for introverts?

There are three questions within this question: why write about networking, why targeted towards introverts, and why tactical.

Networking is a topic deserving of a tactical guide because it was born from one of the strangest truths of the world: it always pays to know people. If you’re an entrepreneur, you network to build a sales pipeline. If you’re a job hunter, you network to get interviews and land offers. If you’re trying to make an investment, big or small, you network to do your due diligence.

Introverts need a networking guide because, let’s face it, even the etymologies of “introvert” and “network” are antithetical. Introverts find networking uncomfortable, salesy, or sleazy.

The joining of networking and introverts is why this guide is tactical. I want to teach you how to network smarter, not harder, and get 80% of the results from 20% of the work.

An intro from a friend is always best

A network is an asset which compounds over time. Start building it sooner rather than later.

Be a good friend. Be happy to help other people and ask nothing in return. Always help people who you care about or genuinely wish to succeed.

Stay in touch with your friends, former classmates, and former coworkers. You know that feeling when somebody who hasn’t spoken to you in five years asks you for a favor? It’s weird. You won’t create this feeling for anybody when you’re regularly in touch with people. “Hey friend! Long time no talk. Recently, I’ve been up to X, Y, and Z. What have you been up to? Miss you!”

Don’t be an asshole. Some people don’t intend to be assholes, but they just carry the asshole gene. Not being an asshole means that the consequences of your behaviors make people’s lives better. It does not mean you don’t intend to be an asshole.

Treat people as the end, not the means to an end

Coffee dates are a portfolio strategy. Nobody expects 100% of them to turn into even an offer of job/gig/sale/etc. (That’s why they work.)
— Patrick McKenzie (@patio11) November 4, 2015

When you meet people, care to get to know them as people. Learn about what they care about too. Make them have a fun hanging out with you. Show them you’re a cool cat.

Learn how to find anybody’s email address

Most of finding almost anybody’s email address is here.

Watch the video in that link! It’s only a few minutes to learn the most vital skill of this entire guide.

Some additional best practices:

  • Don’t forget to first check if they listed their email publicly on their LinkedIn or personal site.
  • You can also try guessing their work email in addition to their personal email.
  • Personal gmail addresses are often the same as Twitter, GitHub, or LinkedIn IDs, especially if they use the same ID across multiple social media sites. For instance, if Steve Nash’s LinkedIn profile is linkedin.com/in/stephenna and his Twitter is twitter.com/stephenna, then there’s a good chance his gmail is [email protected].

Send an email that people will open and reply to

There are three steps in the cold email funnel: finding an email address, getting the cold email opened, and getting a reply to your cold email.

When people see your new email in their inbox, they see your name, your subject, and the first sentence or two of your email. Your subject is the most important variable to influence open rates. I like short, non-committal subjects. My favorite is “Quick question.” I still use it, and it still works immensely well in getting strangers to open my emails. I invite you to use it as well.

After your audience opens your email, the next thing they see is your email body. You need to do everything in your power to make your email body not only easy to read, but compelling enough to warrant a reply.

Keep the email short. Aim to keep it less than 300 words. At that length, it’s enough to add meaningful detail, but not long enough to be an intimidating wall of text.

Don’t ramble. When you proofread your emails, proofread more for brevity than style. People won’t remember your style, but they’ll notice your brevity and will reward you for it by actually reading your email.

Have an explicit call to action. Your call to action is probably a question or a favor. Make sure your call to action sticks out like a crying baby during a red eye flight. No clear call to action means nobody will do what you want them to do.

Include a brief background about yourself. Just 1–2 sentences is great. You can establish commonality, and they’ll be more likely to like and reply to you.

Don’t ask more than 3 questions. You don’t know this person well enough to have earned their attention beyond 3 questions. It’s weird to get an email from a stranger and the stranger just asks a ton of questions. This type of email is burdensome and easy to ignore.

If you want to just pick somebody’s brain on a specific topic, I suggest asking them a modified version of the net promoter score survey. How would you rate XYZ on a scale between 1–5? What is the reasoning behind your rating?

Use bullet points and numbered lists.

The reply to the reply

If they replied to your email, be sure to reply back! They were gracious enough to share their time and attention with you. Don’t squander it.

If you have more questions to ask, this is the right time to ask them. You’ve built enough of a relationship, so ask another 3–5 questions. If you still have more questions, save them for the next email if you feel your questions are still welcome.

Don’t forget to thank them for their time. Don’t disrespect people’s time.

Offer to keep them in the loop and stay in touch.

Offer to return the favor. “Please let me know if I can return the favor. I’d be happy to do so!”

The critical step: following up

Do you know why networking feels sleazy to most people? Because they don’t follow up! If a person asked you for a favor and never followed up, that means this person literally only talked to you for your contribution. Once you gave your contribution, the person stopped talking to you. That feels transactional. That feels sleazy.

Following up is how you solidify relationships and turn strangers into friends.

“Hi there, I just wanted to close the loop with you on this. I followed your advice on XYZ, and it led to ABC. Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without you.”

That’s it

The tactical networking guide for introverts is now over.

Does it look simple? It is simple.

Does this just look like just a guide for sending email? Yeah, basically. You’re an introvert though, right? You prefer email over meeting in person or chatting on the phone, right?

By the way, I’m a product manager and growth hacker based in San Francisco. If you found this guide helpful, or if you have any questions or feedback, or if you’d just like to connect and say hi, I would love to hear from you! As you probably expect, email works great for me. You can find me on Twitter too.

For those interested in more reading on non-sleazy networking, I’d recommend checking out Ramit Sethi’s networking advice.