I’m often asked how iDoneThis has been featured so often in the press. Business Insider picked as one of 20 startups to watch, Bob Scoble tweeted about us, and Lifehacker, Netted, The Next Web, and The New York Observer have all written about our modest three-man band.
For us, press has come from making a case to be heard through relationships with the relevant people. Knowing people results from schmoozing.
I’ve never been a good schmoozer. My mom told me to be a professor like my dad, because, “No one likes you.” I’m usually standing in the corner talking with a friend at parties, if I’m at a party at all. I get worn out from being around people and need my alone time to recharge.
There’s a certain efficiency in the glad-handing ways of a freshly-minted MBA because knowing the right people is in large part a numbers game. Sometimes I feel twinges of jealousy at their ability to get ahead via shameless self-promotion, but to an introvert like myself, relating to people in that way isn’t just uncomfortable, it seems morally repugnant. The aspiration is to treat people as ends themselves and not as a means to feed the ego or further our careers.
Nevertheless, I shouldn’t flatter myself. It’s tempting to mask my lack of confidence with false pride. The real reason I hesitate to talk to people is because I’m afraid of provoking a negative reaction in others, but I convince myself it’s because I don’t want to grovel, schmooze or act fake. That lets me avoid subjecting myself to the prospect of rejection, but in the end, all it boils down to is a missed opportunity.
Ultimately, to network, for me, is an attempt to connect with another person in a meaningful way — that’s a platitude, but schmoozing is 95% in the mindset. Choose a mindset that’s not limiting, but empowering, and you’ll make schmoozing effective on your own terms. You can be yourself — a good, stand-up person — and still effectively schmooze.
1. I schmooze to support others.
Studies have shown that women ask for more in negotiation when they negotiate on behalf of others as advocates versus negotiating for themselves. One study in 2000-2001 showed that women’s average “ask” was 23% higher when they were representing others rather than themselves. For men, it was the opposite — they had a 10% higher ask when negotiating on behalf of themselves.
For introverts, male or female, it’s a trick to step outside of yourself. To work up the moxie to schmooze, I remind myself that my whole team is counting on me and part of my role as “everything-else” guy is to schmooze.
In the mentality of schmoozing as advocacy, there’s a subtle yet powerful twist on schmoozing that can run through various efforts on self-promotion. It’s that of self-promotion through the promotion of others, making introductions, being sure to ask, “How can I help you?”, tweeting about ideas, trends, and other companies important to your customers, using other entrepreneurs’ products and giving feedback, and more. These behaviors are empowering and proven to be highly effective.
2. I treat everyone the same.
The most effective way I’ve seen to talk to a particular girl in a bar is to talk to everyone in the bar. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense, and it’s all in the approach — I’m not a creeper, I’m a nice guy who gets along with everyone. Project that mindset outwards and it becomes visible for all to see.
I do my best to treat every person I meet the same. When it’s time to talk to an important person, I’m empowered to treat them as good as I treat anyone else. So many of our industry connections with influential people have come through treating everyone who comes through our customer support pipeline with the same high level of consideration and care.
Make yourself and the way you treat others into a repeatable process and you’ve turned schmoozing into just the act of being yourself. When I was at a rest stop along I-5 and I saw Bob Scoble making conversation with my cousin, I approached them and joined the conversation, because that’s just what I do — I’m a nice guy. And Bob tweeted about us later, because that’s what he does — he’s a nice guy. We got hundreds of signups in the days that followed.