How to Meet Successful People
By Ludvig Sunström, StartGainingMomentum)
(and a quick perspective on "Networking" from GLL)
Meet Ludvig Sunström.
So far, he is the first and only guy outside of the Good Looking Loser community to do a full guest post here.
He's been published on Bold & Determined.
He has his own community that you should check out - StartGainingMomentum.com.
He has some excellent content.
I particularly like how he incorporates historical figures and references into a lot of his work - as you know, I'm a history nerd myself. I stay up until 5 am a couple nights a month sipping Kratom and watching World War II videos on YouTube. Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill, Genghis Khan, it's all so interesting to me for some reason.
I originally came across his community about 20 months ago when I was poking around the Internet to find what type (the quality of) material was out there on "networking" (more on that in a minute) and meeting successful/established people and celebrities.
Here was the best article I found -
It was excellent, it incorporated the stuff I already knew but in a structured way.
More significantly, Ludvig pointed out certain techniques/approaches that I had not thought of. He gave specific examples from his own life and it wasn't just another diarrhea theory post from another faceless Internet marketer.
As some of you guys know, I had the ultra-fortunate experience of meeting and befriending a certain A-list celebrity (via cold approach) in 2006 who basically gave me the opportunity to leave Law School in San Diego and move to Los Angeles to start my personal training (within her circle). Meeting her has paid big time [financial/social/self-esteem] dividends.
(ironically, she is the highest caliber celebrity I have ever talked to and I didn't even live in LA at the time)
Ludvig originally wanted to guest post a follow up our College Series with a comprehensive comparison of college in the United States vs. University in Europe (Sweden).
I liked the idea but I decided to twist his arm (and have him abandon an entire article that he spent numerous hours on) to write about 'Networking' and meeting successful people, something I have personally observed him do (writing for Victor at B&D, who never lets anyone touch his blog and myself who is evermore selective on who gets my endorsement).
I'm happy I did so and his discussion below is REALLY GOOD and very applicable, even if your social skills aren't that tight.
Sometime in the future I'll do some posts on 'Networking'.
I have something that I want to say now though.
"Networking" is term that is ridiculously overused and seemingly not even fully understood by the people that preach it and tell you, "Just network!" "Networking is the key!" "It's all about networking!"
Another word for "Networking" is -
Just think about that until then.
It doesn't matter if it's for social mobility or a business venture - you only gain insider resources/access by providing "value" to people and/or making emotional connections, even if it's not a huge one.
Now, I'll turn you over to Ludvig who knows this stuff better than anyone.
How I've Gotten on the Radar of Successful People
(and How You Can Too)
By: Ludvig Sunström
I've been in contact with a lot of people who I'll happily admit are far above my level in terms of success and life experience…
...and you should too.
Cus D'Amato, the genius trainer who molded young Mike Tyson into becoming a ferocious fighter, said:
"There are very few new things in this world, very few. That’s why people that are young, if they’re smart, try to profit from the experience of an older guy so they won’t have to go through all the pain and suffering. But a certain amount of pain and suffering is good, because it makes a person think they’ve learned.”
But how do you get someone successful to help you – or possibly even decide to mentor you?
Well, it definitely helps if you start by asking them.
Don't worry. That's what I'll show you how to do in this article – in detail.
I'm going to share a couple of different strategies you can use to:
- Get the attention of successful people
- Get them to like you and help you out
- Get them to answer your questions and do what you ask of them
Oh, and just to be clear – these things I'm about to tell you don't just work on successful people. They work on everyone. It's just that successful people are busier, or have a bigger ego, than normal people. This makes it necessary to use certain strategies for breaking down their "protective barrier".
I'm going to divide these strategies in two categories: Online & In-Person.
Let's start with online.
How to Meet and Contact Successful People Online
You can get to know all sorts of cool and successful people just by asking for their help over the Internet. All it takes is a bit of boldness, and the ability to write a good email.
But before I tell you how to do that I want to ask you: How do you think I got to write this article for GLL?
I'll tell you why.
It's because I'm such a great writer.
And since I knew that Chris and Victor were friends, I asked Victor to introduce me to Chris.
This is common sense. But it actually taps into some powerful psychology like:
- Social proof – Since Victor already let me write for him, Chris will be more likely to let me do a guest post because he trusts Victor's impeccable judgment when it comes to writing.
- Word-of-mouth referral – Instead of me introducing myself, I had Victor do it for me. This did two things: First, it was more persuasive. Second, it was more likely to succeed since Victor already had Chris’s attention, while I didn’t.
Out of these two things, social proof is the most powerful one.
Most people – girls in particular – will just shut off their brains when there's social proof involved: "Wow, he knows so-and-so. He's famous. And he's surrounded by other women who like him – then I must I like him too!"
Now, Chris is a smart guy.
So he wasn't impressed by my social proof alone. He did his due diligence and then decided he was interested.
But I still needed all that other stuff as a sort of prerequisite just to get his attention. I had to break his "protective barrier".
Get me now?
To be perfectly honest: I tried getting on Chris's radar a while back, by myself – and failed.
But it worked like a charm when Victor helped out.
Quick Tips for Writing a Good Email
What is a good email?
A good email is an email that gets opened, read, and acted on.
There are some basic rules you'll want to follow to do this:
- Use an appropriate subject line. Appropriate as in fitting the situation. If you met someone in person at a restaurant and you're sending a follow-up email, you might want to use a subject line like "restaurant follow-up".
- Use the other person's name at least once in the email. People like hearing their names.
- If it's the first time you're contacting someone, always go right into why – specifically – you're contacting this person. Give the other person a good reason to respond and you will probably get a reply back!
- Keep the message short and don't include anything that isn't absolutely necessary – unless you already know the person.
I often get emails from people who read my site and have some question for me, or are struggling with something. Most of these emails are good – but some are a damn pain.
Because instead of sending a short email saying:
Hey, this is who i am... I'm wondering about this and that… Could you tell if it's like this?
They send an enormous email telling me their entire life story, asking ten different questions, and don't use any spacing. This makes the email hard and time-consuming to read.
This would easily be avoided if they could…
Identify With the Other Person's Position
If you're pitching something – which is exactly what you're doing when you want someone you don't know to do something for you – you want to try to put yourself in the other person's shoes.
Depending on who you're contacting, it's going to be different. But it's safe to assume that the other person is busy.
Here are two lines I love to use in the beginning of an email, when I pitch busy successful people:
"I understand how many pitches/proposals you must be getting"
"I realize you're busy man/woman, but I'd really appreciate it if…"
And I don't see any downsides to using it.
You either get it wrong, and the other person isn't busy at all. What then?
Well, in that case you've flattered the person.
And if you get it right? Then they’ll like you for being able to understand their position.
Find an Arbitrary Reason to Contact Someone Successful and Stay in Contact
Some time ago, a guy I know wrote an article where he asked a bunch of people who were into self-development about their favorite books.
I was one of the people asked. So was Derek Sivers (famous for his TED talk on not telling people your goals and for his company CD Baby).
So the day after, I sent Derek an email saying we'd both been featured in that article, that I'd read his website, and that I thought his book summaries were awesome.
He then replied and we sent some emails back and forth. He then sent me his book for free, and I recently returned him the favor by sending him my two latest eBooks.
Now let's discuss how you can meet successful people in-person.
How to Meet Successful People In-Person
(And Get Them to Help You!)
Ok, so you see contacting people online is easier than you think – most people can be reached if you’re a bit clever and can write a nice email.
But what about meeting successful people in person, or doing networking?
Well, there are strategies for that too...
...like my strategy for "getting on the radar of successful people". It's based in a lot of psychology, and it's powerful.
Here's how it works:
(1) Successful person gives a speech.
(2) You listen intently.
Clearly signal your interest. You do not ever mess around with your phone or computer, because it makes you come across as disinterested or rude. If possible, you sit in the front.
(3) Unless it's considered rude, ask a question as soon as possible during the speech.
The reason you're doing this is because you want to get the speaker's attention as soon as you can. This will set you apart from the rest of the audience. If you do it well, you'll become "special" to the speaker, and he/she will look at you more than the rest of the people in the crowd.
[Note 1 on question: Just don't ask your question immediately, because most people need get "get in the zone" with their speaking, and they will unconsciously dislike you if you disrupt their flow early on. So wait just a little bit first. You can usually tell when someone starts getting comfortable speaking.]
[Note 2 on question: You may feel scared at this point. You may feel like your question is stupid, and like everyone is going to think you're stupid for asking it. This is false. It's just your brain trying to keep you inside of your comfort zone. Ask the question no matter what.]
(4) When there is a break, or when the speech is over, go up and introduce yourself as soon as you can.
Just don't run, or bumrush, the successful person. That comes off as creepy.
The less approach anxiety you have the better. Most people get pretty nervous – and animated in their behavior – when they're speaking to successful people. They instinctively seek approval, lean in, use weak tonality, and so on...
Don't do that.
Speak as if you were speaking to a good friend.
You're going to ask questions to the successful person. But first, you must introduce yourself and shake his hand. You'd be surprised at how many people don't do this.
Here's what you want to do when it comes to the question-asking:
#1 Make the person feel good. If you can do this he/she will like you.
How do you do it?
You get them talking about something they feel they're the authority on. People love talking about stuff they're good at.
Your best bet is to ask about something they said in the speech that you think they could be interested in. This will also subtly signal that you paid attention to what they were saying, which they will like, because it feeds into their image of them being an important person.
#2 Ask a canned question. It could be anything as long as it involves getting their advice. I like asking for book suggestions.
I think this is a good canned question for two reasons: First, I have a genuine interest in books, so it doesn't come off as canned. Secondly, because people like giving suggestions.
Why do people like giving suggestions?
Because it reinforces their image of being the expert.
#3 Ask your target question. This is where you pitch your idea, get them to help you, and get their number, email, or business card.
All the work you did was to get to this point. If you did a good job they will do what you ask them for in an instant. It's like a magic trick. If you don't have any experience with it, you won't believe your eyes.
If you don't know exactly what to pitch, you can always ask this question:
"I am doing [insert goal]. Do you have any tips, or is there anything you can do to help me?"
After you've gone through this process, it may be worth nothing…
...unless you immediately send a good follow-up message. It could be an email or a text message, depending on the situation.
You want the message to be brief but still very specific.
Because if it's a successful person, he/she's probably meeting a lot of other people. By being so specific, you make it easy for them to remember you.
Here's an example:
- Subject line: “Seminar follow-up – Ludvig”
This is Ludvig Sunström. It was great meeting you today at the seminar. I really appreciated your speech on wild antelopes. I had no idea that Impalas are similar to pimps, the way both of them surround themselves with a group of obedient females.
I would like to thank you for recommending me to read "Why Antelopes Are the Best Animals." It seems like a great book.
I also appreciate you offering to help me [achieve cool goal]. That’s s very nice of you.
It's very important that you follow-up.
Woody Allen supposedly said that “90 % of success is about showing up”, and that may be so. But among the people who do show up, only a few of them will do any follow-up.
WHY DOES THE STRATEGY WORK SO WELL?
Alright – do you see what I'm doing here with this strategy?
With each question I am gradually shifting the focus from the other person, unto me.
Notice that I transition from:
- The other person (question #1),
- To something neutral (question #2),
- To me (question #3).
And I'm not just jumping right to talking about myself – I'm making the shift incrementally. This leads the conversation smoothly.
Another important reason why it works is because of something called the “serial position effect", which means that you remember the first and last things people say. But not what’s in the middle.
This is great, because it means that they'll only remember the most important parts: How I took the initiative to come up and be nice to them, and how they agreed to help me out.
Finally, notice that I am giving before I'm taking. They’re not going to help me unless they like me – and they won't like me unless I first show them that I listened to what they were saying and that I cared about it.
I have a mad success ratio with this.
In my last year of university I attended around 15 guest lectures given by CEOs and marketing executives of big companies. I used this strategy and got their contact info to so that I could ask them to let do my thesis for their companies.
And I got several offers, with ease.
Because I’d been recommended by the CEO to the HR people I was in contact with.
That's the power of social proof.
How I've Got On the Radar of Successful People – And You Can Too
So, I want you to know that I've used those exact strategies for getting on the radar of successful people a bunch of times.
And all of this has happened 100 % naturally – natural as in me not having deliberately stalked the successful person to appear at the same event. (Though that would be a smart thing to do.)
Here are a few examples…
#1 Swedish businesswoman/entrepreneur.
She gave a speech at an event for my university. I thought her speech was interesting, and she mentioned having recently published a book – so I asked a question about that during the speech and got her attention.
Then I talked to her afterwards, whereupon she agreed to do an interview for my site – on the topic of networking. It went great. She knows a lot about that stuff, she's often on the front pages of newspapers.
#2 Former Swedish Justice Minister
I don't want to spell his name out, but I did the same thing with him. When I spoke to him after his speech he also said he'd do an interview for my site – but then he never replied to my emails, despite the fact that I was helpful to him.
If he had just said "no" to me I wouldn't have cared. I can totally understand he's a super busy guy. But it pisses me off that he lied to my face.
Just because he did that, I will always think he’s a prick.
Lesson: Never tell anyone you will "definitely get back to them and do [what they ask for]" and then not follow-up on it.
Don't break your word.
#3 Famous Marketing Guy
This guy is the biggest expert in Sweden at a certain type of academic research. I don't want to mention him publicly, because I am not sure he'd like me doing that.
Here's how it began.
He gave a talk at my school. I used my normal strategy – as you've seen above – and spoke to him in the break, and after class. I made a good connection with him because we shared a common interest: Neuroscience.
He also gave me some great book recommendations that I immediately checked out. I then used that as a reason to email him when I'd finished reading those books – showing that I had taken his advice.
After I did that, he gave me the contact info for business contacts and told me to tell them that he’d recommended me. I did that and got the offered to do my thesis for two major food companies.
But, in the end, I got a better thesis on my own – for IKEA.
Some months later I went to a big retail and e-Commerce fair, representing IKEA. The guy gave a speech there, so I approached him – and he was pleasantly surprised to see me again. He then sent me an email out of the blue saying he “liked my intensity".
Then I offered to do him two quick favors.
The first one he accepted and I finished it in just a day or two. The second favor was about blogging. He hasn't taken me up on that yet. But I'm hoping he will.
Because, even though I am not working in the industry he's in, it's not impossible that I will eventually. If I should want to do that, it pays to have built a relationship with him.
He’s one of the big shots in that niche. So, if he takes me up on my blogging-favor, I'll have a good reason for being in regular contact with him…
...and when things like that happen, you never know what may come out of it.
Start Hitting Up Some Big Shots!
Good things happen when you build relationships with successful people, and – like Cus D'Amato said – you can learn a lot from someone older who’s got more life experience than you.
But to do that you first need access to such a person – and you only do that by starting to hit people up.
Be bold and reach out for help. Intelligently.
At worst, you'll get ignored.
At best, your life will change dramatically.
Remember to always:
- Write emails that are easy to open, read, and act on.
- Ask successful people questions in person and use the strategy for getting on their radar, then follow-up with a message.
- Be helpful and do favors for successful people
- Find a reason to contact them
- Find a reason to stay in contact longer
If you’d like you can email me at Ludvig at startgainingmomentum.com, just don’t tell me your entire life story!
If you have any useful strategies of your own, I'd appreciate it if you shared them with me. Perhaps you could give an example of how you used it?
Be sure to check out Ludvig's community at -
Ludvig - I appreciate your contribution very much. I think it came out super well and is some of your VERY BEST!
You are most certainly welcome to drop your feedback, comments or questions below.
Ludvig will personally answer them.