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Video: “How do I talk to a successful person?”

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NO! This is not another worthless tip that ends with “Just get out there and network!”

If you ever hear me say that, please kill me.

One of my readers asked me what to do if they take someone out to coffee. What should they say so they don’t come across as sleazy or just looking for a job?

So I scripted it out for him with specific questions you can ask. Check out the new video:

What’s the BEST and WORST way you’ve approached talking to a successful person? Leave your story in the comments below.

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18 Comments

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  1. Last night, I met Herb Dean–a top referee for the UFC–when he visited my MMA academy to promote his upcoming grappling tournament in Chicago.

    This video applies PERFECTLY to my situation.

    At first, I wanted to show him around my gym, introduce him to my members and generally talk about myself and the programs we teach.

    It wasn’t until I started talking to Herb Dean ABOUT Herb Dean that our conversation really took off. Specifically, we talked about his grappling tournament (that he cares about deeply), his experiences as a referee in the UFC, his personal grappling training, etc.

    Once, I struck Herb’s “Hey! This guy gives a damn about ME!” nerve, the conversation opened up and ended up being really awesome.

    Thanks for the video, Ramit! Awesome as usual.

    • Wow that is wonderful John, i am a huge fan of MMA sport. In fact i am actually enrolling for a basic MMA lessons for my workout program. Meeting Herb Dean is one of my dream as a Mix Martial Art practitioner.

  2. I was always looking forward to the day I could say: Hey Ramit! Your advice worked! …and today is that day. I set up a couple of information interviews recently to learn more about the film making industry (a notoriously hard one to break into as a newb). I learnt more through my meetings with those people than through months and months of reading books and surfing web articles. Their advice and their experiences were absolutely *invaluable*. Also, they were just fun to talk to.

    I think it’s important to know your motivation for speaking to someone successful, and as you say, explicitly looking for a job will make you seem a tad insincere. I think networking is done best when you have a clear question or goal in mind (esp. in creative industries, a good goal is a possible future collaboration).

    Interested to know why where I stand in the cafe is important though! I usually turn up 15 minutes early and sit at a table reading a book before they arrive.

    Great video, by the way. I’m noticing a steady increase in the production quality of your vids. 🙂

  3. THANK YOU RAMIT!!!!
    Perfect timing for this video!!! I for sure appreciate it as a new grad and I am sure many others do as well!!!

  4. First -realize that as long as you don’t screw the pooch too too much, you’re gonna get another chance.

    I had some bad intros to people that I’m doing business with. (Ryan Holiday, Brad Feld, Brian Clark).

    The ability to recover later makes it easy.

    Second: It’s all data. Just data. So someone hates my pitch. Fix your pitch, bitch, and find your niche. It’s not a big deal. It’s data. In lieu of being dependent, be curious. I’ve gotten farther with “Hmmm…would *insert big dude here* like this than I have with “OMG if he ONLY LOVED ME I’d be RICH!”

    Third: There are no kingmakers. One intro won’t help you unless you’re ready. You have to be ready. A successful guy can be an accelerant, but it’s not gonna change the fundamentals. You can’t pitch a turd. Fix yourself.

    Finally: Cultivate indifference. If I need someone to like me/approve of me, that’s a repellant. That is revolting. Realize that if you don’t land “Dave McClure” or whoever with your pitch, there are dozens of other people that might be a better fit. You’re more compelling when you’re friendly, affabile, but firmly yourself.

    (P.S. I blew an intro to dozens of people, and I’m still kickin’).

  5. your scripts were my best but they work on everyone but you lol

    the worst…hmm

    the worst probably would be trying to appeal to their mercy or gratitude instead of their own self-interests

  6. Dear Ramit Sethi,

    I really appreciate your advice and I would like to ask you a question.
    My parents took a 30 year loan to buy a house and will soon be renegoitiating
    the intrest rate after a 10year fixed rate period.
    How do you create leverage in the negotiantion other than maybe refinancing?

    Thank you,
    Alex from Germany

  7. I’ve had a lot of successful networking meetings thanks to what I learned in the Dream Job course. I’ve found that the conversation flows naturally for maybe 30-40 minutes and I get a lot of valuable information, and then there will suddenly be a long pause once the person’s said everything they can think of and I don’t have any more questions to ask. At that point I usually say, “Well, thanks so much for your time, and I really appreciate your insights. Is there anything else you think I should know about working in this field? (or Is there anyone you recommend I talk to?)” Once they’ve responded and there’s a pause, I thank them again and wrap up. Is there a more elegant way I should be taking the conversation to its conclusion, or is it normal to run up against a point where there’s silence because you’ve both run out of things to say?

    • 30-40 minutes is quite a long time, so during the conversation you should tell them that you have some information/website/whatever that would benefit them. As the conversation draws to a close, you can wrap it up by saying that you’ll definitely get in touch with them again to share the information you’d mentioned earlier in the conversation. This ensures that you have their contact details, and a few days later you can get in touch with them again with something interesting/useful for them. “Hey VIP, it was great to talk to you at XYZ. Here is the useful information I’d mentioned the other day…”

  8. I always have a difficult time approaching successful people unless I plan out how I approach them and what I will say.

  9. Best – I am looking for a job in legal marketing. I saw an opening at a law firm, and found someone who worked at that firm on LinkedIn. I was especially interested in this job because it was doing marketing for the labor and employment practice, which I have experience with. She seemed nice over e-mail, so I asked her to coffee. She was super helpful, but it also helped that I am knowledgeable about this field, so we were able to have a more specific conversation. I had recently gone to a Legal Marketing Association presentation, so I sent her the slides from that talk. I added value for the successful person!

    Worst – A junior in college was speaking my friend Kim and I about becoming a lawyer. I was in law school and Kim is an associate at a law firm. This person e-mailed both of us after the party where we met. I was happy to help at first. She continued to reach out to us, but that ultimately became annoying because 1) she didn’t make any distinction about our being at different points in the journey of becoming a lawyer 2) she wasn’t getting any further in the process and simply kept asking for advice. 3) Connections do fade. Maybe she could have found someone else to approach, like a lawyer in her hometown.

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