If you had the chance to rub elbows with your business idol, what would you say to them? Should you shower them with praise or play it cool? Is it ever okay to work in your elevator pitch? What’s the best way to make an impression?
“Whether it’s a celebrity CEO or just someone who is more successful than you, ‘networking up’ can be a nerve-racking and delicate maneuver,” says Ivan Misner, Ph.D., Chairman of BNI.com, the world’s largest business networking organization, and who CNN called ‘The Father of Modern Networking’. Here are some tips for mingling above your weight class in business (and why you should!).
Don’t be a sycophant.
Successful people appreciate knowing their work makes a difference but don’t “puppy-dog lick them” to death. Instead, share a specific story about how their work or business has really helped someone rather than gush over how genius they are.
Find out what they’re currently interested in.
This is a critical item. If you know someone you want to ‘network up’ with is going to be at an event, do some internet research to find out what they are currently working on, then open up your discussion by asking them to tell you about it. If you haven’t done the research – ask them what their newest project is or what they are most excited about.
When networking with people who are more successful than you, if you’re not uncomfortable connecting with someone then you’re probably not aiming high enough. Your nervousness is usually a sign that this is the exact person you should be talking to.
Don’t go negative.
I know that sounds obvious, but it happens all the time, especially if you’re nervous. Don’t complain about how busy you are, how the barista messed up your coffee order, or how bad the traffic is. You want to be remembered, but not as the person who is always negative.
Don’t pitch them.
The old adage – “it never hurts to ask” is completely wrong when you are ‘networking up’ with someone for the first time. Don’t do it!
Confused About How to “Network Up”?
“Hang out where successful people are. We’ve all heard the advice: ‘you become the people you hang out with.’ This is also true in business,” notes Ivan. “So surround yourself with successful people (however you define success), and raise the bar for yourself over time. Insider tip: Join your chamber of commerce or the board of a non-profit organization. Many successful people play in these arenas.”