I was a beginning salsa dancer when I went to my first “open dance.” The room was full of strangers, and I didn’t know anyone there. It was up to me to ask a woman to dance.
Only one thing stood in my way: Absolute and total fear! I was shaking in my shoes, completely terrified to introduce myself to a stranger. What if she laughed at me? Or just brushed me off? I’d feel like an idiot and it would ruin the entire night.
I stood against the wall, watching other people happily salsa-ing the night away. The more I watched, the more I understood the reality of the situation: Everyone here is as scared as I am.
Everywhere I looked, guys were nervously asking girls to dance, and girls were nervously glancing around the room hoping to be asked. Everyone had their own fears, but they were putting themselves out there anyway.
In that moment, I knew that all I had to do to overcome my insecurity was get over myself and just ask. So, I approached a woman and asked her to dance. I’m pretty sure my hands were sweating, and I may not have spoken a complete sentence, but I did my best.
Imagine my surprise when she said yes! Later, I approached someone else, and someone else. Some people said yes, some said no. But the more I practiced, the easier it got.
I had the time of my life, and I never looked back.
Afterwards, I realized that asking someone to dance isn’t any different than networking with someone for your business. You can’t dance — and you can’t network — unless you’re willing to put yourself out there.
Meeting new people is intimidating in any scenario, and most of us think we’re the absolute worst when it comes to meeting new people. “Isn’t this easier for everyone else?,” we think to ourselves. “I must be the only one here who’s scared. What’s wrong with me?”
The truth is: you’re not alone.
Everyone on earth, from entrepreneurs to farmers to politicians, feels intimidated sometimes. It’s perfectly normal.
How can you get over that fear? Well, if I can ask a girl to dance, you can introduce yourself to someone new, whether it’s a freelancing lead or a stranger sitting next to you at a wedding.
Just remember that everyone feels the same way you do. In fact, most people are RELIEVED when you introduce yourself first, because they’re too anxious to do it themselves.
Did you know that your potential clients are more scared than you are? It’s true. When they meet you for the first time, they’re particularly vulnerable. They’re looking for help because there’s something in their business they can’t handle themselves. They aren’t sure what they’re doing, and they want someone to come in and show them how to do it. Someone just like you.
Clients need you just like a dancer needs a partner. They’re dying to be asked to dance! So ask away.
You’ll get better and better at this the more you practice. You’ll get used to meeting all sorts of people, with different personality types, from different industries, and with different consulting needs. You’ll even get used to rejection.
Oh no…the dreaded rejection.
Rejection is one of those things we fear for no reason. If you take away just one thing today, make it this: Don’t be scared of rejection.
Being rejected by a new lead isn’t any more painful than being rejected by a dance partner. (If anything, it’s LESS painful. Trust me.) Don’t take it personally — all it means is that you’re not a good fit at the moment. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person or you don’t know what you’re doing. And it definitely doesn’t mean you were wrong to try.
I think every freelancer or consultant should practice being rejected. Why?
The more rejection you survive, the less it hurts.
The less it hurts, the less fear you have.
The less fear you have, the more likely you are to put yourself out there and meet new leads.
The more new leads you meet, the more your business grows.
Therefore, rejection helps your business grow. It’s crazy, but it’s true!
There’s actually something worse than rejection: Uncertainty.
Let’s say a colleague introduces you to a prospective new client. You have a quick email conversation, but it doesn’t go anywhere. You weren’t flat-out rejected, but it doesn’t look like you’re going to work with each other anytime soon.
Do they like you or not? What do you do next? The uncertainty can drive you crazy.
This happens all the time in the salsa world. You can’t quite tell if your style and rhythm matches up with your new partner. You don’t know if this is going to grow into a long-term partnership, or if you should say goodbye and never dance with each other again.
Here’s the thing: you never give up after one dance. You go back for another, and another, until you figure out if you’re a good fit or not.
The same goes for networking.
Send a follow-up email a month or two after you meet to say hi and see how your lead’s business is doing. Keep following up, building your connection with each email. Over time, with consistent follow-up, you can grow an uncertain lead into your newest client.
One of the reasons I created TouchingBase.io is to help you do just that. It streamlines the follow-up process with automatic email reminders that help you keep your networking organized. It’s like your own personal wingman, telling you: “Hey, there’s someone you haven’t danced with in a while. Go ask her!”
Oh, and one more tip from the dance floor: HAVE FUN.
Networking, like salsa, rarely works when you’re stiff or scared. So loosen up, smile, and let your personality shine! You’ll be the most popular guy on the dance floor in no time.