The 21st Century Guide to Winning Friends & Influencing People

An important part of influencing people — and one of my personal “secrets” to connecting with influential people — is simply having the courage to ask. However, asking is not enough. Before you ask, you have to have permission.

You don’t propose  marriage on the first date, and you don’t ask a complete stranger for a favor. Instead, you woo the person, building a relationship over time. The same is true for networking — for winning friends and influencing people.

A meeting sign
Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik (Creative Commons)

You can’t realize your dream and live your passion without the help of others. Connecting with influential people is essential to getting the help you need. Unfortunately, few people take the time to do it right.

“Making the ask” is the second step in building a meaningful relationships — whether it be in the workplace or in your circle of friends. The first step is building trust through establishing credibility. Before you make an ask, you must first make a friend.

This is the essential guide for how to do that.

Networking 101

Networking is not what it used to be. Social mixers and business card exchanges rarely work. What works now is having the courage to get on someone’s radar, build relational bridges, and serve your way into new relationships.

Ultimately, what will help your dream succeed is humility, friendliness, and confidence.

Get on someone’s radar

  • Start by approaching the influencer. As I said before, the new leadership is approachability; you’d be surprised at how many people are open to a meeting with a stranger. Make the approach informal and without expectation. Try to make a friend. (See this infographic for how to do that.)
  • Use the best medium for the influencer. It’s often best to start with something formal like an email or phone call, and then move to a more personal medium, like a physical meeting.
  • The rule is to reach out and wait for a response. You can follow up once, if you don’t hear anything. After that, move on.
  • Go until you hear “no.” Don’t say no for someone else. These people are busy, but if they’ve said “yes” to a meeting or relationship with you, then you are free to continue pursuing that (without stalking) until they’ve told you to back off.

Build relational bridges

  • Create small wins. There is a natural momentum to influence. As you begin to influence more people, it becomes easier to approach others. In fact, they may even seek you out. Focus on a few ways to under-promise and over-deliver; this will lead to other connections.
  • Consider the degrees of separation. I like Ben Arment‘s advice: Don’t ask, “Who do I know?” Instead, ask, “Who do I know that knows somebody?” It’s about making connections.
  • Once you’ve made a connection and built credibility, ask for an introduction to someone else. (This is bold territory, so be careful with this. It shouldn’t happen at the first meeting.)

Serve your way into new relationships

  • The best way to establish credibility and trust with an influencer who can help you is to help that person first. In fact this is pretty much all I do. I invite influencers out to coffee, ask how I can serve them, or offer meet a need.
  • Don’t squander the opportunity by asking for a handout. Most people approach leaders, wanting something. If someone is willing to give you the gift of his time, don’t dishonor that by asking for favors. Instead, establish credibility by looking for opportunities to serve.
  • Don’t do favors so that they’ll be reciprocated; do them because you love doing them. But I promise you: What goes around does, indeed, come around.

Are you ready to get started? Here’s how you can begin:


  • Think of five people you know who know someone you would like to meet.
  • Make a list of at least 10 leaders or influencers who could help you with your dream. What would you ask them if you had 15 minutes of their time?
  • Map out a plan for how you will first find ways to serve these people before asking for anything.


  • Contact the five people on your list. Don’t apologize, and don’t force it. Just ask. If they personally know the person you want to connect with, ask for an in-person introduction or find another way to connect (email can be great for this, too). Go until you hear a “no.”
  • Reach out to the 10 influencers on your list, introducing yourself and asking for some of their time on the phone or in-person.
  • Start meeting with people. Send questions ahead of time. Arrive to the meeting prepared. And follow up with notes afterwards. Ask permission, build trust, and find ways to continue connecting.

The difference between persistence & being annoying

Finally, all of this involves a certain amount of intuition and attentiveness.

While I want you to be bold and courageous, don’t be foolish. And don’t be annoying. Don’t coerce someone into a relationship out of guilt or pity. And don’t stalk.

Ask permission, follow up, and find people who want to hear what you have to say. And then, please, say it.

Further reading

How do you “win friends” and influence people? Share your tips in the comments.

*Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links.

30 thoughts on “The 21st Century Guide to Winning Friends & Influencing People

  1. You’re getting good at this Jeff… this is a good series of blogs.  Well written, pertinent, great info and insights, and you’re a living example.  

    I plan on working on the “Next Steps”…

  2. Jeff, I’m new to your blog (via twitter). I appreciated your post yesterday and this one today.  James 4:2-3 says “You do have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”  If God, a pretty big influencer, says simply ask with pure motives, we might be wise to listen and apply that to others as well. Thanks for the good reminder and encouragement!   It looks like you are having fun with what you are learning.  Thanks for sharing and letting us follow along!

  3. serving…that is always the best way to start. 

    Mainly because a lot of people are looking for hand outs, so if you have no initial agenda it will definitely be noticed by the person you serve. Instead of going into it with the attitude of “what can they do for me” it is better to have a “what can I do for them” mindset. And if they do not appreciate that then they are not worth your time. 

  4. Serve your way into new relationships; that’s gold.

    Great follow-up; loved sharing the last post, and looking forward to sharing this one too.

  5. Serve your way into new relationships; that’s gold.

    Great follow-up; loved sharing the last post, and looking forward to sharing this one too.

  6. Serve your way into new relationships; that’s gold.

    Great follow-up; loved sharing the last post, and looking forward to sharing this one too.

  7. Great suggestions Jeff!
    I think a smile, even in your writing, goes a long way.
    Humility seems to be a winning approach too.


  8. Solid one, Jeff! A real keeper, literally – this one is going in a special file marked “read again and again whenever you get the chance!”.

    I really resonated with the skillfully mapped-out series of concerted steps you take to build those crucial core relationships. Again, it’s just a bunch of us guys and girls having fun, no agenda, that is hugely key. People would benefit in a big way from shifting to a more simplicity-driven mindset if you ask me.

    Nicely done, Jeff!


  9. I use baked goods.  Lots and lots of them.

    Just kidding.  

    I find this to be a really interesting post in light of the SocialNetworkingSociety in which we all seem to live, no matter where on the globe.  Last night I had some college kids over, they’re all here for the summer helping us out . . . in the course of the conversation I said to one of them ‘We would have been friends.’  They were taken aback by the ‘would have been’, so I appeased them with ‘Well, we can still be Facebook friends.’  

    But I love your third step: Serve Your Way Into a New Relationship.  I think this is the part that gets forgotten in our Digital-Roladex-World.  We have come to a point where we have forgotten that simple key of real, genuine relationship in the networking process.  Our connections get our foot in the door.  After that, it’s up to us.

    Great tips!  Thanks!

      1. (hmm . . . as far as I know the US is still not accepting mail from the Republic of Niger . . . BUMMER!  Cause I have some brownies with your name on them!)

  10. Simple but spot-on advice. I agree with you that when trying to establish a relationship first we should be willing to give/help with no expectations.

  11. When I want to meet an Influencer, I read what the Influencer has written, or what others have written about their work. Then, I post my review of their work, and post a link to my blog on their facebook page. Usually, they respond, which leads to my reply….Most people enjoy reading positive things about themselves and their work, and often will post your work on their site. 
    I’m an “Asker,” and very rarely have I been denied, or ignored. Just ask! 

  12. Jeff,

    Thanks for setting it out in such a clear and down to earth way. It really helps when you show it for the simplicity and truly human process that it is. Plus your warmth keeps shining right on through mate.

  13. You have no idea how much influence you’ve had on me just for writing your blog(or maybe you do!) Thank you!!

  14. Hi Jeff.  I am a new blogger and had been told to be bold and ask people about guest posting on their site.  I had no idea that I was supposed to be friends with these people or be on their radar.  Can you tell me do I get on people’s radar by being involved in their blogs?  Thanks.

    1. Commenting on someone’s blog is the best way to get on someone’s radar. Especially when you leave in depth comments.

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