Joanna Coles, author of Love Rules shares her secrets for finding love and meaningful personal relationships in our digital age. But how do those guidelines translate in today’s business landscape? My book Digital Persuasion tackles that exact topic—so, Washington Speakers Bureau kindly brought Joanna and me together to help you connect the dots around building more meaningful romantic AND business relationships in today’s modern marketplace. 

In  Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World, Joanna Coles urges readers to discover their ideal “love weight” as a way of determining what type of partner may be the best fit.  Like our ideal physical weight, our ideal love weight should be challenging but realistic.  Ideal but not impossible.  Watch her clip here:

A similar rule applies in business.  When you are trying to build connections – whether it’s for your own personal network or to accomplish your sales goals, are you targeting people that are challenging but not impossible to reach?   Or are you targeting the Elon Musks and Sheryl Sandbergs of the world with whom your chances of earning a meeting are slim?  Knowing if your ideal prospects are realistic is easy to discern by asking yourself one question: Are the majority of your digital messages on LinkedIn, email and other platforms getting clicks…or crickets?

Before you reach out to someone you don’t know online to ask for a meeting, to share a new idea, or to present a concept, think about whether this prospect is ideal.  Do they meet at least one of these criteria?

SIMILAR – You have at least a few connections, interests, SOMETHING in common with them. In searching through their bios, updates and interests, you are not so far removed that you can at least find something to comment on that is important to them.

LIKEABLE – This person seems like someone you would enjoy partnering with, helping or working with. Their updates make it clear what they value and appreciate, and hopefully, there is some sort of alignment there.

CONNECTED – This person seems like someone that may be connected to similar contacts for increased opportunities. Building a relationship with this contact is likely a gateway to more potentially profitable relationships. Instead of spending your time just one-to-one, you are actually investing time one to (possibly) many.

So, now that you know who your ideal business contacts should be, how do you get their attention? When it comes to connecting in the digital world, I often speak to groups of sales, marketing, and event professionals about ways to attract attention, increase influence and sell smarter in the modern marketplace.  Being effective at connecting online is not easy, but I have a few proven “rules’ of my own which I call Principles of Digital Persuasion:


You have only a sentence or two to get the attention of your prospect.  Starting off an email with “I” signals that this note is about you, not them, or both of you.  Challenge yourself to go through your next email or message and delete the word “I” wherever possible. Instead, try to start each communication with a proper noun of personal resonance to your recipient such as a person, place or thing you have in common or have commentary about. “Meredith Adkins thought we should connect!” “University of Maryland, eh?” You will immediately differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd sending emails.


When contacting someone new, if you really want to stand out from the pack, abolish your ask and instead give something. Share an idea, article, app, introduction, observation, event, ANYTHING. Refrain from asking for time, a meeting, a lunch, a call.  Ideas are the currency of today, and offering an insight, introduction or shortcut without making any ask back will elevate you beyond the rest of the pack instantly. The persuasion principle of reciprocity will kick in and the natural reaction is for the recipient to check out you and try to find a way that they can help you back.


The absolute easiest way to differentiate yourself digitally is just to type less. A lot less. Like 80% less. From a visual perspective, opening a message that is 2-3 sentences versus 2-3 paragraphs is already enticing someone to engage with you because that type of brevity is so rare. Nothing is more persuasive than inciting curiosity using brevity!

Making genuine, valuable connections online requires thought.  Taking the time to evaluate who your ideal prospects or connections are is one way to ensure you are maximizing your time, effort and energy.   In addition consider these three principles of digital persuasion the next time you type, tweet or text your ideal prospects and you’ll earn more responses, ignite more mutually respectful, rich dialogue and build new opportunities. Most importantly, you’ll actually be heard.

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