The Plight of the Busy Networker: Many Connections, Little Value
If you're a busy networker you know the drill. You attend countless events hoping to make new contacts and reconnect with old friends as well. The routine is pretty much always the same. But how you execute the steps is what makes you a successful networker.
Successful networkers know that networking is a process. They put impatience aside, knowing it can lead only to frustration and failure. They understand that when a connection is made it is merely a small blip on the networking radar. What’s really necessary for success takes time and commitment. In order to make substantive introductions and referrals, you must have respect, trust and confidence in the people you are connecting.
Can a networking sound bite deliver confidence? Definitely not.
What's a busy networker to do? There are only so many hours in the day and, well, you have “real” work on your desk. At the same time you can’t afford to “fall off the radar” because you won’t find positive results from the time spent at these events. It’s a quandary to be sure, but there is an efficient solution for how to remain visible to your new connections: the "Three I’s".
The "Three I’s" strategy enables you to “stay on the grid” and bring value to your networking contacts. (This can also be used with developing prospects.) “Touching base” and “checking in” – those antiquated conversation openers! – just don’t cut it. Touch base once or twice and you’ll find the networking relationship you are trying to cultivate has all but died. Checking in is another way of saying, “Hey, remember me?”
Here’s where the "Three I’s" comes in:
Who would ignore an email or call when they believe it can lead to a meaningful introduction to someone else? No one. Introductions are the lifeblood of successful networking and they’re not at all difficult to make. At this very moment you have hundreds (if not thousands!) of contacts in your database. Think about who you can introduce. Do you know two people who both work with SMBs but do different work? Why not connect them since they focus on the same size businesses and could potentially make introductions for each other. Or, they might be able to introduce each other to referral sources that also focus on their specific market.
Networking opportunities abound if you are creative and, more importantly, proactive. Don’t wait for someone to ask for an introduction. Stay visible and valuable by making introductions yourself.
Chances are you receive invitations to lots of different networking events and meetings. You probably go to some but ignore the rest without thinking much about it. Instead of ignoring an invitation, forward them to the networking contacts you are trying to cultivate. You might add a little personal note (“Thought you might find this interesting. I’m not attending but wanted to make sure you knew about it.”) to make an even stronger impact. Of course, if you do to attend, you should, make arrangements to meet them beforehand but remember that the real purpose of this exercise is staying visible while adding value.
Bottom line: the next time an invitation lands in your inbox, don’t hit delete, press forward instead.
We live in the Google era of readily accessible information. Use it liberally. I suggest you check out Google Alerts to stay updated on your clients, prospects, networking contacts and their industries. It can even be used to keep an eye on their competitors. Google Alerts will send you a daily email or weekly digest when something appears in your selected categories or search terms. Another easy information-based touch point is to forward relevant online articles and newsletters, or didactic videos from TED and YouTube, to your connections. Subscribe to these services so the information comes to you without having to hunt.
Seem a tad overwhelming? It shouldn’t. Schedule 20 minutes per day for these proactive “Three I” touch points and you’ll find your networking efforts will start to pay off.