Networking Doesn’t Have to be Hard!
“It’s all about who you know.” ∙ “Your network is your net worth.” ∙ “Six degrees of separation.”
These phrases all point towards the importance of having a personal and professional network. They also point to networking’s ugly underbelly: self service.
We recognize that people who are well connected tend to have better opportunities than those who are not. We understand that relationships are at the core of the human experience. And yet we find ourselves awkwardly attending events where we meet strangers, fumble through talking about ourselves, and then never to see them again.
Then we convince ourselves that nothing comes from networking, and avoid it altogether.
It doesn’t have to be that hard.
Here are the three secrets that will transform the way you network…
Secret #1 – Give, with no expectation of a return.
Have you ever met someone who immediately tries to pitch you on their services? Have you ever gotten a message from a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile that just feels like it’s the beginning of an attempt to sell you something? Of course you have.
It probably made you feel icky, gross, used, and a means to someone else’s ends.
That’s probably your biggest fear as you head into networking events: you don’t want to come off like that.
Michelle Pedzich, Chief Human Resources Officer at Canandaigua National Bank, believes that generosity and connection are what makes someone a good networker. In a recent podcast she said “Helping others and connecting people is the [best] way to move through challenges.” She went on to explain that she saw her role in networking as connecting one person’s problems to another person’s solutions.
As you meet and connect with others be alert for what they complain about or mention they are struggling with. If you can connect them to a solution to their problem, they will see you as part of the solution, even if you didn’t do anything more than send an email or a text to make an introduction.
These problems and solutions don’t even need to be professionally related. You may refer a friend suffering from writers block to another friend who seems to write effortlessly, week in and week out.
Secret #2 – Follow up.
This one is simple, and yet most people never do it. If you get someone’s business card, send them an email, a written note, or give them a call within 48 hours. This will solidify the connection and keep you top of mind.
If you promise something it is imperative that you deliver.
If you promise to introduce people, connect them.
If you promise to consider buying from someone, explore what that looks like.
If you promise to think about it, think about it and let them know your decision.
Become known as a person of action and follow through. Even if you must turn down an offer in your follow through, you can still make it a positive interaction.
Secret #3 – Exchange favors, but don’t keep score.
No person is self made, and it is important to understand that there will be times you will need to ask a favor and will have nothing to give in return.
Ask for the favor. But do so graciously, understanding that it may be turned down. We are programmed to fear rejection and your temptation will be to manipulate the situation or avoid it altogether.
I have found that some of the people I value and refer others to the most are the ones that did me a favor when I had no way of returning it.
As you generously give to your network you will build goodwill. Nothing will sour that goodwill more quickly than demanding reciprocity for favors.
As soon as you try to strongarm a friend or acquaintance into helping you, you damage the relationship. Sometimes you will get what you want in that moment. But this shortsighted way of doing business will sully your reputation and alienate your network.
Remember, Be Generous, Don’t Keep Score, and always Follow Up.
Pay it forward, friends.
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