9 Steps Towards Genuine & Effective Networking
Photo by willnixverbergen.
Early in my career I overlooked the value of networking and keeping in contact with people. A few years after my first job change I had lost the contact information and even forgotten the names of many of my peers that I didn’t work with on a daily basis.
After starting my own company I became acutely aware of the power of keeping in contact with people when I got a call out of the blue from a past co-worker that turned into over $200,000 of business for my company.
Here are some of the techniques I use to keep in contact with people:
1. Take People to Lunch
I keep track of where people live and give them a call with an offer to buy them lunch or breakfast when I’m coming through town. These aren’t sales calls. They are just a chance to keep in contact. My goal is to just keep my name in front of them and to find out what they are doing.
2. Mail Newspaper and Magazine Clippings
Keep track of people’s interest. When you run across an article that they might be interested in, cut it out and mail it to them. You can also email them, but don’t overlook the power of sending a physical letter through the mail.
The seemingly trivial information about their interests from a lunch conversation helps give me ideas for the types of things they might be interested in hearing about. This isn’t all business. If they mention their kids are traveling to Europe, I’ll send them an article that their kids might find useful.
3. Phone Calls to Ask a Question
Several times a year you should give people a call to ask a question about something in their area of expertise. This helps establish that you have a respect for their opinion and gives you an opportunity to keep your name in front of them. This can also be done by email, but getting some “voice time” is important.
Obviously you don’t want to monopolize their time, but a question like: “I have a client who is looking at XYZ CRM. I know you put it in last year. Have you been happy with it?”
4. Meet People in Person
There are probably a number of people who you know that you’ve never met face to face. Making a conscious effort to get face time with people you have only interacted with over the phone and email is very important. I have had good luck just asking people if I can come by their office to say “hi” for 15 minutes.
This is a good first step with someone who may not feel like they know you well enough to invest 45 minutes at lunch. It also gives you a chance to potentially meet their co-workers.
5. Take Notes
If someone mentions that their daughter, Jill, is getting ready to have surgery, you need to ask how she is doing the next time you talk. In order to keep track of this information you need to take some notes. Simply adding a line with the date and any important information to the person’s contact record in your address book will give you what you need. Be sure to review your notes before you talk to them next time.
People will decide how to value your relationship based on the value that they perceive you put on the relationship. If you remember to ask about their kids, it will make them see their relationship with you as more important. The more important they see their relationship with you, the more likely you are to make it to the top of the list when they need someone with your skill set.
6. Stepping Stones
Person A can introduce you to person B who can introduce you to person C, etc. Obviously if you make people think that you are only interested in getting to know them so you can get to their friends, you are doing something wrong. On the other hand, if you have built a strong relationship with someone, it isn’t inappropriate to ask them “who do you know that I should meet?”
Also don’t overlook people who share a mutual client with you. If you are a graphic designer, it could be very beneficial to meet your client’s PR firm. If you are a marketing consultant, it would be good to know your client’s IT guru.
7. Make Connections
Pay close attention to the small talk you make with people in your network. Often it will reveal ways you can help by putting them in contact with others in your network. If someone says they are looking for a good private school and you happen to know the headmaster of a reputable institution, offer to make an introduction. If you hear someone say they are looking at outsourcing their IT department and you know someone else who has just done that, offer to introduce them.
8. Befriend the “Little” People
We have all met people who fawn over the individuals they think can give them something while snubbing everyone else. Don’t do this–even on accident. Even if it didn’t hurt you by making you look bad, you will eventually guess wrong and the person you think has no influence will be far more important than you realized. The damage from snubbing people can be extremely difficult if not impossible to undo.
9. Genuinely Try to Help
People know if you are being sincere. If you aren’t truly trying to help people by using your knowledge and contacts they will notice. Networking is about establishing real relationships not about trying to get a bunch of people who “owe” you favors.