One of my colleagues shared an excellent video about networking just the other day. Mark E. Sackett describes how so many of us collect business cards, but then just fail to follow up or build any kind of relationship.
I have heard so many clients and colleagues tell me that networking just doesn’t work, yet that’s how I get the vast majority of my business – through referrals from my network.
That doesn’t mean that I go to a networking meeting, meet somebody there and they engage my services. I wish!
First of all, would you do that? Engage the services of someone you’ve only just met? That would be pretty rash.
I have a couple of points to make about networking:
We all know that people do business with people that they know, like and trust, so why expect someone to engage with you on the basis of the first meeting over a cup of coffee? How can you know, let alone like and trust someone on that basis?
The second point is that it is not about the people in the room. It’s about the people they know and the people they know. This is the “six degrees of separation” where everyone is connected to everyone else through just six connections.
So, for me the keys to effective networking are
To be interesting to the people you meet – and the easy way to do that is to be interested in them.
They have to know what you can do for them – and for their clients – but you don’t have to ram it down their throats at the first meeting.
Give before you get. Help others to help you – if you help someone, there’s a very good chance they will try to help you.
Stay in touch – whatever tool you use. I was referred recently by someone who was referred to me 9 years ago. I engaged with him for some tax advice (unpaid, just exploring an option) and 9 years later, he referred a client of one of his contacts looking for some strategic advice. He remembered me thanks to LinkedIn