The purpose of networking is to establish yourself in the minds of those you meet as a person of value. To do this, you must find out as much as you can about them, then demonstrate as quickly as possible that you can — or have the potential to — greatly improve the quality of their life.
This post was inspired by a recent article in The Star-Ledger (NJ.com) by Lee Miller, “Key to networking: don’t forget, it’s not about you,” in which I’m quoted. (Thanks, HARO.) In the article, I give some suggestions for how to establish and reinforce your value with every person you meet.
The advice works for people looking to develop new client relationships too, as it’s about making a good first impression and ensuring that those you meet perceive you as valuable resource that — as Hugh McLeod (@gapingvoid) points out in his cartoon today — can help them get to where they want to go faster than they would without you.
When meeting and talking with new people always be asking yourself, “What’s in it for them?” and “Why should they care?” Addressing these two questions with every exchange will ensure the conversation will be both relevant and memorable to and for both of you.
In the above mentioned article, I map out a specific way to interact at networking events and the other folks quoted also have some really good suggestions, that, though directed at job searchers, apply to biz dev, too. Here are some additional suggestions:
- Dig into LinkedIn. Win Without Pitching founder Blair Enns recently turned me on to LinkedIn expert, author, and fellow Belgian Jan Vermeiren. I’ve been working on cracking the LinkedIn nut for months now and Jan gives really smart and super specific instructions on how to use it to get connected to your connection’s connections. Treat yourself to Jan’s free LinkedIn webinar.
- Stop passively consuming on Twitter and engage! I’ve met dozens of people on Twitter that are now part of my referral and influencer network. The first step is always to @ reply to them and see if they are open to participation. If they respond, start to cultivate mini conversations, retweet their tweets if you think they are interesting. They should follow you back. If they do, you can direct message them, or email them to offer yourself as a resource and invite them to hook up with you on LinkedIn.
- Make it in-personal. Go out to lunch with someone. So much of our work is done over the Internet now, we can go weeks without hearing another human voice, let alone actually conversing with someone in person. Make a point of getting someone, anyone, out to lunch at least once a week. Face to face meetings are powerful. Even if you talk about nothing but baseball for an hour, the relationship automatically will be a lot stronger as a result.
I should mention that networking should be something you’re doing constantly, not just when you’re scrambling to get a new client. If you make making and finding out things about your new connections part of your regular schedule, the result will be a lot more people calling on you to help them get what’s in it for them, which ultimately is what’s in it for you.