The value of your network is only as good as the relationships you have with the people in it.
Earlier this week, I saw YET ANOTHER friend of mine on national television. This time it was Shon Fuller, who is in a national ad for Wal-Mart. Last season, another colleague of mine, Michael Dorsey, shared his very personal battle with weight loss as a member of the Blue Team on Season 14 of The Biggest Loser.
Just yesterday, I reconnected with an old friend I hadn’t seen since either of us had moved to Houston from Tulsa, Oklahoma…he moved here SIX YEARS AGO. Finally, this morning, I ran across an article in CRM (Customer Relationship Management magazine) featuring Word of Mouse: 101+ Trends in How We Buy, Sell, Live, Learn, Work, and Play, the latest book by New York Times best-selling author, Mark Ostrofsky…who just happens to also be a member of my local chapter of the National Speakers Association for which I serve on the Board. And it hit me….
I know a lot of people. In fact, I am probably one of the people Malcom Gladwell was talking about when he discussed connectors in his popular book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Well, not specifically me, but people like me. I’ve heard more than once that if “(I) am not the guy, then (I) am definitely the guy who KNOWS the guy”. You can be “that guy/gal”, too, if you simply apply a little bit of effort and apply the truth about networking nobody wants you to know (but you should).
Here’s the Issue:
By the time you realize you might need to USE your network to help yourself, it is already too late to start building a relationship with them. See if these sound familiar:
- Remember that one person who hit you up on LinkedIn, has only 14 connections, you haven’t seen since junior high, and they just messaged you asking to help circulate their resume because they got fired…yesterday? Loser!
- Being introduced to someone at a cocktail party who suddenly thinks you have just been on your first date, believes you are “the one” and suddenly you find yourself being introduced to their parents that same night? Run, Forest, Run!
- Or, my personal favorite, the friend you like to hang out with that is simply unable to just be your friend without trying to get you to sign up for “an amazing, ground-floor opportunity” with the latest MLM flavor of the month EVERY TIME THEY TALK TO YOU. Sorry, man. I love you, but dude, let’s just go get a beer, okay?
What to do:
Networking IS important. And, yes, sometimes it would be prudent (even professionally respectful) to ask for some assistance with an issue your NBF (new best friend) happens to know something about. Here is the truth about networking, on how to do it right and how to add VALUE to your connections:
- When sending a connection request on LinkedIn please STOP using the boring “I’d like to add you to my network on…blah blah blah”, canned message and give them a personalized request that references something you talked about when you met them. Something like, “I like to stay connected with people who love fajitas and bicycles as much as I do. Let’s go for a ride sometime!” They’ll “get it” when the auto-formatted message has a button at the bottom to “accept” your request…and they will REMEMBER how they felt about you when you met, realizing you had something in common.
- Get to know them first – See if you can set up a coffee, breakfast, or simply a quick call to meet with them and learn more about what THEY do. Ask how you can help THEM expand their circles of influence, make a connection with someone in your network that would be interested in what they do, or just talk about coffee. Seriously. If you can resist the temptation to talk about business during your “get better acquainted meeting” eventually they will ask how they could help you—most likely increasing the chances they actually will!
- Keep in touch with them – Just because you met at a networking event seven years ago and haven’t spoken sense does not mean they will remember anything about you or why you even exchanged cards. Once in a while, forward something to them that relates to their area of expertise and ask a question or simply say “I thought you might find this of interest.” When you NEED that connection, it will already be deeper, even if they never respond to your messages.
- Remember that people inherently do want to help you – Just resist the urge to always be asking. The fastest way to get a referral is to give one. Try it!
When your phone starts to ring IN with offers to help or a need for expertise, you will know all of that pre-work was worth the effort…especially when people begin to send personal referrals.
Who knows, someone will EVENTUALLY remember that I have a strong desire to host a game show and I will get the call. Until then, let’s chat about how I work with professionals like you who want to build lasting, profitable relationships with clients so they can live the life they deserve on their own terms!