Networking is the fuel to success. We have been hearing for a long time, that you are as good as your rolodex is. Is that really true? Let’s take a live example. Suppose you decide to participate in an event which is relevant to your professional area of expertise. You are armed with a fresh bunch of visiting cards. You practice your pitch. When you reach the event, you effortlessly move from one group to another exchanging the cards, almost at the speed of light.
During the session, you make your best effort to ask the smartest questions and contribute to the collective understanding. If you are one of the speakers there, you would improvise on your content to align it preeminently with the one who spoke just before you. The entire day goes in asking people what they do and quickly making a connection to what you have to offer. You build in a rapport and increase your liability score. There are few, with whom you may even schedule a meeting later that week. The agenda keeps you at your feet, ensuring you have a productive day out there.
Now switch to your office, the following day. You are putting all the cards into your card holder. Suddenly, even without realizing, you have made a pile of cards, and segregate them in terms of how they are applicable to you. You may even stretch to connect with them by exchanging niceties and send them an introductory request on your social network profile. Days roll, and it moves on to the phase where you may interact with them only when they comment on your status or like what you have shared.Where does this kind of an effort land you? Its possible that the agenda with which you had started has waned as a result of a low interest shown by them. Alternately, they may not seem to be as valuable as you had expected them to be. So, what is the moral that you learn from this story? Did something go wrong here? Was it designed to end up like this? Let’s take a sneak peek into the grey areas of being social:
- Expectation quotient: We as professionals, don’t believe in whining. We are motivated to create the highest value all the time. Let’s acknowledge, that we want the most and can’t be at ease with mediocrity. Here comes the dissonance. Our view of what should be the takeaway, kills the process. How about setting our bearings right, with possibility thinking? Expecting a low return and then be surprised with a rich reward is a kindergarten learning, we seem to have rejected ages back.
- Likability quotient: It’s human to expect and feel a constant urge for recognition. We effortlessly slip into the trap of believing that the more people we have around us, the better we are! We weigh our efficacy with the power to influence people around us. These days, its often measured by the number of ‘like’, we receive to what, we may choose to share on any platform. A 550+ connection in LinkedIn has become a necessity. Sometimes, we may even pay for a membership to avail that. Here begins the endless race. The more we want, the greater our needs become. Most of us may not even remember who all are there on our list, but would still value the total number of contacts.
- Visibility quotient: This is an area which is quintessential for business. Out of sight is out of mind. Hence, we make our best effort to foot for every opportunity to remain in the public view. Is it all about visibility? Does that create an impact or does it help to retain the memory? How does it help to remain visible, to someone who will never connect?
- ROI – This is a killer. What matters at the end of the day? Whether you achieved what you set out for? Or that you made the most out of what came your way? Think for a while and check how many people from your rolodex have called you back? How many could identify you when you met them somewhere unexpectedly? I bet, you must have been in situations where you were identified by someone who had networked with you in an event. Even so, you found it difficult to recollect. You may not express it, but you would realize the gap. So, was connecting with them earlier, a waste for you? Conversely, have you established something much deeper and stronger than you barely aimed for? Is networking all about who knows you rather than why do they know you? More importantly, what have you done for them to know you?
Here are few concepts that have worked for me:
- Choose your interest, and not just a business need. When you meet a group that shares the same interest, the bonding would be much healthier.
- Avoid selling and pitching by every means. This has been repeatedly implemented by successful salesmen. They seek to understand the need. Hence, discuss ideas and concepts that can help others think further. Include the information of the services and products, only when you are asked for it.
- Connect purely by contributing to someone’s good. If you lack knowledge or information to share, observe and prepare until you elevate yourself to that level.
- Avoid exchanging cards, right after greeting them. Business etiquette prompts you to introduce with your visiting cards. However, the moment you do that, you are sub-consciously pushing your connect on a defensive mode. They are likely to get on their back foot. Drop such resistance, by talking to them. Offer a card only when you are asked for it.
- Killer instinct lies in making an impact. Focus on being remembered through what you say and how you connect. Do not push for meetings. Rather, choose to contribute until they invite you in. Breaking barriers and protocols would offend rather than getting you a business.
- Spread yourself thin, when you don’t seek to be remembered and reconnect.
The social space is shrinking like never before. The online and offline platforms makes it fast and easy to create an impact. Consequently, it’s easier to spread a negative word of mouth. Therefore, define why do you need a Rolodex. Identify what it should do for you. Thereby, choose wisely to connect with the evangelists to your goal. You may not know a wide range of people, but few effective ones could bring you much greater results. Remain focused on creating takeaways. In Napoleon Hill’s word “Create prosperity for others”.
Tell us what is your networking mantra and how does it work for you?