Business development. Marketing. Sales. Pipelines. ABC = Always Be Closing.
In the end, it comes down to networking to get your business and/or career going.
Networking seems to have gotten out of hand, especially in a LinkedIn world. Don’t get me wrong. I love LinkedIn. I encourage others to join, and even develop very robust profiles for clients.
However, just the last week, I received a LinkedIn request from a man who was linked to at least a dozen of my contacts. So, I emailed several of them to ask if they knew this guy and what their thoughts were about him. Only one of them even knew who he was, and she had only met him briefly regarding possibly working together, though nothing came of it.
At the same time, I replied to this man asked him how we knew each other. He said he didn’t know. I then asked why he wanted to link with me. He said his business involves a lot of report writing. Therefore, he thought we could do business together.
Great! When do you want to talk further? No reply – so far.
While I hold out hope that something comes of this outreach, I found it interesting that all of these people did not know whom he was, yet they were linked to him! In fact, one other friend of mine said this guy was linked to a lot of good people, so he must be OK.
This made me re-examine how I want to define “networking” going forward.
I vow to pay more attention, to go beyond gathering business cards as a sport. I want to be more focused and targeted, because frankly I can’t keep up with everyone I meet, and I understand that not everyone I meet is meant to play a significant role in my life.
I remember reading Bob Beaudine’s book, “The Power of Who.” Basically, he says we already know everyone we need to know to be successful. What we need to do is mine that list better to find those who can help us and/or support us as we grow.
This all brought me full circle back to a lesson learned from Marsha Clark, outside the normal POS channel, regarding “Intentional Networking.” She identifies two principal types of networks:
- Friendship Networks – Social in nature
- Instrumental Networks – Based on exchanges of advice and information, and on a readiness to help each other out
She offers this sage advice when developing both types of networks:
- Before – Give yourself a goal for each networking event you attend. Do you want to meet a specific person? Maybe the speaker? Maybe three business prospects with specific characteristics? Maybe someone who will train with you for a marathon? Then jot down and practice (a) the one or two points you want to make about yourself, (2) one or two conversation starters and (3) two or three questions you can ask people to find out more about them.
- During – Talk to people you do not Acknowledge and chat briefly with those you do know, but do not spend the bulk of your time in your comfort zone. Maybe your friends can introduce you to someone new. When you do ask for a business card, take care to write on it where you met and something unique and interesting about them. Keep your goal in mind, and meet the people you came to meet.
- After – Reach out promptly to those you met and include something that shows you listened. Maybe send a news article about something you discussed, or information on a meeting/event that would interest them based on your discussion. Decide who is key in your networking group, and proactively reach out in a systematic way. Maybe you set Monday mornings or the third Thursday of each month for touching base with people whom you would like to develop a relationship, or who can help you achieve your most important goals.
For those who like worksheets and checklists like I do, here is a great one from Marsha – the Intentional Networking Handout – to get you started with your new focused intensity.
Some interesting factoids from Marsha regarding gender differences in networking and the impact of those differences (again, that is one of the most important aspects of POS – the “so what” that goes with the data points):
- Women: Instrumental networks are made up of both men and women, and friendship networks are predominantly female.
Men: Both instrumental and friendship networks are predominantly male.
Impact: Women’s ties to men in their instrumental networks are weaker, and therefore less valuable.
*I would add that this means it is incumbent on women to initiate the relationship with men. We cannot wait to be invited, we must do the inviting!
- Women: Derive little benefit from weak ties, and for a man to do a favor for a woman, his ties to her must be strong.
Men: Benefit from maintaining numerous ties that are relatively weak.
Impact: Since women are generally at lower levels in the organization, research suggests that women need stronger ties than men to counteract the effects of bias, and gender stereotypes.
*I would add that women need to find a level of comfort with being just casual friends with men and still ask them for help. Conversely, we need to get comfortable – aka not offended – when people, especially men, ask us for help despite not maintaining a deep friendship.
In the end, women need to identify what we want and what we need. We then need to ask for what we want and need, and to strategically seek out those who can help us.
Yet, all of the data seems to point to women hesitating to do just that – ask. We are more worried, than men, about whether someone will like us. We are more concerned, than men, about creating deep, long-lasting relationships. Therefore, it seems we are more apt, than men, to view this focus on a goal at every event, and the subsequent requests, to be, in some way, bad.
As POS teaches: It isn’t good or bad, it just is.
I’ll end here with a personal experience that demonstrates the difference between men and women, and how we view relationships.
I recently took part in a supplier diversity day sponsored by a large, international company in Dallas, TX. Several hundred small business owners, like me, were at a daylong event that culminated in a reception. During that reception, I heard a voice say, “Juli? Is that you? It’s me!” I turned to see a man with whom I had worked in Washington, DC, in the late 1990s.
This man ran up and hugged me, and introduced me to his friends – the people running the event! He took me into the backroom and introduced me around to people. He asked me who I wanted to meet, and promptly ran them down to introduce me. He told everyone how amazing I was – and we hadn’t spoken in decades.
He does not need to keep in touch, to keep me in his Rolodex. He does not want a quid pro quo introduction to anyone in order to make introductions for me. As much as I tried to inquire about him personally, he kept it light and airy. And, just like we learned in POS, he kept moving to stand by my side instead of across from me. It would have been annoying or I might have thought he was flirting, if I hadn’t already been taught this gender-specific body language.
I have to say, the male way is way easier than the female way. Yet, I still felt an unease, like I was using him because I did not have anything to offer back. However, I have to say, if he ever calls me to ask for an introduction – I’m on it!
MARSHA-ESQUE JULI-ISM: “If you network without a goal, you’re really just partying with people you don’t even know.”