Professional Networking: Identification, First Contact & Creation Of A Connection (Pt.2)

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Networking really is an art to be mastered. Here's part 2 on our series to create a connection and build a business relationship that lasts.

This is the third article of a series of articles on networking. See the previous two here and here.

In the previous articles we talked about identification as the first step for networking. With the word identification, we mean the process of realizing which people we need to add to our network. Of course each business is different and there cannot be a general answer for all. But, let’s look at an example of how we perceive identification in the world of networking, even when we don’t know the specific reason.

Every day we have plenty of networking opportunities, but if you are trying to build a strong network, you can focus to certain categories of professionals. The reason is specific: networking has a lot to do with finding the right key persons in order to be able to reach a whole new category of people. There are those people that always seem to know everybody when they go to a party, or seem to know all the players in a certain professional area. Think about it for a minute: Who are the people that have huge networks or that are actively trying to build up their networks?

Keith Ferrazzi in his book Never Eat Alone, mentions 8 categories of people:

  1. Recruiters, talent hunters
  2. Lobbyists
  3. Fund raisers
  4. Public Relations
  5. Politics
  6. Journalists
  7. Authors, bloggers and gurus
  8. People who own (expensive) restaurants

Approaching People

Those people have (and are actively creating new) big networks. I would suggest stopping for a moment and thinking how you can approach people from these categories. Ideas: Want to expand your business by exposing it to more potential clients? Is there a journalist that writes about similar topics? Find the articles, share them on social media, contact him/her with questions or send an invitation for lunch. Same for authors, bloggers and gurus. And next time you treat yourself and go to a restaurant, make sure you ask for the owner to thank him for the quality of the service and the tasteful food, spent a couple of minutes getting to know him. Maybe it is a good time to organize a lunch for your company there as well.

Another way to approach people is through a mentoring relationship. It doesn’t have to be from the beginning a scheduled activity for every week. It can be as simple as asking from someone to help you in a topic of his/her expertise for 15 min. This simple method has incredible benefits. There are really few people that would actually deny helping another person that looks up to them for knowledge. This way the barriers (check my first article for details on the barriers) are lower and you get their attention. Most important of all: you get to hear the way they think. This way you can improve yourself, while at the same time obtaining information. The topics that you can ask support for don’t really have to be all about work. I was lucky to meet really interesting people, who later provided valuable help, just by asking them how I could raise my son giving him an entrepreneurial education. Remember, connecting in topics based in the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid as discussed in the previous article is always a great way to build strong relationships.

It’s All About Research

Of course, identifying and getting the attention is just the first two steps. After that, you need to be sure that you have done your research. This process can be really simple. Do a small research online, check the LinkedIn and twitter profiles. Even when you are not friends in Facebook, make sure you check their profile pictures. What are you searching in all these? You are searching for uncommon commonalities, which means all the possible interests that you two have in common that are really uncommon. Finding out that you both live in San Francisco Bay area is not a strong connection. Approximately 7.4 million people do as well. Having both 4 children, going to the same unpopular vacation locations, having the same favorite book or following the same thought leader can be some of those. Try to find that information. The more uncommon is the commonality you share, the stronger the connection you will develop.

Create A Connection

The same kind of thinking goes when you actually manage to engage in a conversation with the desired person. Remember: good networkers try to connect with others in as many ways as possible. And you cannot connect if you don’t know the other person. And you will never know the other person if you don’t create the opportunities to let her/him talk as much as possible. This brings us to one of the most important principles of networking: the art of asking questions and paying attention to the answers. Most people while listening they try to think what they are going to respond when the other person finishes. Real networkers are artists of conversation. Real networkers think how they can ask more questions when the other person finishes. Real networkers try to gain as much knowledge as possible. The more you know, the more you can help and the more commonalities you can discover. And sometimes, as Leil Lowndes writes in her amazing book How To Talk To Anyone, asking a question can be as simple as just repeating the last part of the last phrase of your interlocutor. Imagine the following conversation:

-I am really interested in surfing.
-Surfing? (pause)
-Yes, I am surfing every week in the beach next to my house
-Your house?
-I am leaving next to the coast. It is a wonderful location.
-A wonderful location?
-Yes, it has…..

You get the point. It doesn’t need to be always a smart question. People tend to drive the conversations to topics they are interested talking about if you just give them the opportunity. Try it next time. And since I mentioned Leil Lowndes, I would like to mention another incredible advice she gives in the following paragraph.

As discussed in the first article, the third step of successful networking is to create a connection. People connect with people that find them interesting. Now imagine yourself in a situation where you sit in the table talking with two other people, one of those being the person you are interested in. So, the person on right talks and you look at him, then the person on your left talks and you look at her, then the person on your right and you look at him and so on. Right? Well, Leil, gave me an amazing little trick. Try to look at the person you are interested in even when she is not the one talking. Try to see his facial reactions. This has an amazing effect if you do it with moderation. People notice you looking more and feel that you are interested more in them. Plus you get to observe their reaction in order to understand their position on the topic. Try it next time, works miracles.

Summing up: identify the people around you whose job depends highly on their networks, search on different channels to find info on them and get their attention, identify uncommon commonalities, listen in order to ask more -not to answer- and read the books of Leil and Keith, they are both pure networking gold.

In the next article we will start discussing the last three steps of networking (memorability, organizing and following up). Till then, please, get in contact with me if you need any help regarding networking, I will be happy to schedule a Skype and see how I can help.



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