Professional Networking: Organizing Your Contacts

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You already learned how to make a connection with people and make them remember you - now it's time to organize all the contacts you got!

The time has come to introduce the thinking regarding the fifth step of networking. As mentioned, the 6 steps of networking are identification, first contact, connection, memorability, organizing and following up (for the details on the first four take a look at the previous three articles here: one, two, three, four).

Now, let’s move to why I have the step “organizing” as the 5th step of networking. With every person we connect we manage to establish a weak or strong connection. We call that the degree of connection, meaning the strength of the link between you and the contact you have. That strength depends on the first impression you made but also, on how often you re-contacted that person, which channels of communication you used, how much you managed to help him/her etc. In addition to that, we might have a lot of contacts or just a few. Take a look at the following representation.

organizing contacts1

Obviously, the type of contacts you see inside the circle 1 are just a few people with which you share a very small connection. You don’t spent time with them or you did not manage to provide much value to them. Having a number 2 kind of contacts, means that you get to meet a lot of people but there is nothing that really connects you with them. Number 3, means that your networking circle is small, but the bonds between each other are strong. Finally, number 4, the paradise of the networker, is a huge amount of contacts with whom you share strong connections with.

Obviously, the way you move in this graph has to do with your ability to create connections, to meet new people and the time you are willing to spend to create & maintain the connections. More on how you can hack your way to the top right of this graph will be discussed in following articles. For now, we will imagine that you have succeeded reaching that point. Being a personal that suffers from a horrible memory skills myself, once again, I use technology to my advantage. The goal: to re-contact people often enough so they can remember me, by providing value each time I get in touch. There are amazing platforms out there, starting from CRM software as Insightly, Zoho, Nimble and many more. In these software you can input the information of every contact that you have, write down important information etc. A tool that gets more and more popular in the networking circles is Contactually, I highly suggest to take a look at it.

Personally, I like to keep things simple and creative. For this reason I use Xmind and Excel. Xmind is a simple mindmapping software where you can I like to put contacts in three different categories, following the methodology discussed in the book “How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits” by Judy Robinett. Judy, states that you have 5 people around you that are really close to you. It might be your mother, your family, your best friend. You think of them daily and you contact them at more than once per week. Then you have 50 people with whom you have valuable relationships, like your friends and associates, which you contact frequently, ideally once per weak. Finally, you have the last circle, the 100, your most distant friends and acquaintances. Of course the numbers don’t have to be exactly 5, 50 and 100, but keep what they represent in mind. The idea is that you want to treat this categories differently, with a strategic approach due to time management constraints. What I did with Xmind was to create these categories:

organizing contacts2

By clicking in each one of the “+” a list of the people appears that belong in that category, divided by the specific areas they work in. Xmind allows you to input comments in each contact, links and many different markers as priority, different faces etc. I highly suggest downloading and playing around with it and think other ways to use it. I use it also to analyze companies I am getting in touch with, or just to brain storm when necessary.

As you can see, there is also a soon to be category. In there, I find the names and information of the people I want to get in contact with. Every person needs to have a “soon to be” list. We will discuss more on that topic in a follow up article.

Following that, I am using a simple excel spreadsheet, where I input information as name, surname, LinkedIn/Facebook link, Twitter handle, date and location of first contact, reason that I re-contacted that person, value I have provided to him/her, value that I can provide later, type of contact (digital, physical), time we last got in contact and the frequency with which I want to contact (every week, 15days, month etc). Then with a simple excel function, the contacts change colors ranging from green to red as I reach the time I should get in touch again.

This way, you don’t need to remember each person you met and you don’t forget all the people that you consider interesting. It is a purposeful approach to remember those that are important to you.

If you liked the article and want to talk with me or you believe I can help you grow your business by giving specific advice please schedule a Skype call with me here. I will be happy to get to know you!

In the next article we will discuss more the last three steps of networking, giving more insight on the topics and providing extra information on software that can make your life easier and more productive.



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