Networking tips focus too heavily on getting new connections. The rest is impersonally called ”follow-up.” For many this means: schmooze, try to do business, and if you can’t…next! That’s transactional and frankly it’s sad.
As a business owner, you need trustworthy connections and partners. True networking is relationship-building, valuing each encounter, and win–winning. You can do this, and it won’t take much time with the right mindset and tools.
Get to know the data and the person behind it
When you first made contact with your counterpart, you might have known a bit about them. As you swapped business cards or at least connected on LinkedIn, you found out valuable info: their email, job title, URL, etc.
You put them into your CRM or contact management system. But then what?
This part is the real networking. You’ve got the baseline information exchanged when you first met. Now you get into their life. Not in a creepy way, rather as a useful and positive peer.
Communicate where and how they like to communicate
LinkedIn is the default “business social network” (about half the US and 575 million globally are on there) and you’ll soon find out if your counterpart is a heavy user. They’ll be on there everyday, posting/reposting/liking, congratulating, and even authoring. Great!
Read what they write and interact when you have something to contribute. A substantive comment makes a much better impression than a thumbs up or “nice post!”.
However, many businesspeople, especially non-Westerners, barely check LinkedIn. They use it like an online resume or forget they have an account.
These folks may be tied to their Outlook or Gmail. Or they may like the speed and brevity of WhatsApp or Skype. They may even prefer a quick call.
After a little back-and-forth, you’ll realize their mode of choice. Communicate with them where they like, how they like. If they reciprocate, things are really going well.
Give them value, but value for the both of you
If you’re a Gary Vee fan or have another guru of choice, you’ve heard plenty about “giving value.” Nothing wrong here – rather than asking for stuff, you’re giving stuff. Rather than pressing for a deal, you’re being helpful. You’re indirectly showing your compassion and your insight.
Where people get this wrong is (1) giving with an agenda and (2) basically schmoozing anyway.
It’s painfully obvious when you’re emailing, “Hey Steve, I thought you’d love this infographic I made!” or you’re responding on their social feed, “Wow, super post. I just wrote something on that myself. Give it a look.”
That’s like the guy who gave his wife a Peloton for Christmas. It wasn’t for her. It was for him.
The best gifts provide practical, long-term, personal experiences for the recipient. In delivering value to those in your network, your “gifts” of value show you know the person and care about them. And they show you’d be a great person to work with, because you’re emotionally intelligent – you care.
- Introduce them to someone who can help them achieve a goal
- Refer an employee or provider
- Give them local advice (travel tips, restaurants, beautiful places)
All these gestures show your goodness, expertise, and spirit of cooperation. Those are stellar traits in a business partner.
Use cool tools
Suffice it to say, the usual suspects like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are mainstays for keeping up with your personal network.
Beyond them are numerous superb apps that facilitate interactive, giving communication, which is what you need when you’re really networking.
- Mention lets you follow who’s saying what about your brand (great way to find new contacts, too).
- Mix (formerly StumbleUpon) lets you curate content. This way you can easily target new and interesting items to share with your business network.
- GoodReads – If your networking counterpart isn’t already on there, you can use this site to find books uniquely suited to them. Successful people will welcome your suggestions, because they read tons of books.
- Business card scanning apps for Salesforce, HubSpot, and general use. so you can immediately scan in a card, get a person’s full details, and keep in touch with them using that personal and accurate information.
And always be a welcome presence
If you follow the above, you’ll shift the vibe from transactional to cooperative and supportive. Transactional is an all-or-nothing, win-or-lose proposition.
Cooperative and supportive is a relationship. Being that way will make you a welcome presence because you’re the one who brings interesting things and positive energy. Those things reap rewards for everyone involved and make people happy to hear from you, and work with you.
Adam Goulston is a US-born, Japan-based writer and digital marketer.