Thursday, April 14, 2016

Setting Aside Networking Time

Every day I try to set aside about 15 minutes simply to send out a few emails or make a couple of calls to people that I have met recently or to reconnect with those that I haven’t spoken to in some time. This is both something that I enjoy doing but also part of my job as networking is essential to my line of work. Investing that nominal amount of time each day is well worth the effort and has proven to be hugely beneficial over the years both personally and professionally.

However, there are a few things that I have found to be essential to this outreach over the years. The first being that you cannot be selling when trying to open or reopen communications with someone. I have fallen into this trap a few times in my life when trying my hand at various occupations related to sales. That being said, I have never claimed to be a salesperson and never will claim to have the skill set necessary for success in that line of work. But it is an aspect that I am still well aware of in my current outreach as I prefer to focus on getting to know people rather than trying to get business from them or persuade them to attend an event.

The second essential aspect to effective outreach for me has been to forego social media. While these sites have undoubtedly proven useful in making the basic connections with people and to learn a little bit about them, they should not be used as a means of communication. Personal emails are much more effective in opening up a dialogue but still have limits. Connecting over the phone provides a personal touch and demonstrates that you are taking the time and putting forth the effort to not just talk but to listen and learn about the other person.

The third and final piece of the puzzle is the easiest of them all… listening and learning. Don’t just blankly reach out to people; learn all you can about them before writing that email or picking up the phone. This is where social media should be leveraged. See what they have posted, liked, commented on. Find their birthday, dates of life events, work anniversary, previous places of employment. Essentially, find that commonality that you share with them and use that to start the conversation. Networking is not about business, it is about getting to know people and finding things in common with the people you know is a great way to strengthen your network.  

Finally, familiarize yourself with pictures. There have been countless occasions when I have been at business and social event when I have seen a familiar face. Many connections have started in the virtual world but, by knowing what many of my connections look like, I was able to properly introduce myself in the midst of a large crowd. Most of the time, this is what truly separates you from the countless other connections that someone has made in the virtual world. In the end, never forget the importance of meeting someone face to face… networking can only survive and thrive in the real world.