One of my favorite “go-to” professionals on networking is Thom Singer, author of Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships. In an interview with William Arruda, President of the Reach Branding Club, Thom answered some commonly-asked questions about networking. Here’s a summary of their conversation:
- Q1: We’ve all heard that networking is important; does it really make a difference? /TS: Even though we live in a digital age, connecting through email, cell phones and social media, using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter isn’t a substitute for human interactions. All opportunities in your life come from people. It’s in your best interest to have a large network of people who will refer you business and career opportunities.
- Q2: Is attending networking events the only way to network? What about social media sites? / TS: Events and social media sites aren’t the only ways to network; they’re simply networking tools. Other tools include wearing a name tag at a networking event and having business card with you at all times. Networking can occur anywhere – even in airports!
- Q3: You talk about the importance of handwritten notes; isn’t email just as effective? /TS: We get so many emails and few handwritten notes. You’ll stand out by sending handwritten notes after you meet someone. Write them on good quality paper, in your own authentic voice, consistent with who you are.
- Q4: What about introverts who don’t like networking? Which techniques work best for them? /TS: If you’re an introvert, use your gift of listening by asking questions to learn about the people you meet. Make a mental list of 5-7 questions you can ask, depending on who you’re talking to. If you think you won’t know anyone at an event, find out who is going or invite someone to go with you as your networking buddy. Standing in line by the food area or the bar is also conducive to making small talk with others.
- Q5: How long does it take from meeting someone to really having a true friendship with them? /TS: You need to have 7-10 meaningful interactions before someone becomes a business friend. Aim to cultivate the relationship and stay top of mind, without being a stalker. Keep in touch with notes, helpful articles, resources, etc. Networking is not “give-take” – it’s “give-give-give.”
- Q6: How often should people be talking or connecting with people in their network? /TS: Whatever you feel is appropriate. Use some kind of CRM software to keep track of your networking contacts. Outlook or an Excel spreadsheet will work just fine, or keeping a business card file works well, too.
- Q7: You say that if you’re not personalizing your business relationships, you’re leaving money on the table. How do you monetize the relationship and turn it into mutual value? /TS: You won’t get business from everyone you meet, because they may not move in the right circles. Sometimes they’ll just become friends, but this doesn’t mean you should push them aside. You can’t keep score. Instead you need to say, “Let’s educate each other about the types of leads are best for each other.”