Here’s the cold, hard truth:
You not only have to have a lot of friends, you need get out there and meet new people, Period. End of story.
If you don’t want to do that — you will be expendable.
But most people don’t like to ‘network’. Well then . . . don’t. Connect.
In my opinion, the clear difference between Networking and Connecting is:
Networking: What can you do for me?
Connecting: What can I do for you?
It's my definition, my differentiation, and here's why I don't like networking:
- It's all me, me, me.
- It's the clammy science of collecting business cards ad infinitum, of cold-calling strangers to grill them about possible openings or beg them for a favor.
- When most people don't like networking, it's because of the slimy nature of glad-handing strangers and constantly asking for something.
- It's impersonal, it takes the average executive or entrepreneur way out of their comfort zone.
- I know when I meet someone and they network with me — I immediately see through their facade and want to get out of there ASAP.
- To the best of my knowledge, no one likes to be 'networked' to.
- Networking is awkward, it's artificial, and more often than not, it doesn't work that well.
Connecting is different.
- It's noticing people, schmoozing with them, keeping in touch with them — and benefiting from them. You connect with people in a mutually productive and pleasurable way.
- You concentrate on the other person. Try to ask questions, minimize your blabbering, and listen to their answers.
- You build a solid relationship and try to connect with them on many levels.
- Instead of selling, you're seeding. You plant the seed of your capabilities, service, or product but you don't overtly go for the kill.
- You build the relationship to do something for them. To help them professionally or personally. It might be an article they are interested in, a piece of information, or even an introduction to someone you know.
- In the end, the relationship supersedes the sale. Every time.
So how do you connect? Here are the steps:
- Be inquisitive. Ask a lot of questions and follow up questions. See below for the process.
- If they ask about you, answer their questions, but don't go on. You need to focus on them.
- Try to find a way to connect with them — find a common place to share — maybe a location, a school, a business, a friend, something.
- Ask follow up questions, "You live in Stamford? What part? High Ridge Road? I grew up near Rippowam High School!".
- Once you make the 'connection', you begin to build a rapport of trust between you and the person your connecting with.
- Each subsequent question, follow-up question, and connection will build a stronger friendship bond between you.
- When concluding the conversation or meeting, try to ensure you have some sort of deliverable or to-do for the person. It might be an article, a web site, an acquaintance you might know — to give to them at a later date. Do something for them – Givers Gain.
- Ensure you do what you say you're going to do.
What is the process to connect? Read this story:
"You are in front of a big, white home. You look down and see the mailbox, you look up and see your whole family waving to you, leaning out the top windows of the house. You look over and see a beautifully, ornate chimney with a huge, yellow, leather work glove sitting upon it with all five finger pointing in the air. The glove is holding an old, wooden tennis racket and a bi-plane (like the one Snoopy flies) breaks through the strings of the racket, flys around your high school, comes to a soft landing on your football field and touches the goal post."
This story is a mnemonic. It teaches you how to connect with someone by encapsulating key questions within an inane, weird story you'll remember. Let me break it down:
- Mailbox - Hi, my name is Rich Gee. What's your name? Where do you live? What part of Wilton?
- Family waving to you - Are you married? Do you have kids? (if they say no, don't feel uncomfortable, just say, "Boy are you lucky!"
- Huge leather work glove - What do you do? Where do you work? What is it like to work there?
- Wooden tennis racket - What do you do for fun? What are your interests?
- Bi-plane - Do you travel for business? Did you go on vacation this summer?
- High school - Where did you go to school?
- Football field - What sports are you into?
- Goal post - What goals are you shooting for this year?
All I ask is that you try it. I used to do it all the time waiting for my daily train to work. Standing next to someone, I would say something witty ("Seems like the train gets later every day as it gets colder."), get them to smile, and then introduce myself. The hint with each question is to be enthusiastic and use many follow up questions. Be inquisitive and have fun!
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P.S. If you're having problems connecting with people, let's talk. This is one of the main areas I tackle first with all of my business clients. If you’re not a client . . . grab your spot now before all the spots for October are taken. Time is getting short.