Deciding who’s right to connect with?
If you’re a regular visitor to networking events you’ll put on your best ‘networking face’ to create the right impression. However in a room-full of bustling bodies how do you know who to pick to maximise the potential of connecting with the right people?
Who are the right people to connect with?
“People who want to buy my product or service” is quite an understandable response to the question. However, not focussing beyond the end of your nose can make you short-sighted. Connecting with the right people is perhaps less about identifying people who can speak the same ‘words’, but speak the same ‘language’. What’s the difference? Use of words explains a subject, use of language adds the engagement factor. ‘Connecting’ with people who speak the same language is often more challenging off-line than on.
Why I dislike networking events
In my experience, many people seem to approach networking events as a way of passing on the maximum number of business cards in the minimum amount of time, with little more than a smile and a quick “hello, let’s meet for a coffee sometime”. Is that your experience?
Apart from leaving such events with a clutch of business cards, which I could add to a mailing list I suppose (I don’t, by the way), I often feel I have been in a selling environment rather than a networking one. My smiling ‘connections’ very rarely contact me again except via unwanted email marketing missives that start appearing in my in-box. What’s worse is that quite a few don’t include the facility to un-subscribe!
Why I prefer online networking
I’m a busy person and I only have so many hours in my day, so it’s important I maximise the potential for getting the most out of all of them. I can meet people online in safe environments, pass the time of day, share information, respond to and help with problems and all from the comfort of my office, without having to contend with traffic, parking and dodgy breakfasts/Danish pastries.
The features, the benefits and the savings, in terms of cost, to me are enormous. So why, I wonder, are more people not spending more time networking on-line than off-line? What’s your view?
— The Clothes Lady (@theclotheslady) August 15, 2013
Asking questions promotes an engagement
I’m asking questions here and hoping you’ll respond, whether you agree with what I’m saying or not. Maybe I’m being controversial to get a response? Whatever, it doesn’t matter at all because the point is that ‘engagement’ starts with a two-way conversation. It may not go very far, initially, but you’ve said “hello” with more than just a passing smile and a business card exchange.
To be successful, breathe regularly
Personally, I dislike morale-boosting quotations to look up, look forwards not backwards, seize the moment etc; all a bit too obvious really!
“People buy from people they know” may be a similar type of quote, but requires more medium/long-term than instant action. Setting out to achieve ‘relevant’ conversations can build familiarization which can pay dividends long-term.
I find that people I’ve built some kind of ‘relationship’ with on Twitter, often through ‘bus-stop’ passing of the time of day, help me promote events, share my blog posts etc. This results in me being shared with audiences who just may be interested enough in something I’m talking about to consider engaging further.
Interestingly, even if these people don’t follow-up the link to the course event, some of the followers of the person retweeting my Tweet and link will start to follow me. Now, what’s interesting is that these ‘followers’ have honed in on someone who ‘could’ help them – not now, but maybe in the future.
Thanking people helps create engagement
Saying thank you is a skill we’re taught in early life. On Twitter, once I’m aware of new followers, I thank them for following me, then put them in a Twitter list so I can more easily monitor what they’re Tweeting about. This gives me an opportunity to engage further with people who I genuinely feel drawn to, whether their Tweeting is topical, personal, useful etc, rather than just broadcasting.
Engagement helps cement connection
It would be misleading to suggest that everyone I engage with on Twitter becomes a long-term advocate for what I do in business. However, selling to people is not the name of the game. Rather, my ‘game’ is to establish an online community prepared to keep an ‘eye out’ for what I have to say and feel positive towards me through responding or sharing the comment/quote/information.
Often such online ‘relationships’ deepen over time, leading to email/phone exchanges, a guest blog-post or occasionally a meet-up. As with friends and acquaintances in real life, you don’t need to be checking-in every week. If you know what someone’s ‘about’ and you like them, you remember and refer to them when the right opportunity presents itself.
Recommendations are often more about a person than the work they do. Don’t we all want to work with others who demonstrate likeable qualities?
Create a voice you feel happy to continue to ‘be’ and demonstrates authenticity. How much time to spend on social media depends on a number of factors, but perhaps the most important ingredient for success is sincerity, which will be communicated through the information you share.
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