Your business is built on your connections and network. That network often includes relationships with vendors, suppliers and other industry professionals. Building a rolodex of contacts doesn’t happen overnight though. In the technology-driven world we live in there is so much to stay on top of and so many opportunities for networking and forming connections. It makes the process noisy and difficult to navigate.
Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh redefine networking in their book Superconnector. They start by positioning the thought that “Instead of asking, ‘How do I solve this business challenge?’ a Superconnector thinks, “Who do I know who can help me solve this business challenge or directly connect me with the right people?” Everyone loves having ‘a contact’ they call when something pops up, but how do you get there? Follow these three steps to stop networking and start Superconnecting. At your next conference, networking event or social gathering, follow these steps to have a bigger impact.
Step 1: Ask questions and be inquisitive
Gerber and Paugh drive home the idea that connections of success are driven by you and your inquisitive nature. They say small talk is ineffective. Instead, you should ask open-ended questions. This allows you to have a flowing conversation with the person you’re forming a connection with. “While people are talking about the things they need, we’re racking our brains about what or who we know who could provide value in some way.” (81)
Take the time to get to know the person you’re creating a connection with. Look for ways to add value for them. You’re building value in yourself as a connection that they want to help in the future as well. You want to have the beginning of a relationship forming. Not a quick exchange of a business card that will find itself at the bottom of a trash can or back of a desk drawer in a few days.
Step 2: Take notes for yourself while networking
You’ll leave conferences and networking events with more knowledge once you ask more questions. But how do you keep it organized and valuable down the road? Take notes for your future self.
A great way to keep track of your connections is the notes app on your phone. Jot down highlights that will help you remember that contact. You can do that between connections or at the end of the event! Steve Sims, founder of The Bluefish, gives advice in Superconnector for how to keep it simple and effective. Write down a few bullet points of interesting factoids you learned while connecting.
An example from Superconnector (75)
Met at Mashable rooftop bar event at SXSW
Has twin sons – play baseball
Grew up in Chicago
Currently reading Garcia Marquez
Notes to yourself can help jog your memory down the road when you reach out to reconnect. It also sets you up for a successful follow up of value that deepens the connection you made in a few minutes time.
Step 3: Solidify your connection with a valuable follow up
After you’ve taken the time to get to know someone new you want to stay top of mind to deepen that relationship. A valuable follow up helps strengthen the connection. It also reminds your new contact that they have you in their network moving forward as well. If you are sending a LinkedIn connection request, always accompany it with a personalized message. It doesn’t have to be a full-length letter – keep it short. Remind them of where you met and provide a sentence or two reminding them of your conversation.
I hope the rest of your busy week calmed down and you were able to make it to the twin’s baseball game!
A personal touch shows that your connection meant something to you. You were listening and interested in continuing a relationship beyond your first connection.
Conclude your message with a suggested connection or value add you can bring if you’ve identified one since you met. An open ended offer for support or help building their social network illustrates what your goals in the connection.
Creating connections of value takes time, but the outcome is worth it. If you think of what every connection can do for you in the moment of meeting, you’re not going to grow a network of deep connection and value. You want a web of relationships that you know and who know what your goals and interests are. That allows them to keep you in mind for future opportunities, and you can keep them in mind as well. You never know when you will run into an bookkeeping issue and need a CPA contact. Or when your pipes are going to burst out of the blue. Who will you have to call for a late night favor before you open the next morning?