If you’ve read this blog for more than a week, you’ve probably figured out I’m usually jacked up and hyper-caffeinated. As Texas Ranger says in Talladega Nights “I’m all jacked up on Mountain Dew!” While it makes me more productive, it’s also a key to networking success. In my case it’s not Mountain Dew though – it’s coffee so I guess I’d have to say “I’m all jacked up on Caribou!”
People sometimes overcomplicate networking or view it as something mysterious. It’s not. The best kind of networking is simple and personal. I won’t go into the value of networking (aside from pointing out the best business and career opportunities come from having a strong network). Instead, I’m going to elaborate on three simple networking tactics that can help you advance your business or career agenda.
These ideas aren’t new. They’re not revolutionary. I’m going to ask you one question though: when is the last time you did these things? If the answer is “it’s been a while” then get cracking.
Tactic 1: Coffee, coffee, coffee
I have a great intern working with me right now (follow him on twitter HERE – super smart and driven guy). In a recent tweet he said “Went to Starbucks, Panera, Caribou, and another Panera… all in the same day. At this rate, I wonder how many pounds I can gain each week.” I had subjected him to a typical day of networking with me and my colleagues.
The night prior to our coffee binge, we attended an investor group meeting where he learned about the Ohio TechAngels. The next day we had coffee with a sales leader contact of mine. We next went to coffee with someone from the Chamber of Commerce. After that he spent time with some colleagues of mine meeting some other neat people.
My coffees and lunches don’t always have an agenda. Many times I’m simply getting together with someone new and interesting to learn more about them. Quite often new opportunities pop out of those discussions.
It’s the face to face discussion and sharing of ideas that creates new opportunities for both me and the person I’m meeting with. Sure I’m hyper-caffeinated after a day of networking (akin to getting jacked up on Mountain Dew) but the high doesn’t always come from just the caffeine. Much of the energy comes from the cool new opportunities that arise. Go have coffee with someone new this week and see what happens.
Tactic 2: Respect the “Meeting Subject”
This is about common courtesy. If you invite someone (the meeting subject) to spend time with you and they’re gracious enough to oblige, show them some respect. Ask them to select a location that’s convenient for them. They’re giving you some of their valuable time. Make it easy for them to give it. Minimize the investment you’re asking them to make. They’re more likely to meet with you and be willing to help if you make things easy for them.
Additionally, if you invite someone, pick up the check. Buy their coffee, breakfast, or lunch. Imagine how you’d feel if someone asked you out to lunch and then stuck you with the bill. Frustrating? Yes. Unfortunately many folks miss this simple yet important gesture.
If I invite you and ask you for your time, I’m paying. When someone asks me for my time and they pick up the tab, I’m most appreciative. If they don’t offer, it’s an annoyance and slightly sours the conversation. Bottom line – if you ask someone to meet with you, show them some common courtesy and respect.
Tactic 3: Provide Value
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “how can I benefit from my interaction with this person? What can they give me and how can they help me?” It happens. Hobbes pointed out man is inherently selfish. And yes, people will help you because people are nice.
If you want to get more out of your networking though, create value for the person you’re meeting with. Ask them pointedly “how can I be helpful to you?” Think about the other person’s needs and agenda and suggest ways you can benefit them. If they would benefit from an introduction to someone you know, make the intro. If you can provide advice or expertise, offer it freely. Help them achieve their goals.
If you consistently create value for someone else, they’re more likely to want to help you and meet you again. They’ll also be more likely to recommend you to other people. It strengthens your relationships and expands your network.
Get Going. NOW!
Networking is a marathon sport. It’s hundreds or thousands of small interactions that eventually culminate in powerful connections being made. The more dots you put in your network via meetings and conversations, the more likely you’ll be able to make connections between those dots in the future. Use services like LinkedIn and twitter to make new connections (and I invite you to connect to me on twitter to help you get started).
Go grab coffee. Meet someone new. Don’t have an agenda – just talk and learn. Amazing things sometimes pop out.
Do you have any additional networking tips or watch-outs? Please share!