A friend of mine booked me to speak at his networking group. In doing so, he was nice enough to introduce me to his counterpart who runs the group (there are many of them) based local to me. Hey, it was the networking thing to do! An introductory email was sent to all parties and the wheels were in motion. All I needed to do was respond and set up some time to speak with this new connection.
Well, he beat me to the punch! My new connection sent a follow up email offering several options as to when we could meet. At the time, I was in the midst of business travel and upon my return needed to take a five hour drive for a funeral.
I responded to the email suggesting that a call might be better, at least initially, given my busy couple of weeks. He responded with another email. This time, his tone was defensive, immature, and unprofessional. He suggested that maybe he wasn’t important enough to meet and that a phone call is not the same as a face to face meeting. After all, as a networking expert, I should know this. That was the gist – complete with sad face emoticon.
When I received this response, I was actually at the funeral. The comments were so surprising to me that I stepped outside to call him and potentially resolve this misunderstanding. I left a message (which he never returned) and followed up with him again by phone the next week. He took the call not knowing it was me. Despite my upbeat greeting and apology for any misunderstanding, his tone and responses were defensive and out of line. (It made me glad I didn’t waste my time meeting him in the first place!) Did I mention this guy runs a networking group? My friend who introduced me in the first place was embarrassed and let the guy (and the organization) know it.
How can a guy with this kind of attitude lead a networking group?
When it comes to relationships, attitude is everything. It drives opinions. It drives behavior. It drives reputation. It drives like-minded people to you. It drives business to you. And it can drive business away from you. If you want to better your business, job search, or social life, you must have the right networking attitude.
Hey, it’s not easy to adjust your attitude. It took a long time for you to get this way! Attitude is influenced by the upbringing you had, the experiences you encountered, the friends you made, the challenges you faced, the successes you’ve had, the people you hang out with, the books you read, the shows you watch, the movies you like, and the things you do. Heck, there are plenty of therapists that are paid to help make sense of all that stuff. But to give you a jumpstart on how to attract more of the right people to you (rather than repel them from you!), here are some approaches to think about and practice regularly.
Make it easy for others. Give the people you meet for the first time the benefit of the doubt. Remember, everyone is different. Drive the extra mile, be the one who makes the phone call, initiate the follow up, and pick up the check. It makes a great first impression and creates an attraction. Over time, it should go both ways. If not, go your separate ways.
Have respect for other people’s time. I know someone who is late for everything. Late for business. Late for family gatherings. Late for dinner. And late for letting you know that he’ll be late. Everyone’s time is worth something so show gratitude for being a part of someone’s busy day. Get there early, shut down the iPhone, set expectations, establish time constraints early on, and make it a benefit to the other person.
Look to give rather than receive. If you have a good vibe after shaking someone’s hand, ask about what they do and what they’re looking to do. Offer to help. If your vibe is correct, they’ll ask you the same questions right back. Then figure out next steps and how you might stay in touch to continue helping one another. And that’s networking!
Be a connector. Be known as a resource. If you’re in the business of connecting like minded people with like minded people, they will return the favor. This can be done through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media but it’s the most fun when it’s done the old fashioned way – live and in person.
Be careful with email. Email should only be used to give information, guidance, and positive recognition. Anything negative and critical may be better served with a conversation. Remember, email and other online correspondence last forever. There is no such thing as a delete key.
Ask great questions. What brings you here? What type of work do you do? Do you like what you do? How did you learn of this meeting? Who do you know here? Who are you looking to meet? Do you have a target market? How will I know if I meet a potential prospect for you? How do you market your business? What do you do for fun? How can I help you? (This should get you started!)
Those you network with are not your prospects. Unless they tell you they are! A prospect is someone who knows you or knows of you. A prospect is interested in hiring you either today or in the future. How do you know this? They told you! Got it?
Do your homework. There is no excuse to not do your research before meeting with someone. Go to Google and press the buttons. It makes a great impression when your reputation precedes you. Besides, how else can you prepare yourself with great questions?
Return all messages. Voicemails within 24 hours (I mention this on my greeting). Emails within two days. If you’re awaiting information before responding, leave a message saying you’re working on it and be specific about when you will be back in touch. And then get back in touch.
Be clear about expectations. I know a financial advisor who was trying to build a relationship with an accountant. The advisor referred the accountant a ton of business but never received any in return. He became frustrated and eventually confronted the accountant. He learned that the accountant’s brother is a financial advisor and all related business got referred to him. Be upfront about expectations and next steps. The best relationships are always win-win.
Generate referrals for others. A referral is someone expecting your call with the prospect of hiring you. If you can provide this for others they’ll provide it for you. If not, see above.
Follow up. Establish follow up before the conversation ends. “I’ll be back in touch tomorrow to coordinate when it might make sense to meet. Does that work?” You should always walk away from a conversation knowing next steps – if in fact there are next steps.
Stay in touch. Be proactive about staying in touch with the right people. An occasional email, phone call, and handwritten card works best. Blogs, newsletters, and other social media simply help prime the pump. Don’t rely on mass mailings and auto responders to take the place of a thoughtful personal message. Let everyone else do that!
So what’s your networking attitude? And where do these approaches fit in your day to day business practices? How many people do you know that think like this? Act like this? Are like this? Do you?
If you think like a networker, you’ll act like a networker. If you act like a networker, people will return the favor. And that’s the stuff that brings more business, lands more jobs, builds more relationships, and creates more fun.
You won’t click with everyone you meet. But if you have the right attitude, you’ll click with those that count the most.