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Networking – the magic that gets you a contact

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve been reading It’s Who You Know: How to Make the Right Business Connections – and Make Them Payoff, by Bret Saxton and Elliot Goldman. It’s pretty interesting stuff:

The fundamental keys to networking are the networking building blocks. It is important to spend some time identifying the keys, exploring their value, and describing specific action items to accomplish the goals. The guiding blocks can be categorized into three areas: 1) What do I want? 2) How do I get there? 3) How do I make myself valuable?

What do I want? To answer this question, you must ask yourself 5 further questions: Who, what, where, when, and how? Then you must determine  what research is required to accomplish your goal – where do you have to go to accomplish it?

When doing research on a potential networking target, one of the first places to turn to is books and newspapers. Autobiographies, biographies, business books, and industry insider guides are a great place for research. The key things to look for: personal information about your networking target (like where they are from, where they have lived in the past, where they currently reside), what hobbies they enjoy, which schoool they attended, and other interests that might give the networking a path to success. The other thing to look for are institutions that the person is affiliated with. Unconventional sources of information include alumni newsletters, trade publications, company annual reports, trade show guide books, and public records.

How do you make yourself valuable? One of the most effective techniques is being a friend of a friend. Then they know that by building a good relationship with you they will strengthen an already important relationship. Additionally, if you are a friend of someone they respect, you are valuable to your target simply because you are valuable to their friend. That is why EVERY relationship is important. Build your contact base. There are no dead ends or wasted contacts. Another great way to make yourself valuable is to be known for knowing everyone. you are powerful because you know people, and people who know people are valuable by nature of their skill. This is a power of networkers. A more altruistic way to achieve value is to be caring. People want to be around people who care and are considerate. People who remember your birthday or send you a note  when your child is born are people you want to be around. Don’t fake it though. Finally, people can make themselves valuable by using the People promoter Technique, that is, simply telling others how wonderful your friends are. An interesting quirk in society is that if people talk about their own accomplishments, it is often seen as bragging. Yet, if others tell of your accomplishments, they are simply paying you a compliment. If you talk up your friends and associates, you are likely to create value in their eyes. When you extol the virtues of your friends and associates it appears to those around you that you associate yourself with successful people. Success breeds success!

What Types of People are Important to Networkers?

1. People at Institutions: Even if they are lower-level employees, they are still extremely valuable. No matter what job a person has in an organization, they understand it from an insider’s perspective and can help you in ways you wouldn’t know without the insider’s view.

2. Anchors: These are people who are going to remain in their industry, location, or field for a long time. A geographical anchor knows he town, how it works, and how it operates. An industry anchor does not remain in an industry for 25 years by burning bridges. A field anchor is similar to an industry anchor, except that they relate to academia and science. You can help put people together and create value by introducing your networking targets to a field anchor.

3. The Super Networker: These are people who are very good at networking (such as Lois Weisberg, Harry Reasoner, and Dave Carney) and are themselves fantastic contacts. They are usually more than willing to help a fellow networker, especially one who comes into the relationship understanding that he should be prepared to answer the question, “What can you do for me?”

Communication Techniques: The techniques you use when you communicate, either orally or through writing, will telegraph your importance. If you come across in a conversation as very shy and reserved, it is likely that you will have a much tougher time communicating that you can be valuable.

1. Telephones: The most important thing to convey is genuine enthusiasm and confidence. You absolutely must sound completely sure of yourself on the phone. Whenever you can, it is imperative that you practice name-dropping. Do it all the time. it is critical that people know people. One way to work the system is to create a referral – call your target’s boss, simply ask her who the right person to call is, when the boss identifies your target, you can call your target and mention that his boss told you to call.

2. Face-To-Face: The two most important aspects of face-to-face communications are the handshake and eye contact. Look people in the eye and give them a firm handshake – but not crushing. If you are constantly looking around and scanning the room while you speak with someone, they will get the feeling that you would most likely rather be somewhere else or with someone else. If you repeatedly look down or have trouble making direct eye contact, the person you are speaking to will get the feeling that you are nervous or shy. Maintaining strong eye contact makes the person you are talking to feel like you are giving them your undivided attention.

3. Intermediaries: This is more effective than direct contact only when the intermediary has such a direct connection to the target that it is much more effective to work through the intermediary than to try to network directly.

4. Written Communication: In some industries or social circles, written communication is critical. In government, written communication is the way business gets done. It is vital to come across professionally. The writing should be clear and not long-winded. If you hope to get your request heard, ask it quickly and directly.  The type of paper you use to write letters is also important. It is a strong first move to obtaining important appointments and requests. Cranes brand stationery is the gold standard across the line in both government and business. The color of the paper should be ecru white, and it should  have a kidd finish. The return address on the back of the envelope shold be very simple, just the address – no name. Name-dropping is also critical. The name drop will alert the target that you travel in important circles.

5. Informal Communication Techniques: When you are out networking, it is important to master these techniques. Body posture: Carry yourself with in a way that commands respect, don’t slouch. A strong and straight posture telegraphs a feeling of success. Be exact in your manners: use good table manners and if you are unfamiliar with which fork to use, as a general rule, use the utensils from the outside first, don’t say to the person next to you “I never know which fork to use,” it is better to delay for a second and watch the others at the table. Dressing properly: What is trendy in LA and NY can be very inappropriate in DC where dress is extremely conservative. Mental attitude:  it is the most important informal skill you can sharpen. People love to associate with positive people!

Networking with General Institutions

Universities: Networking through universities is often very effective. Alumni associations are great networking institutions.

Car Clubs: The most distinguished and exotic brands of automobiles have owners and followers who have created car clubs. For example, when you attend a Ferrari club event, you will be in the company of corporate CEOs, wealthy entrepreneurs, celebrities, and others who have enough disposable income to purchase a car that costs more than the median home price in the US. The clubs never place a requirements that you own one of the cars, they usually just ask that you have a keen interest in the marque.

Professional Trade Organizations: Once you identify who you need to target for a networking strategy, research into whether or not she is a member of a professional trade organization. Then call the trade organization and get a schedule of upcoming events. These events are prime networking ground.

Sports Organizations: These organizations are obviously important if you want to meet or network with sports figures, but sports touches many other industries. If you are looking to network with a  corporation that sponsors sporting events, the sports organizations can be an in and vice versa.

That pretty much wraps up my take-away from this book. In addition to all of this advice, there are lists in the book, of resources, companies, networking events…ie: annual dinners etc. held by organizations where you might have a target you want to network with. Definitely a good read if you are just starting to learn how to network.

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