By Tom Trush
Mention the word “networking,” and you probably envision events where people beg for your attention and toss around business cards like napkins at a fast-food joint.
It’s a dreadful experience for many – but one that’s often seen as necessary for generating new leads.
I swore off traditional networking events several years ago. Even so, I’m always on the hunt for new ways to connect with people, especially with the widespread popularity of social media.
So, when I was recently introduced to Judy Robinett, named by Forbes magazine as “the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex,” and by the New York Times as “a new breed of power connector,” I was eager to hear her connection strategies for today’s business owners.
Fortunately, she agreed to be a guest on a show I co-host called The Business Marketing Insider Podcast. You can listen to the entire episode here: http://www.bmipodcast.com/bmi-027-turning-your-business-network-into-profits/.
Let me share a few of her favorite tips with you…
Judy’s first suggestion, when looking to turn your business network into profits, is to start with the Three Golden Questions:
- How can I help you?
- What ideas do you have for me?
- Who else do you know that I should talk to?
The order is important because the first question allows you to add immediate value with a suggestion, opportunity, or referral. As such, you establish yourself as a giver.
The next question makes it easy for the other person to return your favor. You then follow up with a question that shows you value their feedback.
“Once you ask these questions, be quiet and listen,” Judy suggests. “If you’ve engaged the other person throughout your conversation, you may be delighted by the answers you receive.”
And finally, conclude your conversation with the following simple and powerful statement: “Happy to help.” That way, the other person knows you’re willing to continue giving in the future.
It seems like a pretty easy process, so what could prevent it from working for you?
Well, that’s where Judy’s “five mistakes most networkers make” comes into play. First off, she says too many people network in the wrong places for what they need.
“If you’re not succeeding, you’re in the wrong room,” Judy emphasizes. “Most people get stuck looking for love in all the wrong places.”
This ties into the second problem – networking at the wrong levels for your goals. Instead of connecting with those who can provide a high level of support, many people spend too much time communicating with those at their same level of knowledge or skill.
(Isn’t that what typically happens at traditional networking events?)
Next mistake: you have no way to assess the relative value of the connections you make. All connections are important, of course, but you must determine who can provide you with the biggest benefits.
Focus your attention on these contacts, have a system for optimizing your efforts (most people don’t), and more opportunities will come your way.
Keep in mind that research shows we can only maintain relationships with about 150 people – even with tons of technology at our disposal, so prioritize your connections.
As Judy stresses, the key isn’t the number of contacts you make. It’s the number of contacts you turn into lasting relationships.
People often fall into the trap of failing to network in a way that creates high-value, long-term connections, so you need a plan for regularly adding value to your network.
“Value comes in many forms, and it is determined by the needs of the situation and the individual,” Judy added. “I’ve found that nearly everyone needs more and better information, income, key contacts, favors, and introductions.”
Remember, just as I often reference when establishing trust in marketing, relationships are key. Relationships only happen when others feel that you have their best interests at heart.
Here are a few more tips from Judy’s book, How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network Into Profits:
- For every tough problem, there is a match with the solution. Critical resources are attached to people.
- Measure the value of your contacts not by their net worth, but by whether they have a good head, heart, and gut.
- People must know, like, and trust you before sharing valuable social capital.
- Keep the rule of two: give two favors before asking.
- Engage in random acts of kindness. You never know how one small act can tip the scales.
And, as an introvert, my personal favorite…
• Stranger danger is a fallacy.
As Judy is quick to point out, get over the fear of talking to people you don’t know. After all, the most important contacts you know were all strangers at one point.
So, simply imagine the next person you’re hesitant to talk to as your next closest friend or beneficial business connection.