We’ve got to network to land new clients… we’ve got to network to land a good job… we’ve got to network to launch our business… bla bla bla! Let’s be honest. It’s hard to stay motivated on something that doesn’t bring obvious results immediately.
Have you ever heard of how marathon runners stay motivated? It’s a bit similar. A marathon seems like an overwhelming task, something that is beyond our possibilities. Instead of fixing the end of the marathon as the primary goal, marathon runners set themselves a clear goal within their sight (a tree, a house, a landmark that they see), reach it, then set themselves a next one and so on and so forth. This divides the marathon into more tangible and more attainable goals, leading the marathon runner to an easier experience.
What if we applied that same logic to networking? It is actually a very real and effective approach. It makes networking a much more intuitive and easier task.
Landmark #1: Set 2 or 3 profiles of the people we want to reach out to
This is the 101 of any kind of reaching out. Before launching ourselves, we want to form a clear picture of who we are after. If we are hiring, we want a few profiles of the kind of people we’d like to join our teams. If we’re looking for a job, we begin with setting our sights on a few key roles or companies. If we’re fundraising, we describe the kind of funds or the type of investors we are looking for. If we’re in sales, we aim for our target audience.
Landmark #2: Do a few favors
Whatever our goals are in networking (new clients, hiring or job hunting, fundraising, etc.), it all starts with the favors we do. Start within our direct network. Try to do a few favors here and there. This helps to demonstrate our value. All expert networkers agree that helping others prosper is what really got them going.
The one true way to measure our success when doing favors is by the “thank you”s we get. A true, productive favor, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. What might seem to us as a favor, might not to others. We can only truly measure the favors we give by counting the thanks we receive in return. That is the mark of social capital building up. There are few tools where introductions are actually rewarded. Once such app is Intch of course. But it is rare and a reward for an introduction should not be seen as a starting point in networking. It is for further use.
We need to mark those first “thank you”s we receive. Those are our landmarks, our peers telling us that we are doing good active networking. It is now time to step up our game.
Landmark #3: Get a few introductions
The goal, of course, is to reach people beyond our first circle of contacts. Whether we are in sales, hiring, job searching, fundraising, and so on, we are trying to get hold of new contacts that will help us attain our goals.
Basically, we’ve made a few introductions and now we’d like to get introduced to a few people relevant to us.
We want to bank on those first favors we’ve done. A warm introduction is always a huge step forward in any relationship. We can start by trying to get introduced to specific people we’ve noticed. They should be in the networks of the people we’ve done a favor to, of course. That way, we have specific names to ask for:
“Hey Paul. I see you know John and I’d really like to get in touch with him regarding bla-bla-bla. I was wondering if you could introduce us.”
We can also start by drawing up a few profiles of the types of people we are looking for if we don’t have anyone in particular in mind. That way, we have a specific profile to express in our requests:
“Hey Peter. I think you might be able to help me out on this. I’m looking for someone who has experience leading sailors, running a ship and in piracy. Preferably, he’d have a hook on one of his hands. Would you know anyone matching that profile in your network?”
Now, we want to make sure to give a specific reason to our request. It’s important that the value we’ve demonstrated is echoed in our request. That way, the introductions we are asking for seem like obvious wins for the person making them.
As with the previous landmark, we want to make sure we measure the success of introductions. In this case, however, success is in our eyes. An introduction is only truly done once it is answered. We should not refrain ourselves from reaching out again or from pointing out to the person that introduced us that it was unsuccessful. They might follow up, repeat the introduction or explain why the person hasn’t answered yet. In any case, they should be aware that that introduction hasn’t worked out yet.
Landmark #4: Send out a few “thank you”s
This might seem like a counterintuitive one but thanking people plays a major role in consolidating bonds. Just as in landmark 1, we measure our own favors by people thanking us. That means that others do the same. We want to make sure to thank the people that are introducing us to others. This validates their efforts, confirms the value they see in us and motivates them to continue developing the relationship in this way.
Landmark #5: Evaluate how our results and adjust who we’re doing favors to
By now, it is reasonable to evaluate the results we’ve got. Have they gotten us closer to reaching our goals (new clients, hiring or job hunting, fundraising and so on)?
If they have, keep on with what we’re doing by having another round of landmarks 1, 2 and 3 with the same profile of people we’d be working with.
If not, adjust our strategy. A bit like a startup, we want to reconsider our hypotheses on who can help us reach our goals, we want to reposition ourselves accordingly. Get back to setting different profiles of the kind of people we want to reach out to in landmark 1, and then return to another iteration of landmarks 2, 3 and 4.
In any case, a warm thanks to these great marathon runners and their very wise strategy. It certainly helps us in our networking as well.
May the networking force be with you.
Nice tips! I didn’t treat networking as a separate goal per se, but now I see that’s a good idea to do
I think this is especially applicable if you’re in sales, fundraising or PR – your black book of contacts is what you get hired for
Saying thank you’s is underrated! People always remember you when you’re grateful – so great tip!
Nice way to keep track of contacts