Tim Sanders famously said, “Your network is your net worth.”23 What does he mean by that? He is talking about social capital and how your ability to build and establish connected professional relationships with authentic people is worth more than financial capital. It means that if you squared the number of people in your network, it would equal your net worth. If you have 100 people in your network, your net worth is $10,000, and so on.
Beyond the dollar signs, there are a host of reasons that connecting with your network is a secret to success. I speak about connection and teach it in my speaking engagements. Connecting with your network will result in more referrals, prospects, and work, for obvious reasons. However, your network will also keep you staying positive and proactive. It helps you solve problems and expand your ideas, and generally brings you joy through camaraderie. We’ll talk much more about the personal and professional value of your network in the chapter on positivity. Now let’s spend some time talking about how to connect and stay connected with the professionals in your network.
Getting connected and making connections can seem like a second job. I’ve heard stories of people sinking into the black hole of social media, losing time keeping up with everyone’s news and updating their own. But it doesn’t have to be time-consuming and all-consuming.
How to Connect in a Cinch
The first rule is quality over quantity. Sure, you can’t contact everyone, but you can maximize the short amount of time you have with people in very simple ways. In my book Get Noticed, Get Referrals, I write about the Who Question. “Who do I know who can help me with ABC?” And if you don’t have an answer, follow up by asking, “Who do I know who can introduce me to someone who can help me with ABC?” Our businesslife success is based on connection. It is who you know, but it is also who knows you. If you are not out there, you will not be able to get to the people who can get you where you want to go. That is what publicity and networking do: they connect people who know people who wind up knowing you, until you are part of a circle of success.
Rule number two is to always have a card on hand with testimonials on them. It is a great tool and a great connector, because you are bringing your credibility directly to the prospect. Don’t make it a job fit for a private investigator to learn more about you after the meeting is over. I learned through CEO Space to keep a postcard with my photo, contact information, and testimonials—a portable billboard. Even if they don’t visit my website or look elsewhere, I am confident they have all they need to know in the palm of their hand.
The next rule is to know your request. People are busy. Whether at a trade show or a luncheon, a networking event or workshop, you don’t have time to waste playing guessing games. Be prepared with a script. Know your request and how you are going to request it. So many people go into events not having a clue as to what they are asking for. This prevents a connection from happening. In fact, knowing how to communicate what you want quickly is something that is appreciated in the world of business, and is a connector in and of itself. This also goes for email communication. Just come right out with it; if you make specific requests, people will be able to help you!
Number four on my list is to keep it simple. Make it easy for people to connect. Give people something as a takeaway, so helping you doesn’t seem like work or a burden to their already full plate. For instance, upon meeting someone, virtually or in person, having that person go to your website is not a good way to connect. If you want someone to like your Facebook page, send them the link. Don’t ask people to do things for you; make it easy for them to do them. If you want someone to connect you with someone else with a specific skill set, ask directly “Who do you know who can help me with ABC?” Or if you have access to their network and can see who is in their network, look for someone with the skill set and after identifying that person, ask if you can be con- nected. It saves your contact some leg work.
The fifth rule is to have what author Mark LeBlanc calls an advocate strategy.24 The idea is to show support to your advocates, those people who are relentlessly championing you, referring you, and working with you. Once a month I send something to 25 of my top advocates—a fun story or a card thanking them for their continued support. If you don’t have 25, then pick 10. The point is to consistently communicate. Stay top of mind with people by being consistent and persistent in the marketplace. At minimum once a month, your clients need to hear from you. I try to communicate once a week. I feel strongly that you need to vary your methods of connection, though, because people have their preferred methods. Find out how your client most typically connects. It will vary depending on your business. When people register for my publicity crash course, we make a phone connection, but sometimes we go through Facebook and LinkedIn, if that’s how they most frequently correspond. In terms of being flexible, you have to amend your preferred method. And then once the relationship is sealed, you can tell clients how you like to connect. This will facilitate better communication, and communication leads to deeper connection.
Last but not least, keep with your kin and use everything you have when you are with them. It is important to be a part of your own community. Connecting with others based on who you are is one of the most obvious, yet overlooked strategies of networking. There are networking groups and organizations that are dedicated to certain ethnicities, sexualities, religions, and lifestyles. These are the places made up of your people that will support and connect you to your audience and to the right network. Many corporations now have women’s groups to connect women entrepreneurs who understand the nuances of being a woman in business today. Boeing, Hewlett Packard, and UPS have diversity groups as well, all in the name of supporting people in their connections.