My husband is an expert salesman. He worked in various industries before acquiring and growing his own business. He’s excellent at what he does because he truly understands that the deals he makes come from the relationships he builds. He remembers your name, where you work and anything you’ve told him about your family/company/interests. When he calls on you, he is genuinely interested in how you are doing and how he can make your life easier. It is no wonder that people return his calls and think of him when they need a product.
Networking is not just for sales people. Building a network can be difficult, but that initial investment in creating a great and memorable connection can have big returns – in more ways than one. My friend, Joe*, is an expert connector. I cannot say for certain whether he is just naturally gifted in the art of networking or if he consciously makes an effort…he’s just that good. Why? Let me tell you the ways…
We met at a breakfast seminar for an educational institution’s new program offering. Joe had wrapped up employment at a company shortly before that and was in the market for his next opportunity. The event was well attended by HR counterparts from a variety of organizations. The best connections are often made at industry or association events.
Rule #1, get out there!
Joe came prepared. Along with others at the table, he handed out business cards with his contact information including his LinkedIn web address. He made a point of conversing with each person at the table. We exchanged cards and I assumed that might be the end of that. You don’t need to spend a fortune on business cards but how do you expect someone to remember you at an event if you ask for their card and don’t have something to give in return?
Rule #2, have marketing materials (you are marketing you)!
I get a significant number of LinkedIn requests probably because of my role in HR. (Pro tip, I don’t actually select who gets hired. I’m an advisor, not the decider. Knowing me will not necessarily get you a foot up for engineering or accounting positions). I received a LinkedIn request from him shortly following the meeting. In it, he reminded me how/where we met and remarked on our shared passion for the bacon-wrapped Tater tots I’d raved about at the breakfast (come on, seriously, does it get better than that?). Frankly, after so many cold call requests on LinkedIn, I remembered him immediately.
Rule #3, act quickly and be memorable!
In the introduction message, Joe talked to me about my career path and his interest in understanding the skills I utilized to be successful in my role. By connecting our mutual love of deep fried potato goodness and then asking me about my role instead of asking me for a job, he definitely had my attention. Genuine interest in someone will go a long way. Even if both parties know that you may have your own agenda, the art of conversation and relationship building will get you further than asking a relative stranger for a job. Plus, most people enjoy talking about themselves or their career. Rule #4, sincere flattery will get you far!
Joe offered up a number of flexible times to meet and also sent me a reminder email prior to our meeting to ensure that the timing would still work for me. When I had to rebook due to work schedule challenges, he was gracious and understanding while offering me alternative times. His patience was appreciated and rewarded with an extended meeting later on.
Rule #5, be flexible!
During our meeting, Joe never once asked me for anything. We made a good connection and discussed our various work experiences and backgrounds. At the end of our meeting, I was the one who offered to connect with my business associates and to let him know if I heard of any opportunities. I was quite comfortable referring him following our in-person meeting. Joe reached out a couple of weeks following that to offer me the loan of a study guide we had discussed for an exam I was writing. His thoughtful recollection of something I mentioned and his interest in helping me solidified my desire to support him in his search.
Rule #6, build relationships and the rest will follow!
Joe sent me a message telling me that he had landed a position with a mid-size company a little while back. I’d been keeping my eyes and ears open for him and was delighted that he found a good opportunity. I sent him a message following my exam thanking him for the loan of the book and then another message when I passed. Although we both get busy, I’m confident that we’ll remain connected for years to come. I’m as invested in his success as he was in understanding mine.
Rule #7, stay in touch!
Good luck and happy connections!
*Not his real name. Joe does exist and is one of my LinkedIn connections. Trust me, if he wants to meet you, he’ll reach out.