(Part of the Building Brand You series)
Someone once told me that success in life is determined by the people you meet and the books you read. Your network really is your nett worth ’they’ say and for that to be true, it’s got to be about more than collecting contacts.
The value lies in how people remember us and that requires making a connection.
Being a great connector allows you to develop strong and sustained relationships that can unlock success for you well into your future. Here are 4 habits to help you become a powerhouse connector.
HABIT 1. BE OPEN⠀
First things first. Put aside your pre-conceptions and take a minute to think about how open you really by asking yourself the following questions:
Do you invite conversation?
I was waiting for the lift a few months back and complimented the lady beside me on her fabulous red coat. By the time we got to the 7th floor all six women and the one man in the lift with me were chatting.⠀
Are you open to unexpected conversations?
I recently met a couple who are stunt doubles. I knew nothing about this profession but we ended up chatting about how being open to connecting had been critical for them in building their reputation in the industry. It’s also a running joke with my friends that strangers will walk around them to ask me for something.
How do others show up and behave around you? How does what you do, say, and think impact on how you connect with others? Remember, your vibe attracts your tribe - if want people to connect with you, you need to be open to connecting.
HABIT 2. FOLLOW UP You've made a connection, there's a meeting of hearts, minds and maybe even opportunity. Now it’s time to follow up.
Effective follow-up lies in creating an invitation to re-connect - the key word here is creating. You need to create the opportunity and it’s easier than you think. Let me share a story with you.⠀
I met N at a networking event two years ago and as we meandered through our conversation we hit on a common thread - we were both trustees in the education sector. Before long we were enjoying a healthy and energised dissection of how we’d transitioned from the commercial to the non-profit sector and as the evening drew to a close, we agreed to continue the discussion over coffee. We exchanged business cards, connected on LinkedIn the next day and met for coffee a few weeks later.
Two months later the CEO of an education and advisory business that N had co-founded invited me to join as a managing partner. Last month this CEO and I, along with our new business partner launched a brand-new organisation – Customer Experience & Service Association Middle East – with an ambitious 4-day digital conference.⠀ This was not something I had in my plan two years ago so how did it happen? I like to think about 3 critical C’s:
Creating an invitation to connect in the moment. Don’t wait. Just ask, shall we connect? If you never ask, the answer is always no!
Connecting - fast! The easiest and most efficient way to do this is while you’re together at the event via a business-related app like LinkedIn. - I mention how effective this practice is in my article 4 simple ways you can increase your visibility or within 48 hours if you really can’t manage the tech between you.
If you are following up after you’ve left the event, make sure you refer to the context in your invitation-to-connect message so they can place you amongst all the other people they’ve come into contact with. Here’s an example:
“Great to chat to you about [the pains of becoming a charity trustee] at the [FF event] on [on Wednesday evening]. It would be great to stay connected.”
Coffee(-ing) - in the same message, schedule that ‘let’s chat over coffee’ date in your diary.
This is the opportunity to really forge a strong connection - in the words of John C Maxwell,
“diligent follow up and follow through will set you apart from the crowd
and communicate excellence.”⠀
HABIT 3. KEEP IN TOUCH⠀ You're making connections and your list is growing. How do you keep in touch with the right people at the right times about the right things?
You don't need to keep in touch with everyone the same way. What are your priorities? Where does the benefit lie for you personally or professionally with each connection? Who do you need to connect with frequently versus touching base every few months?
Set the next meeting date at the end of your conversations and keep track with a simple contact plan. There are lots of ways to do this - on a spreadsheet, using a notes app like Evernote or a contact database like HubSpot. You could even put a note in your smartphone contacts with reminders. Not every touchpoint has to be personal. Some of you know me and have even met me, while for others, we might be ‘new’ to each other. But we are still in touch...through this post. It's a touchpoint. So are newsletters, podcasts, blogs, live videos – the list of opportunities to connect is long. Just start by asking yourself - what can I provide that will be useful, entertaining, educational for my connections?
HABIT 4. PAY IT FORWARD
Paying it forward is one of the most powerful ways to build your influence and reputation. Yet many don't apply this when it comes to networking. Instead there might be some expectation of getting something in return.
Paying it forward amplifies brand YOU and can position you as the go-to person. It also creates generosity in your circles of influence. Remember back to Habit 1. Be Open when we talked about your vibe attracting your tribe? The same principle applies here. When you give generously it comes back to you in spades, sometimes in ways we least expect. And regardless of whether this is new to you or not, we could all use an extra nudge to pay it forward. Is there someone you’ve connected with that could benefit from a connection with someone else in your network? Are there useful resources eg. white paper, website, TED talk etc. that you could be sharing either with your wider networks or with the individuals you connect with each day? Reputations are forged on what we provide for others so how will you pay it forward today?
Some of these habits might be new to you or there may be some things you’ve gotten out of the ‘habit’ of doing. Just remember you are building a muscle and just like going to the gym, learning a language, or doing anything unfamiliar, feeling uncomfortable is just the 'what happens' of learning and growing. Stay with it and you’ll move from uncomfortable to comfortable and finally confident, where these are things you do as a matter of course...or habit.
I'd like to end by leaving you with one final thought:
You are just one conversation away from what you are looking for.
It's time to become a powerhouse connector and create the networks that help you find it.
Thank you for reading - if you've enjoyed this please share.
This article forms part of the Building Brand You series.