Business and personal success is all about making the right connections and finding the people who will lead you to new opportunities. However, many believe that success in networking is defined by the volume of exchanges (how many cards can you collect) when in reality there is little to no value in the quantity.
A lot of us are going about connecting in the wrong way. The real objective should be to connect with, learn from, and build real relationships with fewer people who are different than us and could challenge us to stretch our thinking.
Of course friends, family and acquaintances are important, but in business they can only get us so far. To reach our full potential we need to create meaningful connections with people who see things differently than we do, ask very different questions, imagine different possibilities, and challenge us to rethink the way we do the things that matter most.
Success in expanding a valuable list of contacts is solely based on the power of the connection you make.
How do you go about making and building powerful connections?
- Ask yourself, who would be a valuable connection?
Challenge yourself to move beyond the questions “Who is my ideal client?” and “Who do I need to meet to pitch my product?” Instead, put the focus on why connecting with a certain person or group is important to all parties? How does meeting this person potentially impact everyone financially and socially? If this connection is made, what is the likelihood it can be maintained over the long term?
- Ask yourself, what is my value as a connection?
It is important to know and understand your role. What can you bring into the relationship? What can you give before you can think about getting?
- Ask for a strategic introduction.
If there’s a specific person you’re planning to connect with, do some Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn research to see if you have a contact who knows that individual directly, or at least knows someone who works for the same organization. If you can find it, a third-party endorsement will give you a powerful edge.
- Follow-up and put it on a calendar.
After clicking with a powerful new connection, don’t drop the ball. Never ever wait for everyone to email back and forth for a date. It won’t happen. Drive the date, suggest the time, and get it on the calendar. This provides value to your connections.
- Deepen the relationship.
Immediately following a conversation with a person of interest, dots down a number from one to ten on the back of their business card, indicating their potential to help you advance your business. For anyone who scores a six or above, adds a brief note about them, such as “three-year-old daughter, developing a new food services business, traveling to Montreal.”
The next day, send an email to the person, saying that you enjoyed the conversation, and reference one of your notes, like “Have a great time in Montreal!” You can also assist in some way, by sending a link to an interesting Montreal travel article or offering to introduce the person to a friend who works in the same field.
- Maintain the connection.
Create a schedule for keeping in touch, whether you reach out to X number of people each week, or set aside X amount of time each day to networking.
- Save your time and minimize connections that lack value.
If a connection isn’t of value and you cannot provide value, let it go. It’s best for both parties.
Finally, networking is like exercise and making powerful connections takes time and practice. You may fail a couple of times but don’t worry about it. In the end, you will find much better contacts and people who can benefit one another.
Women’s rights advocate and gender equality specialist, Darine BenAmara has dedicated her career to supporting other women. She is an international speaker, writer and advocate. Darine has significant international experience advancing women in leadership, leading global diversity and inclusion programs and advocating for women at work. Inspired by the many women she met, she designed “The Smart Woman”, an initiative helping women to overcome the challenges of networking and learn how to create smart connections to fulfill their career goals.