The Secret to Successful Networking

Successful networking is not sales-y or awkward. I have a confession: Until recently, the notion of NETWORKING made me cringe.  Networking is sales-y. Selfish. Awkward.  Right?

wrong way to network
image unsplash @ neonbrand

WRONG.

Last year I interviewed executive recruiter Sharon Mah-Gin about NETWORKING. That episode quickly became the most downloaded Talk About Talk episode!  Then recently, Sharon and I met again for part 2, this time focusing on ONLINE NETWORKING.  You’ll learn a lot from Sharon in these two episodes:

It’s no exaggeration to say that one of Sharon’s insights completely changed how I think about networking.  I no longer cringe at the thought.  This is the true secret of NETWORKING.  Are you ready? 

The secret to successful networking is this:

It’s NOT about YOU.
It’s about OFFERING VALUE.

In other words, Networking is about GIVING, not taking.  Sharon says that if you offer value to others, you never have to ask for anything.  Your network will know what you do and how you provide value, and then they will come to you. Makes sense, right?

Perhaps not coincidentally, Sharon and I both enjoyed binge-watching NEW AMSTERDAM during the pandemic.  Why am I telling you this?  Well, the main character in New Amsterdam is the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Max Goodwin.  And the line that he is notorious for asking everyone is this:

“HOW CAN I HELP?”

“How can I help?” This question got me thinking about various networking contexts. We could be:

  • meeting a prospective client or customer for the first time
  • reaching out to a new connection on LinkedIn
  • attending an online networking event
  • walking into the networking cocktail party at an industry conference

This is when we should ask ourselves… “How can I help?  How can I offer value?”

Read on for 4 specific ways that you can provide VALUE to your network.

 


1.LISTEN – Ensure People Feel Heard

Sometimes the most appropriate way to add value is simply to LISTEN.

add value when networking by listening
image: unsplash @ wocintechchat

Imagine you’re attending an industry conference and you’re entering the big hotel ballroom for the cocktail party networking hour.  Instead of being nervous about what to say, just LISTEN!

Imagine you’re meeting someone at a coffee shop to discuss collaboration opportunities.  Of course, you should be conscious of your business objective.  But instead of focusing on yourself, focus on what the other person has to say.  LISTEN.

Research shows that you will be more likeable (and more likely to get that job offer!) if you talk less and listen more.  Three strategies to help you listen effectively:

  • Absorb and learn – Focus on absorbing and learning instead of what you’re going to say next.  Be empathetic. 
  • Ask questions – When you ask questions, you signal that you’re engaged.  It also compels you to listen.
  • Track the ratio – Consider the proportion of the conversation where you’re talking versus listening.  Talk less and listen more!

For more on LISTENING, check out Talk About Talk episode 41, where I sat down with author, consultant legal veteran and skilled listener Norm Bacal to talk about 8 listening strategies.  Listen HERE!


2.CONNECT People 

Connecting or introducing people is certainly adding value.  Think about how you felt in the past when someone introduced you to your new client, your accountant, or even your handyman or contractor.

networking - offer value by connecting people
image: unsplash @ krakenimages

(Thank you to Renée for introducing me to Tosca and Norm, to Cathy for introducing me to Christina, to Jill for introducing me to Michael, to Baron for introducing me to Sandy & Sandy, to Sandra for introducing me to Tamara, to Mekki for introducing me to Tatiana, to the same Tatiana for introducing me to Brooke, to Anne for introducing me to Andrew, to Suzanne for introducing me to the other Andrea W, to Michael for introducing me to Kimberley, to Jerry for introducing me to Gretchen, to Sharon for introducing me to Stephen, I could go on… )

OH WOW.
What a generous network I have!

People are grateful when others introduce them to meaningful connections. Connecting people in your network is a wonderful way to add value. 

So the next time you’re reaching out to someone in your network, ask yourself first, can I add value by making an introduction?


3.SHARE Expertise & Newsworthy Insights

You can add value to the people in your network by sharing your expertise in terms of your industry, your function, or your firm.  You can offer advice or insight to help people.

You can also share newsworthy insights, perhaps an article that someone might find helpful, a white paper, or a link to a website.

Visual Capitalist

Personally, I subscribe to the Visual Capitalist, and I regularly forward their daily graphic to someone for whom it is relevant and newsworthy.  By doing this, I’m adding value!

Here’s an idea; You could forward this email to someone in your network who could use some advice on networking! 


4.PRAISE & Congratulate People

Praising and congratulating people is another way to add value.  If someone in your network got promoted recently, you might reach out to congratulate them through email, in person, on the phone, or on social media. 

add value when networking with praise and congratulations
image: unsplash @sebastiancoman

If you want to go the extra mile here, you can praise and congratulate people publicly:

  • Create a post on social media recognizing someone for an accomplishment.
  • Send an email congratulating someone and copy colleagues.
  • Set up a lunch or other event to recognize someone for their accomplishment.

The bonus for you here is that you’re networking with everyone involved!


4 WAYS TO PROVIDE VALUE TO YOUR NETWORK

Recently when I realized I should reach out to someone in my network, I ran through this list to identify the best way for me to add value for the person:

  1. Listen – ensure people feel heard
  2. Connect people to each other
  3. Share expertise and newsworthy insights
  4. Praise & congratulate people

So the next time you’re reaching out to someone in your network, whether you’re meeting them for the first time or just touching base, ask yourself “how can I add value?” Then, consider this list and identify how you might help this person.

 

I hope this SECRET of successful NETWORKING helps you grow a quality network!

 

Please forward this email to anyone who might appreciate insights on communication and networking. Thank you! 

Talk soon,

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach


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