24 Proven Steps to Make You a Master Networker
I recently read How to Be A Power Connector by Judy Robinett and was blown away. As someone who considers herself a gifted connector, I wrote to Robinett and told her,“It’s as though you took my brain and put it on paper, but added strategy, statistics and anecdotes and said it much better than I ever have.” I then decided to weave together both Judy's and my overlapping beliefs on networking to convey to readers how better to be a power connector.
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So, first, let’s start with the basics, which entails combining my own theories and teachings on networking with Robinett's, augmented by some quotes she shares in her book.
1. Be authentic.
Like attracts like: If you want a strong and powerful network, you need to be those things, too. Plus, it’s not fun to live up to a façade you create. You want people to like you and connect with you because you’re being genuine.
2. Genuinely care.
You must genuinely care for and want to help others. Develop an insatiable curiosity about other people. Kathy Caprino of Elia Communications, quoted in Robinett's book, shares this: “When you come from a place of service (instead of thinking of ‘me, me, me’), help and support are returned to you a hundredfold.”
3. Be open.
Always seek out and be open to new relationships because you know there is value to be found. If someone you trust connects you, trust and respect that person enough to explore the proposed relationship. The individual connecting you puts himself or herself out there for you. So make them this introducer look good and keep him or her in the loop.
4. Follow up and follow through.
Be diligent about quick, regular and consistent follow-up. Your follow-through is essential: Do what you say you'll do, and then some. There is no use in simply collecting business cards; rather, follow up within 24 hours by sending a personal LinkedIn invite and getting on this person's calendar if that seems appropriate.
5. Offer value first (and do it over and over again).
Focus tirelessly on offering value to others first. Leverage your skills and resources to do this. And, do so with zero expectation of getting anything in return. Remember: No strings attached!
6. Value, value, ask, value.
When it does come time to ask for help from your network, do so only after you’ve added value … and then add more value. Keep in mind this rule of thumb: Offer twice as much value as you seek in return.
7. Show your appreciation.
Let people know the impact they’ve had on you. Keep them in the loop and share your appreciation.
8. It’s not a matcher’s game.
It’s best to understand that when you help person X, you may ultimately get help from person Y (and never from person X). That’s absolutely okay.
9. Stay in it for the long haul.
See the longevity in relationships, understanding that they’re not transactional, and build trust over time by consistently adding value and staying in touch.
10. What’s in It for you?
The biggest value in connecting authentically and offering resources to others is the happiness and fulfillment these actions give you. Power connectors create strong communities that lead to wealth, abundance and success over time.
11. Start where you are today.
Networks snowball, so start where you are and grow. Even if you’re just entering the workforce or making a career change, you already have a network of family, friends and people you’ve met along your journey.
12. "How can I help you?"
Always start a relationship by asking: “How can I help you?" Everyone has problems that need assistance. You and your contacts can help -- you just have to ask. Try to put yourself in other people's shoes and figure out how you can help them achieve their goals. It can be a fun game to try to piece together your network to find someone who can help. Also, always be prepared with an answer should the question be turned around on you.
13. Be in the right places.
It’s one thing to be in any room. It’s another to be in the right room. Know what your goals are so you can identify where to be spending your time. Make sure you’re connecting in the right rooms.
14. People are the resources you need.
The resources we all need are attached to people. Create and maintain relationships in order to tap into these resources. If you don’t have a powerful network, you won’t ever know that certain opportunities even exist.
Related: 9 Major Networking No-No's
15. Judge based on character.
Robinett said it best: “Measure your contacts’ value by their integrity and character, not their title or wealth.”
16. Don’t be afraid of strangers.
Everyone was a stranger to you at one time, until you met. But when you’re at a networking event, people are there with the hopes of meeting new people. So, don’t fear introducing yourself.
17. Know, like and trust.
You must know, like and trust someone first before developing a relationship. It takes a long time to develop all three of these qualities, but seconds to destroy that hard work. The best way to get someone to like you immediately is to a find a commonality.
18. Be a connector.
There is great power in curating win-win introductions for people. Always be on the lookout for ways to do this for people in your network. Never underestimate the value your seemingly small gesture can have on someone else’s life. Strive to be someone who creates an ecosystem where you can help others genuinely, with mutually beneficial introductions, and see that your contacts trust you enough to respond quickly and openly. You'll feel great for having done it, and you'll have deepened your relationships and clout. Personal introductions allow third parties to utilize the credibility of the introducer and build a kinship because they already have the introducer in common.
19. Be strategic.
Robinett talks about strategizing your network with her 5+50+100 rule. Research shows you can maintain a maximum of 150 relationships, and she breaks down how to map that out and maximize those relationships. As she shares: “What you know is important, but it’s whom you know which gives you instant credibility.”
20. Network out up, down and sideways.
Don’t just create a network at your level or industry. Be intentional about bringing in those above and below you and from a variety of sectors. Every new contact opens up a whole new network of his or her contacts to you.
21. Do some housekeeping.
Be strategic about whom you invite in and keep in your network. If you wouldn’t want someone as a friend, that person won't fit for business either. One of my favorite sayings is that you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time (a paraphrase from Jim Rohn). Even more so: The world sees you through the lens of the company you keep. Adding one bad person to your network can damage your reputation and social capital.
22. Redefine the word "networking."
Networking’s bad rap comes from "‘takers," meaning those who seek things or people for their own benefit and tap their own networks only when they need something. This concept comes from Adam Grant’s Give and Take, a book I love, and one which Robinett also weaves throughout her work. People think networking is manipulative because of takers who use it for their own good. But Jason Best, co-founder and principal of Crowdfund Capital Advisors, also quoted in Robinett's book, says, “Networking is yucky -- but meeting cool people and being open with introducing others to your folks is fun and exciting.“
23. What if you're shy or introverted?
Even if you’re shy or introverted, you just have to engage with people. Try to emulate someone you admire in these situations until that becomes natural for you. Robinett is called the “woman with the titanium Rolodex” because she's one of the most connected women on the planet, yet she admits to being an introvert who was initially uneasy about networking. Hopefully, that encourages you that you can do it, too!
24. Not everyone is a match.
Not everyone you meet will be a match for you and your network. Part with those people, leaving them with a good experience. It’s important not to burn bridges with new or existing contacts.
I love a quote from Robinett's book that comes from Mike Muhney, co-founder and co-inventor of ACT! Says Muhney: “Both B2B and B2C are dead. It is now the age of P2P [people to people].”
We live in an era where your identity is fluid between business and personal, and it’s important to be authentic and genuine in both spheres, understanding the power and value of that overlap. If you’re not yet convinced of the importance of building a powerful and strategic network, perhaps author Jane Howard’s words will convince you: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”