Networking: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions; specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Everyone networks today, but what makes some of us better at it than others?
Too many people only think about the number of business cards they can collect or hands they can shake. True success in building your circle of influence only comes through connecting. Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.
Consider the last conference you attended…likely you returned with a stack of business cards and likely some individuals stood out in your mind more than others. You found a connection with these individuals – beyond their interest in a business relationship; they demonstrated an interest in you. It was not about them or their end-game, but rather, they focused on you, your interests, your ambitions, and your life. These are the people with whom you will keep in touch.
John C. Maxwell believes that everyone communicates, but few connect. To be successful, you must take a genuine interest in other people before you ask them to take a genuine interest in you. In his book, Little Black Book of Connections, Jeffrey Gitomer states that you must be friendly first and everything else will fall into place. The sooner you can find something in common, the sooner barriers will disappear.
Certainly as Gitomer suggests, before you can get what you want, you have to know what you want and make a game plan to get it. This requires focus, discipline and strategy. But ultimately, I believe that when making initial connections, the less you focus on your motive to meet, the more likely it is that your connection will be successful. Be yourself. Talk real, act real, be real, and you will find that others will do the same in return.
Consider your own circle of influence. Often it is not who you know, but who knows you. List the ten most powerful connections you have today. What have you done for them lately? How can you provide value to them on an ongoing basis? Are you consistently communicating with them?