Forget Networking, Start Connecting

Forget Networking, Start Connecting

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Entrepreneurs attend events. It’s what we do. We network. But how often do you actually get the response you are looking for? How often have you been to an event and seen one or two people who were different? They seemed to know everyone, got in touch with most people, and still were looking professional and fun at the same time. You were wondering which special talent they have that you might lack.

There is no special talent needed! It’s the way these folks approach such an event that makes the difference.  It’s the “Connector” approach.

Connectors vs networkers

The old fashioned “Networker” approach:

  • Get in touch with as many potentials clients as possible
  • Talk about your business all the time
  • Figure out how you can sell your stuff to the person in front of you
  • Run away from people after 30 seconds, if they don’t seem to be potential clients

This behaviour tells people that you are just on the hunt. At future events, they will probably avoid you. You’ve just lost a great potential connection.

What are the attributes of a “Connector?”

  • A connector brings together people who did not know each other
  • They don’t talk to people to sell their own stuff, they’re talking to them because they’re genuinely interested in other people – and in increasing their network
  • They keep in touch with all the people they have met, even if it’s just a postcard for Christmas and most definitely birthday greetings

Most important:

  • The connector knows that a person who doesn’t need them right now might become a great customer at a later stage. If they establish a relationship and trust right now, they will call them (!) when they need them.  And they will refer them to their contacts, even if they never did business with them!

I know a guy called Marc who runs huge workshops (200+ people or so) in many African countries. He’s very good in connecting. He recently signed up a new client who was referred to him by another organisation he was in contact with, but did not work for yet.

That’s what you should be aiming for. Isn’t that a priceless sales force?

How do you become a Connector?

If you get in touch with somebody, you should listen actively and pay special attention to these topics:

  • What is he looking for?
  • What does she think about the event both of you are attending?
  • What business is she dealing with every day
  • What issue does he have to get solved?

Forget your sales pitch. Listen.

But you’re not done yet. Now the magic of Connectors unfolds by asking one of these key questions:

  • “Is there anybody you’d like to meet? Maybe I can introduce you to that person.”
  • “What exactly are you looking for? I can ask some of my contacts if they can assist you.”
  • “I think I know somebody you might want to talk to, since he had a similar situation to solve.”

How often do you meet a person and she offers her help in bringing you together with someone else? Without charging for it? You see. That’s the reason why these questions are so powerful.

By doing so, you are “paying forward.” You’re giving, without expecting an immediate return. But the return will be there one day! For sure! And the return might not even come directly from the person you were helping.

By the way: You really have to mean it. You have to be able to connect this person with a valuable contact or at least give it a try. Otherwise, it won’t work and you might get the image of a con man.

How does a Connector handle a sales opportunity?

If the person you are talking with is looking for something you can deliver, you don’t need to hide. Mention some clients where you solved that problem already. You don’t need to say how great you are – you should rather quote some outstanding comments from your clients. This will make the person curious. Don’t oversell, create curiosity.

Share business cards and tell them that you will call them. Call them the following day and continue the conversation. And before you leave the person at the event, make her smile – and she will remember you!

Look at it this way:

“When you meet someone, don’t think about what the person can do for you. Think about what you can do for them personally. And in the end, all of you will be the winners.”

Now it’s your turn.  Start connecting. You might enjoy it.

PS: Whenever you introduce a person to someone you already know, use a charming attribute to describe your new friend like “outstanding,” “remarkable,” “funny,” “great,” “leading,” “very good.” People like to hear nice words about themselves – but you have to mean it!

PPS: This is not only valid for networking events. Every conversation, every contact should be treated this way.

Axel Rittershaus
Axel Rittershaus is an internationally renowned C-Level / Executive Coach & Author who started as an entrepreneur in the IT industry in 1993. He knows that success is the result of hard work and determination even more than innate talent. A master of maintaining focus and follow-through, Axel supports C-Level leaders globally in achieving goals. Axel is dedicated and passionate to see clients succeed beyond their expectations. Axel is also the president of the International Coach Federation South Africa and a multiple Two Oceans and Comrades finisher. You can follow him on twitter.
  • CraigPadoa

    I have one rule I hold above others when it comes to networking – see
    http://www.executionandstrategy.com/2011/04/my-no-1-networking-lesson.html

    Quite simply when you meet someone don’t think about what the person can do for you but think about what you can do for them personally.

    You will be amazed the difference it makes when you become a connector. Immediately you move from being a person on the end of the phone or table who wants something, to being someone on the end of the phone who can offer something…MASSIVE difference but one that will help ensure you build a genuine and valuable network.

  • Natashia Jefferies

    Love this article Axel! I have forgotten about “networking” years ago and when I go to events my focus is on really listening to people, and seeing how I can connect them with people already in my network. The benefits overwhelmingly exceed my efforts, which keeps the process going.

    I hope many people take heed to what you speak of.