I’m just not a good networker. I envy those guys who have the skills to speak to anyone and everyone, like my good friend Paseka Kalaku. I suck at introducing myself to lots of people at an event. What is to follow is how a mediocre networker like me manages to do more than just “get by” at the whole networking thing.
The other night I was in Robebank. I bumped into a good guy by the name Suede. This dude is a great connector. After greeting him, I wondered why I felt gratitude towards him. After thinking about it, I remembered that he referred my clothing label at the time (Gabble Heights) to participate in an African Fashion International event, even without him knowing me personally. The mileage my brand and I received from that event was simply awesome.
I guess Maya Angelou was right when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
He added value to me and I’m forever grateful, and I’m sure in the future I can add value to him too.
With that concept of adding value in mind…
I’m sure you are going to attend a lot of networking events this year with the aim of attracting good contacts. I’m also sure at each event you collect a lot of business cards there—7 to 10 or more, right?
When you get home, I’m sure you do email these folks, just to say hi or whatever. But . . .
How many reply? Not a lot a right? All that effort! It hurts.
A mentor of mine keeps telling me that you know you have made it when you don’t reply to all emails. I guess that means he is talking about mail from guys like me.
But it’s okay. Here is something that I do that does work well for growing my network. I don’t make it a point to collect a lot of business cards or meet everyone at an event (5 cards are okay). Instead, I make it a point to get into detailed conversations with these 5 people.
A good conversation will be one where you are listening, asking questions, probing and, giving advice if suitable.
Everyone likes to talk about themselves. So that’s easy.
When I get home, I look at each card and think who I can link this person with—so they both can benefit from each other, or maybe even do business together. I don’t have to gain financially. I try helping them find a solution to a challenge they mentioned to me at the event.
The best way I grow my network is I try to add value to whoever I invite in it.
These people will know me as a person of value, and will refer me to others as a person with value. The best business I enjoy is referral business.
I have noticed that some of the best relationships I enjoy are those where I was able to add a bit of value without being asked. On the other hand, some good relationships I lost because I persistently only took from them.
So the lesson is a simple one. I don’t need to introduce myself to 100 people at one event; I just have to add value to my current network and think creatively of how to add value to whoever I want to invite in it.
Once you add value to someone, they will ever feel gratitude towards you—and that they won’t forget.
Tiisetso Maloma is the author of Forget The business Plan Use This Short Model and the free booklet ‘Township Biz Fastrack’. He is a business model consultant and an avid growth hack marketing explorer.
Image credit: CC by Jeremiah Roth