Networking for the New Year
For many of us, a new year means it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions. For some, those resolutions may involve growing or strengthening your networks. Whatever your profession or industry, you have competition. But we often get complacent in our day-to-day interactions, missing opportunities and losing momentum. Whether you’re just getting started, starting over, or simply looking to enhance an already stellar network, consider these tips to make the most of your relationship efforts.
Getting Started: Initiate, Interact, Invite
For the up-and-coming professional just starting to build their network, I have this advice: Take the initiative. If you make a meaningful new connection, be diligent about follow-through. Reach out and let them know your interaction was meaningful to you. Don’t hesitate to invite a second encounter—if you can tie in a common interest or preference from your first meeting, even better. You’ll demonstrate your professionalism in that you remembered them mentioning a penchant for French press coffee or single malt Scotch.
My only word of caution is to leave plenty of room for authentic reciprocation. Relationships are permission based and pursuing a professional relationship is much like a personal one—it’s possible to come on too strong. Be intentional, not pushy. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for the other person to reach out to you. When you’re starting out, it’s also important to ask for introductions from those with whom you’ve already built a good reputation.
Starting Again: Re-energize Existing Relationships
Whether you’ve made a career move, a physical one, or have just let things lull down, reactivating your networks can seem more daunting than it actually is. Organization makes information usable. Start with a scroll. Reading through names, or looking through profile pictures is a good starting point, but don’t stop there. Sort those contacts into groups (in my app, Vipor Plus, these are called Orbits) based on priority. For example, you can organize by High, Medium, and Low Priority, or numerically, such as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to reach out. Craft messages and determine how you’ll communicate based on the priority. Balance the importance of the desired results with the level of effort required to achieve them.
Sure, the people in your database may reach out to you, but when your success or failure is determined by the quality of your networks, why wait for a call that may never come? Relationships, after all, are investments. Some are penny stocks with little ventured, little gained. Others require significant time and attention to see really big payoffs.
Staying the Course: Decide. Commit. Succeed.
The first and last word in effective relationship management is diligence. Our long-term success lies in our every day routine. Why is this piece of “common sense” advice so uncommon? People promise, but don’t deliver. If you want to stand apart from your competition, the formula is simple. Do what you say you’ll do when you said you’d do it. I start my day with an overview with that very thing in mind. I can’t possibly remember every little email, call, or task, which is why I depend on a tool to keep those little details from slipping through the cracks of my memory.
Whether you use an app like Vipor Plus, spreadsheets, or sticky notes, put your system to work for you! Organize contacts by location, interest, etc. Communicate regularly and with a personal touch. Schedule activities with reminders, so you don’t miss deadlines. Remember, little things don’t mean a lot—they mean everything.
As the co-inventor of ACT! Contact Software, the product acknowledged as the catalyst for the CRM industry, I’m actually not a fan of traditional CRM. Why, you may be wondering? I think it’s too limited. Relationships don’t always fall into distinctly professional or personal categories. People may move from one classification to another, or even be in more than one at a time. The relationship statement for my company VIPorbit Software is this: People Matter. We believe in the infinite potential of closer relationships. If you haven’t resolved to be more diligent about building your network this year, I hope after reading this you will. Everybody networks. Make the most of every introduction and interaction with diligence and professionalism!