There are lots of parallels between dating and business networking. In fact if you treated your prospects like you would a new romance with full on courtship, you’d probably get a lot farther and a lot faster. Whether you are a woman in business or a man in business doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are genuinely interested in the whole person, not just the parts that you can profit from. I know, tacky, but it had to be said.
So what is the key to getting to know that “whole” person? After all each of us is really multi-faceted with fascinating histories behind us, dreams before us, and an active present right now. You have dozens of points of connection to offer and so does every person you meet. The key is to find these out in advance of meeting so you have instant conversation points that are not only relevant but will make you stand head and shoulders above the rest who remain trapped in small talk about the latest news headline, the weather, sports, or something else impersonal and, well, generic!
Each time you go to a networking event, business lunch, conference, or a business social event (think black tie gala for charity or such), do a little homework first. Pick out at least a dozen professionals that you know will be there and who you’d like to meet. Then do the following for each, even if the event is tonite, it will take you but a few minutes per person to learn enough to form a connection in a short conversation.
#1 Find Them on Google
We do it all the time for anything else we are looking for, but all too often we forget that we need to learn more about key contacts before we meet. We need to be able to share more than our name and about business. Not everyone is easily Googlable, don’t get discouraged if they aren’t, follow up on the next steps (though it’s likely if they are in the social networks, you can find them in Google.)
#2 Find Them on LinkedIn
It is rare today for a business professional of any real success not to be on LinkedIN. They may or may not be active, but generally they have a profile there and it can lead you back to their websites, it might even share a few personal tidbits. And be sure to check out the groups they belong to, that can be an easy and valuable point of connection to reference.
#3 Find Them on Facebook
Now you have to pay attention to ensure you have the right one. There are millions of folks with the same name and you want to ensure you are learning about the same person across the board and the one you’ll have a chance to meet. It’s easy to get sidetracked. Facebook is likely to give you some personal insights into them that the other searches won’t produce, like their family, their taste in travel, their musical favorites and more.
Please don’t be obvious and say you searched them, (besides feels stalkerish at times), instead make it a part of the conversation flow when you mention you heard they just returned from a trip to Africa, you’ve been there too, what was their favorite part. Or you find out they are training for a marathon, your cousin runs the Boston marathon every year and says X. Perhaps you noticed they are on the board of a local charitable organization and you can congratulate them on that initiative, inviting a deeper conversation about the cause they are passionate about. You get the idea.
You are looking for points of connection that will make you stand out from the typical pack of professionals eager to meet them for no other reason that push business forward. While that may be your agenda, you are smart enough to know the value of building a relationships first and finding out how you can “pay it forward,” by finding out what the person you are meeting is looking for and how you might be able to deliver it.
Skip the typical fawning that occurs with a well known business professional, telling them how great they are, congratulations on their latest coup. They’ve been there and heard that, instead go deeper, get real, and be human. You will stand head and shoulders above the rest and garner that spot of unforgettable until you next follow up (if you fail to follow up you will be forgotten!)
Love to hear your stories of how you connect and build relationships for real success. Tell me here!