Networking Done Right - Why Building Authentic Connections Matter
So you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn, over a thousand followers on Instagram and a truckload of Facebook friends. You must be doing networking right, right?
With billions of people using social media sites, you can network with the most random people from the most random places. Amazing, don’t you think so?
But here’s the thing -
- If you have a business, are at least 50% of your followers purchasing from you?
- Are most of your network willing to support you or your business in times of need?
- Are your networks referring you or your business to others?
- Do more followers amount to more sales?
- Do more followers equal more engagement?
If you’ve answered “no” or “maybe” to most of the above, keep reading. If you answered “yes” to most of these, keep reading too, because there’s a surprise in store for you.
It’s In the Way You Make Me Feel
Let’s shift our focus a little here. Networking in the recent past has been merely focused on volume and immediate results. We want followers so that we can get that job or increase our sales or just get help from people in times of need.
But how many of us actually care about building genuine, lasting relationships that are beneficial to both parties? In a world that’s “me” centered, show interest towards others. In a world that seeks instant gratification, think about long term success. You’ll stand out.
Perhaps you’d like to buy a shoe. John sells shoes. Mark sells shoes too. But I’m telling you “Hey you should get your shoes from John, he’s cool. Oh, and if you need help finding the right fit, he’ll help you”.
I’m telling you to get your shoes from John not because of the product he sells, but because he’s a great guy and I had a good experience shopping with him. Now that’s a sign of solid networking. Not only do I enjoy shopping there, but now I’m telling you to shop there too; and it had a lot to do with how I felt.
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. Up to 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. And even if you’re not looking to sell, people will appreciate you for making them feel great about themselves.
Still having a hard time believing it?
Who Are You Thinking Of? (It Better Not Be You)
Between the years 1963 and 1979, Joe Girard, a renowned car salesman, sold 13,001 cars at a Chevrolet dealership in Detroit. For 12 straight years, Joe sold more new retail cars and trucks than any other salesperson. More than most dealers sell in total. The feat got him recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the “world‘s greatest retail salesman”.
And this was way before the social media era. So how did Joe do it? Without Instagram to promote his business and LinkedIn to make instant connections, what was his secret?
Joe Girard didn’t sell as much as he built and maintained relationships. Apart from the long working hours, he spent much of his time showing his customers how much he valued them. He was known for sending his customers personalized notes, addressing their family members, birthdays, graduations and weddings.
He genuinely cared about his customers and by doing so, his sales would ‘take care of itself’. Personalized communication, regardless of how you present them will show people that:
- They are special because you took time out of your day to acknowledge them
- You’re interested in continuing to do business/ staying in touch with them
In fact, it’s also a great way to help people remember you. Do you ever keep cute thank you notes and birthday cards that you received years ago? Even if you don’t, you’ll remember the person who sent you those.
You might be wondering, though, why would one put in so much effort into maintaining relationships?
The Law of 250.
Joe Girard believed in this law. Upon attending both a funeral and a wedding, he discovered that the average individual has 250 people who were considered close enough to attend one’s special occasion. With that, he deduced that every individual he spoke to represented 250 potential referrals.
Now I’m not saying that each person you network with is going to give you 250 new referrals, but research does show that 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand are likely to recommend that brand to their friends and family.
So when you connect with someone, try to think of it as connecting with 250 other people. How much effort would you need to maintain relationships with 250 people?
Well it doesn’t end there. You’re making people feel great, now what?
Notice how some of the most successful people and businesses are often those who prioritize helping others or solving others’ problems. Take Uber for instance. With a global value of 72 billion dollars and 75 million active riders worldwide, it is a force to be reckoned with.
And it likely started with a “Not everyone can drive, not everyone wants to drive and not everyone can afford a car, how can we help them?”
How about when Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for people to fight racial inequality?
You don’t have to be running billion-dollar businesses or fighting for human rights to build a great network, but ask yourself, how can I help others? It may be as small as supporting another’s business, helping them in times of need and offering encouragement and advice. Be the help you want to receive.
Solid, long lasting relationships are based on a “what can I do for them” mindset rather than a “how can I benefit from this” mindset. People want to be cared for, just as you do.
Are You Engaging Enough?
Have you ever come across one of those social media pages with over 10,000 followers, but their posts seem to only have 50 likes and one comment. Seems shady doesn’t it. Might make you wonder if they bought their followers. If you’re not getting sufficient engagement, you might not be networking as well as you thought you were.
In case you didn’t know, you could actually buy a thousand Instagram followers for as low as 10 dollars. They just add numbers to your list of followers though, don’t expect any form of interaction from them. This is a no go. Don’t do it.
You want people you can interact with. People who give you feedback and share their opinions and support you. Build those kinds of connections. It’s nice to show the world that you have many connections, but it’s practically pointless if the numbers are just, well, numbers.
Be Focused. Be Intentional.
In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell describes “connectors” as people who are skilled in connecting others with each other, as well as creating groups where people feel at home.
But people skills aren’t developed overnight. While some people may seem to have been born with those skills, the rest of us have to work a little harder. This is why you have to be intentional with your networking ventures.
If you’re not the kind of person who finds it easy to be comfortable around people, that’s okay. Ditch the obligatory events. If you ever force yourself to attend business talks, cocktail events and volunteer sessions solely for the sake of building connections, maybe take a step back.
Chances are, you aren’t exactly “connecting” with people because you’re uncomfortable, anxious and distracted. You’re probably not even putting your best foot forward. Is that the kind of impression you want to leave upon others?
Take the liberty of joining clubs and societies that interest you. Connect with people you want to learn from. Connect with people whom you share some common ground with. Connect with an appropriate target audience for your business. There are many ways to grow your circle while having fun at it.
Because the truth is, the more intentional you are, the more likely you are to make a lasting impression. If people are meeting 10, 20 other people the same time they met you, how are you standing out?
Go Old School and Get Face Time
Not everyone’s going to be happy when I say this but, sometimes you have to look beyond social media. Close your laptop, turn off your phone and get out there. Digital platforms are amazing in helping us take that first step. With a click of a button we’re suddenly a friend to someone. But for you to make a lasting connection, you still have to put in the work.
I mean, you can’t just be friends with your friends through social media. We still heavily rely on face-to-face interactions to build and strengthen our connections. Apply the same rules to networking as you would with personal relationships.
According to HubSpot, nearly 100% of professionals believe that face-to-face meetings are crucial to keeping long-term business relationships. Talk to people in person, and if they are at a distance, try video conferencing and phone calls.
So, here’s the gist of it. If you want to network efficiently:
- Consider how you make others feel, make them feel good
- Think about how you can serve others and do it
- Prioritize engagement instead of numbers
- Be intentional, don’t network for the sake of it
- Try building relationships face-to-face
The next time you think about networking, think of genuine connections. Think about how much you can help them as much as you think about receiving help. In a world where connecting is only one click away and having a hundred thousand followers is no longer just a celebrity thing, be different. You’re not networking if you’re not giving.
Authentic relationships will always and forever stand the test of time.