Networking is about knowing more people. Connecting is about knowing people more.
We all know lots of people professionally or personally, but we are only really connected with a small percentage of those people.
Previously when you have been at a business, social or charitable event, you will probably have run into lots of people you know. But in many cases, you will know them “socially” or “professionally”, which is a way of saying you know them, who they are, but are not deeply connected with them and don’t have investment in their successes or failures. A great example of this is LinkedIn where you may have hundreds or even thousands of people in your LinkedIn network but if you run through the list of connections, you may find that you are only truly connected with 50 to 100 of those people.
True connections make up your community. They are the people with whom you have built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. They may send you business referrals or you may be the person they ask for advice before they make a personal decision. True connections often cross the line between business and personal. If you build a great connection with a business contact, you may, for example, end up socialising with their family and yours – or it may be that a friend becomes a business contact!
So how do you go about building more connections? Learn how to talk about yourself in a meaningful, engaging and memorable way. If we want to build a mutually beneficial relationship with a person, we have to be clear about who we are, what we’re doing and how we could potentially help one another along the way. Figure out how to help and support the person that you are trying to connect with.
Focus on creating a mutual transfer of knowledge and information. Share success stories and discuss challenges that you both face. This may help you to find some common ground.
Don’t reach out to a contact and ask for a favour straight away. Get to know them first, demonstrate your potential and then do something of value for them. For example, offer to make a helpful introduction to someone in your network. Once you have done that, they will be more open to doing a favour for you at some point in the future.
A great example of this happened just this week when I reached out to a relatively new client who owns a start-up business and is planning to launch their product later this year. I spotted that she didn’t have a website for her brand so I connected with her and made a recommendation. As it turned out the client had already connected with the same company and is due to start work on the website shortly! That recommendation will give her reassurance she is working with the right agency and shows we are thinking of her business.
Developing your connections may be a bit more difficult in the current environment so you may have to adapt your approach. The key is to adapt your strategy and to give it a go. The more you try to build connections, the better you will get, over time.