Contributors: Ken Williams & Ron Sukenick
You’ve heard it before—in fact, you may have said it yourself once or twice. “It’s not what you know…it’s who you know.” And if we were chatting together at a coffee shop, I would smile knowingly, nod, and then politely disagree.
“Maybe, but no,” I’d say. “It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.” It doesn’t matter who is in your list of friends, contacts, followers, or connections. Who knows you, and can think of you when they need the products or services you offer?
You need to stand up and stand out!
1. Become Fascinated
Watch people at networking events. Many times, they’re passing out cards, searching for referrals. “If you know anyone looking for life insurance, here’s my card.”
Don’t get sucked into that trap. No one there cares about you or what you have to offer. They only care about themselves, so, you should care about them too. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” When you meet someone, be their best friend.
Listen. Ask questions. Let them tell you their story. Be fascinated by them. You’ll find that Dale Carnegie was right when he said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
2. Tell Your Story
During your conversation, you will decide whether it makes sense to continue the relationship. Your decision certainly isn’t based on whether the person can be of immediate value to you or to your business—but rather, it is based on whether you connect with the person. Does he or she seem like someone you would like to add to your circle of friends? If so, there will come a time during the conversation that they turn the focus to you.
Be ready to tell your story, whether it’s your 47 seconds sound bite, or something more elaborate. Know what you want, and don’t be afraid to ask for it, but remember that your purpose is to help other people get what they want—not to expect other people to give you what you want.
3. Connect, then Reconnect
Once you make the connection with someone, solidify it. Ask for a business card. Friend them on Facebook. Connect on LinkedIn. Be sure to follow up. Tell them that you enjoyed meeting them, and remind them how you can help them. When they accept your connection request, thank them. Offer to help them again. “If there are any introductions I can make for you, please let me know.”
But it doesn’t end there. Notice the important things that happen, and comment on them. LinkedIn, for example, can help you notice when people change jobs, have birthdays, and sometimes when they make changes to their profiles. Take advantage of those opportunities to reconnect. This helps to keep you “top of mind.” Otherwise, it’s too easy for you to become forgotten.
4. Stretch Your Comfort Zone
There are ways to expand your personal network that you haven’t thought of or tried yet. Get creative. Maybe you can join a new group or association—even if it isn’t directly associated with your profession or market. Find groups that you can speak to. Hone your skills and craft your message. Do something amazing that you can add to your story.
It gets attention when you start your story with, “When I went skydiving…,” or “Finding new leads is easier than wrestling an alligator—but not much.” There’s something that you’ve always wanted to do that is uncommon. Learn to fly a plane. Take up scuba diving. Run with the bulls. Take life by the reins and have fun with it!
5. Become an Expert
Publish, speak, write articles, and contribute to LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Get your name out there. Call in to radio programs.
You’ve heard people described as experts because “they wrote the book” on their topic. Be that person. Write a book. The Internet and new technologies have busted the barriers that have stopped people from publishing in the past, and you (yes, you!) can easily write and publish a book on your area of expertise. By contributing regularly, your name gets out there, and people perceive you as an expert.
Remaining visible without seeming self-centered can be a challenge. That’s why you stay focused on other people and their needs. And by keeping your name out there, you can grow the number of people who know you and think of you when they need what you offer.
Ken Williams and Ron Sukenick are the authors of 21 Days to Success with LinkedIn: Business Social Networking the Gnik Rowten Way available on Amazon.