Some people seem to have a natural gift for meeting new people and building relationships. There are a few things you may want to know about the truly great networkers:
- They may tell you it’s easy, but they know it’s not. More specifically, they love making you think that “IT” is hard, but just that THEY are really good at it despite the difficulty. C’mon, you didn’t think that someone so good with people wouldn’t want to mess with everyone’s heads, right?
- They’ve been doing it a long time! Someone who can “get a meeting with anyone” may or may not be the best at cold calling, or using just the right words to land that meeting, it’s more likely that they have deep relationships with individuals who are close to that “anyone” out there. The longer the list of good relationships in a particular space, the easier it is to get a nice intro and get that meeting.
- Their public personality is carefully monitored and honed. Whatever their basic personality, they exude superlatives: They’re VERY outgoing, very strong-willed, very this, very that, etc. Whichever one they seem, know that they chose to capitalize on that long ago. Most likely, when they were younger they were told “wow you’re so ____” and after hearing that long enough they made a calculated decision to go with it. To capitalize on that as their brand. And now, it’s not just the outgoing ones who do this. The best networkers come from all personality types.
- They are better at showing up than most. They will drive overnight, buy the expensive flight, and be at the ____ industry conference. Not only will they be there, but they’ll reach out to everyone else they think might be there – vendors, past co-workers, current and past customers, heck even their old boss they didn’t really like that much – and make a point to try to connect in person. They’ll book the inconvenient meeting and downplay the inconvenience of it. They’ll set up reminders to reach back out to you or anyone else they’ve met recently. That’s all part of showing up/being in the right places.
- They’ll do more for you before you ever do anything for them. (And they really truly won’t mind.) It’s not that they’re the nicest people out there, but they’re extremely pragmatic. They know it works. No, they’re not trying to get you on the hook (watch out for those “you owe me types”) but they simply know human nature and are unafraid to capitalize on it. It’s TRUE that you or someone else will be more agreeable with helping them out in the future if they do anything they can for you now, right? They know this and are just honest about how the real world works. We all win in the long run.
- They can visualize how we’re all connected in the grand scheme of things. They have better “court vision” or field vision as it’s called in sports. They see how everyone in this world eventually overlaps and they begin seeing those connections dynamically as you’re speaking with them. You mention a certain city or town, and their synapses automatically begin firing to make potential connections of *everyone* in their personal and extended networks how may be connected to *anyone* in your potential network. When they casually mention “Oh, my attorney has a house there” or ask “Hey have you ever met ____ from ____ company there” etc, just know that’s what’s going on. Also of note, is that with a few exceptions they’re really not just trying to brag and drop names. It’s more than that.
- They understand and have experienced the power of human capital, or better put, relationship capital. When someone says “your reputation is all you have” they will agree. When someone says “it’s not what you know but who you know” they will actually know what that means and agree wholeheartedly to the truth behind it. Most people use that as a scapegoat for their inability to move forward, blaming those who are good with relationships for taking up space that should be reserved for more qualified or smarter people. Well, that’s too bad, because the networkers out there will very often get more opportunities, because they know that although skill is important, that relationships are more so, and that the power of their network is more powerful than they are, and harness that truth.
- They only believe in what they do because they’ve seen it work. Once their networks start to pay them dividends (getting them a great job, helping get an important meeting that turns into a huge deal, etc) it becomes a drug and they throw all they can behind building up their networks. Up until that point it’s all guts and hope, with some doses of perhaps a good mentor telling them to keep honing their networks. But trust me, until it starts to “work” for a great networker, they’re going on fumes and they often fade out and end up settling. Only some really make it to that point where it looks to everyone else like things just fall into their laps. There’s a tipping point for each, and each has a different experience, but there was indeed some past experience that worked really well for them and pushed them over the edge in a positive way. Now that they have that belief in the power of their networks and their ability to work within that, they’re nearly unstoppable.
So, in summary, hats off to the great networkers out there! I owe so much to many of those people in my life. I aspire to be the best in this category and have a lot of great examples. Keep investing in your ability to network, it will most certainly bring in great rewards.
P.S. This can all be learned. Anyone who wants to get better simply needs to ask a great networker to share their secrets and I can almost guarantee they’ll be happy to share. Something to ensure the networker really gets talking is by simply acknowledging this would be a big help and that we all know how important a skill it is they’ve developed. Besides stroking the ego, it makes clear that the value is understood and their great advice won’t be wasted. Their time is extremely valuable, but as I’ve mentioned before, they believe in making time investments. Enjoy!!