I was having lunch yesterday with my buddy, Tim Householder, my photography mentor, artist, and owner of Timothy Wells Photography. We talked about business and networking quite a bit. One of the challenges he finds with networking is that he often doesn’t see the results of his efforts. He’ll make the effort to put a couple of his acquaintances in touch with each other and then he hears nothing. Not a word of thanks, no feedback, nothing.
So what’s a reluctant networker to do?
Well, I could go off on a rant here about the increasing lack of civility and common courtesy in our society, but that won’t solve the problem. Most folks aren’t going to change their behavior just because I scold them. So here are a few thoughts about what we can do in these situations.
- It’s all about you. We can’t count on anyone else to work on the networking relationship. Think about how many business cards you’ve handed out over the years and compare it to the number of times people have called you for your first coffee together. What would that be? 1 in 10? 100? 1000? If you want a strong network, it’s up to you to create it. You make the call. You make the connection. You do the follow-up.
- Call before. Before you connect two people, contact them ahead of time to make sure that it is OK. Now, most folks aren’t going to turn down a referral, but you never know. A touchier situation would be if one or the other is providing advice or resources free of charge. Definitely make sure that this isn’t going to cause trouble.
- Be there during. If at all possible, set up a meeting for all three of you to get together. Then you make formal introductions. If in-person isn’t going to work and you have the capability, a three-way phone conversation would be nice, too. I would say that the lowest on the totem, but still effective would be a three-way email message introducing the two parties.
- Call after. About a week after the initial introductions, make the point of contacting each person to ask how things are going. If it’s going well, then they will remember that you were the person who brought them together. If not, then you’ll want to find out why not, in part to see if you can help fix things, but also so you can do a better job with referrals in the future.