My daughter, Kaylie, turned three a few months ago. I can’t believe how tall she’s getting and how much of a big girl she’s become. “Sesame Street”, which used to be the center of her life has been replaced by other things — mostly singing and dancing to her latest favorite movie (“Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang” as of this writing, though Disney’s “Aladdin” is a close second). Still, there are times, especially when she’s feeling insecure or scared when she reverts to a younger age and just wants her pacifier and blanket.
Believe it or not, a similar thing happens to us in networking.
Good networking — the kind that develops long-term relationships — takes a certain leap of faith. It’s a long process and there are times when it feels like it’s going nowhere. Also, focusing on relationships means we have to make ourselves a little vulnerable to other people. We have to open up at least some small part of our lives to them so they can feel a connection to us. It’s no wonder we start feeling a little uncertain.
Unfortunately, that insecurity can lead to us reverting to an old style of networking. Instead of asking about them, we start talking about ourselves. Instead of taking their cards so we can call them, we hand out our cards, hoping they will call us. Instead of forming relationships, we start trying to sell. So, how do we avoid that insecurity and the relatively ineffective behaviors that can result?
The challenge we have is that networking success is a very gradual thing. Our network’s strength increases by almost imperceptible steps with each coffee, lunch, and phone call we make. We can’t see the changes in the short term. This is why it is so important to track our results. Now, over the long run, all we need is to track the big stuff. Looking back over the course of a few years, taking a look at the number of contracts signed, or the monetary value of those contracts, is a great way to see the gradual improvements from networking.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well in the short term. For that, we really need to track the “small” results. Maybe we look at the number of referrals we’ve received. Perhaps it’s the number of sales calls we make. Heck, maybe it’s even something as simple as the number of lunch invitations we receive.
Whatever the case, we need to track the results of all of our networking efforts so we can see the almost inevitable upward trend in our success. If we can keep that vision in front of us, we’re a lot less likely to go back to having “commission breath”.